Feb 28, 2014

100,000 signatures and counting

We did it! Thanks to everyone who signed our General Mills/Yoplait petition, we reached our initial goal of 100,000 signatures!

Yesterday, with such momentum (10,000 in one day!) we decided not to stop there - why not try for 200K!

It all started just 6 weeks ago. After rescuing a skunk with its head caught in a Yoplait yogurt cup, Rebecca Dmytryk, founder and CEO of Wildlife Emergency Services, started a petition on Change.org, demanding General Mills change its trademarked cup to make it safer for wildlife.

The Yoplait cup issue is not a new phenomenon. The “vercon” shaped cup was introduced 35 years ago, and has been taking a toll on wildlife ever since - and General Mills has been aware of it!

In 1997, the Animal Protection Institute (API) and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) joined forces to research the issue. They found that the problem is unique to the United States because other countries manufacture their own containers that don’t have the inside lip.

They also came up with some statistics on the number of animals that might be harmed each year. Based on these findings, it can be estimated that, nationwide, thousands of animals are killed or injured by Yoplait containers each year.

In response to international media coverage and public outcry, in the late 1990's, General Mills made a superficial change to the container, adding a warning to the label that urges consumers to help protect wildlife by crushing the cup before disposing of it.

That was not enough. 

It is time for General Mills to change or get rid of the design, once and for all. 

Please add your voice. 

If you haven't already signed the petition, do it now, HERE.

Then, get someone else to sign.

We'll reach 200,000 in no time!

In the meantime, we are working on getting more publicity, hoping for more celebrity involvement, and expecting to hear from executives of General Mills at some point.

Feb 23, 2014

Introducing RatX

by Rebecca Dmytryk

In about a month, a new product will hit the shelves - a safe, effective, food-based rodenticide that is not hazardous to other animals - no risk of secondary poisoning!

Introducing RatXRatX is not a poison, but made of vegetable and cereal grain materials. Based on the unique digestive system of mice and rats, the newly patented formula is safe for other animals. Even squirrels!

RatX pellets can be used indoors and out, applied much the same way as poison-based pellets - including bait stations (outdoors) and shallow trays (indoors). It can also be distributed in small baggies in burrows and hard to reach places.

RatX is manufactured by ConSeal International, a leading manufacturer of specialty formulations for various industries and applications, with a focus on green technologies.

I had a chance to speak with inventor and CEO of ConSeal, Stephen Perry, and he gave me a little background on RatX.

A few years ago, when the EPA announced plans to limit the sale and use of anticoagulant rodenticides because of the risk to children, pets and wildlife, his company revisited a formula it had developed to successfully combat Australia's grain mice plagues, years ago. After some significant improvements on the original idea, RatX was formulated.

RatX is a major breakthrough! Now, with a safe and effective alternative available, there's no reason for anyone to use an anticoagulant rodenticide.

Anticoagulant rodenticides have been the most commonly used compounds for controlling rodent pests since they were first discovered in the 1940s, but they pose a significant threat to wildlife and ecosystems.

Today's potent anticoagulant rodenticides are meant to be lethal to mice and rats after a single feeding, however, if consumed by another animal, directly or indirectly, these toxins build accumulate in the liver, persisting for months. A single poisoned mouse may not be enough to kill a bobcat right away, but repeated doses will lead to its death. 

Feb 22, 2014

Barn Owl Down

By Deanna Barth

This morning, I was forwarded a call regarding a downed owl near San Juan Bautista. The RP, Marilyn, had seen the owl on the side of the road, and stopped. 

She made several calls to find help and reached Hollister Animal Shelter. They, in turn, called WES for assistance. I was on scene within 15 minutes.

When I arrived, I saw the owl at the base of a tall chain link fence. It was standing on the dirt shoulder, leaning forward, with its head down. It looked weak.

Based on its body language, I thought maybe I could walk right over and pick it up, but I’ve learned to be more cautious.  

I parked a few yards away and greeted Marilyn. I asked her about the bird’s behavior – had she noticed if it was spooked by the passing cars. She said it hadn't been. Several vehicles, including a large, noisy 18-wheeler had blown past without it moving.  

With this information, I planned to use my vehicle as a blind, which would give me a better chance at capturing it than just walking up to it in the open. 

I assembled my long –handled net and slid it into the back of my vehicle leaving the hatch open. Then I positioned my vehicle directly in front of the owl.  

I quietly grabbed my net and walked around the side of my vehicle and peeked through the glass to confirm the owl’s position.  

Then I quickly came around the front and darted towards the owl, setting the hoop of the net over it. It made a few feeble attempts to hop away but nothing more.

We usually do a cursory exam of an animal while processing it from the net and placing it in a carrier for transport. A quick visual and a feel. I could tell by it's weight that this barn owl was thin, but its wings seemed okay, and its legs and talons appeared normal.

I drove the bird half way to San Jose where a new WES First Responder, Andrew, met me to share the drive to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. There it would be evaluated and treated.

Feb 21, 2014

More Friday Rounds

By Deanna Barth

As part of my "Friday Rounds", looking for injured birds, I pulled into the parking lot of Lake El Estero in Monterey. 

All of the waterfowl and gulls were resting at the water’s edge. I scanned the group with binoculars and didn’t see any obvious injuries. 

Then, I approached the group slowly, applying enough pressure to encourage each bird to stand so that I could check its legs as well.  

Each stood and walked off…..except one.  

It was resting on the gravel pathway and with me standing just a few feet away, it didn’t even flinch.  

I crouched down to get a better look and realized the problem. It's right eye was so badly infected - there was so much discharge it couldn’t see me. At least not from that eye. 

I took a step forward and it immediately cocked its head to one side on full alert!

I moved again, as quietly as I could, and its head twisted back and forth trying to figure out where I was.  

That’s when I removed my shoes so they wouldn’t crunch on the gravel, and tip-toed in my socks, making sure to stay on the bird’s right side. When I was comfortably within arms reach, I rested my hand on its back and applied just enough downward pressure to restrain it, then grabbed hold of its head and bill.

I transferred it to the SPCA wildlife center and it’s scheduled to be evaluated by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Knowing how vulnerable this bird would be to predators, people or dogs in the park, I was happy that I picked it up.

Feb 19, 2014

Got crickets?

Late this afternoon, we received a call from a woman in Kentfield, in Marin County. She had an owl stuck in her chimney - a Western screech owl. It had been stuck there for about 5 days. 

She'd called around and could only find one agency to respond - the Marin Humane Society. 

An officer responded and located the tiny owl - it was above the damper, but when he tried to capture it, it hopped higher, onto the fire box and out of reach.

This was a tricky situation. But, we came up with a plan.

When we need to get close to an animal to capture it, there are two options - go after it, or draw it near. 

In most cases, we'll consider options for luring an animal toward us, rather than chasing after it - for many reasons. Mainly, once you pursue an animal, it will become fearful of you. If you're not successful in your first attempt, you may not get a second.

So, how might we coax a screech owl out of hiding? 

We know it is hungry. Very hungry! We know screech owls eat insects (among other things), and it would be attracted to insect-like movement.

Got crickets?

It was late in the day - nearly 5PM. We instructed the RP (reporting party) to quickly find a pet store that sold live crickets and purchase a handful of them. Place them in a see-through container and set it in the fireplace.

Off she went.

She was back in no time, with a bag of excitedly chirping crickets. As she made her way into the den, the owl popped down into the fireplace

It literally popped through the damper opening as I was approaching with the bag of crickets...I hadn't even opened the bag, but they were chirping loudly!

With the owl reachable, the Marin Humane Society responded and successfully captured it. It was transferred to WildCare for evaluation and care.


A reminder to all homeowners: Accidents like these can be easily prevented by making sure chimney spark arresters are installed properly and in good condition. A simple step to help keep your home and wildlife safe!

If you'd like to be notified of Wildlife Search and Rescue classes offered in your area, please email us.

Find out how to safely respond to wildlife emergencies in Wildlife Search and Rescue: a Guide for First Responders, written by our director, Rebecca Dmytryk.

Feb 12, 2014

Celebrity joins the campaign

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Photo courtesy of David Sikes

Earlier this week I received an email from David Sikes, former bassist and vocalist for the rock band, Boston. He said he'd seen the news coverage about our petition on KPIX, and wanted to help spread the word.

He went on to tell me that, ironically, he'd just recently seen a Yoplait commercial featuring one of his band's songs - More Than a Feeling. David was shocked, as he and his fellow band members had always been supportive of animal rights.  

David may not have had a say in the licensing of that song, but he did have something to say about the Yoplait yogurt cup, and was very willing to go on camera to share his views. Here is the KPIX Piece (below), or at this link, HERE.

This was a real boost for our campaign. We're so grateful to David for speaking up and out! THANK YOU DAVID!

To date, we have received over 37,000 signatures, and counting. At one point, we were receiving about 10 signatures a minute!

No word yet from General Mills, though, other than their canned response.

I don't get it. Why are they so resistant to do the right thing - to be the good guy here? 

They already sell Original Yoplait in safer cups (limited availability). All the work - the design, labeling, manufacturing has been done, so, what's stopping them from dropping the hazardous container? 

Is it all about image?

For sure, the cone-shaped design is branding - it's their mark. You see a cone-shaped yogurt container and you know it's Yoplait. So, as long as they believe consumers associate the cone-shaped cup with their yogurt, they will be resistant to give it up.

It is our job, then, to turn this around so that the cone-shaped cup is associated with the shameless harming of wildlife. To the point where General Mills will never again want to be associated with it!

Are you with me? Good. 

Here are some helpful links.

Direct link to the petition:


Direct link to our Facebook page: