Sep 30, 2012

Natural causes?

Warning: images contained in this post may be disturbing.

Anthropogenic injuries make up the majority of emergencies we respond to. Whether it's a window strike, an entrapment, dog or cat attack - nearly every one of them can be attributed to humankind, in one way or another. This year, however, we documented two unusual fatalities that seem oddly natural.

Days after rescuing the little raccoon stuck in the fork of a tree, we received a call describing the exact same situation, only the call came too late - the animal was dead.

Both cases involved a young raccoon. P
layful, adventuresome, forever curious, exploring the nighttime world alongside mom.

In both cases, we believe 
the youngsters were climbing a multitrunked tree, lost their footing and slipped, just so, and became wedged between the two trunks. As they struggled to get free, their bodies slid deeper and tighter into the groove.

Please take the time to check your yard for these potentially hazardous conditions. If you find such a tree you can attach a piece of wood, horizontally between the two trunks, which will prevent an animal from slipping into the crook.

Another bizarre incident involved a skunk with its head caught in a gopher hole.

When it was first reported through our hotline, we were in disbelief. We were sure we'd find some sort of manmade object in the soil, but, no, t
o our amazement, all we found was rock-solid earth.

Skunks are carnivores and they prey on rodents. The skunk probably poked its head in the gopher hole, looking for a meal.Sadly, we were contacted much to late to save this magnificent creature. It died after an all-night battle to free itself.

Just a reminder to keep our number handy (831-429-2323) and call us immediately if you think an animal is somehow trapped. Better safe than sorry. 

Sep 29, 2012

In Deep Trouble

Yesterday, around 11:00 a.m., we were contacted by a Soquel resident about an animal trapped in a storm drain. Over the phone, we could hear its desperate cries in the background - it was a young raccoon. Neighbors said it had been crying through the night.

Duane and Rebecca were on scene quickly. They found the 'teenage' raccoon trapped at the bottom of a deep catch basin, standing in about 8" of putrid water. It was clinging to the floating remains of another animal - one that was not so fortunate.

Even though the raccoon was alert and active, it was exhibiting signs of hypothermia from being in the water so long. The team decided to capture the youngster and allow it to recuperate for at least 24 hours instead of setting it free right away.

Using a long-handled net, Duane lifted the raccoon to safety. It 
was placed into a carrier padded with sheets and towels.

A couple of hours later, the very scared, very exhausted little animal was looking much better. It was warm and fluffy again, having groomed itself of the awfulness. Overnight it consumed a platter of food and by morning looked fit for release.

This evening, at 7:30, we transported the raccoon back home and set it free under the cover of darkness.

We will be calling Public Works on Monday to ask that something be done to prevent future entrapments.

Sep 28, 2012

Blue Bands

In 2009, International Bird Rescue began marking pelicans with colored leg bands to make them easier to identify.

Upon release from either of their two hospitals, each brown pelican is fitted with a federal band on one leg and a large numbered blue band on the other.

Currently there are just under 1,000 pelicans sporting a blue ring, and they're being spotted from Mexico to the state of Washington.

Get out there are start looking!

Report a Blue-Banded pelican HERE.

Sep 26, 2012

Game Change

Beginning January 1, the California Department of Fish and Game with sport a new name - Department of Fish and Wildlife. This will leave just 12 states in the U.S. where wildlife management agencies still use the word "game" in their title.

The use of the nickname CalWild, as in CalFire, was also proposed and my be adopted in time.

AB 2402
signed by Governor Brown on September 25th, calls for more than just a change in name to reflect the agency's broader mission. Among other things, it streamlines the permitting processes; creates an environmental crimes task force; improves the agency's use of independent science; calls for the use of ecosystem-based management in formulating resource management plans; encourages intergovernmental coordination and nonprofit partnerships; and extends benefits to fish and game wardens.

According to 
Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), author of the bill, the new law "will enable the Department and the Commission to do a better job as public trustees for the state's fish and wildlife, and for the people they serve.” 
It started in 2010, with passage of AB 2376, also authored by Huffman, which required development of a strategic plan to enhance and improve the Department's capacity and effectiveness in protecting and managing the state's fish and wildlife, for their ecological values and for the benefit of the people - and so, the California Fish and Wildlife Vision Project was formed!

