A somewhat regular sighting at the Santa Barbara Animal Care Network, baby opossums have exceptionally strong hands, which help them latch on to their mothers fur as she moves about.

Photo by: Ian Shive

Ian Shive

It's Baby Season at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network

It’s easy to think of a wildlife photographer on assignment and picture the epic and exotic moments of migrations on the African Serengeti, bison standing tall on the grasslands of Yellowstone National Park or millions of migrating snow geese moving from the arctic to their winter roost thousands of miles south, but there is an equally incredible story taking place right in every backyard.

May 03, 2021

Backyard wildlife is what we know best and what our everyday lives are part of. Opossums, raccoons, songbirds, hummingbirds, even weasels and pelicans are part of our lives, especially here in Southern California. As a photographer interested in the wild moments in every backyard, it’s those animals close to home that represent the immediate opportunity, but they often don’t get a fair shake from the public with people being afraid of opossums, nicknaming the raccoon a “trash panda” or by not considering the impacts we have when we modify the environment around us.

Nature In Focus | Baby Animal Season 05:55

Photographer and conservationist Ian Shive visits the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, a recovery and rehab center for wildlife, with raccoons, pigeons, squirrels, pelicans, and other animals native to Southern California.

When you cut a tree in your backyard, you destroy habitat for a myriad of species, when poisons are put out for rodent control, other animals could eat it, including household pets, but animals that eat rodents will also inadvertently end up consuming the poison, such as owls. Our impacts are numerous, but I’m thankful there is a group of people working in Santa Barbara, California, to help rehabilitate these animals so they get a second chance in the wild.

An x-ray shows where an owl's wing was broken in multiple places. The Santa Barbara Animal Care Network will apply a splint and other procedural techniques to help repair the wing.

Photo by: Ian Shive

Ian Shive


While spending time documenting the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, I was amazed at the diversity of species that come through their doors, especially during the epic spring birthing season, or as Executive Director Ariana Katovitch calls it “baby season.” Over 60 animals a day come through in need of help, ranging from western screech owls to the long tailed weasel. Even the small, common bluebird will get treatment from their talented vet staff, including Dr. Avery Berkowitz, DVM. No animal or effort is too small!

Seeing their important work gives me hope for backyard habitats, especially in urban areas, where construction and growth seem endless. These animals may be wild, but as less and less of their home habitat exist, this facility gives them a chance to find their way back for a second chance.

For more information visit https://www.sbwcn.org/.

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