Jun 28, 2012

American bullfrog

A couple of weeks ago, we received a call about an extraordinarily large frog in someone's backyard. The resident who called was quite worried, concerned that the animal might be poisonous to her little dog. She was also unnerved by the frog's size and that it just sat there, on her back porch, staring into the house.

The American bullfrog is not toxic or poisonous, in fact, they are the most commonly farmed frog - for frog legs.

The American bullfrog is native to the central and eastern states of the U.S. In the west, however, the bullfrog is an invasive species, and can be extremely damaging to ecosystems.

The bullfrog has a voracious appetite and will consume any living animal that fits into its mouth, including other amphibians, small mammals, and birds. They also have the propensity to spread the chytrid fungus, a lethal skin disease of amphibians that has decimated frog species around the world.

Even so, California still allows the importation of several million bullfrogs each year. Recently, though, Santa Cruz, California, banned 
the importation, sale, and release of bullfrogs.

Since the bullfrog we collected cannot be released, we are looking to place her, ideally, in a zoo or aquarium where she can serve to educate others about her species. If you have any leads, please contact us.

Jun 25, 2012

God's dog

This morning at about 06:30, we were transferred a call from Santa Cruz Animal Care and Control about a coyote pup that had been hit by a car in the hills outside of Watsonville. Tony, the person who initially reported the pup, stood by until we arrived.

The pup appeared dazed but conscious, and it had use of all its limbs, which was a great sign! We immediately transported the pup to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose.

On intake, he presented with signs of internal bleeding, some superficial wounds, but no fractures. See updates below.

Photo credit: Rebecca Richardson
The Coyote, one of four canids found in North America, is native to the Western two-thirds of the continent. Today, however, the coyote can be found throughout North America.

Coyotes resemble the German shepherd, but are much slighter in build. They range in size, with western populations being the smallest. In California, an adult coyote stands about 20 inches at the shoulder and weighs 20 to 30 pounds - about as much as a cocker spaniel.

The Eastern coyote, also known as a coywolf, is a hybrid - a mix of coyote and Eastern/red wolf. This 'enhanced model' is bigger, weighing close to 40 pounds, and, like the coyote, is well-suited for survival in anthropogenically modified landscapes.

Like the domestic dog, coyotes are active during the day and during twilight hours, but in urban environments coyotes are mostly nocturnal - an adaptive response, minimizing their encounters with humans and the associated risks.

Please see more on urban coyotes, 

© Shreve Stockton / The Daily Coyote
Coyotes are social animals, living in small pack-like groups of about six individuals. Groups consist of an alpha pair - the dominant male and female, extended family members, yearlings, and young. In addition to resident groups, some coyotes lead solitary lives until they form their own pack or are accepted into an existing one.

Coyotes are capable of reproducing at 10 months of age, however, in coyote society, only the alpha pair produces young. Coyotes are known to be strongly monogamous. 

Understanding and respecting the coyote's social structure is key to managing conflicts. When coyotes are observed loitering in a residential neighborhood, or when they're seen taking pets, or pursuing livestock, unfortunately, the most common reaction is to wage all out war - indiscriminately trapping and killing the lot of them.

This is absolutely the wrong answer. 
Lethal control of carnivores is ineffective in the long run and can be counterproductive - especially when dealing with coyotes. An attack on a coyote clan will, in fact, produce greater problems. 

When the alpha pair is destroyed, subordinate members of the pack, that had been kept  'behaviorally sterile', are at liberty to reproduce. Studies show these litters are bigger, with higher birth weights and increased survival rates. With larger than normal litters, the adults are forced to hunt more - increasing the potential for negative encounters with humans.

© Shreve Stockton / The Daily Coyote

The most sound and sustainable method of managing conflicts between humans and coyotes is to work with resident groups, humans and coyotes alike, to develop a balanced and amicable coexistence.

Through aversion techniques, behavior modification, and responsible husbandry practices, Man can live peaceably alongside the coyote.

This is not to say that there won't be times when removal of an individual is warranted - usually an animal that poses a significant risk and where behavior modification techniques are unsuccessful. This will be an animal that has been 'denatured' - so conditioned to humans (usually through food rewards), that it must be destroyed.

As of June 29th, the pup is standing and eating well, with a 'fighting personality'.


Jun 23, 2012

Barn owl disappearance - a mystery

Barn owls are incredible hunters, and it is their exceptional hearing that allows them to find prey so successfully, even in total darkness.

The arrangement of feathers on a barn owl's flat, heart-shaped facial disc helps funnel sound to its ears, which are uniquely positioned. Like humans, a barn owl has ears on each side of its head allowing it to pinpoint sound on the 'horizontal plane'. The left ear, however, is positioned higher on the head than the right, giving the owl a greater sense of the 'vertical plane'.

Check out this video that illustrates the barn owl's unique physique, HERE.

Here are some more interesting facts about barn owls. Barn owls are the most widespread of all owl species, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. With an impressive wingspan, just shy of 4', barn owls are exceedingly light, weighing less than a pound. Though slight, adult barn owls will usually consume six vole-sized meals in a single night.

Male barn owls are smaller than females and tend to be lighter in color. Females are typically darker, with tawny, coppery-colored chests, flecked with spots. Research suggests these spots are a signal for mates, indicating a female's genetic quality. The larger and more numerous the spots, the healthier the female. Check out this paper on plumage spottiness.

Barn owls tend to be monogamous, and a mated pair will often use the same nest site year after year. Unfortunately, though, barn owls have relatively short lifespans, surviving an average of 2-3 years in the wild. They make up for this, however, by breeding year round and having large broods. Even so, populations are in decline. The reason? Loss of habitat and use of rodenticide.

In suitable habitats where there are open fields, even certain urban environments, barn owls can thrive if provided nest sites. Installing a barn owl nest-box is a simple way of encouraging and supporting a local barn owl population. They are not only beneficial for controlling rodents, watching a family raise their young can be a delight.

WildRescue's directors, Duane and Rebecca, have watched barn owls raise families on their property for years, but something odd happened this week that has them concerned. Rebecca shares their story:

At our home near Elkhorn slough, we have two barn owl nest-boxes that usually produce between two and four baby owls each summer. After they fledge, the young owls remain under the care of their parents for about a month.

Last weekend, the fourth and final owlet fledged from the nest-box nearest our home. Since then, each evening, all four juveniles would fly in from their daytime roosts to gather in their home-treeFrom dusk to dawn we could hear them screeching and squawking - begging for food from their attentive parents. One, had a distinctively raspy call. HERE'S what they sounded like.

Thursday night was different, though. It was quieter than usual. It sounded as if there was only one fledgling calling, maybe two.

Friday morning, much to our dismay, we found what appeared to be an adult female barn owl, dead in our horse corral. There was no sign of trauma.

Friday night, again, it was quiet - only one fledgling called from the tree.

One of our wildlife responders, Ron, who lives a mile or so away and also had barn owls nesting nearby, witnessed something similar this week.

This evening, the home-tree was silent. However, we did observe a couple of adults nearby.

We're not sure if it is weather related, disease, rodenticide, or something else, but the sudden absence of seemingly healthy birds is a mystery. We are looking in to having pellets from the nest boxes examined for traces of rodenticide.

Stay tuned.

Summer time

This week WildRescue received an extraordinary number of calls reporting wildlife in distress, and a lot of calls from people wanting to rid their homes of furry invaders. Here's just a sampling:

A young turkey, found wandering in Santa Cruz. A broken-winged great horned owl, also found in Santa Cruz. A mourning dove, trapped in a clean room in San Jose. A fledgling kite, grounded on Mare Island. A red-shouldered hawk fledgling, found on the ground in San Francisco's Presidio and doing just fine. A Pacific loon, found on a road in Santa Cruz. Another red-tailed hawk fledgling, found. A fledgling sparrow reunited with its family in Watsonville after being 'kidnapped'.

Coyotes causing concern for residents in Santa Cruz. Pacific Grove - a person called, complaining about gulls on his roof. A gopher snake, found in a yard in the La Selva Beach area - saved from being killed for being a rattlesnake! Raccoons sneaking into a person's home in Aptos. A baby gull, fallen from its nest atop an elementary school in Santa Cruz and reportedly being tortured by children. A fledgling jay, wounded by a cat in Boulder Creek. A striped skunk, found in a swimming pool in Morgan Hill.

Four calls about raccoons nesting in crawlspaces. Another gopher snake spared. A Cooper's hawk, found dead near Almaden. A cat-caught hummingbird in Scott's Valley. A sick skunk found in Royal Oaks. A baby quail, mortally wounded by a cat in Santa Cruz. A snake, trapped in a sticky glue trap in Aptos. A healthy fledgling hawk, found in Corralitos, was picked up and then returned to its home.

Jun 18, 2012

Cormorant hanging

Today, San Francisco Animal Control responded to a call about a cormorant hanging from its wing, high in a eucalyptus tree at Lake Merced. WildRescue was alerted.

We were making calls to local tree trimming companies, hoping to find someone with the expertise to help, when Kelly Cornell with San Francisco Recreation and Parks came to the rescue.

Kelly climbed the tree and was able to lower the bird to safety. It was transferred for care.


Jun 16, 2012

Another Gopher Snake Freed

Today, Duane and Rebecca responded to an emergency involving a gopher snake that was entangled in deer netting. The serpent had managed to weave his head and upper body through a good portion of the plastic netting. The material was also caught on the snake's fangs.

Check out the video of the rescue, below:

Gopher snake freed from deer netting from WildRescue on Vimeo.

Jun 14, 2012

Is that oil or algae?

Photo by Ron Fulks. More photos HERE.

This week, a group of red-throated loons in Pillar Point Harbor caused some concern from local conservationists and birders - the loons appeared oiled.

Although the substance looked very similar to oil, WildRescue's director, Rebecca Dmytryk, determined it was algae. This was confirmed by oiled wildlife expert, Jay Holcomb, with International Bird Rescue.

It is not uncommon to find aquatic birds, such as loons and grebes, in still waters of a marsh or harbor, with patches of algae on them. These are typically birds that are not fairing well for one reason or another, and they have come to the quiet waters to rest.

To confirm the sightings, our Half Moon Bay responders, Jeff and Jessica, volunteered their time to have a look. Here is what they found:

The affected birds seemed very troubled by their condition, and were preening almost obsessively. But it looks like it is mostly on the outer edges of their features. And they seem to be floating just fine.

In terms of birds that were affected by the algae, here is what we saw in that area of the harbor:

- Common Loon - One that appeared to be about half way through its molt into alternate plumage - had the black substance on it fairly heavily and preening quite a bit. But it also successfully dove and caught fish.

- Pacific Loon - One in alternate plumage with the black substance. Also preening quite a bit.

- Red-Throated Loons - There were a handful - probably 6 (not 14). I’m not sure if they are really juvenile’s…or adults that have not molted into the alternate plumage. The latter could make sense if they are sick birds and don’t have the energy to accomplish the molt. Their feathers generally seemed to be fairly worn. The primaries appeared to be so worn on some birds that I question whether they could fly. Of the Red-throated’s that were there, about half showed obvious signs of the black substance, the other half did not.

- Red-breasted Merganser - one female standing on the rocks and preening. Black substance on some features and seemed to be on feet as well.

- Surf Scoters - A female and male that appeared to have the black substance and feathers that were sticking together, as well as a black gloss to their feet (that would otherwise be pretty bright orange).

In addition to these birds, there was a small Scoter flock that appeared to be perfectly healthy. And also a handful of Mergansers that also looked fine.

Many, many thanks for those who reported the birds, and to Jeff and Jessica for taking the afternoon to do a thorough check for ailing birds.

Jun 12, 2012

They're here...

One of the first juvenile pelicans of the year was found in Southern California after landing in a peculiar place - The Oaks Mall, in Thousand Oaks. The young bird was discovered yesterday in the mall parking lot, grounded and unable to fly.

Many thanks to Joseph Hildebrand, with AlliedBarton Security Services, for taking the time to seek help for the ailing bird.

The pelican was transported by California Wildlife Center to International Bird Rescue in San Pedro where it joins three other recently rescued youngsters.

