Austin Muhs can receive as many as 3-4 calls a day about animals in trouble during the "busy season"
December 20, 2023 - Austin Muhs, a professional astrologer, musician, and filmmaker living in Santa Monica, has an unexpected sideline: rescuing injured and sick wildlife.
He came by the side gig via working civilian rescue during natural disasters. "My teams were in hurricanes Harvey, Florence, and Maria," Muhs says. They became expert at pulling both human beings and animals out of bad situations. During the Paradise Fire disaster, Muhs says his group, 999 Rescue Team, rescued 500-600 animals. But this work became "super political," according to Muhs, and he took to doing his own thing on a smaller scale about five years ago, starting with his notice of postings on Nextdoor regarding hurt or trapped wild animals.
At first, he'd see about one post a month, but then, especially after people were stuck at home during the Covid lockdowns, he began seeing posts more and more often. Word got out that Muhs was the go-to guy who'd know how to capture the injured bird or lost possum baby you'd found. He also knew where to take it. Muhs does not do rehab himself. "I love what I do, but I could never do rehab. I don't have the patience. I get it out of a jam and pick it up," Muhs explains. He then transports the animals to an appropriate state-sanctioned facility. At this point, he can receive as many as 3-4 calls a day about animals in trouble during the "busy season."
The busy season is when babies are born - and can get separated from their parents. From as early as February to as late as October, he will get calls or messages regarding hurt, trapped, or lost animals. Lost opossum babies are common as the mother counts on them to hold on and won't turn around to check or backtrack if a baby falls off. Squirrel babies can get blown out of the nest in a strong wind. Species Muhs has taken from bad situations range from"really gorgeous song birds" to a lost bearded dragon. In between are opossums, squirrels, doves, and pigeons. Muhs estimates he rescue/transports 300-400 animals a year.
But what Muhs really wants is for people to be able to rescue animals themselves. "It's easy. It's not hard. You don't need a degree," Muhs says. The most common animal people find is a bird who's unable to fly, often because of avian flu. Muh advises capturing it in a towel, putting it in a box, and getting it to rehab as soon as possible. It's not a good idea to try feeding an animal, as some, particularly birds, have extremely restricted diets. "You can inadvertently kill it," Muhs warns. The smaller the animal, the less hardy. Baby animals need heat.
Most animals are "pretty tame," Muhs believes. And even if you do get bit by something like a squirrel, it isn't the end of the world. Crows are admittedly most likely to carry disease. "But the average person shouldn't mess with a raccoon," Muhs warns. "They're pretty feisty."
You can see Muhs' animal rescue work at this Youtube short, (https://youtube.com/shorts/2ivJRtux-gA?feature=share), or learn about civilian rescue in the documentary he directed and co-produced, "People Power: the Rise of the Civilian Rescue Movement."
For a list of animal rehabilitators to whom to take any lost or injured animals you find, see https://www.smobserved.com/story/2023/12/21/people/wildlife-rehabilitators-in-the-santa-monica-area/8014.html