Apr 27, 2013

This week

The busy season is here! This week WES was inundated with calls. Here is a sampling of the emergencies we were notified about.

Santa Cruz, CA. WES received a call about a skunk on the grounds of an elementary school during daylight hours, acting disoriented. Duane Titus responded and collected the young female skunk and delivered her to Native Animal Rescue.

The skunk survived the first night, but died sometime the following day. WES made arrangements for a thorough examination of the carcass at the UC Davis Wildlife Investigations Lab, as poison is suspected.

Watsonville, CA. A mother duck and her ducklings became separated when part of her brood fell into a storm drain. Luckily, the ducklings were spotted and rescued by ten-year old Chase and friend, Miki. After retrieving the ducklings, they knew to try and reunite the babies with their mother.

All seemed to be going as planned until the ducklings ran back towards the street and down the drain, again. 
By the time the ducklings were retrieved, the mother duck had moved on, and could not be found.

Chase helped keep the ducklings warm until they could be delivered to Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz.

Photo by Ben Harper
Byron, CA. Wildlife photographer Ben Harper reported observing a young red-tailed hawk with a badly broken leg. Incredibly, it's been surviving on roadkill.

WES discussed the possibilities of capturing the hawk and having it examined by a veterinarian, but, for now, we will allow nature to take its course - it would likely be euthanized if captured.

San Jose, CA. A mother opossum was displaced from a treetop when PG&E began cutting limbs and branches away from the adjacent utility pole. The opossum escaped workers by climbing upward and onto the telephone line.

With the branches gone, there was no way for her to get down - she was stuck, clinging to a wire some 30' in the air with two anxious babies on her back.

A nearby resident called for help, but got nowhere - 
PG&E refused to send a bucket truck and the local animal control authority said that they don't respond to those types of emergencies.

At about 2:30, WES was notified, but, stationed in the Monterey Bay area, it would be at least 90 minutes before our specially equipped team could arrive.

Responders were half way there when they received word that the opossum had fallen. She was trying to manage her way down one of the wires on the utility pole when she fell. According to the resident, she and her young ones looked okay as they scampered into a nearby bush.

This incident highlights the need to have specially trained and equipped wildlife responders in every community so animals in distress and the people who report them don't have to wait hours for help to arrive.

WES is currently seeking contracts with local governments to supply 24/7 wildlife emergency response and humane wildlife control services to Bay Area communities.

WES is managed by volunteers - 100% - we have no paid staff - no salaried employees. If you'd like to send us a donation to support our work - to pay for gas, rescue supplies, equipment, the costs of keeping our phones going, please send a check to WES at P. O. Box 65, Moss Landing CA 95039 or click HERE to donate securely through PayPal. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated!

How about sponsoring our team for a day? Check out how, HERE.

Apr 26, 2013

On our radar

Over the last few weeks, WES First Responders have been actively searching for two birds encumbered by manmade objects.The good and the bad of it - they are both flighted and seemingly in good condition, but very wary and difficult to get close to. Their skittishness is probably due to attempts by well-intentioned people trying to catch them.

The other problem we're having is locating them on a regular basis.

We need help.

Normally, we don't disclose the location of injured animals we're pursuing, but, in these two cases, we think it might actually help. We're looking to the birding community, wildlife photographers and members of the public for help in locating the birds and keeping people from harassing them.

A gull wearing a radio transmitter attached by a harness.
One, is an adult Western gull that is still wearing an old radio transmitter attached by a harness.

We've confirmed the gull was part of a 2009 research project aimed at studying the impacts of gull predation on coho and steelhead salmon populations.

Two types of harnesses were used - neoprene and Teflon. They were supposed to weather and fall off the study subjects. Clearly, Teflon is tough!

The bird was first reported to WES on March 13th by a concerned citizen visiting the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. The antenna of the radio transmitter was sticking out through the feathers on either side of the bird, making it appear impaled.

Our First Responders have spent hours looking for the gull. They've caught up with it a few times, but have not been able to coax it close enough to capture.

Our greatest dilema with this particular bird, however, is not its capture, but, ironically, tracking its whereabouts. We have yet to establish its pattern - when and where it can be found, on a daily basis.

It's been seen at the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, but not always. We have a hunch it might loaf on the nearby beaches and at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.

Photo credit mojocoast 2012

The other bird we're trying to recover is a Canada goose that has a red plastic kite string winder attached to its wing.

The goose was initially reported last November when it was seen flying with other 
Canada geese near Radio Road in Redwood City, CA. We were never able to locate it after that.

Photo credit Deanna Barth
It was reported to us again on April 12th by a birder who encountered it in the same area, near the South Bayside System Authority, at the end of Radio Road.

Although the goose has survived at least 6 months with the object attached to it's wing, it is clearly bothered by it - possibly even wounded, as the bird spends a good deal of time pecking and tugging at the bright red ornament.

Our newly recruited First Responder, Lindsay, has devoted quite a bit of time (and travel miles), trying to establish where the bird frequents and when. 
So far, the bird seems to fly in from the bay in the late afternoon, but not every day!

