Mar 25, 2015

Gull and treble

Yesterday, WES was alerted of a gull at the Santa Cruz municipal wharf with a treble hook and lure caught on its right naris, or nostril. Apparently, the gull had been in this condition for about a week, with attempts to capture it, unsuccessful.

Duane and Rebecca responded and were able to locate the gull but before they could try baiting it in, the bird flew off and couldn't be located again. 

The duo returned the next day and found the gull where it had been reportedly hanging out, along the thin walkway behind Riva's Fish House. The gull had blood stains on its wings - its wrists, where it had obvious caught itself with the treble while grooming.

Before deciding on a method of capture, one must get to know the animal's behavior a little better - how it responds to human presence, if it is interested in food, its rank among conspecifics, that sort of thing.

Fritto crumbles and pieces of baitfish were used to draw the gulls attention - and it worked! The bird readily approached within a couple of feet of the rescuer, with very little care. That meant it could be lured toward a hoop net. It was also a top-ranking Western gull. Even injured as it was, it was well respected among others of its kind. This would make baiting it in even easier.

The team brought in a long handled hoop net, with the hoop and netting carried close at the hip to conceal it and not frighten the gulls. The hoop was set vertically, leaning up against the exterior of the restaurant near where the bird had baited. 

Guests of the restaurant watched curiously, peering through tinted glass as these rescuers lured the gull close. It wasn't 5 seconds after the bait was placed that Duane had it netted.

Back at the rescue vehicle the treble was removed from the bird's bill before being transported to Native Animal Rescue for evaluation and care.

A huge thank you to Melissa for reporting this bird to WES!!!

Grounded falcon

Yesterday afternoon, WES received word of a grounded raptor at Scott Creek. It was described as being black and white with blueish eyes and a hooked bill. The reporting party noticed it on the dunes near the protected plover habitat at Scott Creek.

Responders found the young peregrine falcon. It's eyes were closed, which accounted for the description of it having blue eyes.

The bird was cold and weak and easily captured. 

WES called local peregrine specialist, Glenn Stewart, head of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, for advice. He suspected avian cholera or avian influenza. 

Since December, there have been several confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza HPAI H5 in the Pacific Flyway. Click HERE for details.  

Avian influenza is lethal for falcons within 48 hours of ingestion of an infected bird. 

Check out the rescue video:

The peregrine falcon was placed on heat and transported to Native Animal Rescue where it died shortly thereafter. Its carcass will be shipped to the state Wildlife Investigations Lab for testing.

Mar 16, 2015

WES presents at NWRA

Rebecca Dmytryk, founder and CEO of Wildlife Emergency Services helped to organize a block of presentations on wildlife capture for the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association symposium which was held last week in Princeton, New Jersey.

She opened the session with a talk on the basic principles of wildlife search and rescue, sharing her vast experience and knowledge in the field. 

Her talk was followed by Wildlife Capture Strategies, presented by Peggy Hentz, another of the country's experts in wildlife emergency response.

One of the highlights of Peggy's talk was her demonstration of a net she devised. It collapses to fit through small openings, like storm drain grates, then springs open to collect entrapped animals, like baby ducks.

Peggy's talk was followed by Kris Tamburello, Flight Safety Officer with the US Coast Guard, who volunteered his time and travel to present on Operational Risk Management - a useful tool for first responders.

Dmytryk followed Kris with Tips For Capturing Flighted Birds, followed by Michelle Goodman and husband Ian Gereg who presented a talk on waterfowl rescues.

The series ended with a demonstration of various pieces of capture equipment.

The turnout for this block of talks was, at one point, over 140, which shows there is great interest in the subject of capture. This is excellent, as a majority of wildlife hospitals do not provide rescue and transport, but rely on the finder or other entities. 

Mar 15, 2015

Spring is in the air

Spring is coming! This year, the vernal equinox is on March 20th. Find out all about the equinox and celestial coordinates, click HERE. Mark your calendar to celebrate the real Earth Day.

With the warmer temperatures of spring and summer, the air will be abuzz with insects. For bug lovers, did you know there is an organization - established in 1971, that's focused on invertebrate conservation? It's called the Xerces Society. Have a look, HERE.

