Sep 26, 2016

Collared duck in Monterey

This weekend WES received a report of a mallard duck in Monterey that's somehow gotten a plastic drink lid around its neck. 

Unfortunately, there have been numerous failed attempts to catch this duck, making him extremely wary and hard for us to approach or lure close. 

According to the SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center, they first received a call about it him in Spring. Although the drake has been in this condition for months, he seems to be in fairly good health. However, the plastic ring is disrupting his feathers, allowing cold water and air to get through his otherwise waterproof integument, and so, it should be removed.

WES will be taking the lead in capturing the duck. We are asking citizens to not try and capture him as this will make him harder for us to catch. 

Sep 6, 2016

Bobcat with mange - rescued!

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Over the last couple of weeks, there's been a bobcat with mange spotted on the Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve property. Most likely suffering from Notoedric mange, caused by ear mites.

Research suggests exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides from eating poisoned rodents increases an animal's susceptibility to mange. Read all about it, HERE and HERE

Thankfully, there are no such poisons used on the preserve. If the animal was exposed, it could have been from one of the surrounding properties or agricultural fields.

Either way, the animal needed treatment, and fast.

Dave Feliz, manager of the reserve, gave the go ahead for us to attempt to capture it, but first, we'd need to find it. 

It had been a few days since it was last sighted, but seemed to hang around the flats near the Long Valley and Five Fingers trails.  

The reserve is normally closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays and Monday was a holiday, so, we decided to try this morning.

As luck would have it, when I arrived, one of the biologists working the reserve had just seen the cat crossing the Long Valley trail. Perfect!

Mike was willing to show me where he'd seen the cat, but that's not where we intended to stage the capture equipment. In this case, we wanted to set up capture equipment a distance away from the animal, so not to spook it, then use sounds to draw it close.

As I drove to a location I thought the cat would return to - a place I'd seen it before, there she was - slinking through the dry grass for the cover of a large oak tree. She sat in the shade, watching, as I drove by. 

I kept my eye on her until I got about 60 yards away and out of her direct line of sight so she would not move off.

There, in the shade of an oak, I set up the cage trap. It's a long metal cage with a separate partition for live animals. I placed one of our two poults inside the separate cage. These are young chickens that are accustomed to cats, dogs, travel and handling.

I thought to separate them so they would call for each other - their peeps would bring the cat close to investigate.

I drove back to the visitor center and watched and listened. I could hear the chick across the field. 

After about 30 minutes or so, she settled down and stopped calling, so I walked the other chick out to the trap and placed it inside. They immediately started peeping. Good.

I figured I'd check again in an hour.

When it was time to check, I took the truck, thinking I might just park there and watch from a distance. As I started to turn onto the Long Valley trail, there she was! I immediately switched gears and slowly backed the truck until I was out of sight. 

I rolled down the windows, cut the engine and just listened. I heard the peeping - the chicks were chattering to each other - good.

About five minutes later, I heard them alarm-call, then I heard the trap door slam shut - I just hoped the cat was inside...

Sure enough!

I called Mike to help lift the cage, and moved the chicks to their travel cage. (Thank you Mike!) (Thank you chicks!)

We got the cat loaded, covered with a dark sheet, and I headed for the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose.

There, the older female bobcat, estimated to be about 4-5 years old, was sedated, examined and given fluids. She received an initial treatment for mange before being placed in an enclosure where she'll be monitored closely. 

Oh,... and, she might be pregnant!

UPDATE: 9-12-16

Blood tests confirmed our fears, the bobcat tested positive for exposure to rodenticide poisoning. She will be on medication to counter the anticoagulants until her release.


Anyone interested in providing a loving home for these two famous poults?

Sep 5, 2016

Danville Coyote R.I.P.

By Rebecca Dmytryk

We received word from a citizen that at about 12:20 today the coyote was struck and killed by a vehicle. The County Animal Services picked up the carcass. We are hoping to get his body to the Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to further research of coyotes with mange. At least maybe he'll contribute to science... 

The coyote's last walk, HERE.

So very sad. Poor, poor, dog. Poor coyotes. So misunderstood...

In mourning the loss of this animal, I can't help but feel for those who fear and hate coyotes... or wolves, or mountain lions, or sharks... 

Sep 2, 2016

Latest efforts to rescue Danville Coyote

Yesterday, Duane and Rebecca spent another 12-hour day in pursuit of the coyote with mange, hoping for just the right opportunity to set up their capture equipment to rescue him. 

Thanks to reports of sightings, they caught up with him in a neighborhood south of downtown, off Sycamore Canyon. The streets were fairly quiet, but, time and time again people disrupted capture plans. Drivers would slow to look at the wild dog, or they would stop to take pictures of him. A couple of cars began following him, reporting his whereabouts, oblivious of the rescue vehicle behind them with hazard lights flashing.

It almost seemed as though people were using reports of NextDoor to locate him, so, we requested direct emails of sightings rather than posts on any social media.

Finally, in the late afternoon, the coyote returned to a home where they'd staged capture equipment. Unfortunately, he didn't go far enough into the yard. He kept moving down the boulevard. 

Later, he was headed back, but three boys on bicycles chased him into heavy traffic. Amazingly, he made it across El Cerro Blvd. without getting hit. By then, though, it was time for the team to make their near 2-hour commute back home. 

We haven't given up. We'll keep trying. 

Please do not feed the coyote. Do not try to capture him. Report sightings to

Aug 27, 2016

Danville Coyote Update

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Last Saturday, we went looking for the coyote with mange and encountered him walking in a residential neighborhood. At one point we tried to "push" him - guide him - down a particular street for capture, but, being so very intuitive, he knew we were trouble and took off. 

What's so interesting, this one momentary exchange we had with him - very similar to  hazing, was enough to spook him from this particular neighborhood. That afternoon he was spotted 2.5 miles north where he'd been the week before. This shows how sensitive coyotes are to disruption and how easy it is to make them uncomfortable and to move on. 

We decided to wait a few days before looking for him again, hoping to get reports of his whereabouts and maybe see a pattern - where he might be at a certain time of day.

Indeed, thanks to reports of sightings by concerned citizens and the Danville Police Department, we learned he was hanging around a few homes off Danville Blvd. 

On Thursday, Duane and I captured a glimpse of him on the busy street:

We spoke with the homeowners of the properties he was frequenting and they were extremely helpful, showing us the route the coyote would take each morning. That's where we set a cage trap. We parked just across the street to keep watch - we never leave any capture devices unattended. 

An hour or so later, we heard the alarm calls of crows, then we saw him. He crossed the boulevard - very conscious of traffic, and headed into the yard where we'd set up various pieces of capture equipment and the cage trap.

Coyotes rarely go into cage traps, so we didn't think we'd get him to enter, but, amazingly, he did! 

Unfortunately, though, either he didn't step on the treadle, or the trap malfunctioned. He got the cooked chicken, though!

At least he got "rewarded" for going into the cage. That left us feeling quite confident he'd enter it again. 

However, as the coyote was in front of the trap, the neighbors - not aware the coyote was just a few yards away, slammed their car doors and spooked him off, then a loose dog chased him up the street. 

Hours later, the coyote was reported over a mile away, in the hills above Danville. We waited for the afternoon rush hour traffic to die down before driving home, hoping to return early the next morning.

Yesterday, I left home at 5:00 am and by 8:00 I had the trap set and ready to go. 

A couple of hours later, I saw the coyote pop out of the hedge where the trap was - he looked startled. He started to walk the shoulder of the boulevard where people slowed to look at him - pressuring him. He disappeared down a side street.

I checked the cage-trap. It had been triggered and the bait was gone. The trail camera revealed what had happened. HERE, the video shows just how brilliantly smart, sharp and aware, and cleverly adaptable these animals are. This is how they have survived 100-plus years of persecution. I have always admired coyotes and now I have even more respect for them. Just brilliant.

Unfortunately, the coyote is now cage shy. We may have to use a different strategy. The neighbors worked with me in developing up another plan. We'll probably have to wait until next week to try again. 

In the meantime, we're hoping people report his whereabouts and that the coyote can survive until then - not get frightened into traffic or otherwise harmed. So far, most of the residents have expressed concern for his welfare - he's got a lot of the town on his side, looking out for him. 

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has expressed concern for this animal!

Aug 22, 2016

Danville Coyote

Last week, WES received word about a coyote with a severe case of mange, roaming the streets of Danville, CA. WES' capture experts Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk drove to Danville on Saturday to look for the animal and get a feel for the area. 

With help from residents and the Danville Police Department, they were able to locate the coyote and make a few live-trap sets, but there were too many people out enjoying the weekend for any capture attempts to be successful. They will try again this week.

In the meantime, a couple of locals have stepped up to help, monitoring a social media site called Nextdoor for posts about the coyote - when and where it's being observed. We're keeping track of sightings hoping to narrow in on a good spot to try and capture the wild dog.

For the most part, the community seems more concerned for the animal's welfare than anything else. The fear level is low, as it should be. This adult male coyote is not a threat to people and it has been observed walking by dogs and cats, showing little interest. 

However, free-roaming cats are always in danger of being killed by other animals or cars, so it's best to keep them inside or at least provide them with an outdoor enclosure like a catio. Owners of small dogs should also take precautions, making sure their yard is predator-proof, and, on walks, small dogs should be on short leads, no longer than 6 feet. Contact Humane Wildlife Control for help making your backyard coyote-proof.

Although coyotes do not see humans as prey - not even small children, they will follow people. They aren't stalking, but hoping the person leads to food they can scavenge - like jackals in Africa follow lions. 

While we rather people not frighten this particular coyote, in general, it is best to tell coyotes "No!" - to "Go Away!", so they don't get too comfortable around people. It's called hazing. Check out the instructional video, HERE.

This particular coyote is suffering from mange - a skin condition caused by mites that burrow into the skin. Although he looks horrible, he's treatable. We hope to capture him in the coming weeks and deliver him to one of the area's wildlife hospital where he can receive treatment and be returned to the wild. 

While the symptoms of mange in coyotes looks similar to what we see in bobcats with mange, the type of mite is different, and so may be the underlying cause. In bobcats, there seems to be a connection to the disease and exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides found in rat poison. After consuming bait, rodents die out in the open where predators and scavengers find them.

The secondary risk to wildlife is so great, the Environmental Protection Agency restricted availability of these poisons to the general public, but they are still widely used by the pest control industry. More on how these poisons impact wildlife, HERE. The only wildlife-safe rodenticide is RatX.

It's not clear, yet, if exposure to poisons or pollutants is related to mange in coyotes, but it is treatable. Help us track down this coyote by reporting sightings to your Nextdoor page or contact the Danville Police Department, or you can email rebecca (at) wildlifeservices (dot) org. Thank you!

Check out the video from Saturday.

Aug 13, 2016

Pelican Patrol Boat

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Photo by Tim Blair CCL.

Over the years, my friend and colleague Jay Holcomb would speak often about the need for a boat to conduct proactive searches in marinas - along jetties and breakwaters where ailing birds tend to congregate - places that are impossible to reach without a boat. 

We used to talk about how great it would be to locate and capture injured and ill pelicans sooner than later, before they're too compromised, giving them a better chance of recovering. 

A Pelican Patrol, we'd call it.

Jay died in 2014 before his dream could be realized. It is time we make this happen.

Please help us turn this dream into a reality by making a contribution of $100.00 or more, HERE. If you rather send a check, please write Pelican Patrol in the memo section.

The boat will be named The Jay Bird in honor of Jay Holcomb.

Thank you for your support.

Aug 12, 2016

Pelican with signs of domoic acid - rescued

This morning, WES was notified by International Bird Rescue of two ailing pelicans at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. The reporting party had observed a very sick pelican on a rock, weaving its head back and forth. This is an indication of domoic acid poisoning - often treatable in birds.
WES directors, Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk, drove from the Santa Cruz area and arrived on scene around 1:00 pm. They quickly found the ailing pelican. 

Although the pelican seemed a bit "out of it", Duane used precaution, approaching it very slowly. Check out the video below.

The bird was placed on a heating pad inside a crate and transported over Highway 92 where Peninsula Humane Society transported it the rest of the way to PHS' Wildlife Center in Burlingame.

The second pelican was entangled in fishing line. According to the RP, the young pelican has been entangled since July 19th.

Young pelican entangled in fishing line. It was first observed July 19th.

Using binoculars, the team scanned the pelicans on the breakwater and jetties but could not locate this particular bird. They did, however, observe a pelican that appeared weak. Unfortunately, it would take a small boat to get to it. Something WES desperately needs.

We have just launched a campaign to raise funds for a rigid inflatable boat, like a Zodiac, that can reach the breakwaters and jetties where ill and injured birds tend to congregate.

This was a dream of our dear friend and colleague, Jay Holcomb, who passed away in 2014 - to have a boat dedicated to proactive searches of marinas and harbors to look for ailing pelicans and other marine birds in trouble. A Pelican Patrol Boat. We plan to name the vessel in Jay's honor - The Jay Bird.

Please help us raise the funds to acquire a Pelican Patrol boat by contributing HERE. We're offering various levels of support including the opportunity to join us on patrols in various marinas in California. 

Photo by Tim Blair CCL

Aug 7, 2016

Another skunk in a rat trap - rescued

This evening, we were called out to rescue a skunk that had been left to die in a rat trap at a residence in Bonny Doon. 

The homeowner had noticed the skunk in the trap earlier that morning but it was barely moving so they left for the day, only to return to find the skunk was very much alive - just more awake, as it was nearing nightfall.

The trap had been set outside to kill rats around a chicken coop. The coop was not constructed with the right material to prevent rodents from getting in, so it's been a great attractant to rats and mice, and, the carnivores, like skunks, that eat them.

Snap traps are not meant to be set out in the open where other animals can get to them - but that's not made clear on the packaging. This brand, one of the newer heavy-duty traps with interlocking teeth made by Bell Labs and distributed by Scotts Miracle-Gro, is particularly dangerous to non-target animals.

Because of the number of animals being caught and mortally wounded in these traps, we contacted Bell Laboratories and Scotts Miracle-Gro, asking them to add warnings on the packaging.

In March, Bell Labs responded by adding some language to their online product page and sell sheet, promoting use of a protective box to prevent exposure to children, pets, and wildlife. We'd hoped for more, but it's a start.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Company was receptive, indicating they would look into adding precautionary language and developing content on their product pages and tutorials, but we have yet to hear back from them. We'll be sharing this latest casualty with both companies.

In the end, the little skunk was freed from the trap, but he was badly injured. Check out the video, below.

The trap had snapped down on the skunks humorous. The leg was very badly swollen, having been in the trap for possibly 24 hours. We delivered the animal to Native Animal Rescue's skunk expert, Monique, where we hope it will make a full recovery.

Stay tuned!

Jul 29, 2016

Skunk stuck in a bathtub

By Rebecca Dmytryk

It was supposed to be a day off (What's that?). Duane and I were headed for a sweet little coffee shop for pastries then to an early showing of the Bourne movie, when we received a call from the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter about a skunk, stuck in someone's bathtub. What? Really?... Yep.

We threw on rescue tees and headed for Aptos to one of the oddest calls we've ever had... how did a skunk get into the house and climb into the bathtub in which he is now stuck because he can't climb out? The family had been home all night, lots of kids (sleepover), boxer-dog, but maybe the sliding glass door was left open... 

In preparation for the rescue, the sweet dog was put in one of the bedrooms and the kids were going to wait outside to watch the release. They were super great - very quiet and patient. So was the skunk.

The idea was to get the animal covered with a sheet so the fabric will take the hit if it sprayed - which I really thought it would. I warned the homeowner that it was a distinct possibility, and gave some tips on airing out the house - like simmering French roast coffee all day to neutralize the odor.

The key with skunks is to be really quiet - silent - and very, very slow. I used a large bed sheet to approach and cover the animal. He was super tolerant and didn't spray until we were running towards the slider - I am sure the sound of my heeled boots on the hardwood floor didn't help! In the end, the only casualty was the Ken doll.

Check out the rescue:

Jul 22, 2016

Entangled great horned owl

This afternoon, WES received a call from the DeLaveaga Golf Course in Santa Cruz. An owl was entangled in the drive range netting, about 30' high or so. Lewis Tree Service had offered use of their bucket truck, they just needed some experienced hands to free the bird.

Once scene, we asked patrons to stop hotting balls while we performed the rescue.

Lewis Tree Service allowed Duane to use the bucket to reach the owl. It took a bit of doing to untangle the bird's sharp talons, but in just a couple of minutes, the bird was free.

 The bird was bright and alert. We consulted with a wildlife hospital for instructions and it was decided the bird was fit enough to be released.

Check out the video of the rescue:

Jul 13, 2016

A new nest for a mourning dove family

Yesterday afternoon, Deanna Barth, lead responder for wildlife emergencies in her community of Hollister, answered a call about a fallen baby dove - mourning dove. When she arrived on scene, one of the parents was on the shallow twig nest, tending to a nestling, the other one was on the ground just below. 

For safe keeping, Deanna boxed up the fallen baby and took it with her while she gathered supplies and crafted a new nest. 

The new nest was made out of a shallow plastic bin to mimic the depth of the dove nest. Holes were drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage. 

When Deanna approached the tree to replace the nest, the parents flew onto a nearby roof and watched.

Deanna placed the original nest material in basket, cable tied the plastic bin to the branches, then placed both birds into their new nest.  

One of the most important but time-consuming steps in reuniting baby wildlife is monitoring afterwards to confirm a successful reunion. Deanna watched from afar, and it wasn't long before one of the parents flew to the nest.

Great job, Deanna!!!

Jul 9, 2016

Grate trouble

This morning, WES was called on to help a skunk reportedly stuck in a drain grate at New Brighton State Beach near Capitola. It had evidently tried to go down into the drain and got caught at the hips. 

When we arrived, we found the upturned skunk in excellent condition, considering. He was very alert and a biter. 

There was no way to manipulate the skunk's body through the opening, so we used two types of grinders to cut through the thick metal. The animal's fur was soaked with water so it wouldn't catch fire and the metal was cooled with water during the process.

Check out the rescue video:

Jun 19, 2016

Against the odds - a wood duck reunion

By Rebecca Dmytryk

It all began months ago, when Duane installed three saw-whet owl nest boxes on our wooded hillside, after hearing a male vocalizing nearby. 

It wasn't long before the boxes were being used. We were thrilled! Duane installed security cameras in the trees so we could watch what was going on. Quite fun. 

One night, we watched a barn owl try to stick its head in the hole, and then stand on the box and reach inside with a foot. The saw-whet box is deep, so it couldn't reach its occupant, if that was its intent. 

Days later, a pair of barn owls took to the box made specifically for them and we never saw the barn owls on the saw-whet's box again, but, things did seem to quiet down after that event - fewer saw-whet sightings and no activity at the box - none that we witnessed, anyway. 

So, one day Duane decide to take down one of the cameras. He was part way up the tree when he felt something looking at him - he looked over his shoulder to see a young saw-whet staring at him from the entry hole. Wow! They did it! 

Because of its age, the owlet was curious, and he'd sit at the entry hole throughout the day, watching all the goings-on below. 

One morning, very early, we tuned into the saw-whet cam and there was a pair of wood ducks on top of the box. We could not believe it! Then, the hen tried to fit inside the entry hole. Check it out:

Wow! Wood ducks! Who knew?

The cameras showed the pair checking out the other saw-whet boxes on our hillside before flying off together. This was our chance... 

Within 30 minutes we modified a donated box we thought could work, we made sure the hole was just the right size and we mounted it in a secluded area. 

Over the next few days we heard the ducks as they flew over our property, and we caught the female on camera, checking out the modified box... then again, and again. We were pretty sure she'd started laying.

When the hen is ready to lay her eggs, she'll deposit one a day, usually in the early morning, and then spend the rest of the day at her preferred body of water. When the entire clutch has been laid, the hen will start brooding, leaving the nest box a couple of times a day to 're-fuel' and stretch.

Photo by Ingrid Taylar

Each morning, Duane would turn on the television and monitor the duck box while having his cup of coffee, hoping to see the hen fly in or out. His patience was rewarded by seeing her a few times. 

The incubation period can be 28 to 32 days. We weren't sure when she started, but we marked the middle of June as a possibility.

June 20th. It was a beautiful morning in Elkhorn - the sun was out, there was a light breeze. It was supposed to get pretty warm so Duane and I had spent the morning on the 'lower forty', watering the garden and orchard. 

At about noon, we came up to the house to check on things and grab something cold to drink. We left the dogs outside - we were only going to be a few minutes before heading back down the hillside. 

I was in my office when I heard some chirping outside the window - nothing unusual... I glanced outside and saw one of our dogs, ears pricked, looking attentively toward the side of the house. I tapped on the window and he immediately retreated to the front. Then it hit me - the pitch and rhythm of the chirping - the peeping... I looked again and saw a duckling - a wood duck duckling!

I called out to Duane to alert the neighbors as I raced to let the dogs inside. 

When we went outside to see where the ducklings were, we quickly realized they'd scattered - likely because of the dog's presence. We felt horrible! 

There was peeping coming from all around and we didn't see the hen. We knew she would try to lead her ducklings to our neighbor's pond - the pond she visited during brooding breaks. If she chose to lead them down our driveway, as a mallard might, there'd be few obstacles, but, if she led them down the hillside towards our garden, she'd have to navigate at least one fence and other obstacles. 

Duane quickly gathered the one duckling by the house, and then he followed the sound of peeping coming from the hillside. About halfway down the path to the garden, he spotted the hen with at least one duckling trailing her. She was heading straight for a thicket of willow and blackberry brambles. Behind him, though, he heard peeping. 

While Duane hunted for ducklings on the hillside, I followed the peeps coming from the front of the property, part way down the driveway. 

It was really hard to hone in on the sound but I finally caught sight of a duckling making its way along the chain link fence that separates our property from our neighbors. 

Working it alone, I'd need to push the duckling - drive it to one side or the other to get a clear shot with my net. If it finds shelter in tall grass, it might freeze, but if it reaches our hillside of vines and brambles, I'll lose sight of it completely. 

I kept my eyes on the duckling as I rushed towards it. Incredibly, the duckling sped up, clambering over fallen branches. It was just amazing how this tiny day-old chick was able to traverse the uneven terrain.

Then, the duckling darted through the chain link and was solidly on the neighbor's side of the slope. I had to race back to the driveway, open the gate, and clamber part way up the hillside. The duckling then scrambled down the slope and finally landed in an open area where I was able to net it.

Knowing these are super-stressy birds, I needed to shelter its eyes to reduce stress and get it out of my hands as fast as possible.

I met Duane at the top of the driveway. He'd collected a total of three ducklings and placed them in a carrier. I added the fourth. 

We both agreed the ducklings felt sticky, and they were covered with burs and foxtails. The stickiness was from a particular weed they'd run through - a wild geranium. Horrible. How we humans impact wildlife - everything that was going wrong for these ducklings on their second day of life was caused by us - the dogs, the weeds...

The stickiness complicated matters. Besides being separated from their mother, these highly stressed day-old ducklings were covered in something that might compromise their waterproofing. Should we get them to a wildlife rehabilitator or try to reunite?

I called wildlife rehabilitator, Anne Miller, in Alabama - she's very experienced in reuniting - I wanted her assessment. She reaffirmed, wood ducks are high strung and the ducklings could die from being handled too much. In a rehabilitation center, they need to be housed away from noise and disturbances. She recommended I get in touch with Tri-State Bird Rescue for their wood duck protocol, as they've successfully raised them in the past. Maybe they could advise on the sticky substance, but, they were closed for the day. I called one of our local wildlife hospitals and they believed the ducklings would have a better chance being reunited than in their center, bustling with activity.

It felt good to get feedback from our colleagues. It felt good to have a plan, but there were so many variables - so many things had to go right, and so many things could go horribly wrong. 

Plan A, we would gather ALL of the ducklings and then try to find the hen when she was visiting the pond so we could reunite there. Plan B, we would try to find the hen and duckling(s) and reunite in place, leaving her to navigate to the pond.

