Jan 30, 2013

Three Down

It's skunk mating season. As males travel far and wide in search of receptive females and females try to evade their advances, skunks living in close proximity to humans can fall into trouble.

A case in point - three skunks found themselves entrapped in an empty pool, deep in the forested Santa Cruz mountains. Many thanks to Hollie for calling on WES to help!

Check out the video, below.

Hawk in Home Depot

During a busy day of service calls, Duane and Rebecca, who also operate Humane Pest Control, received word of a hawk in a Home Depot. According to the reporting party, it had already been in the building for three days.

When they arrived, they found a Cooper's hawk flying from one skylight to another, landing on the bars just below the glass.

The accipiter appeared to be in good condition - bright, alert, active. Somewhat unusual for an animal that has been entrapped for so long with no food or water. 
Apparently, though, the hawk had been feeding on small birds in the store - store employees had found bits and parts of English sparrows on top of some of the shelving units.

Because the bird appeared in good shape, the team didn't have to capture it - all they had to do was get it out of the building.

Their first task was to collect information about the bird's behavior. This is key when developing a successful capture plan. It's best to develop a strategy based on an individual animal's natural behavior.

In this case, the bird was known to frequent certain sections of the store and certain skylights more than others. In particular, a skylight in Plumbing. Luckily, that skylight  happened to be one that could be opened.

Duane and Rebecca came up with a plan to open that one skylight and then apply just the right amount of pressure to herd the bird in that direction.

Store employees were eager to help. In minutes, the skylight was open.

Next, a team of helpers was assembled; four to help herd the bird, and one to watch the portal. Rebecca went over details of how they would apply pressure to the hawk using 10' pieces of PVC with flagging attached.

Once Duane located the hawk, the team spread out behind it and began to 'push'. It wasn't long - maybe a minute or two, before the hawk landed on the bars of the opened skylight.

Surprisingly, it didn't fly out straight away, but perched for a moment, as if it didn't realize the glass panels were open to the sky. Then, in a flash, it sprang to freedom.

Job well done, everyone!!!

Many, Many thanks to Brian and all the Home Depot employees who helped in the freeing of this lovely raptor.

Jan 29, 2013

Barrel of Trouble

This week, outside the offices of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, a great horned owl was found in a large plastic drum that was partly filled with collected rainwater. The owl had apparently slipped into the vessel after landing on the rim, and was stuck. The narrow sides and slippery walls made impossible for it to escape.

Vertical chambers can be death traps for wildlife. Make sure to check your yard for these hazards.

ESF staff tipped the barrel to free the owl, then called WES for help.

Duane Titus collected the soaked raptor and placed in a crate where it could dry off and warm up in the sun. The SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center retrieved the bird for evaluation. By evening, the bird had fully recovered and was set free.

Video courtesy of Ken Collins, ESF Land Steward

A huge Thank You! to everyone who helped rescue this beautiful bird!

Jan 27, 2013

Skunk Season

Have you noticed the large number of skunks dead on roadways lately? Are you noticing the smell of skunk in your garden? Have you found signs of an animal digging in your yard, or trying to get under your home?

It's skunk mating season!

For those experiencing problems with skunks in or around the Bay Area, please call Humane Pest Control, WildCare Solutions, or A Wildlife Exclusion Service for help. 

Skunks are mostly nocturnal creatures, foraging a half a mile or so from their den site, except in breeding season, when males will travel far and wide in search of receptive females.

Skunks are classified as carnivores, but their diet is quite varied. Skunks eat insects, snails, assorted fruits and berries, nuts, even seeds. They also do humans a great service by predating on mice, rats, and gophers.

The earliest legislation to protect skunks in the United States passed in 1893. It was in response to appeals from hop growers in New York who recognized the benefits of wild skunks. A quote from the Farmer's Bulletin of 1914:

Skunks are among the most useful of the native mammals and are most efficient helps to the farmer and orchardist in their warfare against insect and rodent pests.

Once thought to be closely related to weasels and classified in the "weasel family", Mustelidae, skunks were reclassified in their own family, Mephitidae, in 1998.The definition of the word mephitis means noxious exhalation from the earth. The latin name for the striped skunk - the most common species, is Mephitis mephitis.

