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:

Jun 8, 2016

Crimes Against Nature: The Raven

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Yesterday, WES received multiple reports of a crow attacking children at a park in Hollister, at the corner of Valley View and Driftwood Court. After receiving a photo of the bird, we determined it was a young raven, and that its odd behavior was probably because someone had tamed it. We said we’d have someone check it out.

This morning, we went to look for the raven. As we turned onto Driftwood Court, windows down, listening, we noticed a man with  a group of children, standing on the corner across from the park. The well-dressed man was holding a rake. A bit odd, we thought. Then we heard it - the call of a young raven. It sounded close.

I parked the truck and grabbed a container of soaked dog food to bait it in. As Duane and I started across the street to the park, a neighbor approached us. She wanted to be sure we knew the bird had just chased a teenager down the street. I explained the bird’s behavior.

The ‘attacks' were actually the bird begging for food. It had probably been dumped by the person who raised it - maybe they got tired of the responsibility. The bird had never had to look for food before, and it was only doing what it knew to do to get food - approach a human. 

The poor bird had scared a lot of residents in the area. Imagine, a big black bird with its big mouth open, screeching, chasing a person. But it was desperate - starving... all it wanted was food. But the people didn't understand.

We were directed to the center of the park where we found the young raven flicking aside leaves with its bill, looking for something edible. 

I knelt down a few yards away and tossed a couple of kibbles onto the footpath. The raven approached without hesitation. With my right hand I baited him closer with kibbles and gently but firmly took hold of his legs with my left. He didn’t fight or struggle. Obviously he’s used to being handled and held.

The raven will go to a local licensed wildlife hospital for evaluation and then be placed in a permanent facility. 

We have alerted local, state and federal agencies and intend on filing a report. Ravens, like other wild birds and mammals, are protected by state and federal laws. Possession of wildlife is prohibited without a permit.

Perhaps someone found the young bird when it was a nestling and didn’t know who to call. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing by caring for it at its helpless age, and didn’t know they were, in fact, stealing its life.

This raven does not know its a raven, or a bird. It associates itself with humans. It will never be released to be part of the wild and free world - it will always be a captive. Very sad.

News coverage:

Please, if you have any information on the history of this raven, please contact us at 866-945-3911.

May 31, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - death of nature by cat

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Free-roaming cats. It's a serious issue. Those who don't think free-roaming cats, owned or feral, have an impact on wild populations, have blinders on.

Yesterday, two nestling mockingbirds were severely injured by a cat. The chicks were taken away to a wildlife hospital, leaving behind two very traumatized parent birds, now at a loss.

The two casualties, near fledging age, represent about a three-month investment by the parents - establishing territory, courting, pairing, mating, nest-building - the male creating the twig frame with the female lining the interior with soft grasses and roots.

The female mockingbird laid 3-5 pale blue speckled eggs, and, after about 2 weeks, the eggs hatched and the parents worked, non-stop, from twilight to dusk, providing food for their chicks.

Another couple of weeks and their brood would have fledged, adding to their species' declining population... but that didn't happen. Instead, their nest was destroyed and their entire brood was killed or injured because of a free-roaming cat - because we allow this invasive predator to be at large, unregulated, like no other. This has got to stop!

We must advocate for the protection of wildlife from domestic cats through state policies, regulations, statutes and local government ordinances. It is time we put cats in their place.

Rebecca Dmytryk

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, wildhelp.org.

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.