May 29, 2016

Gopher snake entangled in netting

This evening, one of our lead rescuers, Andrew, took a call about a snake entangled in garden netting. Here are a few images of the rescue. THANK YOU ANDREW!!!

May 16, 2016

WildHelp is now available!

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Throughout my thirty-plus years in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, two factors that influence whether wildlife casualties live or die have remained problematic - getting finders, people who find wild animals in trouble - getting them proper instruction before they take matters into their own hands, and getting them in touch with the closest, most qualified wildlife professional, quickly.

For the last three years, I've been working on a project called WildHelp - a mobile app designed to do just that. 

This morning, we received word from Apple that the final version of WildHelp had been approved and it would be available to the public through the iTunes App Store within hours. I can't describe how excited I was. Finally, after three years!

It was back in 2012, when I was speaking with Matthew Castronova of IVR Technology Group in New York, the company that hosts WES' wildlife hotline - we were talking about the possibility of expanding the phone tree when he said, "If you dream it, we can build it." 

Well, thanks to the many contributors through our Kickstarter campaign, a couple of very generous donations, and IVR's amazing development team, here it is - WildHelp - available for iPhones and iPads! More about the app can be found on the official website,

While the app's main function is to connect finders with the nearest expert (geolocated off the user's phone), it does SO much more...

Behind 'the screens', WildHelp collects the input from the finder - what type of animal, its age, condition, the possible cause of its injury - they can even add a picture. Once the finder chooses which wildlife professional to contact, the app sends the data to that individual or organization in an email, with an optional text, alerting them of the incoming call and Finder's Report.  

For wildlife rescuers and rehabilitators, pictures are invaluable in helping them identify a species and assess an animal's condition. 

Having GPS coordinates on where an animal was discovered will be tremendously helpful for first responders in locating them.

Imagine how helpful this app will be during an oil spill, where the public is encouraged to report oiled wildlife, but where it can be difficult to describe a location exactly, especially if the animal is in brush, or tucked in riprap, or along a vast beach with few landmarks. Now, with WildHelp, responders will have GPS coordinates to guide them to the rescue.

Another special feature is the Rescue Alert - emergency instructions and first aid tips to help keep finders safe and to reduce further harm to the animal. 

Depending on the type of animal being reported, it's age and circumstances, the user may be presented with information, like how to keep a baby animal warm, or how to get ducklings out of a pool, or how to tell if a baby animal really needs rescuing. 

This instruction will, hopefully, reduce the number of healthy baby animals 'kidnapped' by well-intentioned finders, and increase the number of debilitated animals that survive to be admitted to a wildlife hospital or shelter.

That said, however, wild animals that are turned over to animal shelters but never make to a licensed rehabilitator often go undocumented - the cause of the animal's demise goes unreported. Now, through WildHelp, we'll be able to track how many wild animals are reportedly found, for example, tangled in fishing line, struck by vehicles, or attacked by dogs or cats.

Thinking big, imagine if we could take WIldHelp internationally. Imagine how the app could be used to report wildlife crimes, illegal animal trade, poaching...

If you'd like to test the app, please do so, but when given the responder list to choose from, select FOR TESTING ONLY. If that option is not available, email me and I'll be happy to add it.

If you'd like to support this project by volunteering - we're going to need help managing our extensive database of wildlife professionals. Donations are also greatly appreciated to help us maintain WildHelp and make advances, such as expanding the app to other countries.

A huge Thank You! to everyone who helped make WildHelp a reality!

If you're in Los Angeles, we're holding an official Launch Party in Malibu on Tuesday, May 24th. By invitation only. Please contact me if you'd like to be added to the guest list.

May 7, 2016

Abandoned coyote pups

On Tuesday, we were referred a call about a litter of coyote pups discovered by workers at a home, bordering the Pasatiempo Golf Course, in Santa Cruz. The pups were found cuddled in a pile to keep warm. They were discovered after workers thinned back vegetation around their den, a culvert. 

We usually ask reporting parties to send us a picture or video so we can, both, identify the species and assess an animal's condition. The owner of the property promptly sent us a picture. 

Without being there, of course, we're limited in our ability to judge their condition. We consulted with Native Animal Rescue's Monique, who would be the one to receive them if they need rescuing, and we both agreed, we don't want to 'over rescue' - we wanted to give the mother a chance to move the pups to a safer place. 

We left instructions with the homeowner to check early in the morning. If they were still there, we'd respond immediately.

Sadly, they were still there, and what's worse, they were in really bad shape. We should have sent a volunteer the day before to have a closer look at them...

The pups were gathered up quickly. Two looked like they might make it, two were deceased, the other two were pretty bad off.

They were placed on heat immediately, and delivered to Native Animal Rescue where they would be stabilized before being transferred to Monique. We shipped the two carcasses to the Wildlife Investigations Lab for testing, just in case.

Here's the short rescue video:

It was touch and go for the two survivors of the litter, but today we received word from Monique that they are doing much better, eating on their own and gaining strength.

Interestingly, Monique received an injured pup from that general area last week - a sibling, most likely. All three of the pups are together, now. 

A huge THANK YOU! to Native Animal Rescue and Monique for their excellent care of these little ones.

If you'd like to volunteer for NAR, click HERE, or for WES, click HERE.

Apr 8, 2016

Fawn rescue

It's that time of year again - fawns have arrived! Interestingly, scientists now have a space-based way to track deer populations - check it out, HERE.

If you find a fawn in a relatively safe location and it does not appear to be injured, the best thing to do is leave it alone but note the location and report it to your local wildlife rehabilitator.

Does will leave their newborn fawns hidden for most of the day, so it's not unusual to find one lying in tall grass with no other deer in sight.

Don't mistake a fawn's resistance to move for illness or injury - this is their best defense against a predator (like you). 

This video (below) shows this sort of behavior. It also shows how protective and dangerous a mother deer can be. A reminder, too, to keep cats indoors to protect wildlife and to always leash your dog.

WARNING: Expletives used. SPOILER: Dog and cat are okay.

This morning, we were forwarded a call from our local shelter about a fawn. Jon Silva was working on the Buena Vista Landfill property when he noticed a lone doe, out in the open, and at a peculiar time, he thought. 

Reacting to his presence, the doe moved off the spot and crossed the street. Jon went to investigate.

There, in a cement-lined channel, he found a fawn. Although it was relatively shallow, the fawn was having a difficult time getting out of its predicament.

Jon carefully lifted the fawn to safety and called for help.

In the meantime, it had started to drizzle so he covered the fawn with a shirt to keep it warm while waiting to hear back on what to do next.

It wasn't long before we connected with Jon and advised him to put the baby in tall grass near where the mother had left it. The doe will return later to retrieve her baby.

Thank you, Jon, for rescuing the fawn!!

Mar 18, 2016

The renesting of two hummingbird chicks

By Deanna Barth

I live in Hollister, California - a relatively small town. Over the years I've networked with animal-related groups and local agencies, like our shelter, offering my knowledge and skills with dogs and cats, and my expertise in wildlife capture. More recently, I joined our community's Facebook page. 

With the rise and success of social media, it seems sometimes faster and easier for a “finder” to reach out for help through these sites. Case in point:

This morning, while I was at work, someone posted a photo on our local Facebook page of two nestling hummingbirds. Within minutes, several people responded by tagging me.

I sent a message to Desiree, thanked her for reaching out for help, and asked for more details.  

Apparently, a hummingbird had built its nest on a string of Christmas lights under the eave of their home. This morning, when the family was taking down the lights, they noticed two little hummingbirds dangling, clinging to the remnants of their nest. 

The family carefully and gently worked to untangle the baby birds, unhooking their tiny feet from the wire and nest material. The chicks were placed in a box to keep them safe while Desiree searched for help. Not knowing who to call, she posted on Facebook. 

It took me about an hour to get home to Hollister and to Desiree's house to evaluate the situation. 

I was worried the babies might be injured after such an ordeal, but they looked great. Both were bright and alert, actively gaping for food and vocalizing. Their wings and legs and feet appeared normal and uninjured.

I knew the best chance for survival for these two nestlings was to place them back in the nest and let “mom” continue to care for them. 

I needed to find a way to put the nest back where it had been.  