Love bumblebees? Click HERE for a brochure on bumblebees, and check out this guide on bumblebee conservation, HERE

Check it out - you can report bumblebee sightings and help researchers keep track of these valuable pollinators, HERE

Happy Spring!

Mar 9, 2015

Yet another skunk in a rat trap!

This morning WES was referred a call about a man in Ben Lomond who had trapped a skunk and wanted it 'removed'.

He was quite distressed as he explained there was a skunk right outside his trailer door, preventing him from leaving his home. It was caught in a rat trap he'd set outside... outside, in the middle of the woods!

Normally, a situation involving a wild animal trapped by a citizen on their own property would be a matter for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife rather than the county animal services.

In this case, though, because the skunk had been unintentionally caught in a device meant for rodents - and there are no regulations restricting placement of snap traps, there wasn't really anything law enforcement could do.

Regardless, the skunk needed rescuing!

WES' Duane Titus responded to the incident.

He found the skunk tethered by a front foot - caught in one of those black plastic heavy-duty snap traps with interlocking teeth.

The skunk was bright, alert and clearly traumatized.

Duane approached and grabbed hold of the skunk as best as one can restrain a biting, squirming, squirting beast, and he quickly freed its paw from the trap.

He placed it in a pet carrier for transport to Monique Lee in Corralitos - she's the area's skunk and bat rehabilitator.

Check out the video below:


UPDATE: The skunk is reportedly doing well and ready to be set free!!! 


Mar 2, 2015

Skunks and Rat Traps

Photo Credit Monique Lee

Yesterday, another skunk was rescued - its paw caught in a rat snap trap. It was a difficult capture under a home where the skunk had burrowed a den under the foundation of the house. Check out the video.

The skunk was taken to local wildlife rehabilitator, Monique Lee, who specializes in skunks and bats. 

Monique has been rehabilitating wild mammals for over 15 years and has seen some truly heartbreaking injuries. One scenario consistently crops up, year after year: skunks caught in snap traps. Spring-loaded rat traps. The newer ones with interlocking jaws are the worst!

Skunks are omnivorous scavengers, relying heavily on their sense of smell to locate food, and their long non-retractable claws to forage. 

Skunks eat rodents, too, bringing them into yards and underneath homes where they can encounter loaded snap traps.

Attracted to the bait, skunks will explore armed traps with their paws. When triggered, the jaws of the trap snap down with pressure designed to break the back of a mouse or rat.

While the initial impact will not kill the skunk, what happens next sets its fate. 

If the skunk is discovered quickly and the trap removed and no bones are broken, it has a good chance for a full recovery, but if it's not rescued in time a skunk can lose its digits, or even its entire paw, as one of Monique's patients did.

Photo Credit Monique Lee

For the majority of skunks Monique has treated with trap injuries, it has meant at least two months of rehabilitative care. Some cases have been worse than others, though.

Photo Credit Monique Lee

In the summer of 2013, a young female skunk had been foraging underneath a hanging bird feeder when a rat trap snapped onto her sensitive nose. The skunk languished for 18 hours before we received the call. We rescued the skunk, promptly removed the trap and delivered her to Monique. After weeks of care, the end result was the loss of the tip of her nose.

Snap traps must not be set where other animals will come into contact with them!

When looking for ways to combat a rat or mouse infestation problem, consider how the animals are getting inside the structure - think exclusion before anything else!

To exclude rodents, seal up holes 1/2" or larger with screen or other material that a rodent won't chew through. 

Large entry points, like a broken vent or missing crawlspace door must be handled differently as there could be a larger animal inside. 

In addition to exclusion, sanitation will be key. 

Most importantly, garbage and recyclables must be secured in rodent-proof containers and a yard should be free of clutter and debris where rodents can shelter. Rodents should be prevented from accessing livestock feed, birds seed, and fruiting trees, too.

For help in excluding pests and protecting your home or yard, WES' Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk can help. They operate a company called Humane Wildlife Control. Humane Wildlife Control can be reached at 855-5-HUMANE (1-855-548-6263). See their brochure, HERE. If you're outside of their service area, HERE is a list  of humane wildlife control service providers in other regions of the country.

Once a structure has been sealed so that no animals can get inside, then and only then should traps be considered. While snap traps can effective, rats and mice can be caught in live cage traps and set free outdoors. If the exclusion work is done right, the rodents will not be able to get back inside.

If snap traps are to be used, however, they must never be placed outside where larger animals can get injured. 

Lastly, poison bait should never be used as it works through the food chain, poisoning hawks, owls, bobcats, foxes, even dogs and cats. 

Photo Credit Monique Lee

Feb 14, 2015

Troubled waters

Wildlife rescuers are often the very first to notice unusual trends in wildlife populations. For instance, last week, when Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) received reports of adult pelicans behaving oddly.

Our first clue that something odd was going on, came to us in a report of an adult brown pelican in a busy shopping center. It flew to the Cabrillo College pool where WES responders were able to capture it. 

A couple of days later, we recovered another adult brown pelican. This one was found wandering a farm field in Hollister - 23 miles inland.

Another adult brown pelican was seen at the Hollister landfill. Another clue: starving pelicans will follow gulls looking for food. Were these birds starving?

Both of the pelicans we picked up felt thin and weak, and both died.

What's most alarming, is that they were adult birds - over 3 years old. Proven survivors. So, what killed them?

Because of the unusual circumstances, we sent their bodies to the Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova. 

We've also alerted seabird researchers and put the word out to California wildlife hospitals to be on the lookout and to keep us apprised of any unusual adult pelican intakes.

Since then, we received word that a handful of adult pelicans were admitted for care at International Bird Rescue's Southern California facility in the last week, and, on Friday, another adult brown pelican was recovered in Los Gatos, 25 miles from the Pacific.

Clearly, something is going on, and, from our experience, it looks like it's related to starvation.

In December 2008, as talks about delisting the California brown pelican from the Endangered Species List progressed, close to 500 pelicans were found dead or dying along the West Coast. A similar event occurred the subsequent year, summarized in a report, HERE. Scientists concluded both events were related to a shortage of food.

Last year, a survey of nesting brown pelicans revealed unprecedentedly few breeding pairs of California brown pelicans - read more, HERE, and, just months ago, a massive die-off of seabirds in the Pacific Northwest had scientists puzzled, and worried. Read more about that event, HERE.

Feb 7, 2015

Pervasive pesticides

In late December, WES rescued an adult bobcat at the San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister and an adult coyote off Beach Road in Watsonville.

Both animals were suffering from severe injuries, likely caused by a vehicle collision. 

The animals were transported to Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, but neither could be saved - their injuries were just too severe.

Their lives ended, but they still have a voice. 

Before disposing of the carcasses we took samples of their livers and sent them to the Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova for testing. 

We wanted to see, by chance, if these two predators had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticide from eating poisoned rodents.

Sure enough, they both tested positive for Bromadiolone!

Bromadiolone is a potent anticoagulant rodenticide. It's so powerful it can be absorbed through skin. 

Bromadiolone is found in rat bait blocks and pellets. The bait is usually offered in a protected plastic box that only rats and mice can access.

Predators, like bobcats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, hawks, owls - even dogs and cats - are poisoned when they consume rodents that have eaten the bait. 

Last year, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation designated Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, Difenacoum, and Difethialone (Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides or SGARs) Restricted Materials. As such, their availability to the general public is being restricted. After March 31st, 2015, products containing SGARs will only be available for use by properly licensed pest control companies. 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has also also imposed restrictions on the sale and use of products containing these poisons. An in-depth report on the EPA's decision can be found HERE.

After March 31st, 2015 and after all merchandise is gone from the shelves, these products will no longer be available to the average consumer, however, commercial applicators - licensed pest control companies and private applicators producing an agricultural commodity will still have access to products containing SGARs.

Under the new California regulations, placement of poison bait stations is, for the most part, restricted to above ground and no more than 50 feet from any manmade structure. Elsewhere in the country it is 100 feet.

