Feb 16, 2019

Still on the trail

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Photo Credit Dianne Kimbler

WES is still in pursuit of two very sick animals. A male bobcat in Aromas, suffering from a severe case of mange likely attributed to exposure to rodenticides - essentially, it consumed a rat or mouse, gopher or ground squirrel that had eaten poison placed by a human. We are also tracking a female coyote in Gilroy, also suffering from severe mange. Her condition cannot be as definitively linked to poisons as the bobcat, but we are very confident tests would conclude exposure to rodenticides as they did with the poor coyote from Danville (pictured below).  

These animals are suffering, tremendously. 

As their health began to decline, they moved into urban areas looking for easier meals. Unfortunately, due to the continued rampant use of rodenticides, we can only imagine their "easy meals" would be slow, dying, poisoned rodents. 

WES has been tracking the Gilroy coyote for months, trying to pin down a pattern of travel in order to capture her. But, she is extremely smart and elusive.

We are grateful to all who have reported sightings in a timely matter to our pager 831-498-9453.

Currently, she has been frequenting a remote location where we could, potentially, treat her in the field, making certain she, and only she, receives the dose of medication for the mange. This requires authorization from the local state (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) biologist, whom we have contacted, requesting approval. 

The bobcat in Aromas is a "research cat", similar to the sick one we captured on January 22nd, HERE. This one is referred to as B28M. 

He was captured and collared in early June (2018) as part of an environmental study. He was in good health then, according to the research biologists. 

Sometime in the last 6 months or so, in his travels through the hills around Aromas and the Santa Cruz Mountains, B28M was exposed to something that compromised his immune system - rodenticides top the list of possible causes.

Our pursuit of B28M began on February 10, when we received a report of a sick bobcat that had just killed a chicken. Our attempts to capture him that day failed.

The next day, we found him in a meadow, but, again, we were unsuccessful.

With the help of the researchers who gave us the collar's frequency, we have an opportunity to try and track the cat using handheld radios, but it's been a real challenge. The collar's battery is extremely low - close to being dead and it's programmed to work only between the hours of 11 and 3 every day. That, and the cold rainy weather has likely forced the cat to seek shelter - but we have been searching. 

These animals need our help... they need your help...

Whether we are successful at capturing these two poor beings or not, you can prevent other wild predators from getting sick and dying, by committing to not use poisons that contain anticoagulants. Where you can, try and get others on board.

Join us in calling for a ban of rodenticides containing anticoagulants in the State of California. 

If you would like to help fund this particular campaign, please donate HERE or send a check to WES at P.O. Box 65 Moss Landing CA 95039 and write rodenticides in the memo section.

Thank you!!!

Feb 11, 2019

Owls in Schools

Barn owls are nocturnal raptors that prey mostly on small rodents - rats, mice, voles and gophers, moles, and, occasionally, small rabbits. 

A family of barn owls can consume more than 4,000 rodents in one season. That’s why they are used to control rodents on residential properties, farms and ranches, vineyards and agricultural fields - and school campuses.

Because barn owls maintain a home territory and do not migrate, an owl family that takes up residency on a property is likely to stay, making an owl nest box a good investment for natural and long-term rodent control.

In addition to controlling rodents on campus, resident barn owls can provide unique learning opportunities in various studies, like science, art, writing, even woodworking (designing and building nest boxes)

Adding a camera inside the nest box adds a whole new dimension to the learning experience. The live-streaming capabilities allows viewing of the owl family day and night.

Streaming can be kept on a private network or shared publicly on YouTube. 

When possible, students will get a chance to be involved in banding of the baby owls that are born on campus. 

WES is currently raising funds to install barn owl nest boxes with cameras at three local schools in the Monterey Bay Area - Rancho Cielo, Pajaro Valley High School, and Aromas School. 

We are holding a fundraising event at the Haute Enchilada Cafe February 21st to help raise the funds to cover purchase of the cameras. See the invitation, HERE.

Tickets are $20.00. There will be a presentation on barn owls and how to build a proper nest box, wonderful original pieces of barn owl-themed artwork to bid on, complimentary chips, salsa and guacamole and a no-host bar. 

One of the beautiful pieces donated for the auction.

If you are unable to attend but still wish to contribute to the Owls in Schools program, you can donate through GoFundMe, HERE, or PayPal, HERE.

Thank you for supporting this worthy endeavor!

Please contact us directly if you'd like to sponsor a school box. 

