The wild life: LTWC busy with arrival of newborns |

The wild life: LTWC busy with arrival of newborns

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Nestled into the trees, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is full of spring babies.

Whether it be bobcats, owls, skunks, or almost any other wild animal, LTWC is committed to keeping the wild — wild.

LTWC has been extremely busy with the uptick of newborns. The amount usually increases in spring, but this year they have more on their hands.

“We have more mammals than we usually do,” said Animal Care Director Denise Upton.

When LTWC gets a call, their first method is to try to locate and reunite the animal with its parents before they bring it into the facility. If the search is not successful, LTWC rehabilitates the animal until they are strong and healthy before releasing them back into the wild.

LTWC this spring has a skunk, squirrel, weasel, marmot, bear cubs, three coyote pups, four bobcat kittens, a porcupine and more.

Each of the rescued animals have an enclosure where they are monitored and rehabilitated. LTWC makes sure to give the youngsters plenty of space to ensure they don’t get comfortable around humans.

LTWC last week successfully released three bear cubs Nyack, Donner and Truckee.

LTWC’s newest cubs are offspring of a known local around town.

A neighborhood bear named Hazel was hit by a car on May 25.

Sadly, Hazel succumbed to her injuries and passed away. Since locals knew of her and had seen her out and about with the two cubs, the team at LTWC went on a search for the siblings.

Luckily, the team was able to find both cubs and trap them using milk.

The cubs were estimated to be about two months old when found. When the cubs arrived at LTWC, they were undernourished and scared from being orphaned. About three weeks later, the cubs have adjusted to their new space, they’re comfortable and growing.

“At least four bears and one cub have already been hit this year,” Upton said. “There are alot of cubs out there this year.”

LTWC urges people to slow down and look out for cubs traveling with mother bears.

This season is prime for wildlife mothers to use known animal crossing areas like the one near Sawmill Road.

Last week, Upton received a call on a sow carrying around her deceased cub.

More unusual for LTWC is that they already have four bobcat kittens.

The first two came from Newcastle, Calif., where there was cleanup and bush burning going on in the area. After workers moved a log, they found two kittens hiding inside. Workers stopped and stayed in close watch of the kittens overnight.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife helped to try and locate the mother, but had no luck.

“The ruckus must have scared the mother off,” Upton said.

CDFW then transferred the kittens to LTWC. The kits were 9-10 weeks old, still had not opened their eyes and arrived at the center with singed whiskers.

The kittens were bottle fed and nursed to good health. Upton explained that it depends on food supply and weather, but LTWC hopes to release the bobcats in the fall. Once they get bigger, they will be moved to the new enclosure.

A few weeks ago a hiker found a small creature clutching on his boot on a trail around Gardnerville, Nev.

He thought it was a marmot and brought it in after looking everywhere for the parents. The “marmot” turned out to be a baby black porcupine that weighed 400 grams. Upton is keeping the porcupine at her home to be bottle fed three times a day, now the porcupine weighs almost triple that.

Board member and leader of operations, Sally Sjolin, said that while they do their best, they always try to reunite the rescued animals with their parents.

“It is the best for their mom to raise them,” Sjolin said.

LTWC recently found the parents of a beaver who was thought to be abandoned near a lodge at Cove East.

“We took a leap of faith,” Upton said.

They saw footage of an adult beaver with one kit (they usually have two kits).

LTWC workers took the beaver kit to the lodge and waited in the bushes to see if the adults would take it in. Two nights later, the kit and the parent reunited. Sjolin said that beaver kits are not easy to raise.

Luckily, this beaver kit had a very happy ending.

When the three coyote pups first arrived this spring, they were in separate enclosures. Upton said she was worried about the pups; they were not adjusting well. She said in the first few days upon their arrival, they were almost shutting down and weren’t eating.

Upton decided to put the three coyotes together in the enclosure in hopes they would do better together.

Fortunately, the pups made a complete turnaround. They started interacting and began playing with each other which was a huge success.

One of the coyote pups was from Placerville and another was found in the driveway of a resident and the other was found separated from its parents Mound House, Nev.

When rescuers were trying to reunite the pup with its parents, the parents were found shot and killed. Some people use “calling devices” to mimic coyote pups in distress to attract and kill adult coyotes.

In many states, including California, coyotes have the same legal status and protections as rats and mice. Luckily, this pup ended up in the hands of LTWC.

LTWC sees a lot of human-caused injuries to animals. Recently, they were working on an injured squirrel that had a blow dart in it’s eye.

“We really try to educate people and fix the problem,” Sjolin said. “Right now we can’t have our regular educational programs.”

Sjolin explained that they count on the educational programs to educate and talk to the public about wildlife. Since the coronavirus, those programs have been on pause.

The facility is still under construction with new enclosures being built as grants come in. Their new facility on the corner of Pioneer and Al Tahoe is bigger to help more animals in need.

The Bently Foundation helped sponsor a new flight cage that will help rehabilitate birds of prey for the wild.

The flight cage is a large enclosure where rehabilitators can test bird’s flight before they are released back into the wild.

LTWC currently has two grey horned owls and a harrier.

The bear enclosure has been revamped and is lined with hotwire so they don’t climb over the massive fence.

This hotwire doesn’t hurt the bear, just lets the bear know he can’t get out.

LTWC has just finished their bobcat enclosure that is complete with mini staircases and little houses.

“We are really fortunate to have such generous donors,” Sjolin said.

All the different animal enclosures have their own play areas where people have donated different supplies. The local fire stations have donated old hoses that have been turned into hammocks for the bears. The shop class at South Tahoe High School even made small dog houses for rescues.

LTWC runs solely on donations and grants. With the influx of babies, food is extremely expensive especially when they have several carnivores to feed.

“We just put in an order of 500 mice which cost $1,000.”

She said they go through about 40 mice a day, which adds up quickly. LTWC gets some food donations from local grocery stores and local fishermen even bring fish and minnows to help feed the animals.

Since the coronavirus, the ability to fundraise has nearly halted. They had opportunities planned at Azul and Dragonfly Bagel Company which were forced to close. A local brewery was even going to name a beer after LTWC that helped raise money, but that too was postponed.

Like many others during this time, LTWC has been working on virtual extracurricular activities to raise needed funds.

If you do find an orphaned or injured animal, leave it alone and call LTWC.

“If in doubt, call and let’s talk about it,” Sjolin said.

LTWC also urges people if you see a fledgling (with feathers) on the ground, the parents are most likely around and this is normal. If you see a bird on the ground (without feathers), this means the baby fell out of the nest and needs to be placed back.

To donate or to follow each of the animals’ journeys, go to or follow them at on Instagram or Facebook.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.