When a call comes in to OAS, Oakland’s animal control officers have to be ready for just about anything. And sometimes these calls have nothing to do with domesticated animals such as dogs or cats.
Often the calls involve wildlife—animals that have gotten stuck in one way or another in close proximity to people. They are often injured as well, which further complicates the situation. During two recent responses to calls—the first involving a fox and the second an opossum—officer teams learned to get creative to assist the animals while keeping the public and themselves safe.
Officers Elena Hocking and Amanda Howes responded to a call about a fox in an Oakland hills yard. Part of the city’s beauty is the many parks that border residential neighborhoods, some of which lead into the foothills or heavily wooded areas, so wild animal calls come in more often than one might expect. In this case, a sick fox had found its way into the home’s laundry room, stumbled off a deck, and fell several feet. At that point it simply hunkered down in the yard. The officers arrived to discover a very sick fox—possibly having seizures from distemper—down a steep hillside. Eventually, they had to scale the hillside to reach the animal, after which they sedated it in order to keep the fox from further harming itself or other people or animals.
In a second case that same day, OAS Animal Control Officers Leo Ayala and Jessica Colman responded to a call about an opossum tangled in barbed wire in the city’s Fruitvale district. In struggling to free itself, the animal had injured and more deeply entangled itself. With backup from officers Hocking and Howes, the OAS team sedated the animal and then had to climb a fence to be able to use a bolt cutter to set it free.
The teamwork and innovation such situations demand often extends beyond the officers to the rest of OAS’s staff, veterinarians and volunteers, as well as to local veterinarians and rehabilitation groups—including Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue (YUWR) and Education Center, both of which regularly take on the injured wildlife retrieved by OAS officers. Together these people and groups assist OAS officers with the care, rehabilitation and, hopefully, eventual release of the animals. By the time rehabilitated wildlife is released, we hope they have grown a little savvier about living around humans, which, unfortunately for them, is a reality of their semi-urban environment. But just in case they haven’t, OAS’s animal control officers are here, ready to serve.