Talk about a stressful situation!

I started to walk the path to the garden, and heard more peeps coming from the ivy covered hillside. Duane was able to get the duckling to vocalize by imitating its call. 

As we closed in on its location, though, it stopped peeping.

We didn't want to hold up the reunion attempt for a single ducklings, so I left Duane to keep watch while I checked the pond to see if the hen was there. She wasn't. 

As I was walking back up the driveway - more peeping - in a different spot!

I called Duane to help triangulate the location. He was able to keep it peeping until we got really close. Then it stopped. Silence. 

Duane scanned the vegetation in front of him. Glint from one of the duckling's eyes gave it away... it was maybe two feet from Duane, motionless, and terrified.

He gathered the little baby and we took a minute to pick off as many foxtails and burs as we could before placing in the carrier with its siblings. 

We were feeling pretty confident we'd collected all the ducklings except for the one on the hillside and whatever ducklings the hen had with her. So, I took the carrier with me to look for her in the garden and orchard.

Along the trail, bordered by tangles of blackberry vines, I thought I heard peeping, but then it stopped. I scanned the garden and listened quietly. Nothing. Then I started to make my way back up the hill again, and at a distance I saw the hen shoot out of the brambles like a rocket, and she headed in the direction of the pond.

I don't think she flushed because of me, I was pretty far away. I think maybe she was taking a break, leaving her babies safely tucked away in a thicket.

I knew the ducklings were in the brush, somewhere. As I got closer, I started to think about how to deal with the poison oak vines, but then, I saw movement. A duckling! Two ducklings!

I could not believe the luck. The ducklings were trapped inside an enclosure that had been used to soft-release foxes years ago. It was made of wood and welded wire that was buried in the soil. There was no way for them to escape. I collected the two ducklings and headed back up the hill where I met Duane. 

We decided to drive to the pond. Besides being exhausted, the duck would feel less pressure from a vehicle than a couple of bi-pedal predators approaching.

Half way to the pond, I spotted her. She was eating duck weed in the middle of the pond, but when we exited the truck, she retreated to a willow on the far shore. As I made my way down the path, concealing my approach as much as possible, she slipped across the pond to a larger willow that offered even better cover. That was perfect! We needed her to feel safe so she would stay put, not fly back to the brambles. We needed to get these ducklings back to their mom as soon as possible for them to have a chance to survive. This needed to work!

I removed the towel from the box so they'd all slide out at once, then I made my way to the shore, right across from where the hen was hiding. In one quick move, I tipped over the carrier, dumping the ducklings then and retreated. 

The ducklings shot into the water, all as one, and began paddling away from the shore. Now all we needed to do was get out of the way and let nature take its course. 

We're grateful to our neighbors for letting us hang out on their patio on the hill where we had a perfect bird's eye view of the pond. This is what we saw:

After the reunion was confirmed, Duane and I went back to look for the last little duckling. 

The peeps were now coming from lower on the hillside, but near the fence line. All of a sudden Duane started racing down the hillside - his eye on the duckling. He got it!

Keeping its head covered to reduce visual stress, we drove back to the pond and set it in the water about 30 feet from the willow.

It wasn't long before the hen came out from hiding. She must have vocalized, because all of a sudden the little one shot across the pond, forging through the duckweed to reach its mom. Success!!!

Here's the footage of the hen and ducks leaving the nest box:

If you counted, you'll know we missed one. There were nine. 

By the time we viewed the footage, it was too late. Although we looked and listened for more peeps that afternoon, we probably should have spent much more time searching. 

The thought of missing one duckling was bad enough, the impact we and other humans have on wildlife, though, weighs on us everyday, and this was a very, very personal journey, a keen reminder of how our choices, our lifestyles so greatly influence the lives of other animals.

The good news - we were able to reunite 8 ducklings. Of those, 5 survived the first night.

UPDATE: This morning, at least 5 of the ducklings were still alive. In the afternoon a great egret was seen hunting along the shore, possibly after the little ones.

UPDATE 6-23-16: Still 5 alive!

If you're interested, here is a nice YouTube video of 23 ducklings leaving a nest over water: