Apr 26, 2012

Fishing line blues

Photo courtesy Alejandro Gallo
Ironically, on Earth Day, as WildRescue celebrated its second annual Worldwide Fishing Line Cleanup Day, we received a report of a great blue heron with a bad fishing line injury. The bird was discovered in the Los Angeles River by wildlife photographer, Alejandro Gallo.

The species is known for being wary and skittish, and the bird is still flighted, making this an extremely difficult rescue. To develop a capture plan, it helps to have as much information as possible. In this case, we need to know where this individual bird likes to hang out during the day and what time it arrives.

Thanks to Alejandro and one of our responders, Zack, we can count on the bird frequenting a particular place, daily. It's a precarious spot, though, and the river and thick brush along its banks complicate matters. Ideally, the heron should be enticed into a better spot for netting or trapping. 

Photo courtesy Alejandro Gallo
Rescuing these kinds of birds can be tricky, and the preparation can take days. Captures, like this one, that require luring an animal, can require hours and hours of waiting. It's not easy finding people who are willing and able to perform these types of rescues.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, WildRescue does not have enough responders in Los Angeles area to carry out this rescue safely. We are currently reaching out to other entities who may be able to help, but it doesn't look promising. 

The majority of wildlife hospitals leave the capture and transport of ailing animals in the hands of the public or the local Animal Control. WildRescue is one of the very few wildlife organizations in the country that offers field response, but at this time, its program depends on volunteerism, which has wained with the economic downturn.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help rescue wildlife in the Los Angeles area is asked to  email rescue (at) wildrescue (dot) org.

Apr 25, 2012

Snakes in Watsonville

Today, two garter snakes were found denning together at a residence near Harkins Slough in Watsonville. We believe they are Monterey coast garters.

The two were resituated, together, on a piece of undeveloped property near the slough.



A personal account... 
It was close to 9 o'clock last night, when we received an emergency page about a thumb-sized, naked baby bird. Nearly all rescues begin with an initial phone conversation where Call Takers turn into big-time detectives, but first, we must focus on the animal's immediate needs. 
Through a barrage of questions, the finder described how he'd found the hatchling, hours earlier, outside his home in Los Angeles, on a cement slab. 
Hours earlier was not good news. Where has the bird been housed these few hours? 
The man had placed the baby inside a box in the garage, thinking he was doing all he could. 
As a rule, newborn animals cannot thermoregulate. They chill quickly in the absence of a parent or siblings. If they get too cold, they will die. The baby required supplemental heat, and fast. 
I quickly walked this kind, gentleman with a baritone voice through a labyrinth of emergency baby-bird-care instructions. I directed him on the correct temperature. The ambient temperature around the baby has got to be between 85-90 degrees for most hatchlings. Then i guided him on making a temporary cup nest. All the while, i imagined big male hands fumbling with paper towels and tissue,... and i imagined the heart behind it. The kind of goodness in a human that gives me a glimmer of hope for the future of this planet and its inhabitants. I couldn't help but smile while listening to him follow my instructions.  
Take a paper towel and twist it into a cord, then tie a knot, then weave the ends. Place a tissue over the bowl shape and depress the center. Set this 'nest' inside something shallow, but sturdy, like a custard dish. Place the little baby bird in the new little cup nest, with the bulkiest part of its body in the center, okay? Good.
I was really impressed with the man-on-the-other-end-of-the-line. He did a great job with the nest, and even though he couldn't find an electric heating pad, he ingeniously figured out another solution for heat - a clamp-on work light (of course). He kept it just far enough away to provide warmth, but not so close that it could burn the baby. Good job!
Now, as the baby bird was warming, we could focus on where it might have come from.
Nestling altricial birds are heavy-bodied and and not very mobile, so, unless it rolled, or was displaced by a cat or nest-robbing corvid, the nest would be nearby, usually above.
With this in mind, the fellow described a small hole where electrical conduit entered the home - he noted what appeared to be nesting material sticking out on either side of the pipe.  
This made me think the baby was a non-native English sparrow or starling, if i had to guess. They are cavity nesters, common in urban areas.
Once the baby was warm enough, we could try feeding it. 
Generally, this is not something we ask finders to do - only in emergency situations where the life of the animal is in jeopardy. 
Diurnal birds do not feed their babies at night, but it had been hours since the baby was fed. Two small feedings should do.
I walked him through the process, step by step. How much can this guy take? 
You can soak a few kibbles of dry dog food until they are moist and spongey, but make sure that when you deliver a bit of kibble, that it is not soaking wet, where it will produce a big droplet of liquid, as the baby might aspirate - take fluid into its windpipe located at the very back of its tongue. Using a dull but pointy object (yeah, right), try to get the small blob of food as far back in the throat as possible - the baby will help by pushing upward. Don't freak out... just do it.
The next morning: 
Rocky, as the family had named the orphan, made it through the night! Now we needed to work on either returning him to his nest, or finding a licensed rehabilitator willing to take a non-native bird. I sent word through an online List.
As we waited for a reply, Rocky was cared for throughout the day - fed regularly and the tissue of his paper-towel-nest changed often to keep him clean. His carers also kept an eye out for parents.
There was no activity at the hole by the electrical panel, but there was activity at a nest some 15' away under the eaves. They described a 'burrito-shaped' nest with an entrance on one side.
At some point during the day, the family connected with one of the rehabilitators. Taking their advice, they placed Rocky on the ground near the active nest with the understanding that the parents may have had multiple nests and were relocating their babies when Rocky was lost.
Okay, hold on a minute. I am sure there was some miscommunication along the way. 
To be clear, birds don't do that. They are incapable of moving their babies in that way. The only birds that move their babies are the precocial species, like ducks and geese and the like.
Here's what ended up transpiring: 
Lots of activity at visible nest, but mama wouldn't pick up Rocky, so after about an hour or so, my father in law carefully placed the bird into the nest by finding the opening, and feeling for an area of warmth. Then, the mama went in and stayed there for a while, then began leaving and emerging - normal behavior.  Later we looked around the nest to see if 'Rocky' had been ejected, but no sign.  We can only assume he is in the nest, and hopefully alive and well.
 As of yesterday, all seems well:
As far as we know Rocky is in there, this morning we watched as mama would fly out and get food and come and feed the kids every 5 minutes or so.  Papa sits on a telephone wire nearby and keeps lookout.  The kids chirp like mad when she goes in to feed them... it's great to watch...
Stay tuned...

Apr 24, 2012

Net loss

This morning, we received a call from the owners of an organic farm on a remote portion of the San Mateo coast - a bobcat had gotten stuck in the portable electric poultry fencing used to enclose their chickens. The cat had killed a hen, but didn't clear the netting as it tried to escape.

Duane and Rebecca met another WildRescue responder, Mary Kenney, at the ranch. The team reviewed plans to restrain and untangle the cat, then heading across the field. Once in view, they realized the animal was serious trouble.

With the cat unconscious and hyperventilating, Rebecca restrained the head while Duane quickly cut away the wire mesh that was wrapped tightly around its midsection. As the cat was lifted inside the carrier, it let go a stream of urine.

Back at the transport vehicle, the team soaked the cat's fur with cool water, hoping to bring down its elevated temperature. They were on the road in minutes, heading for the nearest animal hospital, but, sadly, the bobcat never regained consciousness and died en route.

In retrospect, we will never know how long this animal was entangled - it could have struggled for more than 12 hours before it was noticed, and even if responders could have been on scene within a few minutes, the damage from the cat's frantic attempts to free itself might not have been reversible. 

Either way, we are very saddened over the loss of this otherwise healthy wild animal, but very, very grateful to the landowner for calling us to help.

Apr 20, 2012

Great horned owlets reunited!

This morning, we received a call from the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley about two healthy great horned owlets. They had been found the evening before by Lynda, from Chaparral Ranch. 

While out for a ride Lynda noticed the babies at the base of a eucalyptus tree near Sandy Wool Lake. Thankfully, she recognized they were too young to be on the ground.

At about 2:00 PM today, Lynda met up with WildRescue's Duane and Rebecca to direct them to the exact tree. Scat and owl pellets littered the ground - a sign that they had found the spot. About 14' above, they identified the remains of the nest. It appeared as though the nest of eucalyptus twigs and bark, had simply disintegrated. Our team quickly went to work constructing a new nest for the family. 

Using a laundry basket, they attached limbs to the sides for perching, and lined the inside with dry vegetation. Holes in the bottom would allow for drainage. Laundry baskets make excellent replacement nests for great horned owls. There is documentation of a pair using a laundry basket for nearly a decade!

As the new nest was being secured to the home tree, the baby owls were delivered by Ashley Kinney, Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor at the Wildlife Center. With everything in place, the owlets were carefully hoisted into the tree and set into their new nest.

During all of the commotion, the adult owl had remained in place, watching. Once the team had cleared the area, the adult appeared fixated on the nest.

The nest will be monitored to see that the parents are caring for their young. We have every reason to believe they will.

Check out more on reuniting great horned owls and other raptors at Anne Miller's site, HERE.

We want to say a huge Thank You! to Chris from Bellizzi Tree Service for once again offering to help!

4-24-12 UPDATE: At about noon, one of the parents was sitting in the nest with the babies.

Apr 16, 2012

Goose at Apple

Today, received a call today about an injured Canada goose in one of the parking lots at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, CA. According to the RP, it had been there for a week. No one had come to its rescue.

We alerted our responders. Sammarye, in Sunnyvale, was quick to reply. She met Rebecca on scene.

The goose appeared to have a swollen leg, but was still flighted, although weak. Rebecca first tried coaxing the bird close, but it was too wary. Next, the team tried a single snare, but that didn't work well, so they decided to try the Drive By.

They placed a few handfuls of grain to preoccupy the goose. With Samm at the wheel and Rebecca crouched inside the back of the van with both doors open, they made a couple of passes. With each pass, the goose seemed to get a little more comfortable with the vehicle.

On the third pass, Rebecca lunged, bagging the goose in a large hoop net. Samm stopped the immediately and helped process the large bird from the net and into a crate. 

The bird was transported to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for treatment.

UPDATE: According to WCSV, the goose was dehydrated and notably lethargic. Her slight wing droop leads them to suspect lead poisoning. They expect lab results early next week.

Stay tuned.

Apr 14, 2012

Tale of two woodrats

Dusky-footed woodrat.

Unless we're presented with a major disaster, like an oil spill, most of our wildlife rescues involve a single injured or ill animal. It's concerning, then, when we find more than one casualty at the same location, especially when the cause of their demise is not readily apparent.

This week, we recovered two dusky-footed woodrats from a property near Elkhorn, CA. One was freshly deceased, the other, dying. These two animals brought the total number of woodrat casualties from that area, in six months, to 4. What is even more alarming about that number, is that the species is in jeopardy.

Neotoma macrotis luciana, the Monterey dusky-footed woodrat, one of 11 subspecies of dusky-footed woodrats that inhabit the Pacific coast, is considered a Species of Special Concern by the California Department of Fish and Game. Loss and fragmentation of their distinct habitats - dense oak woodlands, riparian, and cooler chaparral ecosystems, has been identified as a major reason for their decline. In the Northeastern part of the United States, researchers have cited the raccoon roundworm as a significant cause for the decline in the Allegheny woodrat.

The two woodrats discovered near Elkhorn were both adults, measuring approximately 8" from tale base to snout. They had the distinctive woodrat fur, grayish brown with tawny undertones, white feet and undersides. 

This handsome American native can be distinguished from its distant relative, the Norway rat, by its blunt nose, and long whiskers. Woodrat's tales are more furred than scaly, and they have extraordinarily large, round ears. They differ, dramatically, in behavior, as well.

Dusky-footed woodrats are best known for their large stick houses, which can reach 6' in height and last for decades. Each structure is divided into chambers for various uses, including a separate area where they create a debris pile and latrine. The species is meticulous about cleanliness. They also have a creative side.

Woodrats, or packrats, as they are often called, adorn their debris piles, or middens, with 'little treasures' - oddities they collect from their environment. These decorations can include plant material, pebbles, bones, and human artifacts. Inspection of ancient woodrat middens have given scientists a look back in time, some tens of thousands of years!

Dusky-footed woodrats also line their homes with leaves. Of particular interest is their use of bay leaves. Research suggests deliberate use of the aromatic foliage around their sleeping quarters to reduce ectoparasites. Click HERE for more on this unusual behavior.

The dusky-footed woodrat social structure is also unique. They have evolved to live in loosely-cooperative, matrilineal societies. When pups are weaned, males disperse away from their birth den, while females move to adjacent stick houses, remaining close to their mother. When the matriarch dies, one her daughters inherits her stick home. A single woodrat home can be maintained by several generations of the same family, for decades.

The property where the rats were discovered offered plenty or woodrat habitat with dense foliage and numerous oak trees, but both animals were found out in the open, during the day. A clue. Neither presented with external injuries. Another clue. We suspected rodenticide.

The carcasses were shipped to the California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Investigations Laboratory in Davis where necropsies revealed large amounts of blood in the lungs and in the abdomen, suggesting anticoagulants - rodenticide use in the woodrat's home range.

After some investigating, we found that neighbors had recently set poison bait stations on their land to control a Norway rat infestation. We explained that bait boxes kill indiscriminately, and pose a threat to all the area's predators, too, including their cats and dogs. We have offered them alternatives to help them solve their Norway rat problems sustainably.

Please read more about how rodenticides pose a threat to non-target animals at these links:

Sad news...

The red-shouldered hawk that was found shot in San Martin has died.

Unfortunately, the pellet that was lodged in the bird's chest was made of lead. Left alone, the bird would have likely died from lead poisoning.

Although lead toxicosis is most often associated with ingestion of lead, wildlife rehabilitators have documented lead, embedded in tissue, being absorbed into the bloodstream of an animal and causing severe illness. 

While the surgery would be risky, there was no other option. 

Thursday, the young red-shouldered hawk received the operation, the pellet was removed, but surgeons were unable to revive him.

It is especially sad news considering the hawk was intentionally shot by someone. The case is still under investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game and the reward for information on the person(s) responsible is currently $5,180.00. 

We commend the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley and their surgeons for their heroic efforts.

Please read more about the hazards of lead at these links:

Lead Poisoning in Wild Birds
Lead Bullet Risks for Humans and Wildlife
Lead (National Wildlife Health Center Field Manual)
A Global Update On Lead Poisoning In Terrestrial Birds

Apr 6, 2012

Loose fishing line can kill!

Join us for our second annual

Worldwide Fishing Line Cleanup
Earth Day, April 22

YOU name your location (email us), canvas your area,
and share pictures of what you collected.

Download a flyer, HERE.

Check out the map, HERE.

Check out last year's album, HERE.

Photo by George Cathcart
Fins Feathers Photos

Mother Opossum in Wheel Well

This morning, we received a call from a very nice man in Watsonville, CA. He'd found a female opossum with a belly full of babies - she had climbed up into his truck engine compartment. By the time we arrived, she'd tucked herself deep inside the pocket of the wheel well. Duane had quite the time getting her out. She will be released tonight.

Apr 5, 2012

Second RSHA found shot!

A second red-shouldered hawk has been found shot in the community of San Martin. The body of a deceased adult bird, possibly the parent of the younger hawk found shot in March, was recovered from a resident’s backyard, earlier this week.

As wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game continue to investigate these crimes, the younger bird remains in rehabilitative care at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, recovering from a shot to its chest.

Veterinarians decided not remove the pea-sized pellet from the bird’s chest, as the surgery would have been too risky. Even so, its caregivers believe it has a good chance of making a full recovery to be released back into the wild, “But, where?” is the question. With this spree of shootings, unless the perpetrator is apprehended soon, the bird’s home territory may be too dangerous to release him back into.

These crimes were committed with a pellet pistol or rifle, modern air-powered weapons that can shoot lead pellets at a potent 1200 feet per second, with accuracy up to 80 yards. Oddly enough, during a search for information on air rifles, we found pellets labeled as Raptor Ammo for the Varmint Hunter rifle by Gamo. Perhaps the user took this too seriously.

Anyone with information on who may have shot these birds is asked to call the Department of Fish and Game at 408-499-8714.

The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible has increased to $5,180.00. Click HERE to add to it!

We'd also like to encourage you to make a donation to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, HERE.

Apr 4, 2012

A wing and a prayer...

Photo courtesy WCSV.
Campbell, CA. Yesterday, at about 1:00 PM, a female crow - her wing somehow wrapped in fishing line, became snagged on a branch of a tall elm tree. As soon as she began to struggle, members of her extended family began to alarm-call, alerting resident humans of the crisis unfolding.

One concerned homeowner began making calls to get the bird help, but to no avail. Finally, she was referred to WildRescue.

The bird was approximately 25' high. We would need a bucket lift or an extension ladder. We called upon Santa Clara County Fire to see if they would help as they did last year for a similarly imperiled crow. Sadly, the reply from the Battalion Chief on duty was, "If it were someone's prized possession, we'd consider it," but not for a crow.

By late afternoon, we decided to call upon local tree service companies. We got really lucky! Our first call was to Bellizzi Tree Service - we reached the owner, Chris, who was willing and eager to help.

It took some doing, but finally, at about 6:00 PM, the hen was rescued. She overnighted at the Santa Clara Humane Society and was transferred to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in the morning.

When staff at the Center opened the transport box, they were met with a little surprise. The hen had laid a beautiful aqua-colored egg. Poor girl!

Photo courtesy WCSV.
The crow was quickly tended to - the fishing line removed, and she received a thorough examination. While there were no obvious fractures, she will undergo radiographs, soon. We will post updates as we receive word.


Loose, discarded fishing line can maim and kill! Join us on Earth Day for our Worldwide Fishing Line Cleanup. Check it out, HERE!