Jul 29, 2013

Another skunk freed

Check out the latest skunk release video. It demonstrates the technique of freeing a skunk from a cage trap. First, the cage should be draped with a bed sheet or large beach towel so it's covered entirely. This is done very, very slowly and quietly. Next, the door must be propped open. Next, while backing up, the fabric can be slowly pulled off the cage, revealing the animal - this will encourage the animal to move to the front of the cage and out the opening. 

This skunk was inadvertently trapped by someone hoping to capture a feral cat. Tip: Set traps for cats during daylight hours only, to avoid trapping nocturnal wildlife.

Jul 27, 2013

Team effort saves pelican

Great team effort to save a pelican. TeamOCEAN radioed one of our first responders, Ron Eby, about a pelican that seemed to be in trouble. At the time, Ron was on the water doing some research monitoring for Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The bird had gone ashore in a wildlife viewing area. By boat, Ron tracked it down and was able capture it before it got back in the water. 

The bird had a hook deeply imbedded in its neck and damaged feathers from the line.

Ron radioed Monterey Bay Kayaks to pre-stage a box for him at their shop in Moss Landing, where the bird was later picked up by SPCA for Monterey Wildlife Center. 

Good example of teamwork between MBK, TeamOCEAN, ESNERR and the SPCAMC!

Jul 22, 2013

Deer tangled in utility netting

In the ocean, seine nets, like gill nets, are large panels of netting that hang vertically in the water - held up by floats and held down with weights. This fishing method is so effective, the practice must be regulated to reduce bycatch of non-target species.

Abandoned or lost nets pose a significant risk to sea life. If you're interested, HERE is a 2009 report on and toll of abandoned fishing gear, with some staggering figures.

Eco diver Peter Reimann frees an angel shark from netting.
Source: The Daily Telegraph

Netting is netting on land or at sea. Left unattended, nets ensnare, maim, and kill indiscriminately. 

Here is a recent example of how a panel of netting, just like a fishing net, was left unattended in a forest and nearly killed a young deer. 

A couple was walking near their home off Branciforte Drive in the wooded hills above Santa Cruz, when they happened to notice a young black-tailed deer entangled in netting material, about 30' off the road.

The one-year old buck was stuck in a very tall, very wide panel of nylon netting, strung alongside a creek. This type of netting, often referred to as utility netting, is used, for example, as perimeter fencing around sports fields, golf courses, and batting cages.

The residents phoned the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter, and WES was called to assist.

On scene, Officer Michael Sharp and WES' Rebecca Dmytryk worked together to untangle the traumatized animal. Check out the video:

Once freed, the animal bolted for safety - a good sign that it will recover from the ordeal. 

Prey animals, like deer, can suffer from something called exertional myopathy. It occurs when high-stress animals are pursued, captured, or restrained. In very simple terms, in struggling to get free, an animal's muscles may be damaged beyond repair. There is no cure for EM, only prevention.

As for the netting. WES' director has contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to ask that they look into this incident and have the netting removed from the forest.

Jul 18, 2013

Barn owl re-nested in Hollister

By Deanna Barth

It was close to 5:00 pm on Friday evening and I was making my way home from a wildlife call in Santa Cruz, when I was notified of a barn owl chick in trouble in Hollister, CA. It had been found on the ground, hiding between two walls in an industrial part of town.

With no wildlife rescue organization or wildlife hospital nearby (the Nan Pipestem Wildlife Rehabilitation Center closed recently), there are few resources for wild animals in distress and the people who find them.

Thankfully, Anna Patterson of the Hollister City Animal Shelter responded to the call and delivered the owl to a local veterinary clinic for evaluation. 

The barn owl was examined and found to be in good shape, just young. Unfortunately, the clinic was due to close before I could arrive, so they agreed to feed and house it overnight.

I went to the parking lot where the owlet was found to see if I could locate its nest. White excrement and scattered owl pellets on the cement directly beneath a drain in the wall, about 25' high, gave it away. 

I had a pretty good feeling that this is where the young owl had fallen from, but I wanted to be sure it was an active nest, so I went home and returned about three hours later, after dark. I stood beneath the drain and played a barn owl call on my iPhone. Within seconds I heard a return call from within. Yes!!! I had my daughter with me and she was really excited to hear the call.

The next morning I drove to the veterinary office to pick up the little owl. It had been housed near barking dogs and there would be a lot of human activity so I wanted to get it out of that environment for the day until we could re-nest it. I planned to attempt the reunion later in the evening, when there would be less activity in the parking lot by the nest.

My daughter and husband joined me in this exciting adventure. After my husband’s help placing the extension ladder, I made my way up to the hole and got my first peek inside the drain. To my surprise, there was a 90 degree angle in the pipe, not far inside. I could not see anything inside other than feathers and remnants of earlier meals.


Back on the ground, I took the owlet out of the crate and placed a pillow case over its head to reduce stress, then I slowly made my way back up the ladder.  

At the top, I removed the pillow case and gently placed the owl just inside the opening. It ran into the drain, turned the corner and then I heard loud hissing and screeching.  There was at least one other owlet in there, perhaps two.  

This chatter echoed in the drain. Even my husband and daughter could hear it clearly from below. This went on for several minutes and we all laughed at the thought of the siblings not being so happy about this ones return!  Hopefully this time it will stay put.  

For peace of mind, I went back the following morning and was happy not to see an owlet on the ground. Success!

I have been a first responder with WES for a couple of years now, and this was my first solo re-nesting. I feel really good about it - like I've "flown from the nest" myself!

Puzzling wildlife deaths at solar projects

There have been a substantial number of wildlife deaths at solar projects. Below are links to a series of articles written by environmental journalist Chris Clarke that bring this important news to the world. Check it out:

April 16th Government Study: Big Renewable Energy Projects Threaten Wildlife

July 10th Endangered Bird Found Dead at Desert Solar Power Facility

July 17th Water Birds Turning Up Dead at Solar Projects in the Desert

July 18th Great Blue Herons Die At Solar Project

Jul 17, 2013

San Jose beaver found injured

Stock photo by Ralph Arvesen

Scientists consider the beaver a keystone species of a healthy ecosystem, playing a crucial role in biodiversity of wetland habitat. Beaver have been missing from the San Jose area for more than 150 years... until recently. 

Beavers residing near downtown San Jose (affectionately being called Beavertown) were discovered in March when naturalist Roger Castillo, founder of Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Group, was walking along the river and noticed a willow tree with distinctive beaver markings. He notified Greg Kerekes, of Urban Wildlife Research Project (UWRP) who set up trail cameras under the willow and captured images of not one, but three beavers (video) - a female and her offspring. 

The beavers are believed to have originated from the Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos, where they were re-introduced in the early 1990s. 

The appearance of the beaver family on the Guadalupe River coincided with removal of illegal encampments along the waterway - a good indication that the river can, once again, be the rich ecosystem it was.

Because of their tendency to construct dams and cause flooding, beavers are not always welcomed, especially in an urban setting. A coalition of urban wildlife supporters, spearheaded by Kerekes and Guadalupe River Park Conservancy (GRPC)  convinced Santa Clara Valley Water District to allow the beavers to stay.

On Monday, July 7th, Kerekes noticed that one of the three beavers he'd been monitoring - the adult female, had something wrapped around her midsection. See the video, HERE. He thought it might be some sort of manmade debris. He alerted a network of Bay Area beaver supporters, including GRPC and Martinez-based Worth a Dam.

WES was also notified of the injured animal and 
received authorized from California Department of Fish and Wildlife to lead search and rescue efforts.

WES' founder and director, Rebecca Dmytryk, reviewed Kerekes' footage and agreed it looked like a plastic ring, like a packaging strap.

The strap around the beaver's waist hindered her mobility and would eventually cut into the her skin. The animal needed to be captured quickly if it was to survive.

On July 9th, WES assembled a rescue team consisting of representatives from GRPC, City of San Jose Parks, and UWRP. For three consecutive nights, two large cage traps were set near the willow. They were monitored continuously from sunset to midnight, but the beaver never appeared.(A huge Thank You! to everyone who took a shift!) 

Duane Titus and Mike Peasland setting a large cage trap on the riverbank. Duane fitted
the traps with a mechanism that would alert responders via radio when it was triggered.

As Dmytryk explains in her book, Wildlife Search and Rescue, establishing an animal's pattern is key to a successful capture plan. At this point, there was little to go on.

The team increased daylight searches along the banks of the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek looking for the beaver's lodge and signs of foraging, but found nothing. On July 15th, Duane and Rebecca met a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a 5 a.m. search using spotlights and a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared), but the beaver was not found.

WES' Duane Titus, who spent months on the Yellowstone River oil spill in 2011,
looking for oiled wildlife, searches the Los Gatos Creek for signs of beaver activity.

That afternoon, though, Kerekes' camera caught the beaver on the bank by the willow, just about an hour before the team had arrived. She was back in the area!

Later, the team set a cage trap and monitored it from the trail above. This time, they actually saw her come ashore and explore the riverbank. She appeared slower, possibly weaker. See the video HERE

Later, the team set one of the traps and monitored from the trail above. This time, they actually saw the injured beaver. She appeared slower, possibly weaker. 

Unfortunately, the beaver never entered the trap, but the sighting was incredibly valuable. It confirmed she was still alive and proved her fidelity to the embankment beneath the willow. 

With this information, WES' wildlife capture specialists developed a new plan.

Last night, a sophisticated netting enclosure was set up under the willow.

Duane, an electrical contractor by trade, rigged lights in the trees to aid in the nighttime capture.

By 7:30, the rest of the team - consisting of wildlife handlers from Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, GRPC, and UWRP arrived at Guadalupe River Park. After a run-through, they settled in to wait for the beaver, which could have been hours.

At about 8:30, Leslee with GRPC radioed from across the river that she spotted the beaver heading for the bank. Everyone took their assigned positions. 

Duane and Rebecca crouched in tall grass overlooking the embankment, Duane's hand on the rope that would pull up the net and entrap the large rodent.

It was dark except for a few streetlights and their reflections on the water. As the beaver approached, ripples gave away her location. When she climbed onto land, it was the light reflecting off her flat tail that allowed us to see her movement. She didn't seem to notice the netting material she passed over on her way to our offerings - a pile of freshly cut willow branches, cottonwood and fennel. 

She was clearly within the enclosure. Duane pulled tight on the rope, raising a wall of netting. Rebecca called out "Lights!". Duane handed control of the rope to Mike and raced down the trail, netting the beaver in an open-ended hoop net. Greg from Happy Hollow used a second net to secure the animal. The two of them worked to cut the chord from the animal's body. Sure enough, it was a packaging strap - like the ones used to bundle newspapers.

The rest of the crew had assembled with herding boards and the transport carrier. Working together, they manipulated the animal into the crate without ever having to touch it.

Ashley Kinney, Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor with Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley was alerted and agreed to meet responders at her facility to give the animal a quick exam.

Beavers can overheat when out of water and under stress. Our newest responder, Dana, transported the animal in her vehicle with the air conditioner on high, blowing into the carrier. 

The beaver appeared to be in excellent condition and able to be released back to the wild. Ice packs were placed under a towel to keep the animal cool for the return trip.

The rest of the crew had just finished taking down the net enclosure when Dana arrived. The crate was carried down to the willowwill where Greg Kerekes opened the crate door to release his wild friend.

The beaver took a few deliberate steps to the water, submerged her head, then slid into the river. With a slap of her tail she disappeared into the darkness.

Check out the video below:


Please consider supporting WES' efforts to help animals in distress with a donation of any size, HERE.

We would also like to encourage you to donate towards the purchase of additional trail cameras for Urban Wildlife Rescue Project, HERE.

Would you like to become a Wildlife Emergency First Responder? Go HERE to sign up to volunteer. 

Learn wildlife capture techniques like the one used in this beaver rescue in Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide for First Responders.

Jul 12, 2013

Progressive predator policies

Commentary by Rebecca Dmytryk

Today, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted provisions to the state's wolf management program that will make lethal control of wolves involved in livestock deaths a last resort.

The result of a lawsuit brought on by conservationists in 2011, these new rules make previously ambiguous language very, very clear - ranchers must now show that they have implemented non-lethal measures to prevent conflicts with wolves before a depredation permit will be issued. As it should be. 

Ranchers must also show evidence that a particular radio-collared wolf was in the area at the time of the killing to ensure only the problem animals are targeted.

The new rules clearly define "chronic depredation" as four qualifying incidents attributed to the same wolf or wolves within a six-month period, and even under this four-strike policy, the state maintains final say - if the animal is killed or not.

These changes make this one of the most progressive wildlife management plans in the country - a model for others to follow.

Read more, HERE, and a detailed description of the settlement HERE.

Jul 8, 2013

Of gulls and ducts

Yesterday, WES received a call from the owner of a business in Santa Cruz. She had just opened her office door to do some weekend cleaning and found a baby gull wandering around on the carpet. Also on the floor, was one of the ceiling air vents. 

The baby must have fallen in from the rooftop and slipped through the ducts and into the office space. It had probably dropped in sometime after closing on Friday night.
The downy chick was transported to Native Animal Rescue on 17th Avenue where it received a through examination. It was in excellent shape.

That afternoon, Duane and Rebecca set out to return the baby to its parents. 

As Duane climbed the ladder, the parent gulls became alarmed. Their calls got the attention of other gulls that came to investigate. 

Once on the rooftop, Duane found the nest with another baby gull nearby. He also found what had happened - one of the metal doors of the building's air conditioning units had fallen off.

Gulls are semi-precocial. They hatch with their eyes open and covered in down. Within a day, they are able to walk and leave the nest to explore. When frightened, they will hide in or under vegetation, or whatever they can find.

The chick must have been exploring or maybe it got scared and tried to hide in the air conditioning unit.

After securing the door back in place, Duane collected the one baby gull and placed it on the nest with its sibling - the one that had fallen. He covered them with a dark piece of fabric to keep them quiet while he walked away. This technique reduces the chance of them panicking and scattering.

Once on the ladder, Duane tugged a rope to remove the fabric off the chicks. They stood and walked off together, slowly, which is what we wanted.

This morning, another chick was found inside the building!

Duane returned that one, too.

Marmot: The Saga Continues

Photo by Susan McCarthy
The marmot saga continues, with one of WES' lead responders, Susan McCarthy hot on the trail of the wily member of the marmotini tribe. 

Susan has been dedicating her free time to tracking down the rodents whereabouts, speaking with neighbors in the Bernal Heights area where it's been hanging out. She has cage traps set during daylight hours, baited with delicious spinach fried with bacon (a suggestion made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Meanwhile, we've had a few residents call us to say that they had returned from trips to the Sierras around the time the marmot showed up. One in particular seems promising. 

With luck, we'll lure the beast into one of the cages by the end of the week so it can be returned home. 

Stay tuned!

Jul 7, 2013

Squirrel, caught in the act!

This afternoon, WES was alerted of an emergency involving a tree squirrel - it was caught in a bird feeder. Somehow, it managed to get its back end stuck in garden wire meant to protect the feeder from squirrels. Check out the video of its rescue.


Skunk Freed

This morning, WES received a call about a skunk that had been inadvertently trapped and in a cage trap for over 24 hours. Apparently, there was no one in the Monterey County area that could or would respond to set the skunk free. 

WES responders, Duane and Rebecca, were on scene within 30 minutes. They found the skunk to be in good shape, even though it had spent at least one full day and night exposed to the elements.

Thankfully, the homeowners had covered the trap with a shirt and provided the animal with food. 
Duane carefully opened the trap and waited for the animal to find its way out. Check out the video:

Cage traps are used to trap animals alive, but, in California, relocation of trapped wildlife is prohibited, and for good reasons. Not only is it an unsound practice, studies show most relocated animals die trying to get back home. Lawfully trapped animals, then, must either be released on site or euthanized. The key word being "lawfully".

There are quite a number of regulations governing the trapping of wildlife. Rebecca and Duane are founding members of the Humane Wildlife Control Association, HEREon their company's web site, they attempt to clarify the State's trapping regulations and discuss why trapping is not the answer.

Jul 4, 2013

Turkey poults in Morgan Hill

Photo by Kevin Cole.

This morning we received a call from a family in rural Morgan Hill. Earlier, they had inadvertently startled a female turkey and her young that had been walking across their front lawn. Reacting to their mother's alarm call, the poults scattered.

According to the RP, two of them split off in separate directions and took cover in shrubbery, and six or seven slipped under the side gate and into the backyard.

The hen kept up with the peeping poults, following them into the yard. She stayed close, nervously patrolling, ready to fend off predators while seemingly trying to calculate an escape for her wee ones.

Duane was on scene within 40 minutes. Here is his account:

When I got there, the family had most of the poults confined to a corner of the yard. They were hunkered down on leaf matter in the shade of a bushy tree.
Since it was the Fourth of July and there was a fair bit of activity in the neighborhood, I wanted to get them away from the houses. I felt this would be better than letting them out directly onto the street.
As I approached the corner where the babies were corralled, the hen flew onto the fence right above me. She watched intently as I gathered her little ones into a pet carrier.  
Wild turkey poults are lightening-fast - lightening-poults! Two slipped by me. One went in one direction, the other headed down the fence line.  
While I was collecting the escapee to my left, the hen began escorting the other poult away from danger, leading it to the farthest corner. There, it found a hole in the wooden fence and squeezed through into a neighboring yard, where it quickly sought cover.
With the hen becoming increasingly agitated, I thought it best to reunite her with those I'd already collected. We'd come back for the lost ones.
I took one of the poults in hand so it would make a loud distress call. This quickly got the mother's attention. I walked to the front of the house. She followed, flying to the rooftop where she watched me cross the street to an open field.  
Following the sound of her chicks, she crossed the road and approached the crate. I tipped the carrier and released all of the poults at once. At first, they scattered, but quickly regrouped at their mother's side. I then went back to look for the missing ones. 
When I entered the backyard, I heard a peep. Then silence. A couple more peeps, then quiet again. It sounded like it was coming from the corner where I'd collected the babies. I decided to sift through the leaf matter, and when I got down about 4", out shot another fuzzy poult!
I needed to get it back to the hen, quickly. I knew where she was. She had taken refuge in the shade of some trees next to an old wooden shed. 
Instead of walking up on her, I used the truck to get close. I parked on the shoulder of the road, about 40' from where she was bedded down with her brood. With the poult in hand, I got out of the truck and positioned myself at the front where my frame was hidden, but where I could see through the windshield.
The poult's distress calls drew the hen from the bushes. As she approached the truck, I placed the baby on the ground, facing her, but the baby turned and ran for cover - under the truck! It's mom was right there, though. She quickly collected her baby and guided it into the shade.
Later in the afternoon, Rebecca went back to the location to scout for the remaining poults. Here is her account.
It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when I arrived. I decided to focus on locating the one or two poults that had been separated from the start. I sat in the shade, quietly, waiting, listening. After about 30 minutes, I decided to drive around the block, and as I was pulling out, I heard a distress call. I stayed in the truck until I honed in on the sound.
There it was. The little poult emerged from a bush and was headed for the street.
When it saw me get out of the truck, it started to bolt for cover. Without taking my eyes off of it, I grabbed for my net from the back of the truck and went after it, netting it in a planter. I placed the baby in a carrier and took a minute to record its calls to use later.
Next, I went to the property that backs up to the yard where the poults had been - the yard that the one had slipped into. Thankfully, the family was home and answered the door. They had actually just seen the poult - about fifteen minutes before, but after trying to capture it, they lost sight of it.
I scoured the backyard. Nothing. I played the recorded calls. Nothing. I walked up and down the block. Not a peep. So, I decided to look for the hen.

