Oct 30, 2011

Continuing education

Deanna practicing gavage on a deceased grebe.
One of WildRescue's lead responders, Deanna Barth, attended an intensive, two-day course - Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation, offered by International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. The class was held last weekend in Salinas.

While Deanna has been a veterinary assistant for 13 years, which came in handy during the workshop, she picked up some new skills that she can apply as a wildlife paramedic and wildlife SAR technician.

WildRescue will be offering Wildlife Search & Rescue training in beginning January, 2012. Click HERE for a flyer with upcoming dates and locations. Feel free to download and post it.

Click HERE to register for a training.

Oct 29, 2011

Entrapped hawks

This week we had two emergencies involving hawks that were trapped inside manmade structures. Unfortunately, it's not THAT uncommon a situation.

Accipiters, like the Cooper's hawk, can wind up inside buildings during their pursuit of small birds. Once inside, they instinctively head upward - often to the highest peak possible. Windows and skylights disorient and confuse the birds even further.

In some situations, it's possible for a hawk to find its way out - but it's very risky to delay a rescue. These high strung birds cannot last long - a few days, at the most, until they have exhausted themselves by flying around, looking for a way out, hitting against the ceiling and against panes of glass.

We lost a bird to this earlier in the week - a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk. 

The bird was first observed Monday afternoon at the North Berkeley BART Station. It was perched high up, in the tallest part of the building - a glass dome where the temperature during the day can become very high. 

Sadly, by the time a team of rescuers arrived, it was weak and in bad shape. It did not survive.

A second hawk - a juvenile Cooper's hawk, wound up inside the Whisman Sport Center gymnasium in Mountain View, CA, with a 45' high ceiling!

It was first observed Tuesday. We were alerted Thursday. No other entity in the area was able to respond - and we were only able to make the hour-long trek Friday morning. 

We knew the bird would be hungry and the best way to catch the bird would be to lure it into a trap. We set a spring-loaded box trap and a bal-chatri. We'd no more turned our backs after setting the devices, when he dove in.

This was our first time using this trap, but it worked pretty well. We need to make a few modifications, but it felt good to put the contraption to good use. You see, it was once used to trap and kill raptors. Authorities confiscated it as evidence - part of a sting operation. It was donated to WildRescue this year.

The hawk was driven immediately to the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Center, just down the street, where it received immediate care for dehydration. It was in good shape and was set free the next morning.

The doves employed in this operation have been adopted into a forever-home where they can live out their lives in a large aviary. Please read our live animal policy below:
When attempting to rescue a wild animal that can only be captured using live bait as a lure, we face a secondary dilemma - how to employ the service of a live animal while maintaining the same concern for its welfare as we do for the animal we intend to capture. Below is WildRescue's policy on use of live animals in trapping exercises. 
1) During trapping exercises, WildRescue will employ the service of animals that are maintained in forever-homes. 
2) These animals, birds and small mammals, will be: a) personal pets; b) individuals that were spared euthanasia through a rehabilitation center; either because they are handicapped or nonnative - such as starlings, eurasian doves, pigeons, domestic or wild rats. 
3) Service periods will be limited - no individual animal will be placed in service two days in a row. 
4) During exercises, when not in service, animals will be provided adequate housing with appropriate food and water available at all times. 
5) All precautions will be taken to ensure animals are not physically harmed. If one is accidentally injured,it will be provided immediate medical attention.

We value any constructive feedback on our policies and procedures. 

Update on the 'nailed' hawk

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
Courtesy WCSV

We've had word from the wildlife hospital that the hawk is reportedly doing well - thin, but very, very alert and active. 

The nail that had been lodged in her head for nearly two weeks was found in the transport carrier - it came loose and dropped out during transit. Every once in a while during the drive to the hospital we heard a thump as she made an attempt to escape her padded carrier.

Photo courtesy of WCSV
We believe she sprang up and bumped the nail on the top of the carrier, dislodging it. There was no sign of additional trauma - no bleeding, thankfully. Since it had been about 2 weeks, the body encapsulated the foreign object, much like what happened with Pinky, the wild turkey that was shot through with an arrow. Read the story of his capture and recovery HERE.

The investigation into this act of cruelty is ongoing, being led by US Fish & Wildlife Service and the San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

Photo courtesy of WCSV

Radiographs and blood work revealed her to be in good shape. On Friday, she was moved to an outdoor flight enclosure so she can strengthen her flight muscles in preparation for release back to the wild, which is slated for Wednesday, November 2nd.


Check out WCSV's web site HERE.

Oct 22, 2011

Hawk shot with nail gun - CAPTURED!

Photo by Catherine Clarke. Taken Oct . 14th. 

Last Sunday, October 16th, WildRescue was notified of a hawk with a projectile through its face. It was seen near the Golden Gate Park Botanical Gardens in San Francisco.

Reports came through WildCare, a local birding group, and from concerned citizens who spotted the bird while visiting the gardens.

We reached out to local authorities and other wildlife groups to make sure we would not be 'stepping on toes' if we were to take on the rescue.

As with the Budweiser gulls (CLICK FOR STORY), it seemed we were the only entity able to invest the time and resources necessary for this difficult rescue operation.

On Monday, October 17th, Duane and Rebecca made the 100-mile journey to Golden Gate Park. This is their account:

We met up with Kate, a local resident who showed us where she'd originally observed the bird. Unfortunately, it was no where to be found.

Later that evening, though, after we'd left (of course), Kate spotted the hawk again, and was able to capture additional photographs, confirming the projectile was a framing nail from a nail gun.

Photo courtesy Katherine Ulrich

We alerted US Fish & Wildlife Service and the San Francisco Animal Control as we believed the bird was harmed intentionally. We also sent out press releases that included Kate's graphic images of the injured animal, hoping to get the community involved in reporting sightings. We also announce the reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible - the reward stand at $10,000.00.

We returned to the Botanical Gardens Tuesday morning. With Kate's help, we scoured the area in search of the elusive raptor. We used binoculars to scan the trees as we listened for sounds that could give away the predator's location - squirrel alarms or mobbing of birds.


We decided to just wait in the area the bird had been seen nearly every day. We waited and waited and waited. 

Click to enlarge.

Finally, around 3:00 pm, one of the groundskeepers sighted the hawk - it had just made a kill - a squirrel. 

Occupied with its meal, the hawk allowed us within a few yards, but we were hesitant to use a net for fear that the material would snag on the nail and do more harm. 

Our plan was to use a bal-chatri - a trap designed especially to trap raptors - but in order for this to work, the bird must be hungry enough to be lured to the bait.

Clearly, the bird was not interested in anything but the squirrel. We called it a day.

Wednesday, one of our Bay Area responders, Mark Russell, monitored the area on and off throughout the day. It was Kate, though, who spotted the hawk again in the arboretum. She watched it successfully capture and consume a gopher.

Thursday, the bird was only observed once, when it was quickly chased off by an adult red-tailed hawk.

By this time, the story of the hawk had made it around the world and we were receiving numerous reports of sightings, some dating as far back as October 9th. We received a photo of an uninjured hawk, closely resembling the injured one - observed near Buena Vista Park in September.

These sightings provided information on the bird's history and its daily pattern, helping us build our search and capture plan.

Reported sightings of the injured hawk.

On Friday, we staked out the arboretum the entire day, heading home, feeling quite frustrated, at about 6:00 pm. The entire day we observed two adult red-taileds and a quick glimpse of two juveniles as they flew over the arboretum. At 6:45 pm we received a call that someone had spotted the hawk at 15th Avenue Steps Park around 6:15. It was observed hunting.

We were feeling pretty low, not to mention exhausted from the many hours on the road.

Saturday, we took our time making it into the city. We were about 10 minutes away when a call came in from someone at the Gardens - they had their eyes on the hawk!

One of our East Bay responders, Akira, had just arrived and we were just minutes away with the traps.

We caught up with the finder and others who were watching out for the bird - but it had flown off - they'd lost sight of it. As a group we began searching. All of a sudden, this fellow said something like "Are you looking for him?" - pointing at eye-level, only a few feet away...

There he was - perched in a small tree right next to the path.

We quickly escorted bystanders a good distance away and set out the bal-chatri. Within a few minutes the hawk landed on top of it, but failed to be entrapped. He flew back to one of the small trees. 

We decided to deploy a second trap.

Photo: Katherine Ulrich

After about an hour of watching and waiting and shepherding park-goers from the area, the hawk landed near one of the traps. He was obviously hungry. Finally, he was caught! The crowd of onlookers cheered.

Photo: Katherine Ulrich

This video, below, was shot by someone at the park - it shows the actual capture. The capture and possession of wild birds is unlawful without federal and state permits.

Thanks to the many wonderful park visitors and Botanical Garden staff who helped us collect our gear and exit quickly, we were on the road and headed to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in no time. 

We arrived at the wildlife hospital at 6:35. Their medical team had stayed late to receive the bird.

We will keep you apprised of his condition with hope of returning him home when he has recovered.

A reminder, WildRescue is an all-volunteer organization - no salaried positions, no paid staff - all the 75-or-so man-hours it took to capture this hawk were all volunteer with no compensation whatsoever.

Injured Canada goose returns home

In an earlier post we shared a story about a Canada goose that had its legs bound with fishing line. On October 21st, 7 days days after it was successfully captured, it was returned to its home and its mate. 

Thanks to the expert medical team at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, the bird recovered from its injuries. Here is Deanna's account of the release:

The park was buzzing with people and dogs and remote controlled boats. It was not long before we spotted the group of waterfowl. We placed the crate near the water's edge. The goose was pounding so hard to get out of the carrier that he was bouncing it off the ground - it was pretty funny. Then, when we opened the door, he strutted out, like he owned the place, like "Here I am - did you miss me? Goose with attitude! 
He walked to the edge and looked around as if to take it all in. The other geese swam up to the edge. When he jumped in the water there was no over-the-top reunion like I had hoped for, but the 4 of them did form a line as they had done before.
It was so refreshing to go from seeing him limp around and have to sit down every couple minutes, to seeing him strutting around freely. His leg looked fantastic! Having that opportunity to be apart of it from beginning to end was awesome. Wish they could all end so well.

I am including a photo of my daughter and me - a reminder of WHY this happened to the goose in the first place: fishermen not cleaning up their line!
We stayed for at least 30 minutes just walking and picking up errant line - it covered the ground, glistening in the setting sun. There was so much of it that the ground was "twinkling."

The woman who works there came out to say hello again and thanked me. She says she's regularly cleans up the line but just can't keep up with it. There are garbage cans everywhere, but I think signs would be a nice touch.

Super tired. Just finished cleaning out the carriers and my car, which now smells like a seabird pool. Gotta get some rest for my class tomorrow. 
Deanna is one of our lead responders in the South Bay. She's attending an intensive 2-day wildlife rehabilitation class. Good luck, Deanna!!!! 

Oct 15, 2011

Hook, line, sinker, and bobber...

Thanks to our wildlife responder extraordinaire, Kelle, a gull that was found snagged in fishing tackle at Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge, was successfully rescued Thursday evening. Gull 1580 is now undergoing treatment at WildCare in Marin. Way to go, KELLE!

In pursuit of a wild goose...

It is one thing to set a trap to capture a group of flighted birds. It is tremendously challenging to capture an individual flighted bird. It takes a great deal of planning, patience, and steadfast determination.

A wild Canada goose with fishing line wrapped around both of its legs was discovered at a park near Watsonville, CA. It limped, but could still fly. Unfortunately, over two consecutive days, the bird was chased by untrained people with nets, thinking they were doing the right thing, but only making matters worse - making the bird fearful.

Deanna, one of WildRescue's lead responders took on the challenge. Here is her account:

On Friday, October 7th, Day One of the "Wild Goose Chase", I met up with the finder, Matt, who had been kind enough to take notice of the injured goose and seek help. Matt was working with the bird as best he could, feeding it throughout the day, trying to gain its trust. Since the goose seemed comfortable with him, I let Matt continue to bait the bird while I crouched behind his frame with a net. 

The injured goose immediately looked at me as though I was an intruder. He appeared very nervous and I knew if I swung the net and missed, we might never get a second chance. 

There were several people nearby, some with small children running, and others walking dogs. This had all the birds on alert. I backed off and spent 30 minutes tossing grain and crackers until the entire flock was startled by a passerby and took to the lake for safety. 

I went back the next day, an hour's drive from my home, and found four geese and an assorted group of waterfowl feeding near the shore, except for the injured one. Through binoculars I saw it resting on a floating structure in the lake, as if to taunt me. Matt, offered to keep watch and contact me if the goose came to shore.

No such luck. It was a beautiful weekend, which meant the park was bustling with visitors.

When I returned on Monday, all of the geese were resting on shore. I approached slowly and quietly along a fence, away from the geese, and looped around without them noticing (or so I thought). I set the hoop of my long-handled net behind two garbage cans, to keep it hidden, and then sat next to a picnic table near the geese. 

I began baiting them in with grain, and was able to get the injured goose within a few feet of me. As I extended my arm for the net, I noticed that his eyes were fixed on the garbage cans as if he already knew the net was there. I had not fooled this goose and the slightest movement spooked him.

I scooted towards the goose on my knees, inch by inch, tossing grain with one hand and sliding the net along the ground behind me with the other. As soon as he was within arms reach I swung the net around and over him. By that time he had lifted off the ground. I had him partially inside the net but he was so fast and so incredibly strong that he tilted to the left and out of the net.

Tuesday marked my fourth visit to the park in pursuit of the injured goose. I arrived to find all of the geese swimming on the far side of the lake. I decided to give him a break and I need a mental break, too. Now that he'd been conditioned to fear the net, I needed to come back with an entirely different plan. Game on.

Friday marked one week. I arrived with a different strategy and determination - I was not leaving empty handed.

All of the geese were swimming close to shore. I collected my gear - scissors, camera, pillowcase, but no net. I sat down at a picnic table near the geese and ignored them. 

I waited at least 45 minutes until, finally, they came ashore and began preening. 

I waited for them to settle in and get comfortable before walking towards them slowly, tossing grain. They formed a semi-circle around my feet. Soon, the injured goose, tired of standing on one leg, sat down. 

I slowly positioned myself behind and to the left of him (placing him to my right - my stronger side). I knelt down, continuing to toss tidbits. I could tell my positioning made him nervous. I distracted him with an extra-large portion of grain, tossed purposefully to his right, forcing him to turn slightly away from me. I told myself, “It’s now or never, and don't hesitate!" 

I counted to 3 and sprang. Quickly uncoiling, I enveloped his body - my chest over him, ‘hugging’ him while I carefully folded in his powerful wings. 

He was quite mad - and was hissing. 

I carried him to the picnic table and managed his head and most of his body into the pillowcase, leaving his legs exposed. This reduced his visual stress, kept his wings folded, and allowed me to quickly snip the main line and perform a very quick assessment of his injuries. A bystander, John Benka, asked if he could help. (Thank you John!)

CLICK to enlarge.

My hope was to remove the line and release the goose back to his mate, which was now anxiously watching from the water's edge. Unfortunately, the line on the left leg had cut deeply into the flesh and the joint appeared inflamed. I placed the goose in a carrier and headed to the wildlife hospital.

During the drive I begin to question my actions. I was thrilled that, finally, after a week of this "game", I was able to catch the goose, and "won". But now, what will its fate be?  

If I had cut the line and released him, would he have lived?  He had been managing with a limp, he could fly and paddle, he was eating, and his mate was at his side.

Had it not been reported, had we not ‘rescued’ it, nature would have taken its course, and now I feel I've interrupted that. Was it for the better? What if it loses its foot? 

In a rehabilitation setting, most birds that lose use of an appendage will be considered for euthanasia. This is not the decision of the wildlife hospital necessarily, but of the permitting agency under which it operates. In most cases, this is in the best interest of the bird - especially large-bodied birds that might suffer severe, secondary ailments as a result. 

If they can't save the foot, will this goose be euthanized? Will all that time and effort to "save" him have been for nothing? I'll have captured him and simply driven him to death's door. 

It's never black and white, though. Every situation is unique. As animal rescuers, we make a decision in the moment that we feel is the right one, often from a human-based perspective, not always considering the animal's. I just hope that this doesn't turn out to be a "lose-lose". I have a lot of respect for this goose, and I'd love nothing more than to see him back in the wild again. This has definitely been a journey on many levels.

GOOD NEWS!!! The goose is recovering at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley and is doing pretty well, according to caregivers. It's on anti-inflammatory medication. It's blood work looked good - no sign of infection. It will undergo further evaluation in the coming days. They say he or she is a real fighter - a very big and very angry goose. 

If you'd like to contribute to the care of this particular goose - help the center pay for its medications, please click HERE.

Oct 8, 2011

Cargo ship strikes reef off New Zealand

CLICK to enlarge
In the early hours of Wednesday, October 5th, as the Captain a 21-year old Liberian-flagged cargo ship, carrying hundreds of containers (many carrying toxic material) and loaded with half a million gallons of heavy fuel, ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off New Zealand's Bay of Plenty coast, just 12 nautical miles from Tauranga. Click maps to enlarge.

New Zealand is facing its greatest marine environmental disaster. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil is said to have spilled from the stricken vessel, with an estimated 1,300 tons remaining onboard. Bad weather has delayed salvage efforts. In the meantime, the ship fractured nearly in two, and threatens to break apart.

Here is a LINK to an article that chronicles the event in a timeline.

More than 1,000 birds have been found dead; more than 100 are undergoing treatment. Massey University Wildlife Health Center is overseeing the care of oiled animals at a makeshift hospital at the Te Maunga wastewater treatment plant. 

The oil poses a risk for many marine species. Of greatest concern is the impact it could have on the New Zealand dotterel, an endangered shorebird, with a population of only 1,200.

The wreck could not have happened at a worse time. As North America braces for winter, the Southern hemisphere is entering into its summer months and the peak of breeding season for thousands and thousands of marine animals.

With 86 seabird species breeding in its territorial waters, 38 of them endemic - New Zealand is known as the seabird capitol of the world.

Help arriving! Reportedly, more than 4,000 people have signed up to volunteer to help clean the beaches and experts from around the world are converging to assist with recovery and care of oiled wwldlife, among them, our colleagues from International Bird Rescue.