Apr 14, 2014

A mallard and her brood...

In addition to overseeing Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) as its chief officer, Rebecca Dmytryk runs a company called Humane Wildlife Control with her husband Duane Titus. 

On April 1st, they received a call regarding a duck that was behaving aggressively at a very busy Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Freedom, CA.

They went to check it out and found a female mallard duck nesting in a large planter at the entrance to the bank.

Wild birds and their nests are federally protected. It would be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to disturb the duck or destroy her nest.

Dmytryk has a special permit that allows her to capture and relocate waterfowl, but only under certain circumstances - when the birds are in immediate danger or pose an immediate threat to public health and safety (like traffic accidents).

This particular hen posed no real threat to the public, but people would probably disturb her if nothing was done to protect the site.

Rebecca and Duane secured bamboo reed fencing around one side of the nest, and posted a sign warning people to stay away. 

They asked the bank manager to keep an eye out and to call when the ducklings hatched.

Check out the video:

It takes about two weeks for a hen to lay a clutch of eggs - one every day or so. During the egg-laying stage, the drake watches over the hen and guards their territory. 

Once the last egg is laid, the hen begins incubating the eggs - a process that takes about 28 days. She remains on the nest except for brief periods to stretch and eat. 

The male stays nearby for a short while before flying off to molt. Interestingly, it's these newly-unattached males with no "jobs" that are often seen ganging up on females until their aggressiveness passes.

Once hatched, ducklings remain in the nest for about 10 to 24 hours - until the hen decides it's time to lead them to water - which can sometimes be miles away. This journey is extremely perilous, especially in an urban environment.


Today, WES received a call from the bank that the ducklings had hatched and were still in the nest. 

Duane and Rebecca responded and found the hen quietly resting with her new babies. 

While normally it's best to not intervene, except to maybe shepherd a duck-family across a busy intersection, in this case, the ducklings would be in great danger and could potentially cause a traffic accident. If possible, they should be relocated to a safer place nearby.

Capturing a flighted mallard, though, is a real challenge. They are strong birds with the ability to fly straight up. 

The team talked through various capture strategies before testing the simplest and quietest approach.

Hidden from direct view, Duane lifted the bamboo fencing just enough to allow Rebecca to get her arms underneath. Mimicking a snake - something relatively small that the hen could fend off, Rebecca slipped one hand under the blind. The hen reacted immediately - hissing and striking with her bill! Rebecca kept the hen occupied with her right hand - retreating and then tentatively advancing, until she had her left hand poised and ready. 

In one swift move, Rebecca grabbed the hen's midsection - like a football - keeping the bird's powerful wings tucked as she squirmed to get free. 

Once released inside a small animal carrier, the hen charged the door, bouncing off the grate.

Meanwhile, Duane began collecting the ducklings, setting them inside a separate carrier. 

During transport the crates were positioned so the hen could see her babies. 

Check out the video:

Apr 10, 2014


This week WES received a call about a trapped mother opossum. She was being blamed for getting inside a chicken coop and killing chickens, even though it could have been raccoons.

It was not a legal "take" - the homeowner did not know there were regulations he had to follow in order to trap "nuisance" wildlife, and, ultimately, he did not want to see it killed - he just didn't want to lose any more chickens.

The long-term solution, then, is to build a better chicken coop - one that not only keeps livestock contained but keeps predators out.

Once on scene, WES responders removed the opossum from the trap and into an animal crate, then spent some time with the homeowner, going over some ways to predator-proof his pens.

As for the opossum, she received a nutritious meal and was released later that night, nearby.

Apr 9, 2014

Before and After Wolves

See how the presence of wolves, in their native habitat, improve the environment - even the rivers. Please check out SustainableMan.org for more inspiring videos.

Apr 7, 2014

Injured bobcat rescue

This morning, we received a call from a security guard at the Diageo Chateau & Estate winery located near Paicines, CA. Workers had just observed an adult bobcat limping across the highway that runs through the property. It was last seen lying in tall grass near a row of settling ponds. 

Duane and Rebecca responded quickly, but when they arrived, the cat was gone. 

