Wildlife Trapped in Window Wells
By Matt Oven, Park Ranger
Every year, the KCRMA Rangers experience several calls from residents regarding wildlife accidently falling into open window wells. This may seem like an unusual occurrence, but it happens more than you think. The hard part is trying to remove the wild animal when it is confined to a small area, possibly injured and scared as their survival instinct makes them unpredictable.
Some window wells at homes may be only a few feet deep and some have depths as much as eight feet. This means the average animal that falls into the well cannot easily remove themselves. The problem is the window well texture itself. The metal that is used in the construction is ribbed, but smooth and an animal’s claws cannot grip the metal. In addition, the angle is so extreme that the animals slip while trying to escape and stay inside. If the animal cannot exit the well on its own, it can become exhausted and eventually starve to death. There have also been several examples on the Ranch over the years in which deer have fallen into window wells, thrash around breaking glass trying to escape – injuring themselves while running around the basement looking for an exit!
I have, along with other park rangers in the past, removed yearling deer from window wells. A few times park rangers have had to lower themselves down into the well to capture the animal for release, which can be dangerous both for the animal and the park ranger. One of the easy methods to assist an animal trapped in a window well is to place a long board or two (best with rope/grips attached) inside the well at an easy angle. This allows the animal to gain a grip and climb outside to ground level. For removing snakes, a long pole or shovel with a bag on the end in addition to a board will help to catch and release them.
A great way to end any future concerns regarding wildlife and your open window well is to spend the extra money and install grate covers. The grate cover serves two purposes, one by allowing wildlife to pass safely over and around your home, and two, are equally safe for young children who could accidently fall into the window well and injure themselves.
If you have any questions you call the rangers at 303-979-1876, ext. 170.