Twice now, WES' lead responder, Deanna "Goose Whisperer" Barth, has made the 82-mile (one way) journey to team up with Lindsay to get a "feel" for the bird's disposition and to see if a capture was possible.

On the first day, the goose never showed up, but yesterday, the goose was there when Deanna arrived.

The team tried various techniques to get the goose from the water and close enough to capture. At one point, Deanna had the goose within a couple of feet, but the bird never took its eyes off her.

Photo credit Lindsay Marshall

Deanna's skill in capturing geese - by hand - is unmatched. She is the best, with a record of 9 for 9 in just a couple of years! Her success is due, in part, to her knowing when not to try and capture a bird, and the self-control it takes to hold back until she's certain.

After three hours, Deanna and Lindsay left the park - a bit frustrated, but happy to have gained a better understanding of the goose and the dynamics of the resident flock. "Getting to know your bird is a big part of it," Deanna said. 

Photo credit Deanna Barth

We are reaching out to the community for help in locating these birds. Please report sightings to rebecca (at) wildlifeservices.org or leave a message on our pager at 831-429-2323.

Please do not attempt to capture the birds. Not only will it interfere with our ongoing rescue efforts and make the birds more frightened of people, it is a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act to pursue, capture or possess a wild migratory bird. WES is permitted through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rescue and transport injured migratory birds.

Apr 22, 2013

Long-tailed Weasel

Yesterday, WES was referred a call about a baby weasel, found at the edge of a dirt road, vocalizing. Duane and Rebecca responded quickly.When they arrived, they were greeted by Betty, the woman who found the infant carnivore on her property near Elkhorn. She showed them the exact spot it was found so they could look for siblings, but none was found.

The baby weasel was fully furred, but it's eyes were still closed, making it about 3 1/2 weeks old. From the animal's condition, we knew it had been without its mom for some time. Hunger drove it from the nest and into the open in search of its mother.

It was very cold, dehydrated, and starving, but still had enough life left to cry. 

Immediately, the baby weasel was placed on a suplemental heat source. At WES headquarters, the tiny animal was placed on a heated surface and given fluids, then placed into a small box on a heating pad, where it curled up and went to sleep. Check out the video below.

The animal was later transported by volunteer First Responder Ron Eby and transferred to SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center.

We checked in with the hospital the following day, and they said the weasel was doing well and had even gained weight.

Many thanks to everyone who helped save this wonderful creature!

Apr 18, 2013

To rescue or not...

By Deanna Barth

I approached the goose slowly and as quietly as possible, my shoes making slight squishing sounds in the grass. I wanted the bird to feel just enough "pressure" for it to stand, but not so much that it would become alarmed and take flight.

As I got close, the bird started to stand and I saw it lift and swing its left leg out at an odd angle then down, hobbling awkwardly. Every step seemed to require great effort.

I continued to observe the lame goose from a distance while I approached another one.
This goose appeared bright and alert. It stood quickly on my approach, but, to my surprise, it was missing a foot! It hopped along smoothly, seemingly unaware of its missing appendage.

The sound of an approaching dog startled it, and it quickly took flight.

I asked myself, "If left alone, which bird would live and which would die?"

Sound harsh? It is. That's the reality of life in the wild  - survival of the fittest. It is also the reality of being a wildlife First Responder.

I have to say, when responding to reportedly injured wildlife, there's usually no question about whether or not an animal should be taken in for treatment, but, when I'm doing my rounds and encountering animals with older injuries, it's not so easy to decide which ones should be captured and which should be left alone.

When assessing an animal, I go through a series of questions in my mind, like "Can it fly?", "Will it be able to escape a predator?", "Does it appear to be in pain?", or, "Does it look like it's adapted to its injury?"


This goose on the LEFT is the one with the bad limp. The one on the RIGHT is one that had been left unattended for weeks, possibly months, because no one reported it. First of all, few people noticed it was injured - it was a goose sitting on grass, but, those who did, thought it was getting along okay since it could fly. It was not until we captured it and took it in for an evaluation did we find out how badly this animal had been suffering - the skin on its legs and feet was sloughing off. It was euthanized.

While I am not the one to have final say as to an animal's fate - that's a medical decision made by the wildlife hospital where it's admitted, I am responsible for the outcome, because I'm making that initial judgement call. 

For animals that are clearly suffering, the kindest thing we can do is to end their pain, so, in situations where an animal is obviously in distress, it’s an easy decision for me to make. Where it gets tough, is when I'm faced with an animal with an old injury, where the animal seems to be "making it", but if admitted to a hospital, it would likely be euthanized due to certain requirements by state and federal agencies that oversee wildlife rehabilitation.

For example, as a rule, heavy-bodied birds with leg injuries should always be taken in and evaluated and quite possibly euthanized because the uninjured leg will eventually become compromised.

I get that, but there are varying degrees of limps. Each leg injury I see is as unique as the individual bird.

I also believe some individual animals might be stronger than others and capable of adapting.

One-legged goose taking flight. Photo credit Ingrid Taylar.

I also think it's okay, in certain circumstances, to let some have a chance in the wild. I think about how many injured wild animals are out there that go unnoticed - they either adapt or they do not. Without human intervention, nature takes its courseBut that's just my take.

So, it seems that with questionable cases, it comes down to skills in evaluating the overall health of an animal, the extenuating circumstances, and, then, a great deal of personal opinion, which gets into one's belief system and philosophical perspectives.

Working in a veterinary hospital provides me with a set of science-based skills for evaluating animals in a clinical setting, but, in the field, it's different. There are so many  variables. If only the animals would give me a sign, like, “Need help!” or “Doing fine!”, that would be great.

Apr 15, 2013

Sierra Bighorn Reintroduction

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently introduced a herd of federally endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep into Olancha Peak, at the southern end of their range in Inyo County.

There are now 10 distinct herds of Sierra bighorn between Owens Lake and Mono Lake. Check out the incredible video, below.

Apr 11, 2013

Barn owl family reunion

Another clutch of owls was blown from their treetop home this week. Residents discovered the chicks in their backyard, late Tuesday afternoon. There were six, altogether, but only four survived the fall from their nest, high in a palm tree.

Concerned for the welfare of the young owls, members of the Gomez family drove the chicks to the Humane Society of Silicon Valley in Milpitas, some 20 miles away.

The next morning the owlets were transferred to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where they were examined by the wildlife hospital's veterinarian. Amazingly, only one chick had a minor injury that was treated. All four could be re-nested... but it was not going to be easy.

WES was called to assist.

Traci Tsukida, Janet Alexander (WCSV), Susan McCarthy,
Duane Titus, and Rebecca Dmytryk Titus (WES)

Lead responder Duane Titus, an electrical contractor when he's not rescuing wildlife, brought a tall, heavy-duty ladder and an assortment of tools to attach a barn owl box to the tree, just below where the babies had fallen.

After about two hours, the box was ready for the owlets. One by one they were hoisted up and gently placed inside the box, on a bed of palm fibers. Check out the great video, below.

It was early evening when the team had finished. It was time to monitor the box to see if the parents could locate their babies. 
Jeanne Fouts, member of WCSV's Raptor Team, volunteered for the job of waiting and watching.

Within 45 minutes, one of the parents had landed on the box. By 10:00 PM, we had reports that one of the adults had popped its head inside the box. Another collaborative effort resulting in a successful family reunion!

A huge THANK YOU! to WCSV!

Also a huge THANK YOU! to the Gomez Family for rescuing the baby owls and for being so helpful with the reunion efforts.

The Gomez Family.

Apr 8, 2013

Three Great Horned Owlets Renested

Today's strong and gusty winds sent three great horned owl chicks tumbling to the ground from their nest, high in a eucalyptus tree. Parents watched from above as residents picked up the fallen babies and placed them into a box. WES was called to help.

Duane and Rebecca responded to the residence in Freedom, CA. After examining the youngsters for injuries and finding none, they got to work on constructing a substitute nest out of a laundry basket.
Duane attached the modified basket to an adjacent tree - one with bark that will be easier for the chicks to cling to when they start exploring.

Next, the chicks were placed, one by one, into their new nest. They were covered with a dark pillowcase to keep them calm during the process. The area was then cleared.

Just after dark, the resident reported seeing an adult owl - one of the parents, on the nest.

Check out the amazing video below:

Apr 7, 2013

Skunk in a Conibear

This morning, WES was alerted of a skunk in a trap, which is not unusual. WES receives a number of these types of calls each year - skunks inadvertently trapped in 'humane' cage traps, but this was different... this skunk was caught in a Conibear - a spring-loaded, jaw-like trap meant to crush and kill small mammals quickly. It was set to kill ground squirrels.

While there are restrictions on size, placement and use of these types of lethal traps to prevent incidental take of non-target species like this, accidents happen.

Skunks eat many things, including rodents. It was Thursday night when this skunk was investigating the entrance to a ground squirrel den, possibly looking for a meal, when she encountered the 
trap. Metal bars snapped shut around her neck, restricting her breathing.

Amazingly, she was able to struggle some distance away and was spotted by 

neighbors Friday morning, but she disappeared into dense brush before they could call for help.

This morning - over 48 hours later - she was spotted again, at the base of an old oak tree about 
100 yards from where she was first snared.

WES' founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, arrived on scene quickly. She was greeted by the family reporting the skunk and the neighbor who had set the trap. Together, they worked to free the animal, but it wasn't easy. Check out the video, below.

The adult female skunk was in bad shape. She was quickly transported to Native Animal Rescue's, Monique - an expert skunk rehabilitator.

There, the skunk received immediate critical care to try and save its life.
When faced with a wild animal that appears to be suffering so, it's natural for a rehabilitator to question whether treatment might simply prolong the animal's misery. In this case, the skunk had fought so hard to survive, giving it a chance to beat the odds seemed like the right thing to do. A little time will tell.

UPDATE: 4-7-13 16:20 

We received word that the skunk swallowed some critical care formula, and seems to be sleeping more contently.


We will post updates as we receive them. Stay tuned.