Wildlife Policy Explained

Explanation of Policy Regarding Sick or Injured Birds at Cabrillo

March 14, 2012

TPERP Volunteers,


It’s time for a good reminder about our wildlife policy when it comes to injured and/or sick animals – specifically birds.

The National Park Service policy and ours here at Cabrillo National Monument is to let nature take its course.  This means if you encounter a sick, or injured animal, it’s necessary to report it to NPS staff, but you should not attempt to rescue, or aid the animal for the following reasons:

  1. Your safety would be in jeopardy.  Any animal, including birds, can be dangerous, especially those that are in distress.  Cormorants, Pelicans, etc., are much stronger than you think and have been known to attack when handled.  It’s not worth losing an eye over.  This lesson is best not learned the hard way!
  1. The animal may be able to help itself.  Once humans intervene, we can sometimes make the situation worse for the animal.  The animal may panic and become stressed, wasting valuable energy in the struggle and not save enough to help itself.  Also, you may not be trained to do this properly and could cause the animal additional harm. Shorebirds and seabirds flee to the ocean for safety and can often recover from injuries.  Moving them away from the water often makes it harder for them.
  1. We don’t want to give visitors the impression that it’s okay for them individually to intervene in nature and/or that it is a safe thing to do.
  1. Federal Regulation – intervention, particularly when it doesn’t go smoothly, could be considered harassment of wildlife, which is against the law.  36 CFR 2.2 “The feeding, touching, teasing,  frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding, or other activities.”

There is an exception when trained Rangers may intervene.   That exception is any obvious sign of human cause – such as fishing wire, hooks, ropes, or lobster traps that have entangled the animal, to the point that it could not fly away. Volunteers should report this to staff immediately via the radio.  Be very detailed in your radio communication as to your location and the nature of the situation.  Depending on availability of trained staff, we may, or may not decide to attempt a rescue.  When in doubt we let nature take its course.  Marine mammal assessments are always left to SeaWorld animal rescuers.

Here’s what we need TPERP’s to do to help:

  1. Radio immediately to a Ranger re: the situation and your location.
  1. Stay away from the animal and advise visitors to stay away from the animal.  A crowd can sometimes inadvertently herd the animal away from safety.  We’ve seen this happen at Cabrillo.
  1. Do your best to be interpreters – if there is no obvious sign of human cause – let nature take its course.  We understand that this course of action can tug at the heart strings of volunteers, visitors and staff alike, and that there can be strong pressure from onlookers to “do something.”  Life is a cycle and some other organism will always benefit. Be it a predator or scavenger, there is an upside for something. Wildlife dies naturally all the time whether from predators, disease, starvation, bad weather or their own accidental injuries.  The NPS lets these natural processes proceed unhindered.  Explain this to visitors, or wait for Rangers to arrive to interpret this message.

Bottom line, if the bird can fly or make it to the ocean, there is a good chance it can survive and we should leave it alone.

Wildlife Policy ExplainedWe understand and greatly appreciate your love for the rocky intertidal habitat and the animals that live there.  We ask that you follow this policy to help best protect and preserve the natural habitat.  If any of you feel you are unable to follow this policy please contact us to discuss

  1.  If anyone would like information about agencies whose mission is to care for sick and injured animals – we can provide information to you about those organizations.

Thank you for your hard and caring work.

Benjamin & Bonnie and the birds

Last revised 06-Aug-14