The nest was not in good shape. It was badly torn.

With many birds, an appropriately-sized bucket or basket can be used to make a new nest, but hummingbird nests are so small!

I'd already been in touch with our organization's founder, Rebecca Dmytryk. She's had a tremendous amount of experience in re-nesting wild birds and I wanted to get her take on the situation. 

The size and shape of a cup nest is important in helping distribute weight off the chicks' legs as they develop. Depending on the species, the depth is critical too. Too high a rim and the nest will be dirtied with droppings.

Rebecca texted back an idea - to use fiberglass window screen material, shape it into a cone to hold the remnants of the original nest, and fasten it to something for support. The screen material would allow for adequate ventilation and drainage, and the mesh openings would be so small, the bird’s tiny feet would not get caught.  

I placed the chicks in small cup and kept them on a heating pad while I went to work making a new nest. 

This is where my husband, Chris, is always ready and willing to help out. 

Things went according to plan. We created a cone large enough to hold the original nest and added a stick so we could attach it to the eve of the home. As Chris secured the nest in place, I let the gathering of neighbors and children have a quick up-close look at the babies before placing them in their new home.

It was time. While standing on a ladder, I carefully plucked each grape-sized baby from the box and placed them in the nest, and, as I was doing so, the mother-bird buzzed my head! 

We folded up the ladder and backed away. Within minutes, the mom was on the nest.


The mother hummingbird flying over the roof  near the nest.

Just a reminder, wild birds are federally protected. It's a violation to harass, chase, capture, handle, confine, possess, or in any way injure a protected bird, nest or egg. WES responders are permitted through the US Fish and Wildlife Service which authorizes rescue and temporary care of wild birds species.

Mar 12, 2016

Speaking of cats and wildlife

This week, WES' founder and director, Rebecca Dmytryk, participated in a Community Cats panel at the Animal Care Conference 2016, held in Long Beach, CA. 

Rebecca shared her experiences and views on the impacts that free-roaming cats have on native wildlife and ecosystems. She compared cats to other domestic animals, like dogs, pigs, goats, that can eek out an existence in most environments. But, the damage they can cause to ecosystems and the risk they pose to public health and safety is why domestic animals are not allowed to run free, unmanaged. She questioned why cats were treated differently.

She also explained why cats do not belong in the wild, because wild species of birds and small mammals adapted survival mechanisms based on certain predators in a region. But, the domestic cat - a pint-sized-panther - is a skilled predator that hunts both night and day and in large numbers - in some cases, hundreds per square mile, that no wild species has had time to adapt to.

Rebecca went on to share an excerpt from a 2013 paper published by researchers with the Smithsonian Biological Conservation Institute:
We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact.

Using the American robin as an example, she pointed out how birds can be impacted. Robins can produce 1 - 3  clutches of up to 5 young per year. Each, a heavy investment. From staking of territory, courtship, nest building, careful incubation of the eggs, then, the tedious work of feeding their helpless hatchlings, requiring more and more, trip after trip after trip, both parents working tirelessly to feed their young. When the young are almost old enough to fly, they fledge. They flutter to the ground where they spend about a week learning to fly. Most bird species go through this stage, and, where there are cats outdoor, fledglings stand no chance, whatsoever - the parents lose their entire investment.

A few lucky ones might be rescued from a cat’s mouth and admitted to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center, and some may survive, but, these patients - often requiring daily antibiotics place an extraordinary burden on wildlife hospitals, costing $50.00 to $200.00 per patient, not including staff-hours.

Rebecca pointed out that there are laws prohibiting the release of non-native invasive predators and questioned why cats are allowed to roam free without consequence.

Free-roaming cats also impact the environment through their waste. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by infection with a protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which relies on felids - cats -  to complete its life cycle. Infected cats shed hundreds of millions of oocysts, or eggs, into the environment. These eggs remain infectious to all warm-blooded species for up to 18 months.
In coastal California, many sea otters have died due to toxoplasmosis, and scientists suggest the parasite is transported in freshwater runoff to aquatic environments, where both animals and humans can become exposed. This research also contends the domestic cats in this region may play an important role in the marine infection.

Panelist, Gary Tiscornia, Executive Director for the SPCA for Monterey County, gave an excellent presentation on his organization's approach to the feral cat issue, also pointing out how feral cats impact wildlife and the environment and acknowledged what difficult lives feral cats have, being exposed to the elements, disease, and predators.

Next, WES' director traveled to Newport Beach to participate in the Vertebrate Pest Conference, where she spoke on non-lethal methods of dealing with wildlife pests, in a presentation entitled Making a Killing Without Killing.

Close to 90 people attended her talk.

Mar 9, 2016

Renesting a fallen dove

By Deanna Barth

This morning as I was headed to my job in Carmel, I received a message from a friend who shares my love for animals. Her sister is a teacher at an elementary school in Hollister, near where I live, and one of her students had brought her a baby bird that was found on top of a lunch table.  

I had her sister text me a photo which confirmed it was a nestling dove. 

I asked a few basic questions (Was it injured? Did it look puffed-up and cold?), and, from her answers, I felt pretty confident that the bird was in good health, it just needed to be placed back in its nest.  

This lead to several more questions (Where was the nest? Could she reach it? Were the parent birds in the vicinity?), which, she did not have the answers to.  

I realized re-nesting this young bird wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, with all of the teachers in classrooms and my ability to respond would be later in the day, after work. I had to make a quick decision – do I let her keep the bird in her classroom for several hours, where it would be warm and quiet, but without food, or do I advise her to put it back outside, as close to the where she found it as possible, vulnerable to the elements and possible predators (and children)? I chose the latter.  

It was a clear, sunny day and I had a gut feeling that the parent birds were there, and the baby needed to be fed.  

If humans hadn’t intervened in the first place, it would still be sitting on the lunch table where the parents had last seen it.  

The teacher vowed to put the baby back. 

I worried about the bird all day.  

It was late afternoon when I finally made it to the school. Mrs. Sanchez had been kind enough to stay late to open the gate for me. 

I took one step towards the area and stopped. There was an adult Eurasian Collared dove sitting on the roof of a shed. A few feet below was the nestling lying on the picnic table.  Yes! The parents had been caring for it just as I had hoped. 

I surveyed the area further. I was so impressed with the choices this teacher had made.  She knew she couldn’t place the bird back onto the lunch table because the students would be using the area throughout the day, but, next to the lunch area is a small garden, completely enclosed by a chain link fence. She had placed the bird in this area, knowing if the parent birds were in the vicinity they would see the nestling. Perfect!

I assessed the baby bird and found it to be in a great shape – no obvious wounds or signs of trauma and it was warm to the touch. It was vocalizing, too, and the parents were responding.   

I placed the baby bird back on the table so the parents could continue feeding it, then asked Mrs. Sanchez to show me where it had been found earlier that morning.  

Directly above that lunch table, tucked into the corner of the roof's metal framing, was the nest, about 14 feet from the ground.

I knew my husband would have just the right ladder for the job. About an hour later, he arrived with a ladder tall enough to reach. 

The sun had just set. While Chris was setting up the ladder, I tucked the nestling into my shirt for warmth. One of the parents flushed as soon as the ladder was set in place. Knowing there should have been 2 nestlings, I feared the other missing or dead.

Chris climbed the ladder to have a look. There, he found a haphazard “nest” made up of a few long twigs side-by-side on a ledge no wider than a dove - maybe 3 inches. He also found a sibling!

So, it was obvious what happened. There was just no room for two birds on the ledge and nothing to prevent the babies from tumbling to the ground. 

I knew if I simply placed the baby back on this narrow ledge, chances are it would fall again and risk injury.  

Even though the collared dove is a non-native species, we were going to treat this family as we would any other. 

I drove home - just a few minutes away, and grabbed some supplies and a small, plastic basket that we could use as a replacement nest. 

First, I removed the sibling. Then, Chris secured the basket to the ledge with fasteners and cable ties. Then we placed the original nesting material in the basket and, finally, set both nestlings inside.

We picked up all of our equipment and walked back to our vehicles and about 15 minutes later I watched as one of the parents flew to the new nest. Success!!!

We left having instructed the teacher to speak with the principal and the custodian and make an announcement tomorrow about the birds and to remind students it’s important to be kind to all animals. 