Striped skunks are slow movers and poor climbers, which can be real trouble for those living in an urban setting. We commonly get calls to help skunks that are entrapped in manmade structures, like catch basins.

A case in point, this week we had to come to the rescue of two skunks - probably a male and female, that had fallen down a storm drain and could not escape.

On scene, responders found two adult skunks, busily trying to dig out of a drain pipe.

The task was fairly simple - remove the grate and wait. One skunk came out quickly and waddled off nto the brushy hillside, but the other stayed huddled inside the pipe.

The team left the grate off overnight and replaced it the next day after the skunk had left. Check out the rescue video, below.

Love skunks? Don't miss the full episode of Is That Skunk, below.

Jan 26, 2013

Disoriented Coyote

Photo courtesy of Ellie Sadler

On January 18, a very frightened coyote was found in a backyard near Capp and 18th, in the Mission District of San Francisco.

After attempts by local authorities to chase her from the area failed, the female coyote was captured and impounded by San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

It’s not that unusual to see a coyote in downtown San Francisco, but what’s puzzling, was her behavior.

Normally, coyotes try to escape when approached, but this one acted disoriented, as if she didn’t know which way to run. She was petrified. So much so that she buried her head in a corner of a dead end alleyway.

Photo courtesy of Ellie Sadler

One theory is that she hitched a ride in a vehicle some how - maybe in a moving van, a shipping container, or engine compartment, then found herself in the city, far from home. That would explain her behavior, and her physical condition.

Photo by Alex Deutsch

On January 22, one of our dedicated volunteer responders transported the coyote from the shelter to wildlife specialists at the WIldlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose.

On arrival, the wild dog was too stressed to examine and was given the night to rest.

Photo by Alex Deutsch

Photo by Alex Deutsch

The next morning, she received a thorough examination and was found to be severely dehydrated and emaciated, weighing only 16 pounds. She was also loaded with ticks and fleas.

She was given fluids and placed on a special diet for starving animals. 

Photo by Alex Deutsch

UPDATE: January 31

The coyote is improving, eating whole food - fruits, vegetables and meat, and is responding to medication for a respiratory infection.

Meanwhile, the media has been contacted. We are hoping someone might have seen this coyote in the Mission District before it was picked up - perhaps someone could help piece together her history.

Please call the wildlife hospital at 408-929-9453 if you have any information.



Please go HERE to make a contribution toward the treatment of this lovely dog.

Jan 25, 2013

Gearing Up

It's that time of year, when we prepare for the busy season and the many rescues we will be called upon to perform.
There are a few essential items we need - some protective equipment and tools to help us get safely into trees for renesting baby birds.

Please consider helping us purchase new equipment and restock supplies with a gift from our Amazon Wish List, HERE.

Thank you for supporting our endeavors!

Jan 19, 2013


QUESTION: What's the most dangerous wild animal you might encounter?

ANSWER: A wild animal that has been imprinted, tamed, or habituated to humans.

Jan 18, 2013

Friday Rounds

By Deanna Barth

After walking around Monterey’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf and only seeing four pelicans, I decided to head over to nearby Lake El Estero to check out the resident waterfowl for injuries.

I quickly spotted a large flock of Canada geese, gulls and coots in the water. I grabbed my bag of Fritos and shook it vigorously and, just as expected, the birds quickly made their way across the lake.

I had yet to toss any chips, yet they
 began to encircle my feet, the gulls loudly making their presence known. I looked over each bird - scanning legs and wings for fishing line or other ailments. All of the birds looked in good shape except for a single American coot.

The coot was not standing, but resting with its eyes mostly closed. Not a good sign. When I approached, applying what we call 'pressure', it would stand, but hobble on one leg.

Often, when I encounter birds with old leg injuries, that are otherwise thriving, I'll leave them be. I needed to better assess this coot's condition.

I was able to separate the healthy, aggressive birds from the injured one, using two small piles of chip-crumbles. I watched the coot. It would take two steps and sit - obviously in pain and in need of medical attention.

All of a sudden, a man walked by with his dog on an extended leash, sending all of the birds back into the water except for the injured coot.

I knelt on the grass with the coot resting within an arm’s length of me. It was so close that I actually contemplated grabbing it up with my hands, but then thought better of it and went to my vehicle for my net, which would better my odds of a successful capture.

I slowly approached the coot with my net hidden behind my frame. I knelt back down on the grass with the bird only a few feet away. I tossed a few crumbles to see if I could get it to come close. It showed no interest in the chips, but pecked at grass stems from time to time.

Whenever I made the slightest movement with my hands, the coot would get up, hop a few inches away from me, then settle down again.

I scooted closer and closer, dragging the net behind me, out of its sight.

Slowly I moved backwards so that the net would be right next to the bird. Each time I had the net positioned perfectly, the coot sensed trouble, and would move just out of reach.

We did this for over an hour.

Finally, patience paid off. The net was in place, my arms were ready to swing. When the coot sat down and closed its eyes, I 'pounced'.

I transported the coot to the SPCA of Monterey Wildlife Center for treatment. Hopefully they'll find it has an injury that can be treated.

Jan 17, 2013

Small Owl, Big Story

Burrowing owls are small birds of prey that stand about 9" tall. As the name implies, they live underground, usually in holes dug by other animals, like ground squirrels. Burrowing owls require wide open landscapes with short vegetation - the sort of land most coveted by developers. On the national level, the burrowing owl is a Bird of Conservation Concern, and a Species of Concern in some states, including California.

Back in early November, we were contacted about a burrowing owl that had taken up residency in a commercial garage in Santa Clara, CA - a cement truck repair shop. 
It had taken to hiding in cubbyholes and roosting atop beams, watching the men at work.

The owl was apparently healthy and able to fly, but was acting tame, especially towards one of the mechanics, who, out of concern, was providing it crickets, mealworms and thawed mice from a pet store. 

We sent two of our volunteer responders, Jeff and Jessica, to investigate. We also reached out to local ornithologist and burrowing owl expert, Jack Barclay, who has devoted the last 20 years to conservation of this dwindling species.

While it's not unusual for a wild raptor to 'tame down' when provided food, and, according to Jack, it's not uncommon for burrowing owls to overwinter in odd locations, this was not a good situation - on evenings, weekends, and holidays, the doors to the facility were shut, trapping the owl inside.

Ideally, we would relocate the owl to a better site, like Shoreline Park, where there is an established group of burrowing owls and a dedicated program to protect them (check it out). We'd also like to have the owl ringed, or banded, so it could be easily identified. It would be valuable to know if the owl returned to the repair shop or remained in wild habitat.

Jack Barclay was extremely generous in agreeing to band the bird, and Phil Higgins, biologist for the City of Mountain View and burrowing owl expert, was very accommodating with our request to relocate the bird on the parkland he oversees.

It was then a matter of scheduling. With the holidays and travel, work schedules, and the weather, we were finally able to set the release for Friday, January 11. The plan was to pick up the little owl at the warehouse at 2:30 and meet Jack and Phil at Shoreline Park at about 3:00 or so.

That morning, however, we received word from Glenn, the mechanic, that the owl was behaving oddly - he thought it might have gotten into something, like engine oil or anti-freeze... We responded on scene quickly.

When we arrived, the owl appeared alert and responsive, but, according to Glenn and his co-workers, the owl was behaving abnormally, unable to land or maintain its balance - almost as though it were drunk.

We rushed the little owl to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley - by the time we arrived, the owl could barely stand. It was immediately seen by a medical team and treated for antifreeze poisoning - with vodka!

Thanks to the quick action by the wildlife hospital staff, within hours the owl was back to normal. It's prognosis for a full recovery was excellent.

Days later we made new plans for its return to the wild.

On January 16th, we picked up the owl from WCSV and escorted it to Shoreline Par. Jack Barclay carefully examined the little owl, recorded its measurements and secured identification rings to its legs. Phil Higgins picked out a burrow for it to be released to. Video below.

The owl was placed at the entrance to one of the site's many manmade burrows, where it immediately disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel. A few thawed 'feeder mice' were placed just inside the entrance.

With luck, the little owl will take to its new digs!

Learn more about burrowing owls and efforts to protect them, HERE.

Jan 16, 2013

San Jose Turkey Relocated

Many thanks to the Department of Fish and Wildlife who helped relocate the wild turkey to wild habitat, far from people. Check out the release, where it meets up with a large rafter of other wild turkeys.

Jan 15, 2013

Cougar Committee

Photo: Wayne Dumbleton, Creative Commons License
This afternoon, the newly-formed Mountain Lion Rehabilitation Committee had its first meeting to discuss plans for developing standards for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned mountain lions in California.

The group was formed in the aftermath of 
an unfortunate incident last December, where wildlife officers shot and killed two mountain lion cubs in Half Moon Bay, California.

The team of experts includes Rebecca Dmytryk (Wildlife Emergency Services), mammal rehabilitator and current director of International Bird Rescue, Jay Holcomb, Ashley Kinney, Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, Amy Rodrigues from the Mountain Lion Foundation, and Karen Ziegler-Meeks from White Oak Conservation Center.

The White Oak Conservation Center in Florida operates an exemplary program, having returned 11 Florida panthers to the wild over the last 20 years.

Currently, the rehabilitation and release of mountain lions is prohibited in California, but 
Rebecca Dmytryk, who chairs the committee, believes the time is right to put the possibility on the table.
I think The People of California want a better outcome for orphaned and injured lions - an alternative to captivity or euthanasia. As the Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews its guidelines for mountain lion encounters, we want to give them another option to consider - rehabilitation.
The committee's initial task is to draft a set of minimum standards for the housing and care of mountain lions undergoing rehabilitation, which will include recommendations for safe methods of capture and confinement. Rehabilitation of a predator species comes with tremendous liability issues, therefore human safety will be a key in the development of safe practices.

Jay Holcomb has been rehabilitation wildlife for over 40 years. He has this to say about the project.

When I began rehabilitating wildlife, I was told that it was impossible to rehabilitate predatory mammals. Now, bears, bobcats, coyotes, eagles, and Florida panthers are being successfully rehabilitated. Mountain lions that meet the criteria for rehabilitation should be given the same opportunity as other species.
The second stage of the plan includes construction of large enclosures on isolated land, far from people. While the design and construction plans for the compound will be submitted to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for input, Dmytryk feels confident it will be built.
I believe, if we build it, they will come. If we have the standards, the trained personnel, and the facility in place, we will be in a better position to negotiate for rehabilitation.
Perhaps the enclosures will sit empty - ‘mothballed’ - waiting for a change in consciousness, or waiting for a suitable candidate for rehabilitation, but at least it will exist.
For more information about the Mountain Lion Rehabilitation Committee or plans for the California Cougar Compound, please contact Rebecca Dmytryk.

Additionally, new legislation is being introduced. This week Senator Jerry Hill announced SB 132, a bill that would add language to existing state regulations, giving wildlife officers clearer direction for non-lethal action and greater resources when faced with mountain lions in urban settings. Check out recent media coverage, HERE. View the bill in PDF form from the Mountain Lion Foundation, HERE.

Jan 9, 2013

Turkeys Run Afoul in San Jose

Since the holidays, Wildlife Emergency Services has received a number of calls about a turkey on the loose in the Hyde Park neighborhood of San Jose - near 1st Street and the 880. Callers expressed concern for the welfare of the animal, worried that it might get hit by a car.

Yesterday, Duane and Rebecca went to investigate and found there are, in fact, two wild turkeys - a young male (also referred to as a jake) and young female (a jenny).

While it's not uncommon to see wild turkeys wandering city streets and neighborhoods that border wildland, it is unusual to see them so deep within city limits. One theory is that someone in the neighborhood raised them from poults, then released them.

Both birds appear to be in good health, though somewhat habituated, but the jake has developed a very bad habit - he runs up to and chases after cars! Witnesses say he's been the cause of at least two traffic accidents, so far.

It was clear, the turkeys needed to be removed. If they stayed, they would continue to pose a risk to pedestrians and the motoring public and would eventually be killed - either by a car, a person, or a dog.

On Friday, January 12th, Duane and Rebecca headed to San Jose to attempt to capture the two wild turkeys - which was not going to be easy. The birds were spooky and shy from being shooed, and from prior attempts by others to capture them.

When the team arrived, the neighborhood was abuzz with lawn mowers and leaf blowers. The birds had become separated and were wandering the neighborhood alone. The hen was pecking at grass clippings and the occasional insect, while the male appeared attentive and edgy.

The birds would only allow a gentle approach to about 20' before they felt pressured to move off. Rebecca tried to lure the birds closer with a mixture of seeds, and live crickets, but with little success.

The team spent hours looking for, finding, baiting, failing, losing sight of and driving around and around, but not in vain. Every encounter yielded invaluable information they would use to their advantage.

Successful capture plans are based on the behavior of the animal - what it's attracted to, what it's least afraid of, where it feels most comfortable, and any habits. Thanks to a call from the Diocese of San Jose, our team knew the birds frequented the office building on the corner of 1st and Burton every afternoon, where the male, especially, seemed taken with his reflection in the mirrored windows.

It was about 3:00 when the team caught up with the male turkey as he was making his way down the long mirrored driveway. Rebecca set out a pile of seed to keep him occupied. Duane grabbed a large hoop net and they moved in. Check out the video below.

The young turkey was transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for a health exam. If the bird is deemed healthy, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will decide where the bird can be relocated - far from people!

The duo will return this week to try for the jenny.

Jan 7, 2013

Introducing WES!

Our programs operated under WildRescue are getting a fresh start under a new name! 

Introducing, Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) - a locally-run, charitable program, offering 24/7 assistance with emergencies involving wild animals.

What's new?

We are now more quickly accessible to agencies and wildlife hospitals, through a dedicated number that rings multiple phones - so we never miss a call!

While we shall continue to provide rescue and transport to members of the public free of charge, our capacity to do so is subject to the availability of our volunteer responders, and funds.

Because of this, we are taking a new approach - we are seeking contracts with municipal entities to ensure our ability to provide this valuable public service.

More to come...

Jan 4, 2013

Out of the Frying Pan

Grease bins contain used fryer oil from restaurants. Here, the lid is left open.

Over the last week, we received multiple reports of a gull entangled in fishing line and hooks. It was apparently hanging out at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, at the far end by the restaurants.

On December 30, Duane and Rebecca went to look. Armed with a long-handled net and a big bag of Fritos, the duo began scouring the pier in search of the injured seabird.

As they were walking past the first set of restaurants, Rebecca happened to spot a rock pigeon in an open grease bin. It was feasting on fatty bits and pieces suspended in the discarded fryer oil.

Oil is oil, and exposure to it can be extremely harmful to birds.

Feathers act like shingles on a roof - it's their structure and alignment that protect a bird from the elements and help it retain body heat.

Certain substances can cause feathers to 'collapse' - like oil or soapy water. When this happens, a bird loses its ability to thermoregulate and can quickly suffer hypothermia.

This close-up of a pelican's chest illustrates how feathers can part down to the skin, letting in cold water and air. This bird was exposed to water discharged from a fish processing facility in Monterey. 

The pigeon was greasy and in trouble, and so were a handful of others nearby. It was obvious they, too, had dined at the grease bin. 

Note the 'puffed-up' and 'hunched' appearance. This often indicates a bird is cold or unwell. 

The team planned their capture, setting the net and baiting the birds with crumbles. Within a few minutes they caught four oiled pigeons - two by hand!

With the rock pigeons safely contained in ventilated containers in the rescue vehicle, Duane and Rebecca resumed their search for the gull.

It wasn't long before it appeared - walking out from behind a parked car. The bird was hungry, and baited-in easily.

All five birds were transported to Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz.

We are extremely grateful to have them as a resource for infirm wildlife, including rock pigeons. Many wildlife rehabilitation hospitals do not treat pigeons as they are a non-native species.

The rock pigeon, also known as the rock dove, is not native to North America. It was introduced from Europe in the 1600s. It's not clear where their original range was, but hieroglyphics indicate pigeons were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago.

Check out the short video, below, to learn more about the amazing rock pigeon. Enjoy!