The two split up and scoured the area, walking the perimeter of the ponds and using binoculars to scan the fields. Nothing.

They decided to expand their search to an area beyond the ponds. 

As they were driving towards the open field, they spotted movement in a shaded area - it was the bobcat, walking unsteadily in their direction, wobbling, with its left leg held awkwardly.

They slowly backed up the truck out of the cat's vision in order to plan their next move.

Planning is one of the most critical steps in wildlife capture, as it is in the planning that responders, together, discuss potential risks.

WES responders are trained to think through capture plans using something called the Operational Risk Management (ORM) process - click HERE to see how it's used in the Coast Guard. 

Through the 7-stage ORM process, rescuers identify potential risks and the options they have to heighten safety.

Not knowing, for sure, how mobile the cat would be when pursued, an open gate at one corner of the field was cause for concern. The team decided to try and drive past the cat to cut off that potential exit.

They approached the spot where they'd last seen the cat. It had moved a few yards and was drinking from a puddle of water. It didn't seem to notice the truck as it rolled by.

Once out of sight, the two grabbed their nets and made their advance to the cat's last location, using the landscape to hide their approach. 

All of a sudden, the bobcat appeared from behind a mound - it was headed back toward the shade - directly toward Duane and Rebecca. All three stopped in their tracks - motionless. 

Duane was closest and would be the one to make the first attempt. His heart was racing but he was waiting for the cat to turn its stare before lunging. If not, he'd make the first move as he'd have an advantage - action beats reaction, every time. 

The cat started to turn away and move. He netted it with a large hoop net with a deep sock. The two worked together to contain the cat in the net, then transfer it into an animal carrier. Check out the rescue video:

The bobcat was rushed to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (WCSV) in San Jose where it would receive a thorough examination.

Image courtesy of WCSV.

The adult male bobcat was severely emaciated, weighing only 8 pounds, and radiographs revealed a severe fracture of his left hip. 

The bobcat was weak, but stood a chance.

Adobe Animal Hospital was contacted for a second opinion. After reviewing the digital radiographs, they believed they could repair the hip if they could get the cat stabilized enough for surgery. 

The bobcat was immediately transferred to Adobe where it would receive intensive care and possibly a blood transfusion.

UPDATE 4-8-14: Sadly, the bobcat was too weak and could not be stabilized - its body started to shut down. It was allowed to go in a deep sleep.

Apr 5, 2014

In the wake of the Texas City Y Oil Spill

By Rebecca Dmytryk

We are calling for change. Sign the petition, HERE.

This quote in the Texas Tribune by a US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) representative did it...

"Nine times out of ten, it's not worth capturing a bird,"

I called her - Nancy Brown, to ask her about the statement. 

While she was quick to say it was taken out of context, her clarification was no better, explaining that birds that are oiled and still able to fly are incredibly difficult to catch and capture attempts only increase stress on them, and they are already in a depleted state due to migration, and because the objective is to not add further stress, nine times out of ten it's better not to pursue a bird like that.



She went on to say that they are getting a lot of reports of oiled birds but "there's no chance of catching" them because they are still flighted.

I told her that there are various techniques for capturing flighted birds, and that there are world leaders in oiled wildlife recovery that have the skills to capture these birds,... and then I asked why not one of them had been invited to help with the recovery efforts?

She asked me if I was selling her something.


I went on to tell her about International Bird Rescue, Tri-State Bird Rescue, and their local Texas Wildlife Center, and that it seemed odd that these experts weren't advising on recovery efforts or, at the very least, in the field helping locate and catch oiled animals?

She told me the experts were there. That they have the finest people in the agency on the ground - people who know the topography, the shoreline, the currents, the tides and weather patterns... 

Indeed, use of local resources is very important, but, what's missing, I repeated, are the experts in oiled wildlife capture to work hand in hand with the locals...

Again, she asked if I was selling her something or have a vested interest.


NO!!! I am not selling anything, but, I do have an interest in the resources you're charged with protecting - that's my interest!!!

Maybe I should have turned the table on her and asked what her interest was - what does the US Fish and Wildlife Service have to gain? 

Could the feds be profiting from oil spill response? 

Is that why they squeezed us out of the field during the Deepwater Horizon? How much did FWS make off the Gulf Oil Spill? Anyone? Anyone?

(Rachel Maddow - are you reading this?)

The conversation ended with her telling me to submit my concerns and suggestions online at this address, HERE, which I did. Feel free to send in yours.

Afterwards, I did some more digging. I tried to make sense of the FWS role in oil spill response, HERE. It seems they take direction from a National Contingency Plan, but also from a ten-year-old document Best Practices for Migratory Bird Care During Oil Spill Response.

This document was developed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) when oil companies were being misled by people claiming to be oiled wildlife experts. Agencies needed a way to evaluate responders, so, the two leading organizations - International Bird Rescue and Tri-State collaborated on this document with the FWS. 

There is only so much guidance a document like this can provide - hands-on involvement by experts is essential,... but here's the problem - here's the conundrum: no one else knows that but the experts.

At the start of the Texas City Y oil spill, the FWS assumed the lead and took control of wildlife operations. Because there is no oiled wildlife capture expert on scene to advise, decisions are being made from an inexperienced point of view. 

That's why, I guess, they think it's okay to send moderately experienced teams into the field and not utilize experts. They don't see the need. They don't see the need, because they don't know any better,... 

...and who is going to question them? Who is going to question a federal agency in charge of wildlife? Most people will just assume they know what they are doing...

It feels like our hands are tied... 

What can be done?

The People need to demand change. The FWS is a trustee agency - it is charged with protecting our wildlife. We must demand that they strengthen oil spill contingency plans to require at least one representative from a leading oiled wildlife response organization - namely International Bird Rescue, Tri-State, or Texas Wildlife Center, be assigned a position in the Wildlife Branch during any major oil spill in the United States.

Add your voice - demand that experts be utilized on major oil spill, HERE.

Apr 4, 2014

Hollister Hawk

This morning, the Hollister Animal Shelter transferred a call to us about a hawk. According to the RP, the hawk was first observed in their backyard the night before. It was still there this morning, which prompted them to reach out for assistance.

Responders arrived quickly and found what appeared to be a young red-tailed hawk with a federal band on its leg. The metal band will help authorities trace the bird's history. It could be a falconer's bird that escaped. 

Its condition was suspect. The bird was thin and weak and covered in chewing lice, which could account for some of the damaged feathers. However, the tips of its tails feathers were worn and its band was caked in what appeared to be fecal material. Authorities were alerted and the bird was transported to a local wildlife hospital for care.

Here's video of the rescue:

Mar 29, 2014

What's wrong with this picture?

Thoughts on oiled wildlife recovery efforts or lack thereof...

by Rebecca Dmytryk

Fact: Oil and wildlife don't mix.

Mammals, especially marine and aquatic mammals, are greatly impacted by oil, but the impact of oil on birds is tremendous and swift.

A bird's feathers are like shingles on a roof - it's their structure and alignment that keep cold air and water away from the bird's body. The smallest amount of oil can cause feathers to collapse, exposing the bird to the elements and compromising its ability to thermoregulate - to stay warm.

Successful oiled wildlife recovery plans are based on a multitude of factors and the window of opportunity in which to recover birds where they will have the greatest chance of surviving. Every spill is different.

Factors that go into planning include the geography, climate, weather, time of year (nesting; migration), type of oil and degree of oiling, species, age, an individual animal's status and unique behavior, and available resources.

It only makes sense that for search and recovery efforts to be successful - to do the greatest good and save the most animals, they should be led by those with the most hands-on experience and greatest skills. Therefore, I feel comfortable in stating there are only a few people in the United States with such expertise... maybe 60. 

Sixty people I would trust to organize and command oiled wildlife search efforts, correctly identify compromised animals, and execute successful capture plans.

(...perhaps I'm being too generous.)


On Saturday, March 22, a barge carrying about 900,000 gallons of heavy oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay, spilling close to 170,000 gallons of oil. Oil has been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to a recent report, Houston Audubon Society said they were seeing more and more oiled birds. On Monday, their volunteers documented about 50 oiled birds on Bolivar Flats. On Tuesday, they counted 100 at the sam location, and by Wednesday the number had climbed to about 140.

To date, no one from the country's leading oiled wildlife response organizations - no one with years of oiled wildlife capture experience has been utilized for planning or search and recovery efforts - not even the local experts, Wildlife Center of Texas.

Instead, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is relying on assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and their own staff to find and capture oiled animals.

This is absurd!

Worse, it's not the first time assistance from leading experts has been overlooked... excuse me,... ignored, rejected, even prohibited in a Southern response.

International Bird Rescue and Tri-State are the two major organizations in the country that can professionally manage a response to a major spill. In Texas, Sharon Schmaltz with Wildlife Center of Texas has decades of oiled wildlife recovery experience.

Why are these experts not leading or at the very least advising wildlife recovery efforts in Galveston Bay?

What is it that prevents these experts from being immediately mobilized for any major oil spill in the United States?

Things need to change, now and forever!

About the author: 

Rebecca Dmytryk has been involved in oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation since 1993 and has worked search and recovery efforts on over 35 major oil incidents, including the Deepwater Horizon/Gulf Oil Spill. View her CV HERE.

Mar 22, 2014

Taking WES to the Summit

By Deanna Barth

That's me, on April 26th, trying to lure the goose close enough to capture. I finally caught her on June 7th.

Last year, to support a friend's efforts, I attended the Summit for the Planet Walk-a-thon and Earth Day Celebration at Mount Madonna School. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of local non-profits participating in the fundraising event. Some I had never heard of before even though they operate out of my own "backyard". 

That got me to thinking just how many people may not know about Wildlife Emergency Services. So, I made the decision to participate in the 2014 walk-a-thon.

Here we are, coming up on the April 26th event for which I signed up to complete a 15K (10 mile) walk. 

Now, all I need is your support.

You can help by either supporting my walk with a pledge per kilometer I complete, HERE, or, you can register to join me in walking for WES, HERE. At the very least, please stop by our event table to say hello.

Why we need your support? 

We're coming up on the busy season where we can expect to receive 5-10 calls per day from people who have found wild animals in distress. 

In spring and summer months, most rescues involve young, like baby birds that have fallen from their nests or that have lost their mothers.

If you're familiar with WES, then you know we are an all-volunteer run organization - with no paid staff or employees, and you know the incredible work we do.

Maybe you'll recall the red-tailed hawk with the nail through its head in San Francisco, the Canada goose in Redwood City with a kite-string winder on its wing, the turkey in Hollister with an arrow through it, the beaver caught in a packing strap in downtown San Jose, the dozens of ducklings saved from storm drains, and the countless baby birds that got a second chance to grow up wild because of our reuniting and wild-fostering team.

These are animals that, at least in my opinion, would never have been rescued had it not been for our expertise.

WES is a unique program - perhaps one of maybe a handful in the United States that is trained, equipped, experienced and provides assistance with wildlife rescues 24/7 and WES is the only wildlife organization in the greater Bay Area that provides such field services.

But, we need your support to carry on.

I’ve been a volunteer first responder with WES for three years now and I also
 serve as an officer and a board member. I can tell you, it's amazing what we accomplish on so little, but, we can’t continue to provide our valuable public services without financial support from people like you.

Please, consider supporting our efforts through the Summit for the Planet, HERE, or by making a contribution of any size, HERE. You can also sign up to volunteer to help rescue and transport injured wildlife, HERE

Thank you so much, Deanna

Mar 19, 2014

WES' Junior Rescuers Help Capture Injured Gull

This morning, WES received a report of a gull with line wrapped around its leg. It was seen at the end of the Santa Cruz municipal pier near the restaurants.

Lead responders Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk invited Junior Rescuers, Gabe, Nate and Ben, to join them.

When the team arrived, the gull was spotted quickly. It had line wrapped around its right leg and was limping - obviously in pain.

The team decided to increase their chances of success by using a drop trap instead of a hoop net to capture the bird. 

Duane and Rebecca guided the brothers in proper rescue etiquette as they helped set up the trap and assigned them positions. Gabe (8) would be the one to pull the line and drop the trap. His brothers, Ben and Nate would work together to remove the bird from the trap and place it into a carrier.

With the trap set and Fritos crumbles scattered underneath, Dmytryk encouraged the shy bird closer by tossing a few tempting chips. Eventually, the shy bird went underneath the trap just enough. On cue, Gabe pulled the string entrapped the bird. 

Check out the video:

Ben (12) and Nate (10) assisted in removing the gull from the trap and into an awaiting carrier. The young gull was transported to a local wildlife hospital for care.

Thank you Junior Rescuers 
for helping save the gull!!!

If you'd like to support our Junior Rescuers with a donation that will be used to purchase needed supplies, equipment and expenses directly related to program, please click the special Donate button below. Thank you.

Mar 18, 2014

Update on Carmel River

From Frank Emerson, Carmel River Steelhead Association:

The storm water spill samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds, which turned out not to be present. The next attempt to find out what as in the spill is to test for synthetic organic compounds. If we get results we will let everyone know. It is quite possible we will never find out what it was.

The system of storms that came late in our winter were not enough to recharge the aquifer. Over pumping in the dry months draws down the water table so far it takes over 10 inches of rain just to get the river flowing all the way to the Ocean. This did not happen this year. That means a "year class" will be lost. No adults can come into the river to spawn and smolts cannot migrate downriver to the Sea. Smolts are about 8 to 10 inches and will feed over the next 2 to 3 years, growing into mature adults. With two very dry years prior to this one it is likely we will have even more declines in the Steelhead population.

The good news is that San Clemente Dam is being removed and that a new water project can substitute Carmel River water with desal water and alleviate a significant amount of over pumping. And none too soon!

Sincerely Yours,

Frank Emerson

Mar 16, 2014

Update on the WildHelp App

By Rebecca Dmytryk

I just returned from the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association symposium in Tennessee where our WildHelp App display won Best Poster! 

While it was certainly not as scientifically revealing as competing posters, I think the crowd was excited by the new technology and how helpful the app will be.

The display was interactive, with 2 spiral bound iPhone mockups. Each page was representational of a single screen, with questions about the animal found. Check it out:

What's unique to WildHelp, and sets it apart from any other app available, is how it asks particular questions about the animal found. These questions allow us to provide the user with the most pertinent information, specific to their situation. 

For example, if the user indicates they have found a young bird, unable to fly but not noticeably injured, an alert will pop up with information on fledgling birds.

This information gathered on the type of animal also enables us to narrow the list of local experts down to just a few, instead of a long list of veterinarians, sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitators that may or may not treat the type of animal found.

WildHelp takes any guesswork out of the equation, making it simpler and faster to find help.

If you'd like to make a dedicated contribution toward the current and future development of WildHelp, we'd greatly appreciate it. Here are some options: 

Mail check to:

Wildlife Emergency Services
P. O. Box 65, Moss Landing CA 95039

Please write WildHelp in the memo section of your check.

Make a contribution online

Purchase limited edition merchandise, HERE.

Mar 3, 2014

In Appreciation

A sampling of the supplies received.

We wanted to say a special Thank You! to everyone who sent us gifts from our Amazon Wish List. Thank you, Daysha, JaneGrace, Rebecca, Michele, Kimberly, Siobhan, John, Valerie, Emilia.

We received a giant jug or Purell, Wet Ones, filters for our "skunk" masks, a mini speaker for help in reuniting wild babies, portable and reusable heating pads, and a pack of saline solution.

Thank you so, so much! This helps tremendously!

If you'd like to support our program with a purchase of needed supplies or equipment, click HERE.


Mar 2, 2014

Introducing WES' Junior Rescue Team

WES Junior Rescue Team: Kaia (7), Gabriel (8), and Ben (12) and Nathan (10).

Back in November, we held our initial meeting of WES Junior Rescuers. It was more of a social event to get acquainted. 

This afternoon, we had our first official training! 

This unique program, inspired by a young man who helped save an injured bird (story HERE), aims to teach the children valuable "hunting" skills while fostering compassion for animals - melding prowess with kindness. 

Rebecca Dmytryk, founder of WES and the team's coach, likes to think of it as introducing their Humanitarian-self with their Hunter-self.
Humans are hunter-gatherers. Underneath it all - beneath the finest fabrics, the shiniest polish, the most refined belief system, lives the hunter. It's what we do with our temperament that matters, really.  
Children are instinctively curious about nature and readily identify with animals. Here, we have an opportunity to connect them with the natural world in a deep way, empowering them with knowledge and showing them, firsthand, how they can make a difference in an animal's life, and how good that can feel.
Deanna Barth, one of the parents, had this to say:
Children learn by example, so if we want to see compassion for animals in the future, we need to start by educating our children now.  They are the future of veterinary medicine and wildlife rehabilitation. 

There is finesse to using capture equipment. WES' junior rescuers will be instructed on proper use of their tools, then, once they've achieved a certain level of skill, they'll be given the opportunity to assist in capturing ailing rock doves (pigeons) and domestic waterfowl, to start.

Today's instructional class began indoors and started out with a discussion about the team's first assignment. They'd been asked to watch two movies: Bambi, and The Three Lives of Thomasina - films that Dmytryk believes are strongly influential.
I remember these movies very, very well. Viscerally. So much that I shy away from watching them anymore. I'm sure quite a few readers will know what I mean. 
These are powerful films and they worked their magic when I was a kid - teaching the value of all living creatures, encouraging kindness, empathy, advocacy, strengthening my compassion. They don't make movies like this anymore.

Next, the team was shown training videos of certain animal capture techniques that they would be practicing outdoors, including use of a drop trap. 

Drop traps are used successfully to capture flighted birds that are shy of nets.

Outdoors, the students practiced using their capture nets, making sure to set the hoop flat so an animal cannot escape.

Then, they each practiced setting up and triggering a drop trap, and worked together to safely remove the captured animal, in this case, a duck decoy.

Congratulations to our Junior Rescuers!
You all did incredibly well!

Mar 1, 2014

Insult to Injury

Yesterday, a team of volunteers from the Carmel River Steelhead Association (CRSA) walked the Carmel River to check the flow of water. With the region under extreme draught conditions there is worry that this year the river may not run to the sea - critical to the life cycle of the threatened steelhead trout. The steelhead is the ananadromous (sea-run) form of coastal rainbow trout that usually returns to fresh water to spawn after living two to three years in the ocean. 

Without a breach to the sea and sustained water flow in the Carmel River, juvenile fish upstream will not be able to return to the ocean and adults will be prevented from moving up river to spawn. Check out this in-depth news story that explains the issue, HERE.  

Adding more trouble for the fish and other aquatic life, Frank Emerson, Vice President of CRSA, found a large spill of white substance pouring out of a storm drain and into the Carmel River near the Cabrillo Highway bridge.

Initially, the volume of white, cloudy water was extensive. Within an hour, the runoff cleared but the substance was visible in the main stem of the waterway leading into the lagoon. Larry Hampson, hydrologist for Monterey Peninsula Municipal Water District (MPMWD) was contacted - he assessed the pollution and took samples. The Office of Emergency Services was also notified.

Frank moved up the outfall to investigate the source and, to his surprise, he found a small adult steelhead trout trying to jump the barrier and swim up the storm drain. As the flow in this side channel dropped, however, the fish became stranded. 

A rescue crew from the MPMWD relocated the fish upstream.

So far, the flow in the river is not enough to run to the ocean, but the group will monitor it closely. There is fear that if the river does breach to the sea during flooding, there may not be enough to maintain a flow after the rain subsides, and fish will need to be rescued. Volunteers are on high alert.

We encourage you to support this valuable organization with a membership of $25.00, HERE, a family membership for only $45.00, HERE, or with a donation of any size, HERE.

More on CRSA efforts: