Dec 28, 2013

The Fox and the Fence

Yesterday, WES received an urgent call from a Los Gatos resident. A fox was caught by its head in a chain link fence. The reporting party (RP) had just spotted it in her backyard, but the animal could have been stuck for some time.

Gray foxes are excellent climbers - they can scale tall chain link fences with ease. For some reason, though, this gray fox tried to go through the wire mesh rather than up and over it. 

One of our volunteer First Responders, Dana, responded. Here's her story:

When I arrived on scene, the RP showed led me to where the fox was trapped. Not surprisingly, the animal was extremely stressed, and it was important that we rescue him as quickly as possible. 

The fox had, somehow, managed to wedge his head through one of the small diamond-shaped openings and could not pull himself free, though there was evidence that he had struggled for a long time. In his attempts to get free, he'd dug a deep hole in the dirt.

After getting a look at the situation firsthand, I created a plan of action that would allow me to remove the fox from the wire, but maintain control enough to then place him into a transport carrier. We did not want to just set the fox free. We did not know how long it had been stuck or if it was injured. 

As I approached the fox, it struggled to get away, but then quieted as I got hold of him. 

Its head was stuck so tight that I had to cut two wires, which then allowed it to wiggle out and wait guidance. 

Once in the carrier, he quieted down quickly, which is not always a good sign. We delivered the fox to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, where he would receive an examination and treatment for any injuries.

Photo Credit: Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

UPDATE: December 30th 

Photo Credit: Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

Today we received word that the fox is improving. He was admitted with a limp - perhaps that's why he tried to go through the fence to begin with, rather than climb over it. He was also treated for dehydration. 

It looks like he'll be ready for release in a couple of days!

UPDATE: January 3rd

The fox was released this evening, just before dark. Dana transported the fox back to Los Gatos and released the fox in the wooded front yard next door to where it had been trapped. Check out the video:

Happy New Year, Fox!


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Dec 26, 2013

Warbler in Malibu CVS

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Duane and I had driven to Malibu to celebrate the holiday with family and friends. We'd spent the day doing some shopping in the Valley and had just sat down for a meal when we received a message from Jo at the California Wildlife Center. She had a report of a bird stuck in the CVS drugstore in Malibu and though we might be interested in responding.

You bet!

I called CVS and spoke with Kare, the store supervisor. She said the bird had been trapped in the building since yesterday, Christmas, and during the night it kept setting off the security alarm system. 

I had Kare describe the bird's behavior. It seemed to be attracted to the windows at the front of the store, landing on signs and hanging wires, but not for long - it kept circling the store, looking for a way out. 

This rescue could not wait - we needed to act quickly.

We grabbed some supplies at a Home Depot - 10' lengths of PVC pipe, packages of 45' X 14' garden netting and some electrical tape, then headed for our hometown, Malibu.

We were on scene just before 7:00 PM. Kare greeted us enthusiastically and pointed out the bird. 

There it was, flitting the perimeter of the drugstore - a yellow-rumped warbler, likely the 'Audubon's race' (so I'm told by my birder-friend).

Warblers eat insects and seeds and in fall and winter they consume the ripened fruit of a variety of plants including juniper, wax myrtle, and poison oak. 

We watched the bird for a few minutes, looking for a pattern. It circled the store in a particular direction, counterclockwise (from North). It landed on the windowsills at the front of the store, and was most interested in the window above the store entrance. Good.

Jonsie Ross, one of the wildlife center's responders joined us for the rescue. Together, we brought in the equipment and began assembling large panels of netting that we would use to confine the bird to a smaller space where it could be netted by hand.

Positions were assigned - Kare, Jonsie and I would work the paneling and Duane would be on the long handled net. 

Just as we'd gotten set up, the bird flew in. We raised the wall of netting and it was trapped! Duane encouraged it to fly into the netting until he was able to get it contained. 

After untangling it from the lightweight mesh, Duane took the little bird outside and set it free.

Check out the video:

Excellent job everyone!!!! 

Thank you Jo for alerting us of the emergency and THANK YOU! Jonsie for your assistance!

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts, thank you!

Dec 24, 2013

Bizarre Impalement

It was the morning before Christmas when WES received a call from a local Wildlife Officer with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He was responding to an incident in Morgan Hill involving an owl stuck on a roof, possibly impaled. Duane and Rebecca responded to assist.

