Jul 31, 2012

Young pelicans raising havoc on murre colony

Oregon Coast. Starving young brown pelicans have taken to roughing up common murre chicks to retrieve a meal of regurgitated fish. There have also been reports of the pelicans eating chicks. Read the full story, HERE.

Jul 28, 2012

Another kind of leghold

We received a call this morning about a young raccoon caught in a fence in Santa Cruz. Rebecca and Duane were on scene in under 30 minutes.

The raccoon must have been climbing along - maybe up and over, when its rear leg slipped down into the space between a stucco wall and wooden gate. It was caught at the ankle. F
lawed construction is to blame. 

Other than its leg, the raccoon appeared to be in great condition - bright and alert, and very angry.

It took quite some time but finally they were able to slip the raccoon's leg free.

You might want to turn the volume down on your device before playing the video.

The animal was rushed to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for evaluation. On initial examination, medical staff found a wound where the animal's leg was caught, but no fractures. The animal was placed on antibiotics to treat for infection.

On August 6, just after 9:00 PM, the raccoon was released back home. 


Jul 27, 2012

Yet another fishing line injury

Our 'goose whisperer' strikes again. Here's Deanna's story of today's rescue:

I arrived at Lake El Estero in Monterey to find a large flock of geese foraging on the grass.  I slowly walked past each bird, applying enough pressure to get the ones lying down to stand up so I could see their legs. I was looking for fishing line entanglements.

There were no obvious injuries on any of the birds, but four geese remained in the water. I decided to lure them out using some grain and bread crumbs.

If possible, I like to involve young kids in helping get the birds to come close enough to inspect. It's fun for them, and it's a chance for me to teach them about protecting wildlife. I figure, if we want the next generation of young people to have compassion for animals, we need to set the example.

There was a young girl approximately 5 years old walking with her mom. I asked if they would like to help me get the geese out of the water. I explained that normally we do not feed wildlife, but this was an exception in order to check them for injuries. They were more than happy to assist.

The minute we began tossing grain, all of the birds started to approach, even the ones in the water. Sure enough, one of them had fishing line around its leg.

After a quick lesson on why people should properly discard fishing line, my little helper headed off with her mom, and I began the task of catching the goose.

We "danced" back and forth for a few minutes, with me tossing grain to tempt her near enough. When I felt she was in just the right spot to safely grab her, I made my move. In a flash I had her wings enveloped in my arms.

As a rule, when we encounter these types of injuries, we leave the line in place to be removed by the wildlife hospital. This injury, though, didn't appear to be as bad as others I'd seen and it would certainly be less stressful for the goose if I could remove the line on site and set her free. I decided to have a better look.

I enlisted the assistance of a couple walking to help hold the 
squirmy goose. With the bird's head and shoulders tucked inside a pillow case, I decided to snip the main line that was cutting into her scaly skin. It started to bleed, which is normal. I held pressure to the wound and the bleeding stopped, but I hesitated to let her go. With SPCA of Monterey just down the road, I opted to have her looked at by their wildlife center staff, just to be on the safe side.

There, at the wildlife center, the goose was thoroughly examined. The wound was cleaned and she was returned to me for release.


I am grateful we were able to catch this injury in time. The wildlife center staff indicated the fishing line would have eventually caused the loss of the foot.

Back at the lake, the goose was quickly met by others, as if she had never been away.

For more on what's being done to keep monofilament line out of the environment and how you can help, click HERE.

Jul 26, 2012

Orphaned raccoons

Santa Cruz, CA. Three raccoon cubs were orphaned this week when their mother was trapped and taken away. Management of the inn where the raccoon had set up residency, captured the animal using a 'humane' trap and dumped her a few miles up the road.

They thought they were doing the right thing, until they found her babies, and they had no idea they were breaking the law.

Duane and Rebecca responded as part of their Humane Pest Control business. When they arrived, only two cubs were found, despite an extensive search. The youngsters had crawled out of a hole in the wall and were hiding in a patch of English ivy.

You might want to turn the volume down before viewing.

Raccoons are extremely intelligent animals and, as you can see from the video, they are very hard to hold on to - they have loose skin and are known to 'turn around' in their skin.
Originally thought to be related to bears, the raccoon was later placed in its own genus, Procyon (meaning, before-the-dog). 

Sjupp, the pet raccoon of Carl Linnaeus.

The babies were taken to Native Animal Rescue and the inn's maintenance person was instructed to watch out for the remaining cub and the possible return of the mother. If we can, we'll reunite the family, but we fear the mother was killed trying to make it back to her babies.