Jan 22, 2019

Go gentle into that good night dear cat

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Another dying bobcat, and there's a very good chance it's linked to an anticoagulant rodenticide, as research suggests.

This afternoon, WES' San Benito chapter was alerted of a sickly bobcat in rural Aromas. According to the reporting party, the cat crossed Anzar Road and disappeared into the brush, headed towards her neighbor's home. She described it as having two red ear tags - a research cat!

I have since learned she, known as B33F, was ear-tagged in June, 2018. At that time she was a healthy young bobcat.

Thankfully, the RP was kind enough to get us in touch with the neighbor and we received permission to search the property.

I arrived within 2 hours. Ascending the steep driveway in the rescue truck, I saw the cat. It was huddled in the grass, just off the pavement, in the last bit of sunlight. Its face had the classic dark features, confirming it was suffering from mange, which has been linked to anticoagulant rodenticides

Having been spotted by the cat, I drove passed it without slowing and parked about 25 yards away, out of sight. 

I walked back to assess the cat's condition - to see how it would respond - how quick it would notice my approach, if at all. This initial evaluation helps rescuers determine the method of capture.

The cat had disappeared! Had it gone through the barbed wire fence into the field of cattle or into the gulch, or was it close, hiding? Perhaps in the snaggly conifer or coyote bush?

I crossed through the barbed wire fence and as I was scanning the dry gulch basin, all of a sudden, a scrub jay alarmed right behind me in the conifer! 

Sure enough. There, at the base of the tree, sheltered under low hanging branches, was the bobcat.

SO small, so thin, so desperate.

Thankfully, it was still on the property where we had permission to work, and I needed to keep it on this side of the barbed wire. That meant any approach would need to be from the property line.

When preparing for a wildlife capture, rescuers use their knowledge of a species to predict the animal's response to pressure, or approach. What will be its direction of travel? For example, with stranded sea birds, we know they will head for the water, so we stage between the bird and the water. 

In Wildlife Search and Rescue we refer to this step as the Potential for Success, where you take into consideration all the things that could happen during the rescue, and build the best possible plan for a successful mission. No one gets hurt. The animal is not harmed any further, and, hopefully, no property is damaged. We've found the Coast Guard's Operational Risk Management exercises particularly helpful in planning for safety.  

So, in considering the animal and the landscape and the time of day and there being only one capturer - me, I thought to employ the help of my trained Kentucky Labrador, Angus. 

We approached the cat under the snaggly tree from downhill and at the property line, next to the barbed wire fence, hoping to drive it deeper into the property - maybe even into a tree.

Sure enough, the presence of the dog applied just enough incentive to get the cat to move from under the low branches and into a thicket of ceanothus and coyote bush. 

There, Angus kept watch while I gathered equipment.

Carrying a long-handled hoop net, I approached the cat. The dog circling the bush kept its attention. 

Finally, I was just feet away and had a fairly clean shot. As if chucking a spear, I jabbed the leading edge of my net down through the brush, lodging it just behind the cat, which predictably jumped backwards, away from me, and into the netting. 

Only one problem - the netting material was tangled in the stickery branches, preventing me from laying it flat. I had to get on the ground with the now growling and pissed off cat and slowing release the material, one section at a time, until there was enough slack to create a "bag" to hold the bobcat securely. 

Meanwhile, Angus watched patiently.

After struggling with the ceanothus branches for at least five minutes, I finally had the cat in the bag. I twisted the hoop so it could not escape. Truthfully, I don't think it had the strength to try.

The cat was in really bad shape. Alert, just enough to be able to strike and bite, but barely. It would die tonight, I was quite sure. 

None of the wildlife centers was open. Even if one had been, the most heroic efforts haven't been enough to save bobcats that are this far gone. It was just a matter of time.

Wanting its last hours to be as peaceful as possible, we placed the bobcat on a warming pad in an isolated area and periodically checked on its condition. 

We have good reason to believe this bobcat was exposed to poison from eating rodents that had consumed bait containing a second generation anticoagulant.

Because of the diligent, dedicated and thorough work by so many people over the last few decades, we have solid evidence that proves, at the very least, our wildlife is being contaminated by the widespread use of anticoagulant rodenticides, if not also establishing a link between these poisons and the death of predators like this bobcat. 

The mounting evidence - this cat included - should be enough to justify the ban of anticoagulants, but will it be?

This fight, is not new. In 2008, after many years in deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded through a risk evaluation that certain anticoagulants posed an "unreasonable risk" to children, pets and wildlife. The powerful pest control industry fought the EPA's decision, delaying cancellation of certain products. In 2013, California conducted its own analysis of anticoagulant rodenticides. Finally, as of April 2015, second generation anticoagulants are no longer sold over the counter in the united States, however, they are still widely used in the pest control industry. For the Industry, it's about money. Profit. 

But who feeds the Industry? We do. 

More pressure must be placed on end-users of these poisons. Restaurants, hotels, businesses - many are unaware of the impact the "little plastic boxes" have on our wildlife. They need to be informed and encouraged to switch to a safer product or means of controlling rodents.

A bit of good news - just recently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation announced it would consider reevaluation of certain anticoagulants. A huge THANK YOU! to those who sent letters in support. 

We're looking forward to this reevaluation process. WES will be there on the front line, providing testimony as to the animals we have lost because of these poisons, and, my corporation will be countering claims by the industry that they don't have alternatives, when we know, for a fact, they do. 

Not long after her capture, the bobcat took her last breath.

At one point during the evening when we checked on her, she appeared to be unconscious - unaware, but running?

My mother described my grandfather's hand movements just before he died - he was unmistakably picking cotton. Some ingrained movement - something he never forgot. 

Giving way to tears (that come hard these days), I could only hope this cat's last dreams were of running in the wild wood. Go gently into that good night dear cat.

UPDATE: B33F's body was sent on Thursday January 24th to the State's Wildlife Investigations Lab to be necropsied and tested for rodenticide exposure. A huge thank you to the biologists and veterinarians and researchers at the Lab for their incredibly valuable work. 

UPDATE: Test results confirmed she was exposed to rodenticides from consuming poisoned rodents. Her liver showed 300 ppb of brodifacoum, 52 ppb of diphacinone and a trace amount of chlorophacinone. 

Exposure to the poisons compromised the cat's ability to hunt. She was severely emaciated and suffering from serous atrophy (gelatinous transformation).

These poisons are the new DDT. Silently killing our nations predator species. This has got to stop.

WES is a small all-volunteer-run nonprofit. If you would like to make a donation it would be very much appreciated.

Sep 15, 2018

Another victim of a rat trap

By Deanna Barth and Rebecca Dmytryk

This young opossum is the latest victim of a spring-loaded rat trap with interlocking teeth.

Please, do NOT place these traps outdoors! They are intended for indoor use. 

If you feel you must set them in your home - in the attic or crawlspace, or garage, make sure they are not accessible to children or pets, or other wildlife. Wildlife, like raccoons and opossums can squeeze through a 3" gap, so make sure there's no chance of occupancy by larger animals - only rats and mice. If you're not sure, place the traps inside specifically designed containers to reduce risk of injury to non-target wildlife.

These heavy-duty traps can cause significant damage to other animals - skunks, opossums, raccoons, dogs, cats, even deer. We have seen a skunk lose its nose to one of these types of traps.

Over the years we've seen an increase in the number of incidents involving larger animals caught in these relatively newer traps, the most common victims are skunks and opossums - the species that predate on rodents. So ironic.

While the use of snap traps is certainly better than glue traps and poison, just remember, killing a few rodents isn't going to solve your problem long-term. You've got to find the actual cause of the infestation, which is usually a food source, followed by access to shelter. You've got to focus, then, on remedying the cause. 

Exclusion and sanitation is key. Here is a list of things you can do to reduce or eliminate rodents from your property.

* Find and patch gaps in the outermost "shell" of your home that are 1/2" or greater, and set live-catch traps to remove the ones entrapped after repairs. Call Humane Wildlife Control for more advice on this.

* Store food in rodent-proof (metal) containers.

* Never leave pet food outside day or night.

* Keep garbage secured.

* Don't feed birds or squirrels, or expect rats and mice and gophers.

* Pick up fallen fruit from trees.

* Remove clutter and debris form your yard. 

* Remove ivy and dense ground cover, and trim shrubs away from your building. Keep grasses short.

* If you have chickens, make sure mice and rats don't have access (gaps 1/2" or greater) and keep it clean! Store their feed in metal bins.

Please, think about the impact to other animals in your attempt to eliminate rodents. Thank you.

Jul 13, 2018

Two more bobcats with mange show up in Santa Cruz

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Last night, WES received a report from a local photographer that he’d spotted a sick bobcat at Wilder Ranch Park. 

"We used to see lots of bobcat (at least once every four visits), but it has been a year since we last saw one there. Today, we were excited to finally see a bobcat, but dismayed when it turned around to be clearly suffering from mange."

Indeed, the bobcat appears to be suffering from notoedric mange, a skin condition caused by mites. Research suggests this condition is related to a compromised immune system, often seen in bobcats exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. See resource links below for more. 

Under normal circumstances, sightings of bobcats suffering from mange is a cause for concern. In this case, it’s alarming because of the number of ailing bobcats that have been found in and around Wilder Ranch and UCSC campus over the years. Similarly, Elkhorn Slough Reserve has had an abundance of sick bobcats. 

Since 2013, WES has been keeping track of bobcats found with mange. See the map, here: 

WES has documented approximately 40 bobcats suffering from mange - just in Santa Cruz County! A few were successfully captured. Sadly, only a few of those recovered.

Many that were found dead or died in care were sent to the Wildlife Investigations Lab near Davis for testing. Results from the necropsies show an undeniably clear link between the fatal illness and exposure to anticoagulant poison. 

Predators, like the bobcat, are poisoned when they consume an animal that has eaten poison - it could be a ground squirrel, rat, mouse, gopher. 

These powerful chemicals that cause hemorrhaging, referred to as second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, or SGARs, are long-lived. Unlike first generation anticoagulants, SGARs don’t break down quickly, but accumulate in the liver. Each dose, then, increases the animal’s “stored up” level of poison until it either overwhelms the immune system and the animal succumbs to a secondary illness like mange, or it bleeds to death. 

It’s not just the predators like bobcats, coyotes, owls and hawks that are being poisoned, it’s the scavengers too, like raccoons, opossums and skunks. Even dogs and cats are at risk should they find and eat a poison-laced rodent.

Since the last bobcat at Wilder Ranch, just over a month ago, park officials agreed to help whenever another bobcat was sighted, so this morning I notified their staff and made arrangements to store a large cage on site in case the cat is seen again. 

I also notified Santa Cruz Raptors Are The Solution (SCRATS). Tai Moses, who runs the local chapter, helped spread word about the sighting, encouraging people to report sightings of sick bobcats.

It wasn't long before she alerted me to another sick bobcat - this one was spotted on the USCS campus, just about 3 miles away. Totally different cat. Check out the video, HERE. Only three miles

For me, this is absolutely heartbreaking. I am so tired of picking up dead and dying bobcats. 

If more people understood how extraordinary one single bobcat is - especially in a suburban area. How much went into its creation, from the meeting of two wild bobcats, to its conception, its mother finding a safe place to give birth to her kittens, and her staying alive - avoiding cars, hunters, trappers and dogs long enough to raise her cubs and teach them how to hunt successfully... only to be rendered to skin and bones by society's addiction to anticoagulant poison and greed within the pest control industry.

Dying mother bobcat with its cub. UCSC campus.

Anticoagulant rodenticides ARE NOT NECESSARY!!!!!! 

There are plenty of effective alternative rodenticides that don't risk killing wildlife and pets as SGARs do. 

There are plenty of effective means of controlling rodents without the use of poisons whatsoever! 

THIS HAS TO STOP, and I believe we can stop it. It will be a hard battle but I think we can. At least locally.

No matter where you live, if you're interested in joining the fight to end the use of SGARs, please email me rebecca (at) wildlifeservices (dot) org.

If you want to donate funds - to cover the costs of testing the animals we find, to prove they were exposed to poison, and to cover costs specifically associated with this battle.

Please help in whatever way you can. 

REPORT SIGHTINGS TO 831-498-9453 or use the iPhone App WildHelp


Google album Faces of Rodenticide  (images are copyright protected - all rights reserved)

Jul 12, 2018

Grounded owl recovers

By Deanna Barth 

Photo: Rene Rodriguez .  https://www.renerodriguezphotography.com

I received a call from a concerned couple in Paicines on May 5th, when they discovered this injured Great-horned owl on their property. After making several calls in an attempt to find help, they quickly discovered that doing so in this county is no easy feat! 

They finally contacted the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center who in turn gave them my number. 

It was a beautiful drive to the location but I was dismayed at what I found. The owl had tucked itself into a hole in the ground and appeared weak and unwary. Significant puncture wounds were apparent on the left wing and fearing it may also be fractured, I explained to the couple that the prognosis looked poor. 

To my pleasant surprise, the thorough evaluation given by wildlife center staff showed the wing was not broken, however, it would require extensive care. I was cautiously optimistic each time I asked for an update, but with their wound care and physical therapy it continued to improve. 

Finally, after two months, I was filled with joy to make the drive once again, this time with the honor of returning this beautiful bird back home just before sunset. 

(Thank you to Rene Rodriguez for the photo)

Lead poisoning in a turkey vulture

By Deanna Barth

On the evening of May 31st, Dee Kramer noticed this turkey vulture standing on the side of the road. She listened to her intuition as she drove by, turned around and went back. 

There was no obvious injury but it appeared hunched over which told her something was wrong. She waited nearby and called me for help. 

Upon arrival, I quickly agreed that the bird appeared sick.

It was fairly easy to collect with a long-handled net.

I provided supportive care including warmth and fluid therapy that night and transported it to the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center the next morning. 

Blood results showed that the bird was suffering from lead toxicity. Thanks to their amazing care, he recovered.

Today, I was able to return him to the location found this afternoon. He walked around, took time to stretch his wings and even posed for us on the fence post before taking flight. While turkey vultures may not be admired by most who see them, it’s important to note that they serve a crucial purpose in our ecosystem. Disposing of carrion helps prevent the spread of disease. So the next time you see them flying overhead, be thankful for “Nature’s Clean-up Crew.”

If you'd like to support Deanna and WES' San Benito program that 
she operates, please click the Donate button, below. Thank you!

Jun 9, 2018

Young girl, little bird, big heart

By Deanna Barth

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Victor and his compassionate daughter Jeanette. 

Early in the morning, Jeanette found a nestling House Sparrow on the ground outside their home. She carefully scooped it up and carried it inside where she asked her parents to help it. They placed it on a soft cloth and began searching online for advice on how to care for it. 

Fearing he would do more harm by feeding it the wrong food, Victor chose to just keep it warm and left a message for me this morning (perfect!). They tucked the baby safely in a box and left it on the front porch so I could pick it up after work.

I was able to collect the baby around midday. I took it home to our (WES') makeshift ER and placed it in the incubator. 

Soon after, it was warm and actively vocalizing, so I began feeding it the proper diet about every 20 minutes. 

Once Victor returned home from work, I headed over to their residence to place the healthy bird back in the nest beneath the roof tile. 

I could hear the other nestlings loudly peeping and parent bird was hopping on the roof waiting impatiently for me to leave. 

A huge THANK YOU! to this lovely family for caring enough to make this wild reunion possible.

If you'd like to support Deanna and WES' San Benito program that 
she operates, please click the Donate button, below. Thank you!

May 20, 2018

Mallard hen and ducklings escorted to safety

By Deanna Barth

Earlier this week, I was contacted by a homeowner who had discovered a mallard duck and five little ducklings in her pool, which is not an uncommon occurrence, this time of year. 

Mallard hens seek out safe places to nest, and this particular backyard provided, not only a water source, but shelter from predators and mallard drakes. 

Unfortunately, a situation like this - a swimming pool and enclosed backyard, was not a suitable place for the wild duck family to stay. Keeping them there and feeding them was not an option. They might become habituated to people. 

For the well-being of the ducks, they needed to be returned to their natural habitat. 

Typically, we would open the gate to allow the hen and ducklings to leave on their own, or gently herd them a certain direction. 

Instinctively, the hen wants to lead her babies to the closest body of water - one that she has spied from her flights. The closest body of water, however, was across a busy highway. This would not only be dangerous for the ducks, but also to drivers, as the ducks could potentially cause a traffic collision. 

Most wild birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and wildlife in our state is protected by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This duck family could not be captured and moved to a safer location without prior authorization.

WES has a permit that allows us to move migratory birds that are either in imminent danger or may pose a threat to human safety. We also called our local game warden for his opinion. 

It was decided - we would capture the duck family and escort them across the highway to the closest pond. For anyone who has worked with mallards, you know it's not easy to capture a flighted adult. This was definitely a two-person job.

This morning, WES' founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, met me at the residence to assist in capturing the duck family. 

After observing their behavior, we made a plan to contain the ducklings first, then capture the hen by luring her with the ducklings.

We used long-handled dip nets to gently scoop the ducklings from the pool, then we set them next to a drop trap.

A drop trap, described in Rebecca's book Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide to First Responders, is the simplest and safest way to catch an adult mallard. Check out the video below to see how it works. 

Once we had the mother contained in a separate carrier for safety, we drove to the pond.

It's important for the babies to be let go first, in an open area where the mother can see and hear them.

All went as planned. A happy reunion!