Feb 29, 2012

WELCOME new volunteer responders!

We'd like to recognize our new team members!

Congratulations! After review of your application and completion of our 2012 Wildlife SAR training we have officially added you to our Wildlife SAR team! 

Welcome, Deborah B. and Heather H., from the North Bay; Barbara A., Sue F., and Johnie K., from the East Bay; Julie B., Connie P., Dragan S., Rebecca S., Kathleen S., from the Peninsula; Maureen H. and Jennifer W. from the Santa Cruz area, and Richard Grise from San Luis Obispo!

This brings our statewide total to 56, with 19 current on their 24-Hour HAZWOPER certification!

A huge Thank You to the rest of our team members: Jay, Laurie, Doris, Jane, Kimberly, Kelle, Winnie, Lisa, John, Nancy, Ann, Jeff & Sarah, Max, Akira, Rachel, Patrick, Susan, Mark, Valerie, Deanna, Kris, Linda, Mary, Sammarye, Bobbie, Virginia, Marsha, Ron, Deb, Patricia, Karen, Julie, Duane and Rebecca, Dan, Lindsey, Jennie, Luci, Dave, Kyle, Diane and Doug!

Feb 25, 2012

Wild goose at Meeker Creek

Photo by A. Jensen
We want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of caring and effort that went in to helping this injured goose at Meeker Slough.

We were first alerted of this bird's predicament by International Bird Rescue on February 13th. A local resident of Marina Bay Harbor reported seeing a goose with a badly injured wing. This being the second animal he'd found in distress in the last few months - he shared his frustration with there not being a dedicated wildlife rescue service available.
My concern with these two examples is the complete frustration I have felt with the lack of organized rescue entities, public, private or non-profit within the entire San Francisco bay environs. 
WildRescue immediately alerted its local responders. Rachel was quick to accept the mission. She was escorted by the finder to the location. There, she found an adult Canada goose alongside its mate, appearing in good shape except for its right wing, which looked to be broken. With its 'wrist' broken, the primary feathers drooped, occasionally dragging the ground. The gooses flicked her wing every once in awhile, seemingly bothered by it.

A drawing of the area by Rachel
helped plan out the next capture.
A plan was made. The goose would be captured so that the wing injury and the bird's overall condition could be evaluated.

The first attempt was unsuccessful, the goose made back into the water before she could be netted, but, as with all captures, successful or not, the responders learn invaluable lessons that hone their skills.

While planning the next capture attempt, there was discussion about the bird's fate, should the wing be irreparable. 

Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed under state and federal permits that authorize them to possess, treat, and return animals to the wild. Animals must be free of disease, their wildness must be intact, and they must be capable of surviving - in other words, they must be able to find food and fend for themselves. If a bird loses its ability to fly, rehabilitators are required to either humanely euthanize the animal or place it in captivity.

The outcome for this goose, then, was grim. However, there was another option - the goose was more or less an urbanized bird. She seemed to be fairing well, other than the wing, roaming the park and field with what appeared to be her life-mate at her side. Perhaps the best thing was to let her be.

After consulting with experts, the decision was made to capture her and quickly evaluate the injury. Was it an old wound, was it infected? Was the bird thin, or in good body condition? If it looked as though she needed medical attention, she would be taken to International Bird Rescue for further evaluation and treatment. There, they have some of the most highly skilled bird rehabilitators and avian veterinarians in the world.

It was planned, then, that on Friday, Winnie, one of our lead responders in Richmond, would capture the goose and perform a field triage. 

In the meantime, WildRescue's director, Rebecca Dmytryk, contacted the permitting offices of the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking if they would consider allowing this particular bird to be returned to its home and mate, even if the wing cannot be repaired - even if the wingtip must be amputated.

She received approval! This was tremendous news! 

On Friday, around midday, Winnie successfully captured the goose. She quickly examined the wing and found it to be infected. The bird needed medical attention right away. Winnie transported the goose to Bird Rescue, in Cordelia, some 30 miles away.

Later on, we received word that the infection was very, very bad. It had taken most of the wing and there was no way to salvage it, even through amputation. This was a very sad moment for everyone involved. The goose was humanely euthanized.

We want to thank those who cared enough to report the injured goose, and our team of volunteer responders who spent a great deal of time on this rescue. We also want to thank the experts at International Bird Rescue for their time and for considering all options to do what is best for the individual. We are also want to extend a special Thank You to the resource agencies for granting special permission to release this individual bird - demonstrating their compassion and progressive thinking. THANK YOU!

In closing, we want to address the finder's concern and frustration over the lack of a dedicated wildlife response entity. We cannot agree more - there is none, and we intend to remedy this. Since last September, when a goose with two fractured legs waited three days to be rescued, we have been working on a plan that would provide San Francisco and surrounding communities with a dedicated Bay Area Wildlife Ambulance, available 24/7. To earmark a contribution for this cause, please click HERE.