Labeling continues to restrict use to control Norway rats, roof rats, and the house mouse - the SGAR labels explicitly prohibit use for control of any other pest species, meaning, they cannot be used to control woodrats or other rodent species.

Additionally, California passed Assembly Bill 2657, prohibiting use of products containing SGARs in wildlife habitat, such as state parks, wildlife refuges or state conservancy lands.

For more, see the CDPR Question and Answer Page HERE. Read Bill-2657 HERE.

The stricter regulations are certainly a step in the right direction, but until SGARs are banned altogether, wildlife will continue to be exposed through secondary poisoning.

Use of poison to control rats and mice is never a sound solution. 
Find a Humane Wildlife Control service provider HERE.

Check out the coyote and bobcat rescues, below.

Feb 4, 2015

Wayward pelican

Yesterday, WES received a call about a brown pelican in the parking lot of the Ranch Del Mar Shopping Center in Aptos - just about one-half mile from the ocean. The pelican was reportedly resting near parked cars, oblivious to pedestrians and traffic. 

When our rescue team arrived, the bird was gone! They alerted the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter Dispatch about the pelican, hoping someone would report seeing it nearby.

Soon after, the pelican was reported swimming in the pool of Cabrillo College, just down the street!

By the time our team arrived, the bird was out of the pool, and appearing a bit confused.

Lead responder, Rebecca Dmytryk, easily collected the adult brown pelican. Once she had hold of the bird, she could tell it was underweight, but it didn't appear to be injured. 

The pelican was immediately transported to the local wildlife hospital, Native Animal Rescue, but, sadly, the bird did not make it overnight. 

Because of the bird's unusual behavior, the pelican's body was sent to the Wildlife Investigations Lab in Ranch Cordova, CA where a necropsy will be performed to try and determine the cause of death.


Feb 1, 2015

Get your Sunday Wild Byte!

Receive your Sunday Wild Bytes with a donation of 5.00 or more.

By check payable to WES: 

P.O. Box 65 Moss Landing CA 95039

Safely and securely through PayPal.

Send us a little something every month:

Support Options

Jan 30, 2015

Band-tailed pigeon die-off - what you can do!

In parts of California this time of year, band-tailed pigeons appear in abundance, flocking together in large groups near oak woodlands and conifer forests. 

Band-tailed pigeons can be identified by a yellow bill and yellow feet, and a lovely, violet-hued plumage.

Currently, California's coastal population of band-tailed pigeons is experiencing a significant mortality event caused by avian trichomonosis.

Experts warn we may lose thousands, which would be devastating to a species already in decline and with a slow recovery rate. Band-tailed pigeons only produce one chick per year.

Avian trichomoniasis is caused by a single-celled protozoan that causes "cheese-like" lesions in the mouth and throat. As the disease worsens, a bird loses its ability to swallow, and dies of starvation or suffocation.

When an ill pigeon has trouble swallowing, it will drop infected seed from its mouth. As it tries to drink, the protozoa can spread to other birds through the water.

This video (below) shows a band-tailed pigeon suffering from trichomonosis.

You can do your part to help reduce the spread of this horrible disease!

Band-taileds feed on seed, on the ground and from bird feeders and they are attracted to bird baths and garden fountains. This is where the parasite spreads quickly, especially when the pigeons flock in such great numbers.

Help prevent the spread of the disease by taking away any attractants - remove bird feeders, prevent the pigeons from sharing feed with poultry, and take away their access to any water sources, like fountains and bird baths.

Report dead or dying band-tailed pigeons to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, HERE or call (916) 358-2790. More from CDFW on this mortality event, HERE.

A reminder:

In general, it's not a good idea to feed wildlife. It causes animals to group up in unusually high numbers where diseases can spread easily. It conditions animals to an artificial food source, changing their normal, healthy foraging behavior. Lastly, it can be a death sentence, especially in an urban setting where increased wildlife sightings and conflicts result in animals being killed.

Even when there is not a significant disease outbreak, feeding wild birds comes with great responsibility:

  • Bird feeders must be thoroughly washed and disinfected weekly. 
  • Bird baths must be rinsed daily, disinfected and let to air dry in the sun at least once a week. 
  • The ground beneath a bird feeder must be kept free of seed so birds aren't feeding on soiled material and so there is not such an attraction for rodents.

Jan 21, 2015

WES responding to mystery incident in the Bay

On Sunday, Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) was alerted of a situation in the San Francisco Bay - numerous sea birds were being found along the shore of Hayward, coated in a gooey substance. 

The birds were first observed on Friday!

California Office of Spill Prevention and Response collected samples but due to the holiday weekend testing to identify the substance was postponed until Tuesday. They did, however, declare it nontoxic and not petroleum-based. 

Good news for responders, but not such great news for the birds - the substance coated their feathers just the same as oil.

Feathers are like shingles of a roof - it's their structure and alignment that keep out the wind and rain. When something, impairs a bird's weatherproofing, it's just a matter of time before the bird becomes hypothermic and dies from exposure to the cold environment.

By the time we were alerted, it was Day Three. The clock was ticking.

With any event involving birds that have lost their waterproofing, it's a race against time to collect the birds before they succumb to the cold. The longer a compromised bird remains in the environment, the weaker it becomes, and the less chance it has of surviving the cleaning process.

In this window of opportunity, responders focus on the most heavily coated birds first - the ones that cannot float or fly. Oddly enough, they often do the best because they are found and collected quickly. 

It's the ones that are still very mobile and flighted that prove the most difficult to catch.

It requires training, skill, and special equipment. It requires strategic planning and cooperation among responding parties to successfully capture flighted birds. They mustn't be hazed or chased after as this can cause them to disperse from the area.

Duane Titus stalking a scoter at San Leandro Marina.

WES specializes in response to animals in distress. Its founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, author of Wildlife Search and Rescue, is an expert in capturing wildlife, along with her husband, Duane Titus, who has lead search and recovery efforts on numerous oil spills, including the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

After hearing about the birds being found along the shore near Hayward, WES mounted a response, calling on their volunteers to help. Colleague, Mark Russell, representing International Bird Rescue, also responded.

Because the substance isn't a petroleum product, a formal, structured response by state, federal and local agencies was absent. We were on our own. The conundrum is explained well, HERE.

Deanna Barth ready to head onto the mudflats.

We gathered at the East Bay Regional Parks Office at the end of West Winton, in Hayward. That became our staging area, thanks to the Park Service.

Before noon, a team of 4 trained volunteers from WES were scouring the shoreline in search of birds. It wasn't long before they'd captured a dozen birds coated in the sticky substance.

To document where birds were found, dead or alive, our search teams used a mobile app, Theodolite (iOS) or GeoCam (Android).

Together, with 3 responders from International Bird Rescue and support from East Bay Regional Parks, at least 60 birds were rescued before dark - birds that might not have made it another night exposed to the elements.

End of first day in the field.

On Monday and Tuesday, the joint, collaborative response from International Bird Rescue and Wildlife Emergency Services, with support from East Bay Regional Parks, proved extremely successful, capturing more than 100 birds.

Andrew Bear and his son Ben after rescuing ducks on the mudflats.

Check out some great news coverage, HERE, and HERE.

Check out some capture clips, below:

On Wednesday, WES assumed the lead in field response, coordinating rescue efforts with assistance from Deb Self from Baykeeper, who helped coordinate volunteers and media inquires. (Thank you, Deb!)

By Wednesday evening, sightings of birds in distress had dropped. It was time to call off official search and rescue efforts and focus more on responding to reports from the public.

Thanks to an outpouring of support from the public and the local birding community, we have had volunteers scoping the shoreline ever since.

On Thursday afternoon, WES' volunteer Tori set out to survey the area and respond to reports of beached scoters. 

She needed a net in case she found the birds, so she stopped by West Marine to pick up a long-handled net (that barely fit into her car).

Following the directions given by the person who first spotted the scoter at 9:00 AM , Tori checked out the area across from the Harbor Bay Club and sure enough, found a live scoter and caught it in her new net! Way to go Tori!

The bird was immediately transported to International Bird Rescue. 