During the Summer months, 
it's normal for us to experience an influx of calls regarding 'sick' pelicans, and many of them will be hatch-year birds. We believe, for the most part, this nature at work - survival of the fittest - the culling of the weakest. If that's the case, then, some may ask, "Why should we intervene?"

We believe that the relatively few young pelicans that receive a second chance make up for the many adult, breeding-age pelicans that are killed each year from anthropogenic (human related) injuries.

To report an injured or ill pelican, call our toll-free hotline at 1-866-WILD-911. Newly fledged pelicans can be distinguished by their brown heads, creamy yellow-grey legs, and white bellies.

Jun 11, 2012

Mallard hen and day-old ducklings

This morning, a mallard and her day-old ducklings were found wandering a parking garage in downtown Watsonville. The location is surrounded by heavily traveled roads with no way for the hen to lead her brood to a safe location without significant risk.

Under a special permit issued by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, WildRescue responders were able to relocate the duck family to a safer location, a short distance away.

Check out the video of the rescue, HERE.

Each season, WildRescue receives numerous calls from concerned citizens regarding mother ducks and ducklings. While we will offer instruction on how to safely collect ducks from a swimming pool or herd them from a backyard, most of the time our answer is to leave them alone.

As a rule, we only intervene when the ducks are in imminent danger or pose a significant risk to people, for example, by causing a traffic accident. This is when we use our waterfowl relocation permit.

Mallards, like other wild birds, are strictly protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal for anyone to pursue, capture, possess, or transport them without a permit to do so.

Jun 9, 2012

Two red-shouldered hawks re-nested!

Photo courtesy Patrick Hogan/PHSWCC

On June 5, tree trimmers working on a large eucalyptus tree in a wooded neighborhood of Atherton accidentally trimmed a branch that contained a hidden Red-shouldered Hawk nest. Thankfully, both of the nestlings survived the fall unharmed and the concerned foreman of the trimming company immediately took them to the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Care Center. 

Patrick Hogan, Wildlife Care Center Supervisor and lead rehabilitator determined that both chicks were healthy and being well cared for by the parents and were good candidates for re-nesting.

The next morning, WildRescue responders, Jeff and Jessica, picked up the chicks and coordinated with the tree trimmers, who agreed to have their team, including their tree climber, Cesar, return to the site to assist with the re-nesting. This is their account:

Soon after we arrived at the property, we heard the distinctive "keeyur...keeyur...keeyur" of an adult Red-shouldered Hawk, and were able to pick out two adult hawks as they moved from tree to tree.

As we worked on putting the finishing touches on the nest basket, the babies began doing their own alarm calls, which were responded to by the adults. So, we knew the parents were in the area, aware of their young, and we just needed to handle the logistics of getting them back in the tree. 

Unfortunately, the entire branch that held the original nest had been cut down, and the lower area of the tree near that location was very exposed after the trimming. We did notice an old crow's nest very high up in the branches in a good spot (our thinking was that if birds approximately the same size as the Red-shoulders had used that location, then the hawks would likely be comfortable there as well), but this appeared to be well out of reach of anything without wings...

As it turns out, while those of us on the ground caucused to decide on a "Plan B" location, Cesar took it upon himself to climb up to the crow's nest. Just seeing him so high up was not for the faint of heart, but he took the opportunity to take a quick after-lunch nap in the branches while we were finishing up the nest basket! 

We quickly raised the basket to Cesar on a rope, and he secured it to the tree on top of the old crow's nest and deposited both nestlings. We could see from below that the babies were active exploring their new nest and hear them calling, but there was no sign of the parents. We assumed they were watching the entire scene unfold from a hidden location nearby, but were waiting for a little less human attention before they went back to the nest.

Sure enough, after a lunch break of an hour or so we returned to the location and saw one of the parents fly into the nest, ensuring that the family reunion was complete.

Interestingly, at this point, the trimmers were actively working on the ground mulching, but the hawks seemed unconcerned. This was a good demonstration of a fact that any birder who has tried to stop on the side of a busy road to observe a raptor, only to watch it fly away, knows to be true; many birds have become accustomed to "normal" human activities (regardless of how loud or intrusive they are), but are still keenly aware of being observed by humans, who they view as predators.