Feb 24, 2012

Wildlife SAR Trainings

Just like a human accident victim, the rescue of a wild animal does not begin inside a hospital, but in the field, when and where the animal is first found. However, unless the animal is handled appropriately and given proper care, it will not survive to be admitted. 

This is where WildRescue's Wildlife Search and Rescue course is invaluable, providing first responders with instruction on locating and capturing animals, instruction on how to handle animals safely, and what things they can do that might help an animal survive until it reaches a rehabilitator.  

Each year, since 2008, WildRescue has been providing training to local agencies and members of the public throughout California in an effort to increase proficiency in response to injured and orphaned wild animals.

In the past few weeks, WildRescue has instructed three classes, one in Burlingame, hosted by the Peninsula Humane Society, another in Moss Landing, and most recently at the Berkeley Shorebird Nature Center. Participants included game wardens, animal control officers, park rangers, wildlife rehabilitators, and members of the public interested in volunteering as a first responder.

After about 5 hours of lecture, students are taken outdoors to practice whet they have learned in class. One of the exercises places emphasis on clear and accurate communication between teammates.

Janine uses a radio to direct her teammate
to the location where the duck is hidden.
Using radios, rescuers are guided to a location where a decoy duck has been hidden. They never actually see the duck, but must 'blindly' net it. Good fun!

Going only on direction from their teammate, never
actually seeing the animal, rescuers must net the duck.

Participants also get an opportunity to capture RoboDuck. In this exercise they must choose the appropriate capture strategy and stalk the motorized decoy as though it were real. If they apply too much 'pressure' - pose too great a threat, the duck will take off.

News coverage: HERE

WildRescue's last class for the year in the Bay Area is calendared for March 11th. Register for the training course online, HERE.

For more of WildRescue's training and consulting services, click HERE.

Are you HAZWOPER certified?

WildRescue hosted another 24-Hour OSHA Hazardous Waste Occasional Site Worker course this week. There are now 14 additional responders in the Bay Area who have the necessary training to qualify them for response during oil spills. Participants included wildlife rehabilitators, animal control officers, and park employees.

Since the Cosco Busan, WildRescue's director, Rebecca Dmytryk, has been a strong advocate for greater preparedness in the Bay Area so that when the next large oil spill occurs there will be a greater number of trained and properly equipped wildlife responders to cover the extensive shoreline.

If you are interested in attaining a 24-Hour certification, please email rebecca@wildrescue.org to be notified of the next class. Normally costing over $400.00, we are able to offer the course for $50.00 per student, thanks to the generosity of the instructor. 

Feb 23, 2012

The little owl who thinks she's...

...not an owl. Very sad.

We received a call last week, from a family in Boulder Creek who found an owl - actually, it found them. According to the finder, the owl had been hanging around for a couple of days, and was acting peculiar - swaying back and forth and 'screaming', begging to be fed. At one point, it landed on the man's shoulder. Thankfully, neither the owl nor the human was harmed.

We responded immediately to check out the situation and found a young great horned owl on their porch. We collected the magnificent animal and placed her into a carrier for the night, feeding her a meal of warmed (frozen) rodents. She was transferred the next morning to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.

We believe this is the same owl that was reported in November, less than two miles away, acting unusually tame. Unfortunately, she is not only tame, but 'imprinted'.

Imprinting, is when a young animal learns to recognize its parent, and later, the desirable traits of a mate. In this case, the owl imprinted on its human caregivers, who probably thought they were doing the right thing. 

Wild animals must be raised wild - by wild parents. From their parents, young learn what to eat, where to forage, how to hunt, what to fear, where to hide and seek shelter, and they learn valuable social skills. Things that not even the greatest wildlife rehabilitator can provide. This why it is so important to reunite healthy young whenever possible - something WildRescue responders spend much of their time doing in spring and summer months!

Unfortunately, for this owl, it is too late - she does not know she is an owl - she responds to humans, and sadly, among humans she will remain - her wild life stolen from her, again, by someone probably thinking they were doing the right thing.

Had this owl been habituated, meaning, if she had simply become accustomed to humans, tolerating their presence, her behavior could be modified. 

Stay tuned for more on her progress in captivity.

Feb 17, 2012

That's no chupacabra...

Last month, we received a call about a coyote suffering from an extreme case of mange. It was observed wandering through a gated housing development near the Silver Creek Valley Country Club. Before we could coordinate a response, the animal stopped showing up.

Two weeks went by before he was spotted again. This time, the coyote was making his rounds through the senior living community between 1:00 and 2:00 in the afternoon.