P.S. Not to worry, in replacing the name the State will not be wasting resources - throwing away mountains of paper, uniforms, etc. - in fact, the legislation requires use of existing supplies:

(d) No existing supplies, forms, insignias, signs, logos, uniforms, or emblems shall be destroyed or changed as a result of changing the name of the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and those materials shall continue to be used until exhausted or unserviceable.

Sep 22, 2012

Pelican madness

I'm in trouble.  I'm now dreaming pelicans!!!  Last night I dreamt I was on a long pier that went out into the sea for miles and miles.  I backed my truck onto the pier, opened the back and started loading pelicans, lots of them, all tied up in line, and I just kept driving back and forth loading pelicans for hours......until I woke up.

Searching for injured animals and strategizing on their capture is both exciting and incredibly rewarding, and, it can be habit forming, as one of our responders has found.

Lately, Deanna has been doing her 'rounds' on the wharfs in Monterey where there have been plenty of birds in trouble. Some have been found wet from fish 'oil', others observed choking on discarded remains of freshly filleted fish, and there continues to be an abundance of fishing tackle entanglements, and sea lion bite injuries.

Here's Deanna account of recent rescues:

Banded pelican with fish scrap stuck in its pouch.
As I made my way to the entrance of the wharf, I could see a large group of pelicans swirling around a fishing boat that had just come in. I quickly made my way to the feeding frenzy where I spotted several pelicans with line dangling off their bodies. They were perched on the railing of the bait cleaning station.

Unfortunately, before I could make a move, they flew from the pier to the water below 
where fisherman had tossed scraps of fish.

I waited, hoping they'd fly back onto the pier, when I heard a commotion - people yelling and pointing to the water. Two pelicans had become tangled
 together by fishing line. They were thrashing violently in the water, desperate to free themselves.

Pelican fouled by fish oil.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before they broke free and the one trailing the line landed on a railing nearby.

With bait in hand, I knelt down and tossed a few scraps on the ground, hoping it would hop down for a free meal, but instead it just stood looking at me. I needed to try another tactic, and maybe something more wriggly.

I stood up quietly and then slowly approached with a slippery piece of squid, but instead of focusing on that particular bird, I kept my eyes on a pelican to its left - one that seemed a bit more keen on my offerings. I kept inching forward, fiddling with the squid.

Eventually, I was standing in front of the second bird, with my mark just six inches from my right hand. I waited, patiently, for that perfect moment.

All of a sudden, the pelican turned its head to preen - I threw my right hand out, grabbed its bill and guided the bird onto the deck.

Line was everywhere, wrapped around its body and through its feathers. I needed help untangling it. I yelled toward a crowd of bystanders, and a women stepped up. It turned out, she was a volunteer with Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz. Perfect.

Deanna Barth with her catch of the day!
As we untangled the bird just enough for it to fold its wings normally, I got a better look at its injuries. There was a hook imbedded in the top of its right foot and line wrapped around its leg, beneath its right wing, around and over where another hook was sticking out of its body.

Other than the line, the bird appeared healthy, strong and feisty and putting up a good fight. I delivered the pelican to the SPCA Wildlife Center
. From there it was transferred to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield for rehabilitation. I have no doubt this bird will be back in the wild in no time.

During my visit to Fisherman's Wharf this week I spotted a pelican with a huge lure hanging from the flesh of its pouch. I first noticed the bird when it flew over my head and the sun reflected off the metal. It looked like SOS signals as the bird flew by!

I watched the pelican land and went over to see if I could bait it in close enough to catch. The bird was very timid, and quickly flew off and onto the roof of one of the restaurants where it stayed put.

The next day, I was joined by Rebecca. She arrived early to locate birds that needed help. By the time I got there, she'd located the 'flasher' and also another pelican snagged by hooks - one in its mouth and the other, on the same line, embedded in its foot.

Both birds were settled atop one of the wharf's restaurants. They showed no interest in the fresh bait we were offering. Even when the fishing boat pulled in, they stayed on the rooftop.

We decided to flush them from their roost and hope they landed where we could get close to them. Through an open window below, I was able to spook them using a broom (courtesy of the restaurant). It worked. They took off and flew over the docks where Rebecca was tossing bait fish to entice them to land. The double-hooked pelican landed near the whale watching office and was captured by staff!!!

The 'flasher' circled and landed back on the same rooftop. We did not want to scare it again - that's the last thing we need - for it to be even more wary!

We'll be back.

Sep 21, 2012

Where are they now?

Just a few updates on some of the wild animals we've rescued this year:

The little raccoon that was stuck in the crook of a tree for at least 8 hours (read the original post HERE) was released August 30th after three weeks' convalescence. Many, many thanks to Native Animal Rescue's Monique for her expert care of the injured raccoon!

Red-shouldered hawk with leg caught between two branches. 

The red-shouldered hawk, also rescued from a fork in a tree (original post HERE), is showing remarkable improvement as it recovers from a severe degloving injury.

These images show how the leg has healed over the past five weeks.

Many, many thanks to the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for investing so much time and resources into the rehabilitation of this incredible bird!

Bat returns home.

Last month, a small bat was rescued in Carmel Valley. It was found weak and dehydrated by newly indoctrinated wildlife rescuer Chris - Deanna's husband!

After about a week and a half at Monique's, the bat was strong enough to be returned to the wild. It was set free at dusk, in the same location it was found.

Back in June, one of our responders and 2011 Purple Cape recipient Dave Cogswell rescued a gull entangled in fishing line at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco (original post HERE). We're happy to report the gull is back in the wild after extensive treatment and rehabilitation provide by seabird experts International Bird Rescue.

Also in June, we picked up a coyote pup that had been hit by a car in Watsonville, CA (original post HERE). After months in foster care through Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley's Predatory Mammal Program, he's been paired up with two other adolescent coyotes and the 3-pack is almost ready for release to the wild.

Once again, a huge Thank You! to our local wildlife hospitals for providing care to injured, ill, and orphaned wildlife. It is through their dedication and hard work that wild animals get a second chance. Please consider supporting their efforts through a tax-deductible contribution.

Sep 14, 2012

Trouble with trebles

By Deanna Barth

Today, I had to do some errands in Capitola. It's been years since I walked the pier, so I decided to check it out. My plan was to look for sick or injured pelicans, but, as I was driving across the bridge near the entrance to the pier I saw two gulls with fishing entanglements, sitting side by side on the railing  - one had line dangling from its mouth.

Surrounded by heavy traffic and red curbs, I knew by the time I turned around, they'd be gone, so I parked, grabbed my supplies and headed to the beach below the bridge.
There were gulls everywhere. There must have been 50 gulls just on one side of the pier. This would be like finding a needle in a haystack, I thought.

After situating my long-handled capture net in the sand I tossed a handful of grain high in the air to get the attention of nearby birds. In no time I was surrounded by squawking gulls. There must have been 40-50 gulls around me, and more flying in. Some were even standing on top of my net!

I carefully looked each bird, up and down, looking for line, but they all appeared to be in good shape. I looked towards the sky when each newcomer approached, and soon I saw it - he flew over my head with at least a foot of line trailing behind, glistening in the sun. The bird landed right beside me.

I waited a minute for the surrounding birds to give him some space and when I saw that he was close enough to the hoop of my net, I quickly flipped it up and over him.

I performed a cursory exam to confirm the severity of the entanglement. Tracing the line into the bird's mouth I was shocked by what I found - a treble - 3-pronged barbed fishing hook, piercing the bird's tongue! The hook was so large, it took up the entire oral cavity.
I quickly placed the bird into a carrier and made my way to Native Animal Rescue, just a few minutes down the road.

There, I watched staff use pliers to carefully cut the hook and slowly remove it. The bird was checked for further injuries and none were found. The hook injury appeared to be very recent, so there's a very good chance the bird will be released in a few days.