Check out an interactive Google Earth map of some of the sightings (yellow pins) and captured birds (green markers), HERE. You'll need Google Earth to view it. Get Google Earth HERE.

Friday was fairly quiet, with only a few reports of birds. Tori resumed scouting for birds. Sadly, she found one that was called about the day before, but it had died. 

Today, Saturday, Tori rescued a very wet, very cold bufflehead from Emeryville Marina. This is the farthest north we've recovered birds.

We're still concerned for the number of shorebirds, dunlins, sandpipers and whimbrels along the Hayward Regional Shoreline. Some are quite contaminated, yet still flighted. 

A good soaking from rain might slow them down, but with no rain in the forecast, their capture is doubtful.

In an effort to strengthen wildlife response capabilities in the Bay Area, we are offering an Oiled Bird Rescue training on February 20th at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Register, HERE.

We want to thank all of our responders who helped search for and capture birds - Dana Angus, Deanna Barth, Andrew and Ben Bear, Tori Carpenter, Rebecca Dmytryk, Ron Eby, Duane Titus, and Ken Weidner, and to our new volunteer, Kira Gunderson. To IBR responders, Mark Russell, Susie Kosina, Sean Boty, Amber Transou, and the many folks who helped scour the shoreline looking for birds.

A big thank you to Deb Self with BayKeeper for helping coordinate volunteers, to Jerry Mix with International Bird Rescue for providing emergency transport, and the OWCN for providing the stabilization trailer.

Finally, the rescue of the hundreds or so birds we collected would not have been possible without the help from East Bay Regional Park Supervisor, Mark Taylor, rangers Joel Eisler and Chris Benoit, and wildlife biologist Dave "Doc Quack" Riensche.

Lastly, these birds would not stand a chance if it were not for the expert care they are receiving through International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, leaders in treating birds impacted by oil and other pollutants. Thanks to everyone who has supported their efforts to get these birds stabilized, washed and ready for return to the wild.

WES is a small nonprofit based in Moss Landing. We would not be able to respond to such large-scale events if it were not for support from our volunteers and donors.

We're grateful for those who chipped in to offset the cost of our response, especially helpful was a donation made in Memory of Eldon Olson. Sponsor WES for a day or more, HERE.

Support WES by check, made out to W. E. S. and mailed to Box 65, Moss Landing, CA 95039, or make a donation online, HERE

Check out live feed from the IBR center in Fairfield. Clean birds, HERE!
Thank you IBR!!! 

Jan 14, 2015

American white pelican sighting

We want to thank Janna Pauser for alerting us to an American white pelican at Almaden Lake in Santa Clara County. 

Sightings of white pelicans in the area are rare, but what caught our attention was that the bird was alone - not traveling with other white pelicans, and it appeared very tired, seen sleeping rather than actively feeding.

Janna first spotted January 7th, standing on the shore of the lake's small island. It was in the same spot the next day. 

Janna checked again on Monday the 12th, and found the bird still on the island, resting.

This morning, one of the park rangers responded to our call for assistance. 

He took a boat out to the island to look for the pelican bit it was gone.

This afternoon, Janna was birding at Calero Reservoir and noticed a single white pelican sleeping among gulls on a spit of land in the center of the reservoir. We believe it's the same bird.

If the bird was in a more accessible spot, we would probably attempt a capture - just to see if the bird was in good health or not (we suspect not). 

It could just be that it's an individual that's failing to thrive and not meant to make it - natural selection - the culling of the weak. 

If this is the case, it's best that we don't interfere with nature.

On the other hand, it could be suffering from injury or illness caused by humans, in which case we should try to help.

Stay tuned!

Jan 10, 2015

Wildlife SAR Training in Napa

Yesterday, WES provided a full-day training on Wildlife Search and Rescue to a class of 34 students interested in learning or bettering their wildlife capture skills. 

The class was comprised of wildlife rescuers, two animal control officers, a lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and local folks interested in learning how to help an injured or orphaned wild animal.

Today, they were given hands-on instruction on building traps and using equipment to safely capture and contain animals.

This was the first of the 2015 classes being offered throughout California. Download the flyer, HERE. Register for a class, HERE.