Relocation of wildlife is prohibited in California, and for good reason. It chances the spread  of disease among wild populations, and relocated animals usually end up dead trying to return home.

For those experiencing conflicts with wildlife, the animals may seem like they are the problem, but they're really not - they are a symptom. Treat the problem, and the symptom goes away! That's why t
rapping is never really a sound answer - it doesn't address the problem.

Thankfully, in State of California, anyone wanting to trap wildlife must adhere to specific regulations - even landowners looking to rid their property of pesky animals using a 'humane' box trap.

Included in the regulations is the requirement that the trap be clearly marked with an identifying number provided by the Department of Fish and Game.

There is also a requirement for written authorization from homeowners within 150 yards (that's a football field-and-a-half) of the proposed trap site. This trap placement rule protects pets as well as the neighbors' rights to a say in what happens to surrounding wildlife.

Another, sometimes overlooked condition for trapping 'pest' wildlife, is the need to show cause - there must be proof that the animal is a threat to a person or property. People are not allowed to just indiscriminately trap and kill native animals. 

Jul 25, 2012

Donated vehicle

We are very, very pleased to announce the recent addition to our wildlife emergency response fleet - a 1996 heavy-duty 4 X 4 long bed truck with low miles!

The cab area seats up to six. The rear is lined and protected by an insulated shell. The truck also comes with a tow package, and winch.

This brawny beast was donated by our longtime supporters, Sal and Ada Lucido of Carmel Valley.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jul 20, 2012

Rodenticide killing the rare fisher

Photo by USFS Region 5
The fisher is a medium-sized mammal of North America. It is closely related to the marten - another member of the weasel family. In California, Oregon and Washington, the fisher is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act as its numbers have dwindled due to fur trapping and habitat loss. It's now threatened by poisoning. 

Recent studies on dead fishers found in forests in Humboldt County and near Yosemite National Park indicate the animals were exposed to commercial rodenticides. While it's not uncommon to find traces of anticoagulant rodenticide in animals that live in urban and agricultural settings, researchers were surprised to find it in this secretive forest carnivore.

However, more and more, our forests and public lands are being used to illegally cultivate marijuana, and it's taking a toll on wildlife. Check out the PBS NewsHour report on illegal pot farms in California.

Please read the full report on the fisher deaths, HERE.

Jul 19, 2012

Adding insult to injury

Young pelican with fish carcass lodged in throat.
As wildlife rescuers contend with hundreds of young starving brown pelicans stranding along the coast of California due to starvation, another problem has surfaced - fish oil.

This is impairing already weakened young pelicans and hampering rescue efforts.

Photo courtesy Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
The oil is coming from fish cleaning stations - usually found at boat ramps and piers. Runoff from cleaning tables is typically allowed to drip onto the ground or into the water. When pelicans and other birds crowd around these stations, looking for handouts, they can become showered in fish juice - a serious problem, even fatal.

A bird’s waterproofing allows it to stay warm and dry. Like shingles on a roof, it is the structure of a bird’s feathers, and their alignment, that keep cold air and water from penetrating to the skin. When something, like oil or dirty water, collapses the feather's structure, the bird becomes exposed to the elements. Severely coated birds will be unable to float or fly.

To gain back their weatherproofing, birds must be washed - a very labor-intensive task. After being captured, they are treated for exposure, fed and strengthened before undergoing a rigorous wash, then allowed to dry and recuperate before being released - often days later.

It’s just like an oil spill, but there’s no one to foot the bill.

Right now, Humboldt Wildlife Center is tending to over 100 fish-oiled and wet pelicans, and, just this week, dozens were found in Sonoma County. Native Animal Rescue, in Santa Cruz, has also received a number of wet birds.

This brings the total number of pelicans being treated at California’s few wildlife hospitals to about 500.

While it's not unusual to see fish-oil compromised birds from time to time throughout the year, it’s worse now because the young pelicans are starving - to death - so they are more attracted to bait docks and cleaning stations than ever. Pelicans are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of food sources where they can.

While some people take enjoyment out of seeing a pelican up close, some fishermen have become enraged and abusive. Rescuers have witnessed fishermen kicking pelicans and spraying them down with high-powered hoses. To injure a wild bird is a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, administrated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo courtesy Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
Another serious problem - also related to fishing, is pelicans getting discarded fish carcasses stuck in their throats.

