About Us | WildCare

Skip to content

Animal Facts

Mountain Lions


This page provides information on Bay Area wildlife with special focus on what to do if you find the animal injured or orphaned and how to attract or deter these animals from your property. This page is a work in progress with new information and species being added regularly. Please visit again!
Baby hummingbird in rehab, photo by JoLynn Taylor
This baby hummingbird arrived at WildCare with his feet attached to his nest.
Hummingbird and dime, photo by JoLynn Taylor
Compare this baby with the dime to see how small he is. Baby hummingbirds are fed every 20 minutes while in rehabilitation.
Hummingbird photo latimes.com
Adult hummingbird enjoying a snack.
California Fuschia
California Fuschia is a good flower for a hummingbird garden.
Salvia is another good choice.
Many hummingbirds also like hollyhocks.
Hummingbird, photo by Ken Schopp
Anna's Hummingbird


If you find an injured or orphaned hummingbird on the ground, lift it along with the material it is sitting on, and place it on crumpled tissue in a shoebox with holes in the lid. Always use tissue or paper towels, NOT cloth—the bird’s feet may become entangled in the cloth.

Call WildCare immediately (415-456-SAVE (7283). Hummingbirds will die within four hours if not fed. Hummingbird babies that are fed sugarwater or commercial hummingbird nectar for more than 24 hours may develop crippling deformities.

Never attempt to remove baby hummingbirds from their nest.Young hummingbirds secure themselves to the nest by weaving their tiny toes around the nest fabric. So firm is their hold, that if lifted from the nest, most often the legs are left behind.

Living With Hummingbirds

Having hummingbirds in your garden is a true joy, and attracting these gorgeous little pollinators is easy by providing a few basic garden amenities.

Provide flowers insted of nectar feeders. Nectar feeders do not provide the same balanced diet the birds get from flower nectar, and unless feeders are properly maintained they can be hazardous to hummingbirds' health.

  • If not cleaned every two or three days, the feeder food ferments. Ingested, this fermented nectar enlarges hummingbirds' livers and can kill them.
  • Mold and bacteria also grow in such feeders if not cleaned very frequently.
  • Nectar feeders also cause competition between these highly territorial little birds, leading to stress and aggression.
  • If you do want to use a nectar feeder, do not use honey or artificial sweeteners in feeder nectar, nor red food color, all of which can cause health problems.

Tubular, odorless, nodding, and brightly colored flowers are the most attractive to hummingbirds.  Many such flowers are ornitholphilous, which means they have evolved to be pollinated by birds (such as hummingbirds) rather than by insects. The tubular flower is adapted to the long hummingbird beak, which gets pollen on it and transfers it to other flowers.

  • Hummingbirds are attracted by sight, not by smell or fragrance. This way they don't have to compete with insects (which are drawn by fragrance) for the same flowers. Nodding flowers are harder for insects to pollinate compared to the hovering hummingbirds. Being attracted by sight, hummingbirds see the bright flowers first. The color red often means food to them, but color really doesn't matter as long as the flowers have nectar they can reach.
  • Some of the best perennials and biennials to attract hummingbirds include hollyhock, columbine, delphinium, foxglove, daylily, coral bells, hosta, blazing star, bee balm, and garden phlox. Some good annuals include flowering tobacco, scarlet runner bean, salvia, and even the single petunia. Whether annual or perennial, avoid double flowers, as they are difficult for hummingbirds and insects alike to pollinate. Choose a selection to provide color through the season with a succession of flowering times.

Plant large clumps or drifts of flowers as you might see in nature, but keep them spaced far enough apart so the hummingbirds can maneuver among the stems and plants. You might consider planting a wildflower bed or encouraging wildflowers already there or nearby.

Hanging baskets are excellent as they provide color and flowers through the season. Being near homes they also afford closer viewing of hummingbirds. Good choices for these might be fuchsia, trailing petunias, or nasturtium.

In addition to food, hummingbirds need water. Most of what they drink may come from flower nectar, but bathing at least daily is crucial to keep their rapidly moving wings cleaned. You can help provide water by having a birdbath or any rough-surfaced and shallow container. Hummingbirds also like waterfalls as in a water feature, or even just water on leaves, which they fly through for a quick shower. 

Provide large shrubs or small trees for them to perch on for rest and to preen, and for protection. 

Avoid using insecticides if possible. These can directly harm or kill hummingbirds. Pesticides can indirectly harm them as well by poisoning the insects they eat, either passing along such poison or killing this food source that they rely on for fat and protein.

Reference: Dr. Leonard Perry, University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science

Return to Top



It can be very difficult to tell if a baby jackrabbit is orphaned. Always call WildCare (415-456-SAVE (7283)) before approaching a jackrabbit to determine if it needs rescuing! Some facts to keep in mind about jackrabbit behavior:

  • Jackrabbits are "precocial," meaning they are born fully furred with their eyes open, and will start nibbling greens within a week.
  • A baby jackrabbit is called a leveret. A leveret’s main defense when threatened is to freeze, which is often mistaken by people as being calm. The animal is not calm, it is terrified.
  • The mother jackrabbit separates her litter for a better chance of some babies surviving.
  • There is no nest! Jackrabbit young will stay hidden in the grass, shrubs, or other ground-level growth where the mother leaves them.
  • The mother only comes to feed the young two or three times a day. Otherwise, the young jackrabbits are left alone. Even if you are watching carefully, you may not see the mother jackrabbit return to her young. Do not assume the babies are orphaned simply because you do not see the mother!
  • Leverets will wander a bit. When the mother returns to the area, she calls to her young and they come to nurse.
  • Never try to feed a leveret, they have very delicate digestive systems.
  • Jackrabbits are extremely high-stress animals; they can die from fear.
  • Jackrabbits have very strong hind limbs and if restrained may kick out hard enough to break their own backs.
  • Always call WildCare first to determine if a jackrabbit needs rescuing.

Return to Top

Mountain Lion
The mountain lion looks very different from the bobcat. It is larger and has a very long tail.
Mountain lion and cubs
Mountain lions breed year-round, although spring is a more common time for females to have litters. Mothers have three to six kittens which will stay with their mother for one year.
Mountain Lion
tracks comparison
Mountain lion tracks are much larger than those of other mammals in our area. Check for claw marks at the top of the track to determine if the animal is canine or feline.

Mountain Lions

The mountain lion, also known as cougar, panther or puma, is tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. Although smaller than the jaguar, it is one of North America's largest cats.

Adult males may be more than 8 feet long, from nose to end of tail (mountain lions do have very long tails), and generally weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. Adult females can be 7 feet long and weigh between 65 and 90 pounds. Cougars are exclusively meat-eaters or carnivores. Although they will eat a wide variety of small- to medium-sized mammals, such as porcupine, raccoon and opossum, they strongly prefer deer and are generally recognized as dietary specialists on these animals. Deer and mountain lions have probably co-evolved over a long period of time, during which the lions have become more adept at preying on deer and deer have become adept at avoiding being made a meal.

More than half of California is considered mountain lion habitat; as a general rule, mountain lions live wherever deer are present. People are observed by lions far more frequently than lions are observed by people. Studies of radio-collared mountain lions show that lions tend to avoid people. Like most large predators they may appear calm and confident when encounters with humans do occur, and this attitude can be disarming to people who expect all wild animals to be fearful of encounters with humans. An understanding of these animals and their habits, along with an appreciation of the fact that they may be close neighbors, is the first step toward living compatibly with them. Simply seeing a mountain lion sign is not a justification for alarm. 

In fact, attacks on humans by mountain lions are highly rare. There have been only thirteen fatal encounters by humans with mountain lions in the last century. To put this into perspective, about 300 people have been killed by bee stings and more than 1,000 have died in hunting-related accidents for each fatality from mountain lions. Many more people are attacked and injured each year by goats than by these big cats (!), yet little mention is ever made of the dangers to humans from goat attacks.

Public Health Concerns

Cougars do not carry any communicable diseases that are regarded as threats to the public health. Although they can get rabies, there is no indication that any attacks on humans or other animals have been caused by this disease. The most serious damage these animals do is their occasional predation on livestock and pets. Cougars will kill even fairly large animals, including cattle, although like most predators, they prefer young or smaller prey.

Living With Mountain Lions

Some simple steps can be taken to minimize the possibility of contact by people who live in areas where there are also mountain lions. If you live in mountain lion habitat, here's what you can do to reduce your chances of encountering a lion near your home and elsewhere:

Don't feed wildlife: By feeding deer, raccoons or other wildlife in your yard, you may inadvertently attract mountain lions, which prey upon them.

Deer-proof landscape: Avoid using plants that deer prefer to eat; if landscaping attracts deer, mountain lions may be close by. Click to view the California Department of Fish and Game brochure entitled Gardening To Discourage Deer Damage.

Landscape for safety: Remove dense and/or low-lying vegetation that would provide good hiding places for mountain lions, especially around children's play areas; make it difficult for mountain lions to approach a yard unseen.

Install outdoor lighting: Keep the house perimeter well lit at night - especially along walkways - both as a deterrant and to keep any approaching wildife (think skunks as well as mountain lions) visible and easy to avoid.

Keep pets secure: Roaming pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions. Either bring pets inside at night or keep them in a kennel with a secure top. Don't feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other mountain lion prey.

Keep livestock secure: Where practical, place livestock in enclosed sheds and barns at night, and be sure to secure all outbuildings.

Keep children safe: Keep a close watch on children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.

What To Do If Encountering a Mountain Lion

Do not hike alone: Go in groups, with adults supervising children

Keep children close to you: Observations of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.

Do not approach a lion: Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give the cat a way to escape.

Do not run from a lion: Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If there are children there, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick children up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.

Remember lions are very different from bears: Mountain lions do not bluff charge, and playing dead is never recommended in a mountain lion attack.

Do not crouch down or bend over: In Nepal, a researcher studying tigers and leopards
watched the big cats kill cattle and domestic water buffalo while ignoring humans standing nearby. He surmised that a human standing up is just not the right shape for a cat's prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. When in mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.

Appear larger: Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

Fight back if attacked: Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.


Wild Neighbors-- The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife (published by the Humane Society of the United States)
California Department of Fish and Game
The Mountain Lion Foundation (visit their website for more great information on mountain lions.)

Return to Top



Raccoons are some of the most commonly-seen wild animals in human environments. If you find a raccoon you believe is injured or orphaned always call WildCare 415-456-7283 (or your local rehabilitator) before approaching the animal. Raccoons are rabies vector animals so they must NEVER be handled with bare hands. ALWAYS use gloves or towels or contact a professional before handling these animals.

The name "raccoon" is derived from the Algonquin word "arakun" meaning "he scratches with his hands."

Raccoons are native only to the Americas; the only non-American relative of the raccoon is the Red Panda of Asia.

A raccoon hand has ten times as many nerve endings as a human hand. Water increases this sensitivity. Studies have linked specific areas of a raccoon's paw tips to specific sensory receptors of its brain.

Raccoons are generalist mammals that share characteristics with dogs, cats, bears, skunks, weasels, squirrels and monkeys.

Raccoons were introduced in Europe in the 1930s on fur farms. Released during World War II, they have since become nuisance animals in some areas, out-competing the native civit-cats and weasels.

Raccoons do not establish permanent dens except in spring when a mother raccoon needs a safe place for her babies. Then the babies are 8 - 10 weeks old, they abandon the nest and join their mother on her nightly foraging grounds.

Raccoons are fierce fighters, but they don't kill their prey like a cat does; they roll and crush their prey with their hands. Their favorite foods include rats, carrion, eggs, birds, nestlings of all species, crayfish, invertebrates such as worms, spiders and centipedes, sweet ripe fruits, avocados, acorns, corn and human refuse.

Raccoon vocalizations include purrs, whimpers, snarls, growls, hisses, screams and whinnies.

Raccoons walk flat-footed (plantigrade) like elephants, bears and humans. Their rear feet rotate 180 degrees like those of a squirrel, which allows them to descend a tree head-first.

Raccoons have a highly-developed cerebral cortex, the area of the brain used for thinking and reasoning. Like human children, they rely on learning to survive, and spend nearly a full year learning their mother's skills and territory.

Raccoons are social animals able to catch and spread a number of diseases and parasites harmful to other animals including unvaccinated pets. Feeding raccoons (and other wild animals) causes an unnaturally high population with overcrowding that creates the opportunity for outbreaks of diseases like parvovirus and distemper as well as parasites like roundworms, tapeworms and cryptosporidium.

Raccoons can live to over 20 years in captivity; for wild raccoons, five years is a full life. Their average life expectancy is about 2 years because most young do not make it through their first year.

Return to Top

Skunk foraging
Western Spotted Skunk baby. Photo by JoLynn Taylor
Skunk under anaesthesia. Photo by JoLynn Taylor
Skunk claws. Photo by JoLynn Taylor

About that scent...

If cornered by a persistent attacker, the skunk will arch its back, raise its fur and stick its tail straight up into the air. This makes the skunk appear to be bigger and more ferocious.

Before it sprays, a skunk may also stamp its feet as a warning. As a last measure, the skunk will turn its face and tail toward the attacker, in a sort of U shape, and shoot streams of butyl merccaptan from glands on either side of its anal area. This fluid can burn the eyes and nose of the attacker and even cause nausea.

Skunk smell cannot be washed off with tomato juice, ammonia or gasoline. These just mask the odor. A suggested treatment for odor removal is:
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide ¼ cup of baking soda
1 teaspoon of liquid soap

The peroxide and baking soda neutralize the odor; the soap removes the oil that holds the smell. Be careful, though. This solution may bleach hair and other materials.


January through March are the months when carnivores like bobcats, raccoons and skunks seek mates. Hearing the vocalizations that bobcats or raccoons make when they mate, you might think the animals are attempting to kill each other. Skunks, on the other hand, are more reserved with their vocalizations. They prefer perfume.

Male skunks begin to range widely at this time, often leaving their own territories in search of a mate. During this time, the males are very excitable and may spray more readily. Between these territorial disputes, males fighting and females spraying males they don’t approve of, a lot of skunk odor is generated in early spring. WildCare fields a lot of calls during this time from concerned homeowners who fear they are developing a skunk “problem.” They usually aren’t.

Odor is not always a reliable indicator of the presence or absence of skunks. Sometimes dogs, cats or other animals that have been sprayed by skunks move under houses and make owners mistakenly think skunks are present.

Identifying the Culprit

Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses and gardens, as do several other species of animal. Digging done by skunks normally appears as small, three- to four-inch cone-shaped holes or patches of upturned earth. Long claw marks may be visible.

Skunks hunt by scent and use their long front claws to dig up beetle grubs, earthworms, roots, and fungi in the soil and under dead leaves. Skunks don’t climb well, but they will eat fallen nuts, fruit and bird’s eggs, along with pet food and anything that smells good in the trash can after raccoons have tipped it over. Field and house mice are regular and important items in the skunk diet, particularly in winter.

Skunks become a “nuisance” when their burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings for shelter or for a place to have their young and keep them safe until the babies are able to travel.


Prevent skunks from denning under buildings by sealing off all foundation openings. Cover all openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Bury fencing 1 1/2 to 2 feet in areas skunks can access by digging. Seal all ground-level openings into poultry buildings and close doors at night. Use tight-fitting lids to keep skunks out of garbage cans.

Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that will attract skunks. Debris such as lumber, fence posts and junk cars provide shelter. Skunks are often attracted to rodents, so rodent control may be the first step to solving a skunk problem.


There are no registered repellents for skunks, but lights and sounds may provide temporary relief from skunk activity. Most mammals, including skunks, can sometimes be discouraged from entering enclosed areas with moth balls or moth flakes (naphthalene). To be affective, these need to be used in sufficient quantities and replaced often. Ammonia-soaked cloths may also repel skunks. Repellents are only a temporary measure. Permanent solutions require other methods.

WildCare Solutions

If the smell of skunk is truly excessive and has become a problem, WildCare Solutions can help by conducting a home inspection. If a skunk or other animal has take up residence, we will humanely evict the nuisance animal, and then permanently seal up the entry points to keep this animal and other wildlife outside. Our approach is humane and is the only long term solution that works. Call 415 453-1000 X23 for a free phone consultation.

Read more about WildCare Solutions in the SF Chronicle!

Return to Top