Although Spirit, the wild boar surrendered in San Francisco by people who had tried to make him a pet, will be OK, it's usually not a good idea for humans to try to adopt a wild animal, experts said.
San Francisco residents apparently found Spirit when he was a baby three months ago near Mount Shasta. They brought him home to keep as a pet, but developed doubts about keeping him as he got bigger, Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.
"Fortunately, Spirit is looking forward to a good life. He's a lucky pig. But he is an exception," Campbell said.
The spokeswoman said Animal Care found a licensed rehabilitation facility for Spirit. If he can be successfully rehabilitated to forage for food in the wild, he'll be released.
If this goal can't be accomplished, he'll be able to stay in the facility, she said. But not all wild animals adopted by humans are so lucky.
"When wild animals are babies, they are very cute, and there's this desire on peoples' part to connect with wild animals," said Alison Hermance of WildCare, a wildlife hospital and environmental education center in San Rafael.
However, when the critter reaches sexual maturity, it goes from being a cute baby to whatever wild animal it is - a wild squirrel, a wild raccoon, a wild boar, Hermance said.
"As soon as it gets to the age where it would have been on its own in the wild, there is no biological imperative for it to be calm, to not bite, to not run away, to not be a wild animal," the spokeswoman said.
"You end up with aggression, depression, parrots tearing feathers out of their chests, animals clawing their way out of cages," Hermance said.
Also, it's hard to replicate a wild diet in a captive situation, so an animal can develop nutritional deficiencies. Hermance cited the example of a wild harrier hawk whose owners fed it only hamburger meat.
"They didn't realize the hawk eats the entire rodent. They get calcium from the bones, vitamin A from the liver, fiber from the hair," she said.
Additionally, possessing and transporting wildlife is illegal in California, with potential fines between $500 and $10,000.
If a person finds a wild animal in distress, the best thing to do is to call Animal Care and Control or a center like WildCare with trained personnel.
"We always raise them with their species. We keep our interaction with them at a minimum, and as soon as they are healed, we get them back out into the wild," Hermance said.