Baby season is fast approaching. If you'd like to be part of our Reuniting and Wild-Fostering Team 2016, please sign up to volunteer HERE and we'll get you trained.

We need teams in the East Bay, San Jose area, Monterey, and Santa Cruz.
Must be 18 years old or a parent-child team. 

If you'd like to support our rescue and reuniting programs, donate now!

A little goes a long way!

Check the box that says Make This Recurring. 

Mar 1, 2016

The heart of Rescue

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Photo by Kev Chapman

It was just before noon when a call came in about two birds tangled together by some sort of string, dangling from the eaves of a three-story apartment complex in San Jose. 

Larissa, the reporting party, first noticed the birds about an hour earlier and she'd been trying to find help ever since. She called the local animal services but they did not have a ladder tall enough to reach the birds.

Over the phone, I asked Larissa some questions to help me understand the circumstances - how high, how far from an open window, how long have they been struggling, what species, if she knew? All these things help a rescuer build an appropriate plan of action. Today, with the help of modern technology, rescuers can view the scene remotely through text and email - tremendously helpful. I had her text me a few.

Larissa's pictures and video were great. From the images, I knew our ladders wouldn't be tall enough. 

I thought to call on the local fire department, but would they be available, and would they make the effort for a pair of starlings?

European starlings were introduced in the U.S. in the 1890's when Eugene Schieffelin released 100 of them in New York's Central Park. Today their population is estimated to be about 200 million. 

Photo by Jean-Jacques Boujot
The starling is a stout bird, about the size of a blackbird. In spring, starlings sport beautiful black feathers that shimmer green and purple iridescence, but interestingly, towards the end of summer starlings become spotted. The white and brown spots are the tips of new feathers. As the feathers wear away, the dark color becomes dominant again. 
Some things about starlings aren't so pretty, though. In the U.S. they are considered an invasive pest species because of the damage they cause to agriculture; a large murmuration can bring down a plane, and they are known to compete with some native species for nest sites. It's a good thing starlings stick close to human development and avoid wild habitats, for the most part. 
To quote from a piece by Sue Pike, "they are good-looking, lively and intelligent, with big personalities. They can fly really fast (up to 48 mph). They are terrific vocal mimics. They are communicative and gregarious; often foraging with grackles, cowbirds, sparrows, robins and crows. They didn’t ask to come here, it isn’t their fault they are so successful."

So, I wasn't sure if I could get someone to help the poor birds, but, starling or not, I had to try. 

I placed a call to San Jose Fire Dispatch and was put on hold a few times as my request was considered... at least it wasn't a decisive No, right?

Just minutes later I was told Engine 10 was en route to check out the situation. 


I called Larissa back and told her the good news and for her to supply them with a pillowcase.

It wasn't long before I received a call from the Captain. I offered some instruction in case they were able to reach the birds... I suggested they lift a pillowcase up and around the birds so when the line is cut they'll fall into the sack. Once safely contained we can work out what to do next.

The crew first tried their tallest ladder but it couldn't get them as close as a ladder truck...

Yep, they called on Truck 14 to the rescue...

Once in position, Fireman Sam from Engine 10 climbed up to the frightened birds. He did exactly as we advised - he scooped the birds into the pillowcase and cut the twine. 

Back on the ground, the crew worked to untangle the birds' legs from what they described as some sort of thick twine, like threads of dental floss - maybe bailing twine... 

A huge THANK YOU! to Larissa for not letting these birds suffer and for placing that initial call for help, and an extra, extra huge THANK YOU!!!! to the San Jose Fire Department and the firefighters from Station 10 and 14 for their public service and their compassion and the heart that is such a part of being a rescuer. Thank you!!!!!

Check out the rescue captured on video:

Want to know more about starlings? Check this out:

Feb 27, 2016

Speaking of predators

Members of the newly appointed Predator Policy workgroup at their first meeting this week in Sacramento.

February 24th marks the first meeting of the newly formed Predator Policy Workgroup - a team of 10 members appointed by the California Fish and Game Commission. WES' founder and CEO, Rebecca Dmytryk, was among those chosen to participate in this select group.

Noting much of the science upon which current regulations are based is quite outdated, at its June 12, 2013 meeting, the Commission's Wildlife Resource Committee directed staff to form a subcommittee to help identify regulations and policies for possible reform. This drew significant interest from stakeholders who supported the reform to better reflect current science and the values of today's Californians. 

In response, the Wildlife Resource Committee proposed appointing a balanced group of stakeholders to vet current regulations and policies and help draft regulatory options for consideration by the Commission.

At its December, 2015 meeting, the Commission announced its appointments to the Predator Policy Workgroup, Josh Brones with Sportsmen's Alliance, Noelle Cremer with the California Farm Bureau Federation, Rebecca Dmytryk, President and CEO for Wildlife Emergency Services and President of the Humane Wildlife Control Association, Jennifer Fearing from the Humane Society of the United States, Bill Gaines, Gaines and Associates, Mark Hennelly, representing California Waterfowl, Rick Hopkins, Senior Conservation Biologist at Live Oak Associates, Erica Sanko with the California Wool Growers Association, Jean Su, from Center for Biological Diversity, and Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner, Tony Linegar.

In the coming months, the PWC will be reviewing California's wildlife management policies and regulations and drafting new regulatory concepts based on biological impact, moral and ethical concerns and structural integrity. These recommendations will then be reviewed by the WRC before being presented to the Fish and Game Commission for adoption.

Also this week, WES' founder traveled to Nevada to give three talks about living with coyotes. Two of the presentations were sponsored by the Carson City Parks and Recreation and one by Trail Safe Nevada. There were approximately 50 people in attendance at each event.

Feb 6, 2016

Balloon entanglement

This afternoon, we received a couple of reports about a gull tangled in line from a couple of mylar balloons near the Lockyer Bridge at the Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline park in San Leandro. It seemed the bird was in the water and struggling.

One of WES' lead rescuers in the San Jose area responded, driving over an hour to get there. 

Once on scene, the reporting party led him to where the bird was. 

Thankfully, it was a very low tide so Andrew was able to trudge across the slippery mud and reach the poor bird with his long-handled net - something Andrew has had a lot of practice doing, especially during WES response to the mystery "goo" event last year (check it out, HERE). 

After collecting the young Thayer gull, he noted the balloons around its leg had deflated and filled with water so the gull could not take off. If the bird hadn't been rescued, it would have probably drowned when the tide came back in. 

Andrew would have simply freed the bird after untangling it if he felt the bird was in excellent condition, but it was not - its feathers were old and ragged and he thought there might be an issue with one of its wings.

The bird was transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for treatment. We'll post updates as we receive them.

Photo credit Traci Tsukida WCSV.

UPDATE: The gull was successfully rehabilitated by WCSV and released February 21 by Andrew and his son Ben. Check it out:

Jan 26, 2016

Coyote caught on barbed wire fence (GRAPHIC)

This morning around 10:30 WES received a call from the superintendent of Coyote Creek Golf Club in Morgan Hill, CA. He and his crew had freed a coyote that had gotten hung up on a barbed wire fence, presumably overnight. It had a severe injury to its leg and was not able to run off.

They'd been making calls all morning, looking for help, and no one was willing to respond - we were their 7th phone call! Unfortunately, this is very common, not just in California but across the US - there are very few trained and equipped first responders for wildlife emergencies.

When WES' response team arrived, they found the coyote hiding in tall grass. They approached slowly. The coyote made a brief attempt to get away, but could barely move. It was easily scruffed and moved to an awaiting crate for transport to a local wildlife hospital.

Watch the rescue video below:

Once at the Wildlife Center for Silicon Valley, medical staff sedated the animal to get a better look at its injury. 

The male coyote looked larger, but weighed in at 20 pounds. They estimated it to be about 4 years old. Unfortunately, it had suffered tremendous damage to its leg - the tendons had been severed, there was nothing that could be done. It was humanely euthanized.

Please check out these PDFs on best fencing to keep livestock and wildlife safe:

Fencing With Wildlife In Mind

Wildlife Friendly Fences

Predator Fencing

Scroll to view the image of the coyote as it was found in the fence. WARNING: GRAPHIC