Aug 30, 2013

The amazing barn owl

Check out this wonderful video - a tribute to a pair of barn owls that beat the odds, raising 8 young during one of the wettest British summers on record. 

Set to Nella Fantasia, based on Gabriel's Oboe from The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Quite lovely.

Consider attracting barn owls to your property by building and installing a barn owl nest box. Purchase our design and instructions HERE, or email us for a quote to build and install.

Our design is one of the finest, with enough room inside for a large family of owls, no perches or shelves to aid predation by great horned owls, and the entrance is high enough to keep juveniles inside until they are well developed.

Want more? 

Consider your own private live-streaming owl channel, like this one HERE

Keep an eye on owl activity inside the nest box, day and night, from home or cell phone. Very cool!

Aug 24, 2013

Introducing WildHelp

By Rebecca Dmytryk

The single greatest challenge faced by those who find a wild animal in distress is locating the right person or organization that can help - help rescue it and/or treat its injuries. 

This isn't a localized issue, it's pervasive, throughout the United States, and, while over the decades there have been great advances made in the care and rehabilitation of ill and injured wild animals, there has been little improvement in this one critical area of wildlife rescue.

If we can bridge the gap - if we can connect the finder with an expert who can help - quickly - even over the phone, we will save more lives.

I am extremely proud to introduce WildHelp. 

WildHelp is a mobile application that will allow a person to report and find help for a wild animal using their smartphone. The app will connect users with the nearest rescuer specializing in the type of animal found.

WildHelp will revolutionize the way people report and find help for wild animals in distress, helping to save thousands of lives every year.

Please, help us make this amazing life-saving tool a reality by making a pledge through Kickstarter. It's a safe and secure way to back this project. If we're successful in reaching our goal, only then will you be asked to fulfill your pledge.

Check it out on Kickstarter, HERE.

Make your pledge, HERE!

Like WildHelp on Facebook, HERE.

Thank you!


Aug 23, 2013

Friday Pelicans

By Deanna Barth

It was another busy day at the veterinary clinic where I work, so I wasn't able to start my rounds at the Monterey Fisherman's Wharf until 2:00 PM. Today, that coincided nicely with the arrival of one of the sport fishing boats. 

As the boat pulled up to the dock, a large group of pelicans landed in the water nearby, anxiously waiting. There was a mixture of adult and juvenile birds, and they all looked in great shape - no apparent injuries or fishing line entanglements, that I could see. 

The fishermen began cleaning and filleting fish for their passengers. As they normally do, they tossed the scraps, the spiny skeletons and large fish heads, into the water for the pelicans and seals. 

With each toss, there was a frenzy as the pelicans and seals rushed in for their share. It is so frustrating to watch, knowing how dangerous this is for the birds. 

Pelicans can swallow fairly large whole fish. You can watch a pelican manipulate a large fish in its pouch until it's angled just right so it slides down the bird's throat without a problem. The bony scraps, however, get caught in the pouch and throat, even piercing through. 

Disposing of fish scraps this way also results in severe sometimes fatal injuries to the pelicans from seal bites.

After getting a good look at all the birds by the boat, I walked the pier for a couple of hours, scoping gulls for injuries until the next fishing boat arrived, trailing new birds. 

I watched the process unfold again - the offloading of passengers, the cleaning of the fish, and again, there were no injured or entangled birds.

Having had their fill, the pelicans began to disperse. I was scanning each one with my binoculars, when I spotted a juvenile pelican being followed closely by a gull. The gull was pecking at its bill. The poor bird had a giant fish head lodged in it pouch. 

The pelican stretched its neck over and over trying to choke down the spiny fish head, but to no avail.  

I watched it swim beneath the pier, away from the fishing boats and out towards the harbor.

I ran to the other side, knowing it will stop at the float (I’ve watched them enough to know their habits). 

Sure enough, it was there. 

Wearing gloves, I grabbed discarded fish scraps out of a nearby bucket, and walked out onto the loading platform and dangled it in front of the bird. It showed no interest. 

I set the carcass on the ledge. A few minutes later, the pelican flew onto the platform. With a clear strike, I grabbed hold of its bill, then enlisted the help of a gentleman walking by to help hold the pelican while I removed the fish from its pouch. Success. We released hold of the bird and it flew off.

Right then, I saw a juvenile paddling by. It was trailing a strand of fishing line. I played with the fish scraps to get its attention, but it swam away. To my surprise, however, it flew up onto the deck behind me and walked behind a trash can.  

With the trash can blocking its view of me, I was able to sneak close and catch it off guard. It was a fairly simple capture.

With line wrapped around its body and across its wings, surly it had one or more hooks embedded in its body. It would need medical care.

I placed a sheet over its head and body and carried it to my vehicle. Once safely inside a pet carrier, I transported it to SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center for initial treatment. If it requires more intensive care, it will be transferred to pelican experts at International Bird Rescue in Cordelia, CA.

Aug 10, 2013

Friday rounds and a Saturday rescue

By Deanna Barth

Yesterday, I spent about 3 hours at Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf, watching the fishing boats come in, with pelicans following closely behind. I'd been checking weekly, anxiously awaiting their arrival. This was the first time to see a good number of birds.

About this time each year we experience an influx of pelicans along the coast - mostly the young-of-the-year, just fledged from pelican rookeries on the channel Islands off Southern California and in Mexico. It's also the time of year we see an increase in the ill and injured. 

I like to routinely visit the hot spots, the wharfs and jetties, to look for ones in trouble. 

Today, there were about twenty pelicans at the wharf. One bird appeared to be covered in fish oil (from the processing plant), but it never came close enough for me to attempt a capture. I left the wharf empty-handed.

Early this morning, however, I received a call from our director, informing me of a grounded pelican in Hollister, just 15 minutes from my house - I couldn't believe it! That's more than 20 miles inland, as the pelican flies.

According to the reporting party, the young brown pelican had landed in one of the large trees in their front yard off Fairview, sometime late yesterday. It fell out of the tree, toppled onto their boat and down onto the ground this morning. That's when she called.

As she made numerous calls to find help, no one believed her, she said. Granted, she'd never seen a pelican in real life, but said she knew right away it was a pelican of some kind from seeing the movie Finding Nemo. She was spot on.

I threw on my rescue attire, and was on scene in minutes. When I got there, the bird was standing, resting, with its head tucked between its wings. It appeared thin and weak.

I figured I could probably walk right up to it and simply pick it up, but I’ve learned to never assume a rescue is going to be that easy. I have learned to prepare for the unexpected, always.

So, with ridiculously long-handled net in hand, I crouched behind the small boat in the driveway, and, while keeping completely out of view of the bird, I crept into position. Like I would do with a very fit bird, I then sprang forward in a flash to catch the bird off guard. The pelican never moved. I set down my net and scooped the poor animal into my arms.

It was, indeed, very, very thin, very weak, and covered in pelican pouch lice.

I placed the pelican in a crate, drove home for a quick shower, then transferred it to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, where it will be examined and stabilized before being sent for long-term rehabilitation at aquatic bird specialists, International Bird Rescue, in Cordelia, CA.  

Elusive marmot captured

Photo by Traci Tsukida Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
The Marmot of Bernal Heights has been captured! At least we think so...

Late Wednesday, WES received a call from a San Francisco Animal Control Officer. He was looking for some help in identifying what he very accurately described as looking like a mix between a ground squirrel and a prairie dog. That would be a marmot, the largest of the Marmotinis, or ground squirrel tribe.

Found in alpine meadows and grasslands above 6,000', yellow-bellied marmots are notorious for stowing away in car engine compartments of unsuspecting visitors and hitching rides to lower elevations. 

According to eye-witnesses, the marmot popped out from under the hood of someone's car Wednesday afternoon and ran onto the playground of the Alvarado Elementary School. The man whose car it was mentioned he had driven from the Mission District, about half a mile from where the Bernal Heights marmot was seen last.

Since June 26th, WES has been in pursuit of a yellow-bellied marmot in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. Up until about three weeks ago, when sightings stopped, the marmot had been seen fairly regularly in the backyards of homes on Bocana Street. Although we were not successful in capturing the large rodent, its presence captured the attention of the community - it even has its own Twitter account - Bernal Marmot (quite entertaining).

After reviewing photographs and behavior, we do believe the animal captured by San Francisco Animal Control is, indeed, the Bernal Heights' marmot. 

On Thursday morning, one of our responders, Ken, transported the marmot from the animal shelter to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where it was given a thorough examination. The exam revealed it to be a young female, weighing almost 4 1/2 pounds, wriggly, and in excellent physical condition. She was good to go, but where exactly?

Thanks to the media coverage back in June, we received a few good leads on where the marmot may have come from. One, in particular, seemed most likely. Everything fit - the dates, time, location. We believe the marmot hitched a ride from Yosemite National Park.

We contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for authorization to return the animal to the wild, then connected with Park authorities and received their blessing for the animal's return.

Thanks to one of our wonderful responders, Akira, who volunteered to make the 431-mile journey there and back, the little whistle-pig was returned home today. She was released at White Wolf Campground at about 3:00 PM.


A special Thank You to the Rock Bar in San Francisco for helping celebrate the repatriation of the marmot to her home and for helping raise funds to offset her "travel" expenses. This evening from 4:00 - 9:00 PM, they served up a special cocktail, The Marmot, donating $2.00 of each one sold.

Aug 8, 2013

Another skunk freed from a rat trap

Newest generation of powerful snap traps. 

Photo by Monique Lee

You may remember this poor young skunk (her story HERE). She spent at least 18 hours with a rat trap on her nose and upper lip. She ended up losing the tip of her nose and lip in this horrible, and very preventable, accident.

This morning, we responded to a call about a small skunk in another one of these new, powerful snap traps. 

The RP was the person who set the trap. He was mortified and had been searching for help for the skunk since 3:00 AM until he received WES' number.

Check out the video of its rescue:

The skunk was delivered to Native Animal Rescue's specialist, Monique, for rehabilitative care.

UPDATE: 8-16-13

According to Monique, "Ernie", the skunk is ready for release!


Aug 4, 2013

Pelican rescued on Cabrillo Highway

This afternoon, WES received a report of a California brown pelican on the Cabrillo Highway where it crosses over Highway 156. The reporting party, Matt, was traveling northbound and noticed the bird sitting on the shoulder of the bridge. He gave an excellent description - that the bird appeared alive, its head was up, and its wings were tucked normally.

The California Highway Patrol was alerted of the situation. Officer Yerace was on scene when our first responder arrived. 

After a quick assessment and briefing, Officer Yerace circled back to run a traffic break for our rescuer.

On approach, the bird was quiet and alert, and easily netted.

We believe the bird was flying low over the highway when it was struck by a vehicle. It sustained a severe injury to its bill, but appeared to be in pretty good shape, considering. The injuries from this accident, however, may not be the worst of its problems.

This is a very young pelican - only a few months, and its body condition was somewhat poor, meaning, it may have something else wrong. It just might be one of the many hatch-year birds that is failing to thrive. Survival of the fittest at work.

With luck, this young bird will recover from its injuries to have a second chance at survival.

Overall, it seems to be a good year for brown pelicans along the California Coast. Quite different than last year, when hundreds of starving young pelicans were being found up and down the coast. They would flock to piers and fish cleaning stations looking for food and wind up in trouble.

Last year, International Bird Rescue, which operates two of the largest aquatic bird facilities in California, treated about 951 pelicans - 600 were starving young of the year.

Thank you Matt for taking the time to call about this poor bird!

UPDATE 8-10-13: We just learned the young bird did not make it. As feared, it was a very weak individual, not destined to survive.