Good intentions are not enough when it comes to caring for wildlife – The Mercury News

DEAR JOAN: I am writing this letter to you because I know the people who read your column are animals lovers and hopefully can spread the word.

I have the pleasure of being a trained wildlife rehabilitator and volunteer for Lindsay Wildlife. This is an honor in two ways. First, I work with local injured and orphaned wild animals. Second, I am able to see the best of humankind — people who bring sick, injured or orphaned animals to the facility where I work. These are wonderful people, who travel many miles, endure storms, traffic and time constraints to get these animals the help they need.

Unfortunately, many well-meaning people make my job more difficult when they try to keep these animals and rehabilitate them without the proper food or training. As a hummingbird specialist, I often care for birds covered in sugar water or, even worse, red dyed sugar water.

Hummer babies quickly gape, giving untrained individuals the false impression that they are easy to feed. At our facility we have formulas for each stage of growth. None of these formulas are sugar water. There are no nutrients in sugar water.

Our baby hummingbirds get specific amounts of protein to ensure proper feather quality, healthy bones and brain growth. We also have proper syringes replicating a mother’s beak, allowing us to feed the baby without a drop of food getting on their feathers. Spilling food on a baby bird can damage feather follicles.

You might be surprised to know baby hummingbirds need to be fed every 15 to 20 minutes, needing a formula between 6.75 percent and 18 percent  protein to ensure proper growth and good health.

Hummingbird rehabilitators often wear or carry a timer all day, making sure they do not miss a feeding.


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Baby hummingbirds should never be fed honey or honey with water. Bacteria in honey can be fatal to baby hummingbirds and to baby humans.

I realize that the idea of caring for wild babies is fun and unique, however proper food, tools and training is essential. Please leave the care of these injured and orphaned animals to the professionals. Even one day of improper feeding can cause a life-threatening problem, making rehabilitation more difficult and sometimes impossible.

I would like to take a moment to thank the many people who have taken time out of their busy lives to bring animals to the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital, and encourage people interested in caring for wild animals to contact the hospital to learn ways they, too, can be trained.

Nancy Smyth, Bay Area

DEAR NANCY: Thank you so much for the inside look at what goes in to caring for injured and orphaned wildlife. I’m glad to know that so many care about these creatures and want to help, but it’s important for to know how to do that, and often the best thing we can do is to get the animal to trained professionals.

Lindsay has been around for more than 60 years and is a great resource. If you don’t know what to do, give them a call at 925-935-1978.

Another way to help, of course, is by donating to make sure this service continues to be available.