Be on the Lookout for Infected Band-tailed Pigeons

By Marcelle Bakula

Reprinted from the Cambrian

I am a volunteer at Pacific Wildlife Care along with many other Cambria residents. PWC is SLO County’s only licensed wildlife rehabilitation organization. There are two important things I wanted wolfsonour community to be aware of at this time.

First, there is an ongoing problem throughout California with band-tailed pigeons that have grown sick or are dying of Trichomoniasis (also known as Trichomonas) — a protozoan that causes lesions to form in the throat and nasal passages and is contagious to other birds.

In the first week of February, we received seven band-tailed pigeons at the Rehab Center, and I recently received a call from a Cambria resident about a “sick-looking” band-tailed pigeon at her house, so our Cambria band-tailed pigeon flock is likely infected.

To help prevent the spread of this contagion to other birds, it is important to remove your bird feeders, water dishes and bird baths if you see any band-tailed pigeons visiting them. After handling your feeders, you should also wash your hands. If you can, allow everband-tailed pigeonything to dry out for a week or more; that will halt the parasite cycle.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Investigations Lab is asking residents to be on the lookout for band-tailed pigeons and to report any sick or dead pigeons. This information helps CDFW determine how many pigeons die during these mortality events and, consequently, how these events may impact the overall population. Mortality can be reported online or by phone at (916) 358-2790.

Second, spring seems to have sprung early, and rehab centers are reporting early wildlife babies (mammals mainly, but baby birds will soon arrive!)

This is a good time to remember the following springtime advice to protect our local wildlife:

Check bushes and trees for nests before trimming and cutting (you may need to hold off trimming for a month or two).
Here’s what to do if you find a baby bird on the ground: If it’s without feathers, it will need to be kept warm and brought to the Rehab Center as soon as possible to be checked out before returning it to the nest; if it is feathered (a fledgling learning to fly, in later spring) keep children and pets away for the few days it’s learning to fly, as its parents are still feeding and teaching it. If you suspect a cat or dog interaction, bring it into the center to receive antibiotics.
If you see a fawn (baby deer) lying quietly, keep children and pets away until its mother returns from her food foraging.
Do not set traps for “nuisance” animals (skunks, racoons, opossums) as you may be causing babies to become orphans! Call our Humane Exclusion Team for help at 805-543-WILD (9453).

Well-meaning individuals are tempted to raise wild animals. It is illegal to do so. Wild babies have specialized dietary needs and can become ill or die from improper diet. Licensed rehabilitators have the training and skills to care for these animals properly so they can be returned to their natural habitat.

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