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Wild About Wildlife

By Mary Beth McAndrews, Communications and Digital Specialist

In the wake of COVID-19, field services officers with the Humane Rescue Alliance and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center are fielding more calls from residents under stay-at-home orders who are encountering wildlife in their neighborhoods. This spring, our dispatch teams in DC and New Jersey saw a nearly 20 percent increase in calls related to wildlife sightings or encounters compared to the same time period in 2019.

Even during the pandemic, human-wildlife interactions don’t stop and our officers are still working 24/7 to help the public. Whether they are sharing advice on mitigating human-wildlife conflicts over the phone or relocating trapped animals, our field services team is working tirelessly to help both the people and animals of the communities we serve.

Since March, our officers have responded to a wide variety of cases, from trapped bald eagles to injured baby snakes. Here are just a few of the cases HRA’s field services team has seen this spring:

FRANK THE BALD EAGLE

On April 20, HRA’s dispatch team received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters about a bald eagle who was trapped in its parking garage. Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) Officer Thomas Ingle and Animal Control Officer (ACO) Christina Best arrived on scene to assess the best way to capture and rescue the eagle. With the help of several officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and some creativity in figuring out how to block the eagle’s path, they were able to safely get the eagle into a large dog carrier. He was then transported to City Wildlife for a full medical examination. After an overnight stay at City Wildlife, Frank was released back into the wild and quickly met up with a fellow eagle.

FOX

In April, a member of the public reported a large cat was trapped in a net at the Theodore Roosevelt High School football field. However, upon arrival, Senior ACO Elesha Young realized that the trapped animal was actually an adult fox who had become entangled in a soccer goal net and couldn’t escape. With the assistance of three other officers, Young was able to gain access to the field, free the fox, and promptly release him.

DUCKLINGS

With every spring and summer come a large number of duckling rescues! Ducks often lay up to 15 eggs in confined spaces like apartment courtyards and are unable to leave once their babies hatch. Our officers will often assist in capturing the female duck and her babies, and transporting them to a safe location on a body of water or bringing them to City Wildlife for medical care.

In early May, a call came to HRA from the Library of Congress about a female duck and her ducklings who were trapped on the rooftop terrace of the James Madison Building. Senior ACO Young arrived on scene and was able to quickly gather the ducks into a carrier. She then transported them to the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and released them. This case illustrates how female ducks will nest wherever they can, especially if there are flower beds or large flower pots that offer a safe, protected place for her eggs. To avoid nesting ducks and their babies getting trapped, you can cover flower beds and pots with protective netting to deter them from settling in your yard.

Sometimes our officers have to help ducklings in more dangerous situations. In May, the dispatch team received a call about a duck in distress after her nine babies fell into a storm drain. Senior ACO Young, ACO Manager Maggie Veith, and ACO in training Amanda Wallace arrived on the scene to see how they could rescue the trapped ducklings. They worked with DC Fire and EMS and DC Water to gain access to the storm drain to collect the ducklings. They retrieved all nine babies and released them with their mother shortly after their rescue. 

KIPPY THE MUSKRAT

Muskrats have among the greatest conservation needs in DC, meaning they are a species that conservationists want to keep in the region or are worried the species is on a population decline. This spring, we received a call about a muskrat who was stuck in a chain link fence. ACO Manager Veith was able to free the animal, but she realized that the muskrat was ill. His eyes were so crusty that he couldn’t open them. Veith brought the muskrat to City Wildlife, where he received proper medical treatment for his eye infection. He was later released back into the wild with a clean bill of health.

BABY POSSUMS

As female possums begin having babies in the spring and they search for safe places to hide their young, their interactions with humans increase. One such case happened in May when a DC resident called HRA dispatch to report they discovered five baby possums inside of a lawn mower bag. As ACO Best was transferring them into a carrier, she discovered four more baby possums underneath the caller’s porch. All nine babies seemed healthy; our officers transported the babies to City Wildlife due to their young age. Possums may look scary but they are actually rather gentle and timid. They are low vectors for rabies and are generally good for the environment, as they eat ticks.

SQUIRREL

We received a call about a squirrel who was entangled in netting laid down to help with lawn seed. The squirrel was in distress and screaming in a front yard. He was so badly tangled in the net that three officers were needed to help and free him. With some patience and creativity, our officers were able to cut him free. Parts of the squirrel were rubbed raw by the netting, so we transported him to City Wildlife for treatment. Following a clean bill of health, ACOs Veith and Jessica Johnson released him back into the wild the next day,

If you come in contact with wildlife and unsure if they need help, call 202-723-5730. A member of HRA’s dispatch team will be able to either offer advice or send an officer to help.

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