San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance •  107 E. Hopkins St. Suite 121A; San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Loop


Rescuing Wildlife

Photo by Susan Hanson

It’s a common problem this time of year: A bird crashes into a window, or an injured animal appears in the backyard. What’s a person to do? As one Hays County Master Naturalist learned recently, it depends.

In this particular case, a female painted bunting hit a window and fell to the ground. After watching it for some time, the homeowner went outside to check on the bird. It appeared to have a broken wing, so the woman did what any conscientious naturalist would do: She called a wildlife rehabber who lived not far away.

What she learned surprised her. Because a painted bunting is a migratory bird, a special federal license is required to handle it. The local rehabber, like many others, was operating with only state approval. Only someone with federal certification would have the X-ray equipment and access to a veterinarian necessary to treat the bird.

Where could the Master Naturalist find help for the injured bunting? The rehabber recommended two locations with the necessary federal credentials. Both are a little over an hour away from San Marcos.

The main location for Wildlife Rescue is in Kendalia. A second Wildlife Rescue site, where animals can be dropped off and receive emergency care, is the Sherman Animal Care Complex in San Antonio. If you find an injured, sick, or orphaned animal, you can call the Rescue Hotline at 830-336-2725. Please note that the hotline operates on a voicemail-only system. You may also send an email to [email protected]. Please be sure to include your name and callback phone number with your voice message or email.

Founded in 1977 in San Antonio, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation began as a simple backyard operation, growing first to a four-acre site outside of the city, and ultimately to the 212 acres it occupies today in Kendalia. Since it began, the facility has accepted more than 200,000 native wild animals. Annually, it receives more than 10,000 animals for rehabilitation, and is the permanent home for roughly 600.

The latter, which include farm animals as well as both native and non-native wild animals, are non-releasable due to physical disabilities or human desensitization or because they are non-native. Some were laboratory animals or exotic pets, some were victims of abuse or neglect, some were destined for slaughter. All were in need of a safe place where they could live without pain or indignity.

According to WRR’s website, “Each resident is provided with the best possible living situation. We build and maintain large enclosures, most of which are more than an acre; for example, we have a three-acre fox enclosure and a 6.5-acre primate compound. The 4.5-acre wooded mountain lion enclosure is situated on a rocky bluff — an environment perfect for climbing and hiding. Primate enclosures have trees, tall grass, and wooden climbing structures. No animal lives behind bars in a small enclosure on a concrete slab. We have taken what nature has provided and simply enclosed a portion of it for the animals to give them a comfortable and stimulating home for the rest of their lives.” All of these enclosures are off-limits to the public.

Although much of WRR’s 212 acres has been left in its natural state, the organization has also expanded its facilities in recent years.  As its website notes, they have “built a 5,000-square-foot Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, a 3,000-square-foot Nutrition Center, a 3,000 square-foot Veterinary Clinic, a large maintenance building, and renovated several small buildings on the property that are now used for administration offices, animal receiving, animal enrichment, hay barns, and related needs.”

If you have an animal in need of help and want to drop it off yourself at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, follow these instructions on your arrival at 335 Old Blanco Road in Kendalia. The hours of operation are Monday – Sunday: 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.:

  • Open the gate, drive in, and shut the gate.
  • Don’t drive over 10 mph.  There are speed bumps, ducks, geese, deer, peacocks, etc., walking around freely.
  • Drive until you get to the set of oak trees in the middle of the road, toward the end of the road.
  • Take a left, drive through the open gate, and find the hospital in the last building on the right.
  • Ring the doorbell. Someone will come out and have you fill out a form about the circumstances under which you found the mammal or bird.
  • The hospital staff member will take the bird or mammal from you and then return for the form you’ve filled out.
  • There is no fee. If you provide a donation and need a receipt, don’t forget to ask for it before you leave.
  • You can ask for a Control number so you can call back in the following days, reference the Control number, and receive an update on the bird or mammal.

The second place to find help for injured or orphaned wildlife is Austin Wildlife Rescue, located at 5401 E. MLK Jr. Blvd. in Austin. You can call 512-472-9453 with questions or drop an animal off between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

Unlike Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Austin Wildlife Rescue does not accept non-native species. That would include exotic pets, sideshow animals, or domestic species. It also does not take in Monk parakeets and Muscovy ducks, which are non-native, and adult deer (no spots), for which Texas law prohibits rehabilitation. Anyone in need help with ducks specifically can call Central Texas Duck Rescue at 512-947-3978.

Photo: Austin Wildlife Rescue

Even though it restricts the kinds of animals it will accept, Austin Wildlife Rescue took in 9,375 wild animals in 2023—900 more than in the previous year. These represented more than 300 different species from 30 Central Texas counties. As Austin and other cities in the area continue to grow and push native wildlife out of their environment, these numbers will continue to increase.

Given the volume of animals it serves, it’s not surprising that Austin Wildlife Rescue can always use volunteers. What people may not realize, though, is that it also needs release sites. As its website explains, “We need more than a few spaces to release the animals we serve, so are always looking for new release sites. If you own 30+ acres of land or more with a permanent water source, your land may qualify as a wildlife release site!”

Both Austin Wildlife Rescue and Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia provide helpful information for would-be rescuers on their websites. A few of their key points:

  • Many birds and mammals that appear to be orphaned are not. Placing an animal back in its nest is the best option in many cases; in other situations, such as with a seemingly abandoned fawn, one should assume that the mother is nearby and will return.
  • One should not try to give food or water to an injured or sick animal. Licensed rehabbers will know the specific dietary needs of that animal.
  • While handling can be stressful to young birds or mammals, the human scent will not cause parents to abandon them.
  • Trying to keep a wild animal as a pet is both illegal and injurious to that animal.
  • Live trapping simply creates more problems. According to WRR, “live-trapping and relocating any wild animal only creates a vacancy for more to move in and if you remove a resident wild animal or two you may soon find that you have encouraged four or five to take their place. Exclusion methods and some degree of tolerance are ultimately more successful and lasting.”

If you find a wild animal in need of help and don’t know what to do, begin by consulting one of these websites. They also contain information on coexisting with wildlife.

Compiled by Susan Hanson, Editor, The Loop


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