Coyotes are keenly observant of their surroundings. It's very difficult - nearly impossible to trap them in 'humane' cage trap. On Valentine's Day, Duane and Rebecca decided to try setting a trap designed specifically for canids -  it's called a Collarum. A typical cage trap is activated when an animal steps on and depresses the release mechanism, whereas the Collarum is triggered by a tug or a pull action - the way a dog would snatch up a piece of meat.

We never leave traps unattended, ever! We 'sit' on them - watching and waiting.

Once the trap was set and baited, Duane took a position some 20 yards away, inside the rescue vehicle, where he had a clear view of the trap. Rebecca monitored the trap from a different vantage point within the complex where she could control pedestrian traffic as needed, even though the coyote was accustomed to people walking about.

It wasn't long before crows alarmed, alerting them to the approach of a predator.

Sure enough, the coyote rounded the corner and began eating fallen fruit from two loquat trees. It also found the trail of avocado slices leading to the trap. He was reasonably skittish, and frightened off before reaching the trap.

Photo by Deanna Barth
Maintaining two different vantage points allowed Duane and Rebecca to track the dog's movements. Over the course of an hour, it came and went, getting quite close to the trap, eyeing the raw chicken leg, but scaring off before actually grabbing it.

The amount of human traffic in the complex, was high. People parking their cars, shuffling down the pathways. One fellow rolled in with his flagged cart to check out what was going on. Finally, the gardeners arrived with their loud mowers, so the team called it a day.

On Friday, one of our lead responders, Deanna, teamed up with Duane to give it another try. The dog actually took the bait, but, because he had slipped in at an angle, the loop missed. Interestingly, the coyote approached the trap again, after it was re-set, coming within a couple of feet, but he never took the bait again. The team will consider another strategy. Perhaps a mechanical seine. It will take some doing, but may be the only way to capture him.

If you are one of our Sunday Wild Byte subscribers (it's free), you'll be invited to view some exclusive video of this poor wild dog.

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Feb 10, 2012

Valentine's Day and the Northern Elephant Seal

Along the California coast, Northern elephant seal colonies are bustling with activity. The pups that were born early are exploring the wonders of their seashore home, while younger pups continue to nurse from their mothers. If you've never visited an established colony, this would be the time to go. The week of Valentines Day marks the peak of mating season for these remarkable creatures.

Between December and February, pups are born into large groups of females, overseen by dominant bulls, known as “beach masters”. After nursing for about 4 weeks, pups are weaned abruptly when their mothers return to the sea.

The weanlings, having gained about ten pounds a day while nursing, live off their fat reserves for up to 3 months. The pups stay together in groups, playing and exploring the sandy dunes and tidal pools until hunger drives them to deeper waters. 

In early Spring, young elephant seals can be found on mainland beaches, resting and warming in the sun. Pups are about 4’ in length, gray, with a light underside, and they often use their fore-flippers to toss sand on their backs – a behavior unique to the species.

Because elephant seal pups are slow movers and indifferent towards humans, they are easy targets for unleashed dogs and malicious humans. Like all marine mammals, elephant seals are federally protected - disturbing them in ANY way is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violations can be reported to NOAA Fisheries National Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

If you happen to come across a beached elephant seal, do not throw water or sand on it or chase it back into the sea - they are out of the water for a reason and you must let them be. Take note of any signs of injury or illness and report it to the nearest marine mammal rescue center. Our wildlife hotline can help you locate the closest facility at 1-866-WILD-911.

Feb 4, 2012

'Tis the season... of the skunk!

Duane releasing a skunk from
a trapper's 'humane' cage trap. 
In the past few weeks, WildRescue has received numerous calls about skunks. People have called with complaints about the noxious smell of skunk spray in their yards or under their homes. 'Tis the season!

The striped skunk is a house cat-sized mammal. Often considered a relative of the weasel and otter (mustelids), skunks are now classified under a distinct family, Mephitidae.

While these mostly solitary, nocturnal creatures inhabit wooded or brushy ecosystems, skunks are also common inhabitants of Suburbia.

Skunks are omnivores, consuming grubs, insects, rodents and other small vertebrates, fruit and seeds, crustaceans, and occasional carrion. In urban environments they are attracted garbage, compost piles, pet food, and rodent infestations - usually the result of bird feeders.

The striped skunk breeding season can begin as early as January, hence the increased activity we're experiencing. After mating, the pair will separate. The male is not involved in raising the young, which are usually born around the end of April. For more on the natural history of skunks, check out this link, HERE.

Skunks do not have good vision, instead relying on their keen sense of smell and sharp hearing. Below is a video of Duane releasing a skunk that a trapper had caught. You can see, a skunk will not alert to a person if they are quiet and still.

Want more? If you missed this PBS program, when you have time, check it out! It's about the secret lives of skunks. Not to be missed! 

Watch Is That Skunk? on PBS. See more from Nature.