When pelicans gain access to scraps of fish - when lids to waste bins aren’t properly shut, or when people intentionally feed them, the bony masses become lodged in their throats. Spines and sharp bones can even puncture a pelican's soft pouch

Federal law requires facilities that operate businesses that might attract birds, to have mechanisms to prevent birds from gaining access to the attractant. For example, fish guts and scraps are supposed to be disposed of in dumpsters or barrels that have covers to keep birds out. It’s not a crime to leave a lid of a dumpster open, but when a bird is caught or impaired by it, then it becomes a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The few wildlife hospitals in California that are caring for the pelicans are in serious need of help. Please consider volunteering or sending donated supplies or contributions.

We have made it easy to donate. Money collected through our Pelican Aid fund will be distributed between the centers.

To report injured or ill pelicans call your local wildlife rescue facility. If you don't know the number, use our statewide hotline at 1-866-WILD-911.

To report possible violations of the MBTA, contact the nearest U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

Torrance, CA 310-328-1516 or Burlingame, CA 650-876-9078 and Sacramento, CA 916-414-6660

Jul 12, 2012

The Dalmatian pelican

A Dalmatian pelican warms by a fire in a shipyard. Photo by Sergei Rasulov/Reuters

In researching how changes in climate and shortages of food can impact pelican populations, we stumbled upon a story from earlier this year. How an unusual cold snap caused hundreds of endangered Dalmatian pelicans - the world's largest pelican, to flock to an open waterway in Russia's Dagestan province.


Our search for more on the Dalmatian pelican, led us to some amazing images of the rare bird, HERE. Enjoy.


Jul 11, 2012

Starving young pelicans

July 10th, a young pelican stranded in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The brown pelican, the smallest of the 8 pelican species, is unique in that it is a plunge diver - it hunts in flight, scanning waters for shimmering reflections of schooling fish. 

In California, they prey mostly on northern anchovy, Pacific sardine, and Pacific mackerel.

Each year, California brown pelicans migrate north from their breeding grounds in Mexico and the offshore islands of southern California.

Anacapa, one of the Channel Islands, has historically maintained the largest colony in California. 
The Chumash  people knew the island as 'Pi awa phew' - 'house of the pelican'.

At one time, the breeding range of the California brown pelican extended as far north as Point Lobos, near Monterey, but there has been no nesting activity on Bird Island since 1959, which, interestingly, coincided with the last significant year for the Monterey sardine fishery.

Young pelicans fledge when they are about 3-4 months old. While some remain close to home, others follow adults on their northward journey. In the last two weeks, we've seen an unusually high number of these young migrants in trouble

Up and down the coast, hundreds of young California brown pelicans are being found, thin and weak - starving to death.

Until now, we did not believe there was a shortage of food for them, but there is, at least in the Monterey Bay.

A tired baby with its head tucked in.
Rescued by Ron Eby at Elkhorn Slough Reserve.
According to a seafood supplier in Moss Landing, there is a shortage of baitfish in local waters - there hasn’t been any volume of Northern anchovy or Pacific sardine in the region since February.

Thankfully, we're not finding any starving adult pelicans. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps they're finding fish farther out at sea.

We know pelican breeding success is directly related to the availability of food. During nesting, a reduction in their food source can force abandonment of eggs - even chicks. 
We also know to expect a high mortality of young, even when food is plentiful, but, for there to be nothing for them in the Monterey Bay, an important stopover, seems odd.

A young pelican found dead in a backyard in Santa Cruz, CA.

Is it climate change? Is it human-related? Should we intervene?

Wildlife biologists are still considering this mortality event a natural die-off - the culling of the weakest individuals. If so, we must respect natural selection as we risk doing a species more harm by meddling.

That said, for now, the region's wildlife hospitals are continuing to accept the young pelicans, and WildRescue continues to respond and transport those in critical need.

Below is a video of one such rescue. The pelican landed inland near a large koi pond in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The public can report ailing pelicans through our statewide hotline at 1-866-WILD-911 (1-866-945-3911). 
They should note if it's a juvenile or adult. Young birds can be distinguished from adult pelicans by their brown heads, white bellies, and creamy, yellow-grey legs.

To help us respond to sightings, we desperately need more volunteers in and around the Bay Area, from Monterey to San Francisco! Be on-call from home or office - click HERE for an application. Many thanks to those who have already contributed to our 
Pelican Aid fund, HERE.

Donate $100.00 or more and receive this beautiful 8 X 10 black and white photograph. 