Many thanks to Norman, Herman and especially Cesar for his death-defying tree-climbing skills. Without their time and effort, this would not have been possible!

Also, many, many thanks to Jeff and Jessica for giving up their day to renest these babies, and to Patrick and all of the wildlife carers at Peninsula Humane Society's Wildlife Care Center for their time and effort!

Jun 6, 2012

Skunk rescued from sports club tennis court!

Skunks are not great climbers. They can easily be trapped in places with 12"-high borders.

The night before, a little skunk had, evidently, wandered from the neighboring gulch and down into an enclosed tennis court, where it must not have been able to navigate out the open staircase.

Come daylight, the skunk sought refuge, curling up on some leaves and tennis ball felt in the shade of the bottom stair.

Duane and Rebecca responded to the call. They blocked the animal's escape using large bedsheets, and gently encouraged the little animal into a 5-gallon bucket.

It was released on site. Check out the video, below.

Palace Gull Finally Rescued

Photo courtesy Dave Cogswell.

Photo courtesy Ellie Sadler.
We just received word that a badly injured gull, one that has eluded rescuers for the past two weeks, was finally captured by, none other than, one of our Wildlife Hero Purple Cape Award recipients, Dave Cogswell!

The gull was first spotted at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. It had a hook in its mouth and line tangled around its bill, but it was still flighted and very, very wary. There were numerous attempts to capture the seabird - various entities responded, including San Francisco Animal Care and Control (THANK YOU!!!).

It seemed no one could get close enough!

One night, Dave and his wife, Desiree, took the time needed to draw the gull closer and closer using tasty morsels to draw it in, until finally, Dave was able to grab the bird with his bare hands! Way to go!!!!!!!!!! Bravo, bravo!!!!!!

Photo courtesy Dave Cogswell.
The gull was transferred to WildCare (Marin) and then on to seabird experts at International Bird Rescue (Cordelia).
According to medical staff at International Bird Rescue, the gull also had an old fishing hook superficially embedded in its wing, and a very infected hock wound. It remains in guarded condition.

Photo courtesy Dave Cogswell.

Jun 3, 2012

Second Red-Tailed Chick Re-Nested

On May 25th, three red-tailed hawk nestlings fell to the ground when their tree-top home disintegrated under high winds. Read the full story HERE.

At that time, only one of the fallen chicks was healthy enough to be re-nested. The others were injured and were transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.

One of the wounded siblings was euthanized due to the severity of its injuries. The other, presented with severe leg and foot issues, however, radiographs showed no fractures. That was good news!

One week later, the chick was ready to be returned home.

Today, WildRescue responders re-nested the chick, reuniting it with its sibling and its parents. Watch the exciting video below, or link to it on Vimeo, HERE.

Jun 1, 2012

Wild Piglet Finds A Forever-Home

Wild pigs are not native to the United States. They are hybridized descendants of pigs brought by settlers and introduced wild boar from Europe.

In California, wild pigs are considered Big Game, and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Even though they are an invasive species, hunting and possession of wild pigs is strictly regulated.

This week, WildRescue joined forces with the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in looking for a home for a wild piglet. The piglet had been taken from the wild, illegally, and raised as a pet. Because of this, it could not be released.

Wild animals that have become habituated to people are the most dangerous because they have lost their natural fear of humans. This wild pig, then, will have to spend its life in captivity and never know true freedom.

We felt the least we could do for this creature, would be to help find him an excellent home with plenty of room to wander and wallow. Pigs are incredibly smart and very social, so we needed to find him a home with other pigs, ideally, wild pigs.

Amazingly, within a day, we were put in touch with a woman from Ojai, CA. It turned out, she's a
pig aficionado with over twenty years experience with wild pigs. She agreed to take the boar, have him neutered, and then he will be placed on an estate in Ojai that already has a spayed female wild pig. Marti watches over all of her placements to make sure they receive proper care and live wonderful lives.

MANY MANY THANKS to Maureen, for making the long trip to Ojai!