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Portland wildlife care center facing unprecedented challenge: People bringing in too many wild animals

A warning from Portland Audubon: If you see what you think are injured or orphaned wildlife, don't rush to "save" them.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tucked up in Portland's West Hills, you'll find the regions largest wildlife care center.

Portland Audubon sees about 3,000-4,000 wild animals every year, from owls to ducklings and everything in between. 

But as with most organizations, things changed when the pandemic hit.

"Typically we have 150 volunteers in this facility every week, over 500 hours of volunteer work every week, and we've completely eliminated the volunteer component of the program," explained conservation director Bob Sallinger.

Here's the problem: The now minimally-staffed center is starting to see a lot more wild animals coming in.

"It has started to pick up in the last week," Sallinger said.

And many of those animals didn't even need to be brought in. Sallinger said with more people out exploring nature these days, more people are running into wildlife they think has been abandoned.

 "They are animals that people pick up with the best of intentions, but should have been left alone," Sallinger said. "For example, young birds leave the nest before they can fly and can spend several days hopping on the ground learning to fly and their parents will feed them and take care of them on the ground."

And it's not just birds. The same happens with squirrels, rabbits, even deer.

"Every year, we get people picking up fawns that are perfectly healthy, mom was probably 100 feet away, and bringing them to us, and they are very hard for us to reunite," Sallinger said.

The bottom line, Sallinger said, is before you scoop up a wild animal, call ahead of time. And if you're told to bring it in, be ready for a distanced drop-off.

"We're having people come up here and put their animals in cages, fill out the form, step back, and call into the care center and someone will come out and get the animals," Sallinger explained.

He said the other thing you should not do is bring a wild animals into your home. While the animal might be incredibly cute, it could be carrying parasites that you, your kids or your pets can catch.

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