Mar 30, 2012

Great tale of a whale...

We'd like share a wonderful story from one of our colleagues, Peter Wallerstein:
The call came in on the 28th of March from Dean of the Pacific Marine Mammal Care Center (PMMC) in Laguna. He was reporting a whale that was spotted off Huntington Beach traveling northwest in LA County’s direction that had rope line tightly wrapped around its fluke. 
PMMC was able to attach floatation buoys to the line trailing the whale in an attempt to slow the whale down so that rescuers might have a chance to catch up to the whale in an attempt to rescue the young whale. It was dark when Dean and his crew had to leave the whale. There’s danger when rescuing a whale during the daytime, but conducting a whale rescue at night increases that danger 10 fold. 
Dean knew the whale was heading towards MAR's (Marine Animal Rescue) territory and immediately gave me a call. 
With this type of entanglement the future for the whale was bleak. The line would cut deeper and deeper into the whales skin and eventually the whale would succumb to the infection and die. 
We prepared that night for what we might encounter in the morning. None of us got much sleep that night. 
The next morning calls started coming in from helicopter pilots, whale census people and whale watch boats. The whale was spotted off Palos Verdes. The entangled whale had made its way to Los Angeles County. 
I contacted the LA County Lifeguards and they immediately offered support from Baywatch Redondo, Captained by Evan Cassaday and crewed by Lars Gustafson. We launched MAR’s zodiac, got our gear together and waited for the PMMC crew to arrive on scene. We would work together to help free the young California gray whale. 
The whale watch boat Voyager located the entangled whale about ¾ of a mile off shore and stayed on scene until we arrived.  Also on scene for support were Redondo Beach Harbor Patrol Officers John Picken and Tim Dornberg. 
The rescue teams plan was to attach additional floatation devices to the trailing gear in an attempt to slow the whale down even more, hoping that would give us a chance to approach and free the young, 25-foot whale. 
Photo by KTLA
Using grappling hooks and line to attach the zodiac to the trailing gear we then hand pulled the line, pulling us closer and closer to the whales tail. We had some close calls. As the whale felt the tension of the control line it would either dive or change its direction snagging the trailing line to the boat causing it to take on water and taking the rescuers for a wild ride. No time for slow reactions! 
We went through this process for 3 hours getting closer and closer each time. The gracefulness and strength of the whale was impressive. With Dean and Scott working the specialized rescues tools from the bow, I took the helm of the zodiac as we continued our rescue efforts. 
We would pull ourselves within feet of the whales large tail as it continued swimming. The incredible fluke would surface directly in front of us and then glide below the surface. 
We approached the whale again and this time we saw our chance. With the large, rolling surf making the approach more challenging, we maneuvered the zodiac closer and closer.  The whale surfaced. With Scott and I securing the line, Dean with the knife pole in hand reached over and made the critical cut. All of us on the boat knew immediately it was a success as we felt the tension of the trailing line disappear.
The young whale was free. 
Many thanks to Dean, Scott, Kelli of PMMC, Baywatch Redondo, Redondo Harbor Patrol, ACS at Point Vicente, Brad Sawyer Captain of the whale watch vessel Voyager, NMFS, and Dave and Alisa Janiger. 
Peter Wallerstein
Marine Animal Rescue Specialist
Friends of Animals

If you're not familiar with Peter or his program, Marine Animal Rescue, based in Southern California, click HERE to go to his web site.

Mar 29, 2012

Hooked Gull in Berkeley

Late Wednesday afternoon, we received a call from one of our supporters in Berkeley. She'd successfully captured a gull with a hook lodged in its bill and needed help in getting it to a wildlife hospital or, at the very least, she thought the hook could be removed.

I responded to her call promptly and caught her finishing a conversation with, what sounded like, the City's animal shelter. I overheard a portion of the conversation which ended with them offering to come pick up the bird to euthanize it, to which she responded, "No, thank you."

Unfortunately, from our experience, this is not an uncommon response from a municipal agency. Something we aim to remedy.

After making a few arrangements with the RP (Reporting Party), I sent out an email/text blast to our East Bay responders. Winnie, from WildCare, was quick to reply. THANK YOU WINNIE!!!

Later that evening, I received an update. The visible hook had been removed, but there was fishing line down the throat, which meant there could be a second hook. X-rays to follow. 

This is an example of why it is never a good idea to just unhook a bird and release it. Hooked birds should always be examined by a wildlife rehabilitator.

We will keep you updated on its condition, as we get word.

Mar 23, 2012

Hawk update:

Enjoying a rinse!

The red-shouldered hawk found shot in San Martin is doing really well under the care of Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.

He was just moved into an outdoor enclosure to begin strengthening his muscles. Here are some pictures they shared with us. 

Mar 21, 2012

Pacifica Pelican

Today we received a call from a person at Pacifica Pier. He was concerned about a pelican that seemed unable to stand. He said he'd watched someone poke at it to get it to move, and it was not very responsive.

We immediately sent out an alert to our volunteer responders. Within just a few minutes, we received word from Patrick at the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Center who quickly forwarded the call to an on-duty officer. They were on scene within 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, the RP was unable to wait, and by the time the officer arrived, the pelican was gone. 

This pelican happened to be banded with a blue band, which means he had previously been through rehabilitation at International Bird Rescue. His number is K-19. If anyone spots him, please alert us through our local, San Francisco number 415-979-9700.

Mar 20, 2012

Reunite Wildlife!

Photo courtesy emilie inc photography
Young wild animals stand the greatest chance of living normal lives and surviving as adults if they are raised by wild parents. From wild parents they learn what to eat and where to forage, they learn what to fear and where to hide, and they learn valuable social skills - things that even the most skilled wildlife rehabilitator cannot provide.

To offer displaced young the best chance for long-term survival they must be reunited with their family or wild-fostered into a surrogate family whenever possible

Unfortunately, while most rehabilitators agree it is in the best interest of the animals, relatively few treat reuniting as a standard of practice - many see it more as an option, than an obligation. 

A small group of individuals aims to turn this around.

To encourage the practice of reuniting and wild-fostering, a group of experts from across the country have joined forces under the leadership of Anne Miller - an expert on reuniting raptors.

The group met last week to present to fellow rehabilitators at a national conference in Louisiana, and to hold their second face-to-face meeting.

To date, members include Jay Holcomb, from International Bird Rescue, John Griffin and Laura Simon, from HSUS, Diane Nickerson, of Mercer County Wildlife, and WildRescue's Rebecca Dmytryk.

Each spring and summer, WildRescue helps numerous babies get back home!!! If you'd like to be part of our Reuniting Team (phone and field positions) email


The red-shouldered hawk, found last week with a pellet in its chest, is still undergoing care at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. He has regained some strength and has recently eaten on its own for the first time, but remains in guarded condition. In the meantime, WildRescue has launched a campaign to help find out who shot the bird.

A huge Thank You! to those who have quickly stepped forward to make pledges toward our reward fund.

As of today, WildRescue is offering $5,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for shooting a young red-shouldered in San Martin, on or around March 11th.

If you'd like to make a pledge to increase the amount being offered, you may do so HERE.

Twenty-five flyers were posted in the area where the bird was found injured.

Mar 15, 2012

Humane Pest Control

WildRescue's Directors, Duane and Rebecca, have officially launched Humane Pest Control and Consulting - a professional business that helps people resolve their conflicts with wildlife, humanely. 

Whether it's a raccoon in an attic, a skunk under a porch, or coyotes loitering a little too close for comfort, Humane Pest Control can help. Check out the web site HERE.

LIKE them on Facebook, HERE, for 10% savings on any of their services!!! 

Mar 13, 2012

Red-shouldered hawk, shot!

Last night, we received a call from one of our local game wardens. He'd responded to an incident involving a young red-shouldered hawk. With no wildlife hospital open to receive the injured bird, the warden was kind enough to transport it to WildRescue's headquarters on the central coast.

Upon arrival, we did not examine the bird, as this would have subjected it to unnecessary stress from additional handling. Injured wild animals are exhausted from trauma and their exposure to predators - humans. Unless they are suffering an immediately life-threatening condition, they should be provided a dark, quiet place to rest. This is true for animals first admitted into a wildlife hospital, as well.

Unfortunately, we did have to disturb the bird momentarily. It needed to be transferred out of a wire birdcage (provided by the finder), into more suitable housing. Wild birds should never be confined in wire caging - the wire can damage their feathers. During the transfer, we noted a patch of bloodied feathers on the bird's chest.

Puncture on chest.
Photo courtesy WCSV.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, the young hawk was transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley by one of our lead responders, Ron Eby. Thank you Ron!

By afternoon, we received word about the bird's condition. He was found to be in a weakened state, thin, and not stable enough for radiographs. A physical examination, however, did reveal a puncture - most likely a gunshot wound. The bird was placed on antibiotics and pain medication.

We want to thank Department of Fish and Game Warden Jones for calling on us for help. We also want to thank Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, once again, for their immediate and expert assistance with this critically wounded animal.

Photo courtesy WCSV.
Photo courtesy WCSV.
UPDATE: On Thursday, radiographs confirmed the bird was shot. A small pellet was found lodged in its chest.

It is illegal to shoot birds of prey. This case is under investigation by authorities. Should the person(s) responsible not come forward, WildRescue is preparing to launch a reward campaign. Stay tuned.

Mar 11, 2012

Cormorant - saved!!!

Zack scans one of the beaches in Southern California.

This weekend we had Wildlife SAR responders checking beaches from Malibu to Santa Barbara, looking for oiled birds. While scanning the beach near UCSB, Zack and Yvette came across a double-crested cormorant that was in trouble. Zack reports:
It had a long heavy piece of seaweed wrapped around its leg, leaving it unable to fly. A bit of patience, strategy and a quick sprint as he went for the water & i netted him. He had a couple of stabs at me while I untangled the weed, but all good, and he flew away fit & healthy.
Way to go!!!

Mar 9, 2012

WildRescue responds to oiled seabird sightings

In response to the recent wave of oiled seabirds in Southern California and no official search and rescue operations in place, WildRescue sent teams of volunteer responders to scour beaches from Santa Barbara to Malibu, looking for oiled casualties.

Because this recent event (which began last November) involves natural seep and is not related to Man, there is no funding for the rescue of impacted wildlife - there are no funds for search and collection efforts. The rescue of animals is left in the hands of the public.

Normally, during an official oil spill response, there are strict policies governing the collection and care of oiled birds, and there is also funding to offset the costs. But not so when birds are oiled with natural seep. This is when an oiled bird is not an 'oiled bird'.

More on this natural seep event in an LA Times article, HERE.

When a bird becomes oiled, time is of the essence. The longer the bird remains in the environment, and exposed to the elements, the worse its chances are for a full recovery. This, in turn, means that the animals that are collected are often the weakest and worst off.

Map of hot spots from Santa Barbara to the Malibu Pier.

To try and find birds sooner, before they are rundown, WildRescue responders scouted known hot spots Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, for murres and grebes.

Grebes are aquatic birds. Once on land, they are unable to walk. If a grebe is onshore, something is wrong!

Five oiled grebes from previous natural seep event in Malibu.

When oiled, grebes are often found in harbors, lagoons, and tend to strand at the mouths of rivers and streams. Working at night, with heavy duty flashlights, responders are able sneak up on stranded grebes more easily than in daylight.

Photo courtesy Scott Palamar
Murres are black and white, and stand upright, like penguins. They are often found on rocks and jetties, though they will also strand on sandy beaches.

So far, our responders have not located any oiled birds, which is a good sign. They will continue searching on Sunday morning during the minus tide. 

A HUGE Thank You! goes out to Scott, Zack, Yvette, and Lindsey for their efforts!

While this is a volunteer effort, but one that requires a good deal of driving, WildRescue is reimbursing for fuel costs. If you would like to help with a donation earmarked exclusively for this particular oiled seabird response, click HERE, and THANK YOU!

Mar 6, 2012

Goose waits months for rescue

On February 28th, WildRescue received a call from a woman who had been trying to get help for an injured Canada goose in Sunnyvale since the Fall, 2011. As she searched for aid, calling upon various resources, she received plenty of excuses about why no one would come help rescue the flighted bird. 

WildRescue responded immediately, sending one of our lead responders and goose capture expert, Deanna "goose whisperer" Barth, to the rescue. Here is her account:

As I arrived at the lagoon and opened my car door I was met by a large group of ducks, running up the embankment to greet me. This certainly confirmed the caller's statement that the resident waterfowl was used to being fed. Cynthia met me soon after, and led me down a path where the geese spend much of their time. I purposefully left my net and carrier in the car and carried only a bag of food with me.  

As we approcahed the Canada geese, I could see the injured one right away.  It appeared to be a female, much smaller in size than the one standing next to her - an impressive gander with quite an attitude, loudly protesting anything that came near.  

Photo courtesy WCSV.
The injury to the goose's leg was shocking, even from a distance. Fishing line wrapped tightly around her leg. Below where the line constricted her leg, the skin coloration was dark, and she was missing webbing between her toes. It looked more like a tree branch than a foot. 

Cynthia took her bag of food and led the growing number of ducks away from the geese so I would have room to stand. Now began the "dance."  

I knew the most difficult part of this capture would be maneuvering myself in between the injured goose and her mate. He pecked and chased away any of the other birds that got near, and was doing his best to intimidate me as well. As I got close he would loudly honk, hiss and flap his wings. Every time he did this, it frightened the female into the water.  

Each time, I waited patiently for her to come back onto the bank, then I would walk around her slowly, tossing grain. We danced back and forth for several minutes as I tried to place her on my right side, close enough to grab without startling her or upsetting the male. I knew I would have only one chance to get this right so my positioning had to be perfect.

Finally, with the male distracted, I tossed grain to her right - as she turned her head away from me, I pounced!

As soon as I hit the ground there was an enormous uproar as every bird in the vicinity took to the sky.

Enveloped in my arms, I carefully folded her wings, placed a pillow case over her head to calm her, and walked back to my vehicle where I then placed her into an animal carrier, lined with a large bath towel.

As I drove her to the wildlife hospital - the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, I couldn't help but feel optimistic. I had watched her put weight on the injured leg when she walked, and even run, with a limp. She could fly and, surprisingly, paddle. 

I try to be hopeful with every rescue, but with the severity of her injury, I knew the odds of her being euthanized were high. Once again, I found myself checking in with my emotions. Did I feel okay driving her to the wildlife hospital, knowing it would probably mean the end of her life, or should I have let her be, and "let nature take it's course?" 

I knew I was doing the right thing. She had definitely been experiencing pain, so I was okay knowing her suffering would be over soon, either way. 

Later that afternoon, I received the sad news that she was humanely euthanized.

This was a particularly frustrating case. Had we been notified of this bird's injury months ago, she would probably still be alive. It's a perfect example of the need for better and increased service. In the United States, very few communities have dedicated responders who physically perform rescues.

Wildlife hospitals and animal control agencies, for example, simply do not have the resources to send their people into the field on rescues, especially technical or time consuming rescues, and it's the animals that end up paying the price.

We desperately need to solve this problem. The goal must be for every community to have a resource it can call upon for emergencies involving wildlife. Just like we have emergency medical services for people, saving lives doesn't begin on the treatment table of an ER, but on scene of the accident. This same standard must be applied to wildlife.

Mar 2, 2012

Micro LIVES!!!

Photo by Rick Hannon/TheAdvocate
Micro (Microbe, Micro-Baby), the smallest of the baby pelicans rescued during the Gulf Oil Spill, was spotted once again - actually twice, last August, at his 'home' isle - Raccoon Island, where he was initially released October 6, 2010.

According to band records, was re-captured January 8th, 2011, in Port Isabel, reportedly suffering from some sort of injury.

Later, on August 4th and 9th, he was observed back on Raccoon Island.

For his full story, and video, check out our blog entry from last year, HERE.