Jul 8, 2012

The Serpent and the Fairy Princess

Saturday afternoon, in the hills above Carmel Valley Village, a little girl was playing outside in a very shallow, dry, stone-lined channel. Perhaps she and the Fairy Princess were looking for more river rocks for the Kingdom's castle, when she was struck by a serpent - a baby rattlesnake.

The girl was rushed to a Bay Area hospital for emergency treatment.

The following morning, the snake was found sunning itself in the same area of the property. Duane and Rebecca were called to capture and remove it.

Wearing snake chaps and armed with tongs and a bug net, the duo turned stones and rustled shrubs, looking for what the residents had initially described as a two-foot long snake. It wasn't until they saw a picture of it, did they realize it was a small, young snake, more brown than grey.

It wasn't five minutes before they spotted it, cold and coiled, among dry leaves and grasses.

The snake was placed into a five gallon bucket and released in an uninhabited area of Carmel Valley. Check out the video, below.

Jul 6, 2012

Another goose

Note the injury on the inside of the bird's right leg.

Today, another goose was rescued by our 'goose whisperer', Deanna.

On Fridays, after work, Deanna visits various 'hot spots' in and around Monterey, looking for infirm wildlife.

This week, at Roberts Lake, in Seaside, she found an ailing goose.
Using expert skill and her very own technique that, well, can best be described as a waltz, Deanna collected the large flighted bird and transported it to the SPCA of Monterey for evaluation and treatment.

Unfortunately, we were told the leg was fractured at the joint and the goose was humanely euthanized.


Jul 4, 2012

Bobcat kitten

This morning, we received a call about a bobcat kitten that was found walking along the side of Mount Madonna Road, near the summit. The finder, Stacey, was kind enough to stand by and keep watch until we arrived.

The kitten warmed up during transport.

On scene, the small cat was quiet and still, hunched up with its head down. It was cold, and barely responsive as Duane lifted it into a carrier. On the drive over the hill, we provided the animal with warmth, and by the time we arrived at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley the cat was looking (and sounding) much better.

Even though it was the Fourth of July holiday, the wildlife center was full of wonderful volunteers, busily caring for the hospital's numerous patients. Dr. Chad Alves, the center's veterinarian, was also on hand and performed an initial exam while we were there.

Dr. Alves found the kitten was thin, and it had a couple of wounds and scrapes - perhaps it had survived an attack by a predator. Check out the video of the examination, below.


UPDATE: The bobcat kitten did not make it. It died from severe starvation; it was too far gone to bring it back. Very sad. 

Jul 2, 2012

Predator on the loose

There is a relatively new predator on the loose and its numbers are growing. Like members of the weasel family, it is a fearless hunter, and it is an indiscriminate killer of small birds, mammals and reptiles. This species is extremely adaptable, able to thrive in nearly all regions of the world. In North America, it is the most abundant carnivore. In 2008, it was recognized by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the world's worst invasive introduced species.

This invasive predator is
Felis catus, the domestic house cat.

As advocates for wildlife conservation, we encourage everyone to read a comprehensive package of information on the impacts of free-roaming cats,

Jul 1, 2012

Ducklings trapped in a storm drain

This morning we received a report of ducklings trapped in a storm drain (again) at a shopping center in Watsonville, CA. A young girl, Kena, first noticed them in trouble.

Duane and Rebecca alerted local authorities to assist in accessing the complex of drains. Watsonville Fire Department arrived on scene first and they were able to keep all, but one duckling, confined to a catch basin.

All the while, the hen watched from a distance. Then, just as the last duckling was being rescued, she flew away. 

We set the pet carrier containing her ducklings under a nearby tree and waited a good fifteen minutes before she returned. She was standoffish, landing in a patch of shrubbery alongside busy Main Street, a good distance from the pet carrier. Her body language told us she was on edge and could take off at any moment if she didn't see or hear her babies.

Since it was a fairly quiet shopping center, we decided to set her babies where she would see them quickly, and then, once reunited, we could herd them, and the hen, to safety.

Check out the awesome video below:



Ducklings at SFO!

A call came in to us through Peninsula Humane Society. A group of ducklings were entrapped in a large stormwater detention pond at San Francisco International Airport. They must have slipped down the steep cement embankment to the shallow water and could not make it back out.

One of our lead responders, Susan M., joined by Julie B., arrived on scene to find the hen and four ducklings in the basin.

Airfield Operations and SFO Fire were on hand and assisted with the recovery of the babies.

Normally, we would reunite the ducklings with the hen, but because of where they were located, it was safer to send the ducklings to a rehabilitation center. They are now in safe hands at the Peninsula Humane Society's Wildlife Care Center, and doing well.