The Living Desert
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Wildlife Rehabilitation

Wildlife Rehabilitation

The mission of the Living Desert’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program is to provide care to injured or orphaned native wildlife with the goal of eventual release into natural desert habitats. We strive to serve as a reliable source of information about desert species and to empower our community to coexist with wildlife.

Contact us

47900 Portola Ave. Palm Desert CA 92260

Hours of Operation

June – Sept 7:00 am to 1:30 pm
Oct – May 8:00 am to 1:30 pm
$5 recommended intake fee.

How do you know that a wild animal needs rescuing?

Not every animal that is on its own, can’t fly or climb, or seems to be in the wrong place, is in need of help. If you are uncertain that the animal is truly orphaned or critically injured, it is better left alone. Some situations that appear to be problems may instead be normal behaviors or stages of development. Sometimes it is just too dangerous for you to intervene or it might be more harmful for the animal. Call us for a consultation.

What should I do with a truly orphaned or injured native animal?

For legal and humane reasons, it is advisable to not care for an orphaned or injured native wild animal yourself. State licensed wildlife rehabilitators are your best bet for a legal, humane and successful outcome. In the Coachella Valley, The Living Desert and the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center (760-347-2647) in Indio are your best choices. Outside of the Valley, see the California Department of Fish and Game’s directory of currently licensed rehabilitators by clicking here. Before transporting your injured or orphaned wild animal to a wildlife rehabilitator, call for the best advice on capturing and handling during the transport.

You’ve found a wild animal that may need help- now what?

Birds (Feathered)
Mammals (Furred)
Reptiles (Covered in Scales)
Amphibians (Moist and Slimy)

Species Identification:

If you find an animal but you’re not sure what it is, here are some links to help:

Desert Tortoise Adoption Program

It is a program where captive-bred desert tortoises are adopted out to families and individuals. This program was started in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Game, when the desert tortoise was listed as threatened. Click here to learn more!

Featured Story!

House Finches are a common bird native to North America. They are small seed eaters that frequent backyard bird feeders. The females are brown with light colored streaks on the breast and males have bright red feathers on the head and throat. The red pigment in the male’s feathers comes from the food eaten when the bird is molting ( dropping feathers annually to make way for new ones). These birds are important seed dispersers and can live to be over 10 years old.

A male House Finch recently came through the Native Wildlife Conservation Program. He had been attacked by a cat and had lost a considerable amount of feathers, making it impossible for him to fly. After being admitted to the program, keepers discovered that the bird was lucky to not have any serious injuries – only sustaining feather damage. Almost all of the tail feathers had been pulled out.



Tail feathers are an integral part of flight for a bird. The tail acts like a rudder on a boat – allowing the bird to steer and maneuver through the air. Tail feathers also help the bird when it needs to land, spreading out and swooping downward to slow down the flight and allow for a soft, easy landing. Feathers are made of a protein called keratin – which is similar to the material that makes up human fingernails. When a bird’s feathers are pulled out, they re-grow very quickly. However, when a bird’s feathers are damaged, the feathers cannot repair themselves and remain damaged until the bird molts. Luckily, the finch that was brought into the NWCP was missing feathers that had been pulled out.

The male House Finch remained in care at The Living Desert for over 30 days while his feathers grew back. At first, he was not able to fly and needed to be housed indoors in a small enclosure. As his tail began to grow, he was moved into an outdoor enclosure to re-acclimate to the temperatures and practice using his new tail. Once his tail was fully grown in and he was proficient at flying, he was ready for release! The finch was released near the home where he was found and away from the yard where the cat lived.

Although this bird was lucky and made a full recovery, most cat-attack victims are not so fortunate. The best way to protect songbirds is to keep cats indoors or to supervise them outside. If you find an animal that needs help, our office is open seven days a week to answer questions and provide advice.

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