Windows down, I drove through the residential neighborhood and up and around the small rural lanes off Hill Road. I came across a lone turkey, and a jackrabbit, but no hen. I went back through again, this time playing the distress calls over my iPhone. I felt a little silly. It was pretty loud, and I was just creeping along like an ice cream truck.
I was just about to call it, when I spotted her! There she was, up ahead of me on the country lane, crossing back over into the field where Duane had left her. There were six poults trailing her. They had just made it across the shoulder. I needed to be fast. 
I leaned over and grabbed the baby from the box, turned on the camera, and pulled over onto the left shoulder. The hen was almost to the tall grass when she heard her baby calling, and stopped. I popped the door open to do a "drive by" and started to lean out, when my seatbelt put a sharp stop to my otherwise graceful move. Fumbling, I got free and gently tossed the ball of fluff about a foot out from the car - but it immediately turned and headed for the cover of the truck (now stopped). 
The hen was quick - she was on it! Her maternal instinct kicked in and she paid no mind to anything but getting her little one to follow her, which it did... and, as fast as she turned "on", she was "off" again - emotionless, Reptilian. She regained that slow, deliberate, theropodian-stride and led her babies into the tall grass where they disappeared. 
Check out the video:

We checked back with both households to see if they had spotted one of the lost poults, but they had not. We'll keep checking and will post an update.

Interesting turkey links:

Full episode of PBS' My Life As A Turkey

More Than A Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality

Jul 1, 2013

From across the pond...

Every once in a while we share news from colleagues in the United Kingdom. Check out the latest news from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) written by Founder & Casualty Centre Manager, Trevor Weeks MBE.

These two hedgehogs have come into WRAS’s Casualty Care Centre covered in dried mud after being trapped in a foundation trench on a building site at Westham over the weekend.  Builders discovered the two hedgehogs now named “Bill and Ben”  and rescued them from the trench. 
WRAS volunteers Chris and student Bryony came with me to check out the situation and none of us expected to find such muddy hedgehogs. I have never had to rescue a hedgehogs as badly covered in mud as these before. We often get them with mud on but not with so much caked and dried onto their fur and spines, especially round the faces like this. 
WRAS would normally release the hedgehogs back in their home range that same evening, but due to the building work being undertaken and the depth of the trench  the hedgehogs are being kept in care for a few days.
The first thing we did was to check to see if they were boys or girls, as we wouldn’t want to keep a female away from her babies at this time of year. Luckily they were boys so they were delivered to the Casualty Centre for a clean up. Student Bryony helped me wash them both. 
Now with their spines shining once more the two hedgehogs are being housed and fed in their new accommodation and will be released back at Westham at the end of the week once the trench has been filled in and is no longer a risk. The builders are going to keep an eye on the trench and check it regularly to ensure no others get stuck.
WRAS rescues between 400 and 600 hedgehogs a year. Pevensey Park Road, Rattle Road, Castle View Gardens and the surrounding roads are all very lively areas for hedgehogs certainly a hot spot for them.
Fingers crossed we will get them released safety later in the week.

To make a donation to this wonderful charity, click HERE.