Caring for wild animals in distress

Visitors often approach docents, or call the Reserve, to inform us about wild animals they have seen that may be stranded, injured, sick, or dead.  This page will help you understand what can – and cannot – be done about such animals.

First of all, it is important for you to know that docents and other Point Lobos personnel do not take direct action to save these creatures, and neither should you.  Under no circumstances should you approach a beached animal, primarily because of the danger to yourself.  Many of these animals are huge, and most have large, sharp teeth.  And they may be harboring diseases.  Docents, rangers, and lifeguards may warn you to stay away from them.  It is also a violation of federal law to approach marine mammals.  A good general resource is the Marine Mammal Center's "What to do" page.

There are organizations that do respond, and Point Lobos personnel often make first contact with them.  You may also contact them directly.  The three major organizations are:

  • SORAC: the Sea Otter Research and Conservation arm of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  (www.montereybayaquarium.org/conservation/research/saving-sea-otters)  As the name suggests, they exist to help the fragile otter population by rescuing orphaned otter pups, collecting and treating injured or ill otters, and collecting dead otters in order to find out the causes of death.  This is the number to call for any otter in distress in or near Point Lobos: (831) 648-4840.
  • Marine Mammal Center: (http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/) Based in the Marin Headlands with a local satellite station, this organization is the one to call when other marine mammals are in distress throughout the state.  Since most species are not threatened with extinction, they will ask you about the location and condition of the animal before deciding whether to make a rescue.  They also respond to otter emergencies outside the service range of SORAC.  You can reach their hotline at (415) 289-7325 (289-SEAL).  Point Lobos docents and visitors are sometimes allowed to assist with a rescue or release of animals at Point Lobos.
  • Monterey County SPCA: (http://www.spcamc.org/) The SPCA treats all other types of wildlife, from Mountain Lions to small birds at its Wildlife Center on the Monterey-Salinas highway – see website for details.  During regular hours, call (831) 264-5427.  The 24-hour emergency number is (831) 264-5534.  You may call the SPCA for any wildlife emergency, though it may take longer and involve more of your time if the animal is a marine mammal.

Please keep in mind…

  1. Don’t be a hero.  Do not risk your own safety to help a wild animal.
  2. Don’t ascribe human emotions to these animals.  Death is a more commonplace occurrence in nature than it is in our civilized society.
  3. Use your powers of observation when in sight of the distressed animal, so that you can answer as many questions as possible when you call.
  4. If you are out in nature a lot, you might want to put the phone numbers in your mobile device.
  5. The above organizations work cooperatively, so you needn’t worry about which one to call.

The following advice regarding baby birds was found on the Monterey County SPCA website:
“If you find an uninjured baby bird on the ground and can see its nest, try placing him back. It is a myth that birds will reject their young if you touch them. Birds have a very limited sense of smell. Watch the baby from a distance to see if his parents come back to feed him. On average, baby birds need to be fed every half hour, so call The SPCA Wildlife Center if you do not see the parents return. Bird have very specialized diets, so do not attempt to feed the baby yourself. If the bird appears injured, please call the Wildlife Center”