On scene, they found a great horned owl impaled on the spire of a large two-story home.

Somehow, in a freak accident, the pointed conical shaped structure pierced the owl's left wing through, what would be the forearm on a human - the radius and ulna. 

Compare human and bird anatomy, HERE.

According to the homeowner had heard noises on the rooftop the day before, but thought it was coming from the attic. We believe the owl had been stuck for at least a day.

Duane used a ladder to access the roof, and carefully made his way across the clay tiles.

As he neared the owl, he noticed the fresh carcass of an American coot. The owl's last kill. There were bones nearby, too, indicating the tower was frequently used by predatory birds. 

We believe the owl was landing on the tower to consume the coot, when the bizarre accident happened - on a downward flap, the spire pierced its wing. 

Duane gently lifted the raptor up and off the sharp pinnacle, and, with help from the warden, he placed the bird inside a dark sack to keep it quiet and calm. Check out the rescue video:

The owl was placed inside a transport carrier and quickly delivered to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.

The bird was seen immediately, but, unfortunately, the injuries were too severe. In struggling to get free, the owl dislocated its shoulder and there was a tremendous amount of tissue damage. The owl was euthanized.

The homeowners have plans to attach a ball to the point of the spire so this never happens again.

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts, thank you!

Dec 19, 2013

L.A. River Heron Rescue


Injured great blue heron on the Los Angeles river. Photo: Grove Pashley

About three months ago, a great blue heron with fishing line tangled around its foot was spotted along the bank of the Los Angeles River, just north of downtown Los Angeles. 

With no dedicated wildlife rescue service in the Los Angeles area, it took until now for this bird to be rescued, thanks to the efforts of a few concerned citizens and Wildlife Emergency Services.

Grove Pashley tells the story of its rescue:

I grew up and lived in Utah until I was 27 where, as a kid, I enjoyed ponds, lakes, streams and rivers; basically my backyard. I had a Tom Sawyer life, no doubt. 

When I moved to Los Angeles in the mid-80's, I had pretty much left that life behind, until, 8 years ago, when I discovered the Los Angeles River and its slowly re-emerging wildlife in a section known as the Glendale Narrows.

Photo: Grove Pashley
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to find and purchase waterfront property where I would have an excellent view of the many indigenous birds that also made their home along the river - cormorants, snowy egrets, great egrets, kingfishers, mallards, American coots, redtailed hawks, cinnamon teal, killdeer, black-necked stilts and, of course, the iconic bird of the Los Angeles River - the great blue heron.

Photo: Grove Pashley
I hadn't lived there a year before a mated pair of Canada geese started appearing daily. I quickly discovered one had a fish hook in its mouth and fishing line wrapped around its leg. 

I had never, until that time, encountered this kind of situation - an injured wild bird. What to do? 

I made several phone calls, to no avail. 

I continued to see the two geese together, but the injury worsened until the one goose could barely walk. One day, it was gone. I can only assume the bird did not survive, leaving its lifetime mate alone. I wish I could have done more.

A second situation came about this past summer, when I discovered a cormorant also wrapped in fishing line. Same calls. Same results. I was cautioned against attempting to capture the birds myself and leave it to professionals, but where were these professionals? Frustration mounted. 

Then, about three months ago, I discovered that the majestic great blue heron - the one that had graced the shores of this river, was the latest victim of errant fishing line.

Photo: Grove Pashley
I knew this bird well. I saw him daily and photographed him numerous times, but now he limped. I could see fishing line around his right foot and digits. It didn't seem severe at first, so my initial thought was that, hopefully, it would work its way off. What could I do anyway? I'm not a 'professional'.  

Weeks passed and the limping worsened. The great bird now looked weak and haggard. I knew if the heron was to be saved, it was going to take a greater effort on my part.

The first step would be to make sure the bird was getting enough food, so I purchased fresh smelt from the local Thai market, and tossed them onto the embankment where the heron perched. He ate them, readily.

He would come each and every morning - the same place at the same time. 

Eventually, the heron's health seemed to improve. He looked brighter and more active, but I knew his foot needed treatment, desperately.

Again, I made phone calls looking for someone to help capture the bird, only to be referred back and forth from one agency or organization to another.

With nowhere to turn, I started to take my own steps to see if I could capture the bird myself. It was an intimidating situation, but my mind was made up. I had to do something.

I bought some supplies and built a type of drop net trap. My friend, Kathy Bakken, helped.

Our first attempt was part success, part failure. I was able to lure the bird underneath the net, but it wasn't weighted down enough and the heron got free and flew off. Crestfallen, I started planning my next attempt.

Since the heron would not be fooled by this technique again, Kathy and I took to the Internet to research other ways to capture flighted birds. A net gun seemed like a fast and safe method. We came up with a gun that used CO2 cartridges to deploy a large panel of netting. 

Before we went any further, though, I really wanted to find someone with more experience who could, if nothing else, advise us. I reached out to Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR). Through FOLAR I was put into contact with an Audubon bird expert, Dave Weeshoff. He expressed concern about using a net gun, and said I should contact wildlife capture expert, Rebecca Dmytryk, who runs Wildlife Emergency Services (WES).

I immediately placed the call and left a message for Rebecca, and, in just minutes, she called me back. I was so relieved to finally speak with someone who, not only knew how to capture this bird, but had enthusiasm for the task. 

Rebecca and I discussed capture options. Having fed the heron for nearly 4 weeks, I was confident I could get the bird where we needed him. Even so, Rebecca explained that we should keep the net gun as a last resort - that there was too high a chance we'd miss and scare him off for good. Instead, she suggested we try a single noose of fishing line to snare the bird's foot. Oh, the irony of capturing him using fishing line!

One of Rebecca's diagrams showing a possible setup.
Over the next few I collected the supplies I needed for the snare. I practiced making nooses and setting up the equipment. I also practiced firing the net gun, just in case.

Grove practices firing the net gun.

On Monday, Rebecca called and said she had a last-minute change in plans and would be returning to Los Angeles for a few days. The heron's life depended on us being successful, so I was happy she'd be there to help.

Rebecca Dmytryk, capture expert and author of
 WildlifeSearch and Rescue: a Guide for First Responders.

The big day arrived. 

It was pre-dawn on Thursday, December 18th when Dmytryk pulled up to Pashley's home on the river. 

Over coffee, they worked through the capture plan one more time, making a few adjustments to the single snare. 

At first light, they set up the capture site, laying out a single noose. Two of Grove's friends arrived shortly, Agnieszka and Steve. They would direct foot traffic on the bike path, keeping people from stopping and scaring off the heron.

Rebecca tells the rest of the story:

Grove had purchased a couple different types of heavy-duty fishing line for the noose. At first, I was a little skeptical of the waxed fabric line until I played with it. It didn't have the 'memory' the monofilament line did, which tends to cause the line to coil back up.

I made a noose from the new material and fastened it to the end of a very long willow branch I'd brought from home. Together, Grove and I set the noose. We elevated it a few inches using earthquake putty and sticks - a bit odd looking, but it should work.

Yep, it should work, if... If the bird doesn't see me as a threat, if we can draw it near by tossing fish, but not too many fish, if it steps directly into the noose, if the bird doesn't step on the hoop, knocking it loose,... there were so many things that could cause us to fail, but we had to keep positive and try our very best. That's what it comes down to in rescuing wildlife - you have to think it through and do what it takes to have the greatest chance of success.

It was about 6:30. The heron hadn't shown up yet. I donned the ghillie suit and tucked up under a bushy young tree just below the bike path. Steve helped cover my legs with sticks and leaves to break up my form even more. 

I took the line that formed the noose and attached to the willow, and made another noose at the other end, securing it to my right wrist. I drew up the slack, took hold of the willow, stacked my spine and settled in. I'd have to remain motionless, and it could be hours before the bird stepped into the noose.

Finally, the heron was spotted upstream. Grove took his position in his backyard where the heron is used to seeing him.

Grove called out the bird's position, as my vision through the suit was limited to the noose, and little else.

The heron landed on the river bank just below me. Grove tossed a fish to entice it closer.

For an hour, the bird came and went, picking up a fish or two, then flying off. At one point, Steve had to pressure the bird from its spot upstream with the hope it would land closer. It did.

Through the mask, I saw the impressive shadow as the great bird landed. As it made its way up the cement embankment, I caught a glimpse of its feet. Grove tossed another fish, then another, higher up, closer.

The bird spied the pile of smelt on the opposite side of the noose. It limped closer. I felt my heart rate speed up - my breathing, accelerate. I kept repeating to myself, in my head,... hold, hold, hold, hold for the leg, wait for it to be in the center of the noose...

The heron stepped into the noose with its bad leg. Not what I'd wanted.

It stretched its long neck to reach one of the smelt, then it took another step. 

It drew its good foot up, and into the snare, lighting only for a split second - wings readying for flight as it grabbed for another fish. I thought to take chance - I had nothing to lose, and probably only this one good shot. I snapped the willow up and out. 

The heron was in the air. My vision obscured, I had no idea I'd snared the bird until I felt the tension on my wrist - we had him.

Still limited in what I could see through the suit, I kept tension on the line and collected the line, drawing the bird toward me. Grove, Steve and Agnieszka raced to my side and helped me secure the bird's head and wings.

The heron was placed inside a large, ventilated cardboard box for transport to aquatic bird specialists, International Bird Rescue located in San Pedro. Grove volunteered to make the long drive.

Steve, Agnieszka and Grove pose for a shot just after the capture.

Once at the hospital the bird was given a quick exam and then allowed to rest before having the line removed.

Examination of the injured foot revealed a deep wound, almost cutting off one of its digits. Radiographs would be taken to determine the extent of infection, which could be in the bone. It did not look good. 

The tangle of monofilament line that was removed was surprisingly light and brittle. 

The heron's other foot was also compromised by stress from the added weight and use, and a bacterial infection called bumblefoot.

This afternoon we received the sad news. The infection in the heron's foot was deep and into the bone. Its digits could not be saved. The great bird was euthanized.

The tragedy here, is that it took so long for this bird to be rescued. This is just another incident that highlights the need for a dedicated wildlife rescue team in the Los Angeles area. 

Without a doubt, every day in L.A., numerous wild animals are found in trouble and in need of help, and sadly, many go unaided because there's no one to call.

WES will provide training and guidance, but we need volunteers - people willing and capable of being on-call for wildlife emergencies.

Ideally, the City would contract for a 24/7 dedicated service, devoted exclusively to emergencies involving wildlife.

Perhaps someone reading this post will propose this.

Please consider making a donation to support our efforts, thank you!

Dec 10, 2013

Downed Turkey Vulture

By Deanna Barth

Late yesterday afternoon, I was forwarded an emergency call about a downed turkey vulture on a remote country road. 

The bird had been lying in the center of the road when the RP (reporting party), Lisa, first discovered it, then it hopped off into the brush as she stepped from her car. 

Knowing it would be nearly impossible to describe its exact location, and that the bird blended in with its surroundings, Lisa stayed with the bird until help arrived.

Light was fading fast as I made my way down the quiet country road lined by Eucalyptus trees. From a distance I could see a car with its emergency flashers blinking. I was so glad Lisa had stayed or I never would have found the bird.

Once on scene, I greeted Lisa, and she pointed to a dark object at the base of a eucalyptus tree. 

The vulture was down, its head forward, resting on the ground. It appeared weak, obviously unable to fly, and in poor condition.  

The wind was howling through the trees and I could feel the temperature dropping. I quickly grabbed some gloves and a long-handled net and began my approach from behind the bird, through the trees. As I neared, the vulture made a feeble attempt to hop away from me. I set the hoop net over the bird to halt its movement.

As soon as I knelt beside the bird to remove it from the net, it vomited - a typical response for a vulture. I have to say, I've never smelled anything quite so horrible. 

I carefully picked up the bird, taking care to fold its wings, and placed it inside a dog crate lined with a towel.

With all the nearby wildlife centers closed at this hour, I headed home where we have a room, isolated from the rest of the house, where we can safely overnight an animal in a warm, dark and quiet environment. It's called My Husband's Office.

Just in case there was more I should do for the bird, I called one of our, WES', consulting wildlife rehabilitators. She, too, agreed it would be in the bird’s best interest to house it overnight and deliver it to a wildlife hospital in the morning.  

Once home, I placed a heating pad in the bottom of the carrier with warm sheets, fresh from my dryer. 

The vulture survived the night and was transferred to the SPCA for Monterey Wildlife Center for rehabilitation.

Dec 6, 2013

Friday Rounds Continue

By Deanna Barth

With the sudden drop in temperatures this week, I decided to walk the beaches in search of sick birds. I thought, if any were in a weakened state, they could be suffering from hypothermia, too.

I started my "Friday rounds" with a search of the Moss Landing harbor area. I walked past 100 or so pelicans roosting on the jetty. I spied at them through my spotting scope, and they all appeared to be in great shape.

I spent some time picking up fishing line and trash, as I always do, then headed back to my car to check out the other side of the harbor. 

From the parking lot I could see a few birds on the jetty, but nothing on the beach. I walked down the hill for a closer look.

To my surprise, there was a common murre tucked in behind a rock, just a few feet away from where I stood. It had its head tucked into its feathers and its eyes closed.  

I briefly considered picking it up with my bare hands, but knew better. Never to assume a rescue is going to be that easy! 

I went to my vehicle for a net and a box and made my way back down to the little cove. 

Net in hand, I positioned myself behind one of the large rocks, so the bird wouldn't be able to see me until I was right on top of it. 

I walked quickly towards the murre's position, and in once sudden movement, swooped over and placed the net over the bird. It moved only slightly. 

Performing a cursory assessment as I lifted the bird from my net, I could feel the coolness of its body and its feet were cold as ice.  

Back at the vehicle, I activated a heating pad and placed it on the front passenger floorboard, covered it with a large sheet, placed the bird on top, then turned on my floor heater.

Within minutes, this bird that had appeared lifeless was standing up, facing the heater with wings open to the warm air. 

I covered the floor space with a lightweight sheet, making a sort of tent-like enclosure for its transport to the wildlife hospital at the SPCA for Monterey County

During the drive, I could hear the little murre become more and more alert. It even started to preen. A good sign.

Update 12-10-13:  

Sadly, the murre was euthanized due to severe frostbite on the webbing of its feet. 

Dec 2, 2013

Three little bears

From the Facebook pages of our colleagues at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care facility:

It is 2pm on Monday, December 2, 2013. The 2013 cubs, all three of them (Meeks, Lebec & Truckee) are ready to enter their final stage of rehabilitation, that stage being 'Hibernation'! 

Saturday, Denise fed them a few apples and that was the last food they received from us. Just a few days before that, we gave them some fawn carcasses which we received from another wildlife group. As you can see on our web cam (#2 cam), we gave them some branches today. And, YES - - - they know exactly what to do with them. 

Later today, or possibly tomorrow, we will give them some bags of pine needles which we raked up from our property earlier this fall. They will use the pine needles to begin making their nest for the winter. Then, on Tuesday or Wednesday, we will throw in a few bundles of straw for the final touch of their bedding. 

The picture shown here is of me holding the Truckee bear cub, 
which arrived in July 2013, on his way to the vet to have an X-Ray 
and then have a cast put on his right rear leg, in which both bones
 were broken in the lower leg (Tibia and Fibula). The cast was on 
his leg for two weeks, removed, RE-X-Rayed, and a 'new' cast was 
applied for another two weeks. It was after four weeks of being
 'casted' that Dr. Willitts told us that he was good to go. 
So - - - we are in the final stage. CA Fish and Wildlife will come up some time during the winter months to get Truckee and Meeks to place them into a den they already have situated. Then, in the late winter/early spring, they will come and get Lebec and take him back down to the Grapevine area, where he came from. 

All three cubs are males. We did some bloodwork on Meeks about a month or so ago and his weight - at that time - was 98 pounds. Oh yes!!! They are in REALLY good shape!! Enjoy the next few days while they set up their 'Winter Quarters'. 

In case I don't get a chance, Cheryl and I would like to wish each of you a Happy Hanakkuh, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We will be working on the Dole Foods float again this year for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, so check that out on New Year's Day. I think I heard that we will be the 6th entry in the parade, so, VERY near the front! 

Also, if you need a tax write-off for 2013, remember Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in mind. Your donation is tax decuctible. Just go to our web site ( and press the 'Donate' button. It is REAL easy! Thank you in advance for your support.

Tom Millham, Secretary/Treasurer
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc.