Staying Safe and Aware Around Wildlife

If you find an injured animal, please do not approach it, pick it up, or move it.

If you would to try to find out if there is something you can do to help the animal, please read through the extensive information on the Santa Cruz Native Animal Rescue website and use their contact information if necessary.


Take precautions around campus wildlife

UC Santa Cruz is home to many kinds of wildlife, including racoons, mountain lions, coyotes, deer, snakes, and much more. 

The campus community and visitors can appreciate the biodiversity of campus from a safe distance and keep in mind certain tips if they cross paths with some animals.

Please do not feed or pet the wild animals on campus both for the health of the creature and because it can lead to wild animals becoming habituated to people, which increases the possibility of someone getting bit. 


What to remember if you see a raccoon

  • Please take steps to avoid it. Raccoons are rarely aggressive toward humans but a female will defend her young. While normally nocturnal, they do occasionally come out in the daytime.
  • Never feed raccoons and be especially cautious when approaching any garbage can or areas where food or scraps can be found. If a raccoon approaches too closely or hisses at you, stand tall, wave your arms, and shout loudly.
  • Raccoons, along with foxes, skunks and bats are considered primary carriers of the rabies virus. Some behaviors of raccoons with rabies are:
    • Staggering gait
    • Seemingly oblivious to noise or nearby movement
    • Erratic wandering
    • Discharge from eyes or mouth
    • Wet and matted hair on face
    • Repeated high-pitch vocalization
    • Self-mutilation
  • If you see a raccoon showing any of these signs call UC Santa Cruz Police at 459-2231 ext. 1 and report the animal and location.  
  • If you come in contact with a raccoon or other rabies vector species or if you are bitten, please seek medical attention immediately.

What to remember if you see a mountain lion or coyote

  • Keep children close to you and within your sight at all times. Observations of captive lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. 
  • Do not hike alone. Make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. Go in groups, with adults supervising children. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea: you can use it to ward off a lion.
  • If you see a mountain lion/coyote, stop. Do not run. Back away from it slowly, but only if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate the instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion/coyote and stand upright. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up so they won't panic and run. Although it may seem awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the lion.
  • Do not bend or crouch over, and do all you can to appear larger. A person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four-legged prey animal. Raise your arms. Open your jacket, if you're wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can grab without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a large voice.
  • Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Fight back, if attacked. Try to stay on your feet if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven off by prey that fights back. Some hikers have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since lions usually try to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

What to remember if you see deer (and yes, you will see deer!)

  • Spring is the prime birthing season for a wide variety of campus wildlife, including deer.
  • Finding a fawn (baby deer) alone in the woods or a meadow is fairly common. Many people assume that young wildlife found alone are abandoned, helpless and need assistance for their survival. In nearly all cases this is a mistake, and typically human interaction does more damage than good. If you see a fawn or other newborn wildlife, enjoy your encounter, but for the animal’s well being, it is important to keep the encounter brief and maintain some distance.
  • A fawn's best chance of survival lies in being raised by its mother. Fawns nurse three to four times a day, usually for less than thirty minutes at a time, but otherwise the doe keeps her distance. This helps reduce the chances that she will attract a predator to the fawn. The fawn's protective coloration, near lack of scent and ability to remain motionless all help it avoid detection by predators and people.
  • If you find a fawn you should not approach it and by no means touch it or pick it up. The mother will most likely return to claim it. If you feel that the animal is in harm's way, maintain a substantial distance while still being able to observe it and contact the campus police department 459-2231 or county Animal Control: 831-454-7227. 
  • In addition to potentially harming a fawn, state and federal laws forbid possession of game and many non-game animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is usually illegal. If a fawn has been "rescued" when it shouldn't have been, it can often be released at the same location. Parents tend to remain in the area for at least a day, looking for the lost youngster.