Looking back, I hadn't planned to bait in gulls on the beach, I was just going to check for pelicans on the pier, but I feel like I was meant to be there today - in the right place at the right time. It feels good knowing that I made a difference, at least in the life of one gull.

Sep 9, 2012

Turkey rescued!

On August 21st, we were notified of a wild turkey with an arrow through it, in Hollister, CA. Read the initial blog post, HERE.

Capturing a flighted turkey is difficult, but one with a 30" projectile through its body makes for an even greater challenge. We spent the last couple of weeks orchestrating the rescue - devising a safe method of capture that would offer the greatest potential for success on the first try, and coordinating with avian specialists for the bird to receive immediate care.

The landowner who first reported the bird kept us informed of the bird's condition and habits. It visited regularly, traveling among a raft of other turkeys that crossed the hilltop property nearly every morning and evening.Turkeys have incredibly sharp eyesight and are wary of even the slightest changes in their surroundings. For the capture to be successful, we needed the birds to get used to netting material, so we staged our capture equipment in advance.

The day arrived. With transporters lined up, and the veterinarian on standby, our capture team assembled at the property just after sunrise. At 7:20, as Duane was finishing with the trap, the turkey was spotted heading toward the residence - traveling alone.

Everyone scrambled into position inside the house, remaining quiet and still as the bird approached cautiously. At 7:40, the injured turkey was captured! Check out the video:

After a quick inspection of the wound, we believed it was better to remove the projectile than cut it. Duane slowly pulled the long carbon fiber shaft from the bird's body, and she was placed inside a transport kennel.

During the 120-mile drive from Hollister to Fairfield, the young hen bird was uncharacteristically calm. We hope this behavior was due to her age and not because she was ill.

Once at International Bird Rescue, the bird was seen by avian specialist Dr. Rebecca Duerr.
By 11:30, the bird was under anesthesia. Radiographs were taken to check for fractures, and the wound was thoroughly cleaned.

By 1:00 p.m., after being observed for a while, she was headed back to Hollister to be released.

All said and done, it was an 8-hour turnaround - from the time the hen was captured, to her release!


Thank you, Mark and Elizabeth, for driving over 200 miles to transport the turkey to International Bird Rescue. Thank you, Deanna, for giving up your Sunday morning and afternoon. Thank you, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Dr. Guthrum Purdin, and IBR staff for such expert care of the bird, and of course a huge Thank You! to the family who initially called to report the wounded animal.

Sep 1, 2012

Hawk rescued by Dynamic Trio

This week we responded to a report of a hawk with an injured wing, found in Gilroy, CA. It was first observed in a field bordering Pacheco Pass Highway. It had probably been struck by a vehicle.

Rebecca was first on scene, followed by Deanna, Chris and their daughter Kaia. Here is their account:

Although it had a damaged wing, the bird was very mobile. By the time we arrived, it had made its way some 200 yards across a field and up a hillside. This is typical behavior for a grounded raptor - to seek high ground or thick cover.

The property where the hawk sought refuge is a Texas longhorn cattle ranch, Bar 46. The owners were very concerned for the bird and kindly escorted us in and through the pastures.

We were approaching the spot where the hawk had been seen last, when it sprang from the hillside some 30 feet away - only to flail in desperation as it plummeted, landing inside a paddock shared by two massive bulls. 

We waited quietly. Our mere presence on the far side of the field applied enough pressure to encourage the bird to move on. Within a few minutes the hawk navigated under two barbed wire fences and into the adjacent pasture of dried weeds.

There, we spread out and methodically combed the field.

We finally located the hawk. It was exhausted, but still full of fight.

The hawk was immediately transported to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center - Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center in Morgan Hill, for evaluation and treatment.

The next day we received word that the hawk's wing was too severely damaged to be saved.

Despite the unfortunate outcome, efforts to help animals in distress are never in vain, particularly when they can inspire others - most especially the young. We were very, very honored to have Kaia join us today - her 6th birthday! We hope it's one she never forgets!