Dec 24, 2014

Christmas Eve rescue

It was early Christmas Eve morning when we received a call about an injured baby bird on the rooftop of Macy's, in Monterey.

We knew it couldn't be a baby - not this time of year - we suspected it might be a grounded loon or grebe. These are aquatic birds more suited for water than land. 

With legs sprouting from their rear, grebes and loons are off balance, unable to walk on hard surfaces. Out of the water, they must rest on their keel (breast bone), which can quickly become bruised and abraded.

To take flight, these species require a "runway" of water. Once grounded, they're helpless and vulnerable.

We arrived at Macy's and met up with George, the reporting party. George escorted us through the department store full of last-minute shoppers, into an elevator, up a stairwell to the roof. 

The rooftop was impressively large with a fortress-like wall surrounding it. 

George showed us where the bird was last observed, hiding under a massive duct, and sure enough, it was still there.

An eared grebe!

Eared grebes generally migrate at night. Perhaps this eared grebe was migrating south to its wintering grounds, when it mistook the gravel roof with large puddles of water for a sheltered marsh.

Duane collected the small bird with ease, and placed it in a cardboard pet carrier. 

The carrier was padded with a thick layer of balled-up newspaper covered with a towel. This helps distribute the bird's weight off its keel. In a hospital setting, aquatic birds are fitted with a "doughnut", developed by International Bird Rescue in 1995.

While the grebe appeared to be in relatively good shape, it seemed underweight. The bird was transported to the wildlife center at the SPCA for Monterey County for a full evaluation.

Check out the rescue video, below.

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Make a donation of any size, here:

Thank you!

Dec 15, 2014

Opossum recovering

The opossum injured in the "humane" cage trap (story HERE) is doing quite well and is expected to make a full recovery, according to wildlife medical staff at the Wildlife Center for Silicon Valley.

Thanks to All who contributed towards its medical "bills".

Stay tuned for release video!

Dec 14, 2014

Fox loses paw in illegal trap


At dark on December 9th, Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) was called to rescue a fox in Hollister that was reportedly snared in a trap that it was dragging around by a front leg.

Rescuers caught a glimpse of the animal near the intersection of Union Heights and Riverside Road, but could not get close enough to capture it.

This morning, the animal was spotted again in the Union Heights neighborhood.

Deanna Barth, WES’ rescue team leader for Hollister, responded on scene, along with a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Though it had been 5 days since the initial report, the fox was still alert and wary and able to evade capture.

However, while tracking the fox, at one point, they noticed the trap was gone.

It had fallen off, along with the animal’s front paw. It is not uncommon for animals to gnaw their own limbs off to get free from traps.

The trap was found and is in the possession of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement, which is conducting an investigation.

This type of trap, called a leghold, was banned in California in 1998.

WES is offering a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this crime.

Anyone with information can call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CalTip line at 1-888-334-2258 or 408-499-8714. To add to the reward amount, please email

We believe this animal was trapped because it was perceived as a nuisance – perhaps someone was trying to protect crops or livestock. Not only are there strict regulations governing the use of traps, even cage traps, trapping or otherwise destroying wildlife is rarely a sound solution - when one animal is taken out, another one quickly takes its place.

WES offers basic consulting for wildlife problems through our hotline at 1-866-WILD-911 (866) 945-3911 at extension 2.

Dec 13, 2014

Help Wildlife in 2015

Wildlife Emergency Services will be forced to cut back field service if it cannot raise operating expenses.

Donate now to help them continue rescuing injured, ill and orphaned wildlife in 2015.

Give as little as $5.00 monthly to make a BIG difference:

Make a donation of any size, here:

Thank you!

Dec 12, 2014

Hooked scoter - SAVED!

This morning, Robert Scoles and Ron Eby - both volunteers for Elkhorn Slough Reserve, were completing their daily otter re-sights when they stopped to collect trash at Kirby Park.

That's when they spotted a scoter hiding in the riprap that protects the parking lot.

Ron, a long-time volunteer responder with WES, approach the scoter from the water. 

Once in hand, he passed the sea duck to Robert, who was on solid ground.  

They cut the line to remove the sinker and leader but left the hook in place since it was deeply embedded.

The animal was placed in a padded carrier for transport.

A huge Thank You! to the wildlife hospital at the SPCA for Monterey County for their prompt response.


Dec 11, 2014

What $5.00 a month could do

If every Wild Byte subscriber would sign up to give $5.00 monthly, we could cover our 2015 operating expenses!

Just $5.00 a month could make a huge difference.

Safely and securely through PayPal and you don't even need an account.

You don't have to have a PayPal account to sign up. Click where it says to pay using your credit or debit card.

Your monthly contribution will help fuel the rescue truck, purchase supplies and capture equipment, cover administrative costs, fundraising and educational programs, and the publication of our Sunday Wild Bytes. 

Select amount before clicking Sign Up button.

Every monthly donation of $5.00 or more or any donation of $50.00 
or more comes with a subscription to our Sunday Wild Byte newsletter.

Thank you for supporting WES!

Dec 7, 2014

At a crossroads

Dear Fans and Supporters of Wildlife Emergency Services, as director of this program, I am coming to you for guidance.

As many of you know, we are a small nonprofit specializing in response to wild animals in distress, providing injured animals with immediate aid and transport to the nearest wildlife hospital. 

We're also one of the very few organizations in the country that performs difficult, technical wildlife rescues.

To date, we have managed as an all-volunteer-run charity. No employees. No paid staff.

Over the last few years, however, we have experienced a decline in donations and a wane in volunteerism, reducing our capacity to respond to wildlife emergencies.

The time has come for us to have a paid Program Director to oversee day-to-day operations and lead wildlife rescues. 

We've launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise operating expenses in 2015, which includes one paid position. See a breakdown of expenses HERE.

Without this financial support, we will be forced to reduce field services in 2015.

Please help us continue our valuable work by making a contribution today. 

Thank you,

Rebecca Dmytryk, CEO, President
Wildlife Emergency Services / National Association for Wildlife Emergency Services

You can donate in these ways:

1. Through our Go Fund Me campaign, HERE.

2. By check payable to WES: 

P.O. Box 65 Moss Landing CA 95039

3. Safely and securely through PayPal.

4. Send us a little something every month:

Support Options

Nov 7, 2014

Heron shot! Reward offered!

Image courtesy Wildlife Center at SPCA for Monterey County.

Radiographs of the great blue heron that was rescued last week in Hollister (full story HERE) revealed the bird was shot with lead pellets from an air rifle.

State and federal authorities have been notified and thanks to supporters we are able to offer a $5,050.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.

Yesterday, Animal Legal Defense Fund added to the reward, raising it to $6,050.00 (THANK YOU ALDF!) and today one of their supporters added another $200.00!

The bird was found off of Glenview Drive, near the Ridgemark community. WES' Deanna Barth captured the bird and delivered it to the SPCA for Monterey County.

Herons frequent open fields where they prey on gophers, ground squirrels and snakes. They are also found near ponds and creeks where they prey on fish. 

Although these birds are naturally shy of people, they have been known to land in backyards that have shallow fish ponds. Ponds must be a minimum of 3' deep to adequately protect them from predators such as herons or raccoons.

Report information confidentially through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CalTip line at 1-888-334-2258 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 650-876-9078.

Download the Reward Flyer, HERE.

To add to the reward amount, please email us, HERE.

The bird is currently in care at International Bird Rescue in Fairfield. In addition to being shot, the bird sustained a broken wing. 

If you'd like to contribute to the care of this bird, please consider supporting IBR with a donation, HERE.

Great blue heron in care at International Bird Rescue. Photo Credit Cheryl Reynolds/IBR.

Nov 6, 2014

Ailing Song Dog near Brentwood

Many thanks to Dave Harper for sharing his photographs of an ill coyote. The dog is suffering from mange. It can be cured, but the trick is capturing the "trickster". Coyotes are very difficult to catch. We'll see if we can't come up with a plan. We'll need all-hour volunteers for tracking/monitoring. Email us if you're interested, HERE.

Photo credit Dave Harper all rights reserved.

Photo credit Dave Harper all rights reserved.

Dave Harper maintains a blog called Local Wildlife, showcasing some of his amazing photographs of native species of the Bay Area. You can find it HERE.

Nov 5, 2014

2015 Wildlife SAR Trainings

We're pleased to announce our 2015 schedule of classes. 

Our Wildlife Search and Rescue Basic Skills class is designed for those who frequently encounter injured animals - like animal control officers, park rangers, wildlife officers and wildlife rehabilitators, but the class is basic enough for the novice interested in getting involved in working with wildlife.

The all day training covers laws and regulations, human safety, capture strategies and basic animal first aid.

This year, we've added a second day for hands on practice.

We've also added two new classes, Advanced Wildlife First Aid and a class on Reuniting Wildlife.

We offer these trainings once a year to help boost local skills and recruit new volunteers for our state-wide team of First Responders. 
This year's schedule of basic training classes is as follows:

January 9th 9:00 – 5:00 (class) Napa Valley College
January 10th 9:00 – 1:00 (practice) Napa Valley College

San Jose 
January 16th 9:00 – 5:00 (class) SJ City Animal Services
January 17th 9:00 – 1:00 (practice) Penitencia Ck Park
January 17th 1:00 – 3:00 ADVANCED WILDLIFE FIRST AID
January 17th 3:00 – 5:00 REUNITING WILD BABIES

Central Coast 
January 23rd 9:00 – 5:00 (class) Elkhorn Yacht Club at Moss Landing
January 25th 11:00 – 3:00 (practice) Westlake Park in Santa Cruz

January 31st 9:00 – 5:00 (class) Berkeley Marina Shorebird Nature Center
February 7th 10:00 – 2:00 (practice) Berkeley Marina Shorebird Nature Center

Los Angeles 
February 13th 9:00 – 5:00 (class) Dockweiler Youth Center
February 14th 9:00 – 1:00 (practice) Lake Balboa, San Fernando Valley

Nov 2, 2014

Familiar gull

Duane and Rebecca were at the Santa Cruz municipal wharf on Sunday, looking for an injured gull that had been reported. 

They happened across this handsome gull - it looked familiar.

After checking records and photographs, indeed, this bird had been "through" WES before! One of WES' lead responders, Deanna Barth, had removed fishing line from this bird back in March, 2013. Check out the post, HERE.

It's great to see the gull doing well in spite of its deformity. Go gull!!!

Nov 1, 2014

Injured heron captured after 3 months

 By Rebecca Dmytryk

Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

It was July 29th when we received a call through our hotline about a juvenile great blue heron at El Dorado Regional Park in Long Beach, California - its right foot entangled in fishing line.

The reporting party, Jill Brennan, first noticed the injured bird about two weeks earlier. Since then, she'd been trying to find help - someone to capture it and remove the line, with no luck.

Throughout the United States, there are very, very, very few agencies or organizations that offer assistance with difficult animal rescues such as this one - even fewer that specialize in wildlife, and fewer, still, that are trained, equipped, skilled and experienced. 

The Los Angeles area is no exception. There's my dear friend Peter Wallerstein, who runs Marine Animal Rescue day and night and still has a tough time keeping up with the many animals in need of assistance. Then there's The California Wildlife Center (my baby), but it's rare to see them extend service beyond Malibu and they could not spare anyone for this great blue. There's aquatic bird specialists, International Bird Rescue, in San Pedro, where the heron would be taken for medical treatment, but they do not offer local response. Then there's the Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team (S.M.A.R.T.) - a group of amazingly skilled rescuers, but, the program is administrated through the Los Angeles City Animal Services and their service area does not include Long Beach. Then there's the Long Beach Animal Control, with field officers who do perform wildlife rescues, but have limited experience in capturing flighted birds... 

Photo taken August 12th by Kim Moore.

WES' Los Angeles team has only a few members (but is growing), and none had used a snare before... but was about to.

On July 31st, two of our volunteer first responders, Carole Elkins and her husband Bill, drove from their home near Griffith Park to meet Jill in Long Beach. 

They found the bird fairly quickly and were able to coax the heron close by tossing small bits of fish.

Over the past couple of weeks, Jill had worked on developing her relationship with the young bird, visiting the park every morning and making offerings of fish to gain the bird's trust - something that would ultimately be key to its capture.

We do not condone the feeding and habituation of wild animals as it usually ends up being a "death sentence" for that individual, but when trying to capture an injured yet very mobile animal, it is often a necessity.

As instructed, Carole set out a single snare of Dacron line, the type of line used to capture the L.A. River blue back in December, and then sat back, unassumingly, as Bill baited the bird close.

The heron approached slowly, gracefully, deliberately and finally, into the center of the snare.

Carole whipped the line and, for a moment, she had the bird,... but not for long - the heron folded its toes and slipped through the hoop.

The wonderful thing about the single-snare technique, is that you can try and fail multiple times with minor insult. The birds rarely suspect the person, forgiving moving sticks and flailing line quite quickly. It's not like chasing after a bird with a net, where there will be no second chance.

Unfortunately, though, it would be a couple of weeks before Carole could return for a second attempt. In the meantime, Jill kept up her morning visits, building the bird's trust. Jill was wholeheartedly committed to saving this heron she affectionately named Roger.

A resident of Long Beach, Jill routinely visits El Dorado Park. Over the years, inspired by her love of animals and nature and her training as a physical therapist, she has rescued hundreds of birds - mostly fishing line entanglements. 

On August 18th, Carole returned to El Dorado Park for another capture attempt. The heron was unusually skittish. Here is her report:
Hey, Rebecca, 
Wish I had better news. I got to El Dorado at 8:30 a.m., found the juvie GBHE, and set up just as before. Unfortunately, from the start, I noticed his behavior was dramatically different. He wouldn't come near enough to take the bait. After an hour of trying to lure him while mildly testing his behavior, he flew across the lake and out of range. He seems very frightened, as if someone has been attempting to catch him. At this point, I'm not sure what the best course is. He looks well nourished but that foot is much worse. So frustrating!
I had a meeting in Los Angeles scheduled for September 2nd, so I decided to drive down a few days earlier to try and capture the heron. In the meantime, Jill kept up her visits with Roger.

On August 31st, I met Jill at the park entrance just before it opened at 7:00. A large banner at the entrance to the park warned fishermen about the dangers of loose, abandoned fishing line...

Image by wildlife photographer Steve Shinn.
Jill led the way through the large sprawling park to the body or water in Area III, where the heron was seen regularly.

There he was. Waiting.

I set up a noose made of Dacron and walked Jill through the plan of how she will toss scraps of fish closer and closer and then finally on the other side of the snare with the hope of him stepping perfectly into the center of it.

Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

The line I was using was white. Clearly visible. The heron approached close, but not close enough.

On Day Two we offered live fish, which he liked, and we tried a mechanical land seine net, but it wasn't tall enough - he flew straight up and over...

Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

For Day Three, I decided to try something different - an underwater noose mat.

Noose mats can be made by attaching numerous snares to a piece of mesh - like hardware cloth. The idea is to "walk" a bird over the mat where, if lucky, the bird will become snared. 

I needed the base to be flexible - to shape to the contours of the pond bottom. I found a volleyball net on sale at a sporting goods store that would do nicely. 

Instead of using monofilament line which tends to curl like party ribbon, I decided to try nylon coated steel wire - the kind we now use to make the loops on our bal chatri.

Creating so many nooses would take time, but our team rallied. Carole Elkins generously provided her home, and long time friend and wildlife rescuer Julie Adelson volunteered to help. 

It was a really nice afternoon. We sat in the shade sipping ice cold lemonade and catching up while perfecting our noose-making skills. 

By late afternoon we'd completed one mat. That evening, back at my hotel room, I made an additional two mats - one with very large hoops.

It was Tuesday - the day after Labor Day. 

Jill and I met at the little lake in Area III. Roger was there, waiting.

He patiently watched as I placed one of the noose mats in the shallow water, securing it to two heavy block and checking that the loops were open.  
Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

Photo by nature photographer Kim Moore.

We used chunks of fresh frozen tilapia to lure Roger through the nooses. 

We had him walking back and forth and through and all over the mat with no luck.

From time to time I would check the snares to open any collapsed nooses, but after 4 hours, I had to give up.

Feeling pretty disillusioned and frustrated, I thought of little else during the 6-hour drive home. Tough rescues like this one consume me - I run through possible strategies - what might work - what won't, "feel-seeing" my way through various scenarios.

When planning the capture of an animal, you have to take everything into consideration, the landscape, the species' biology, the individual's character. Plans take form and evolve, heuristically, through trial and error, with mistakes being as valuable as successes. It is through our mistakes - through our failures that we learn - that we perfect our methods and hone our skills.

A few days passed. I'd run through our capture attempts in my mind, ad nauseum, to wake one morning knowing that we must put more effort into the single-snare method. 

I drew up plans, but could not find anyone available to attempt a capture. 

It would be weeks before I returned to Los Angeles.

On September 25th, Jill  wrote:
Hi Rebecca,
Do you know if someone tried to capture that GBHE last Friday or Saturday? 
I saw it last Thursday morning, and it was status quo. Unfortunately later that day I broke my toe and had great difficulty walking on uneven surfaces and was not able to monitor it on Friday or Saturday morning. 
Sunday morning I hobbled back out and was stunned to see the GBHE limping very badly on that right leg and it would not come within 100' of me.
Monday morning I could not get it to come anywhere near. 
Wednesday morning, it still would not come close, so I put out a few small fish and backed way up, and it finally flew in. 
This morning, it approached me within 20' and again I left fish and backed away and it limped over to eat them.
I called the LA Animal Services to request the SMART team but they don't cover Long Beach and they advised me to call Long Beach Animal Care Services. 
While LBACS does pick up and provide transport for injured wildlife, I doubt they're up for a flighted bird.

Weeks passed and Roger's injury worsened. 

On October 24th, Jill wrote:
Roger has now acquired more line on that right foot, trailing line behind him. He was tethered with the new line for a day, then managed to pull it away from his left leg. No one here is comfortable with the snaring so great news you will be in town. 

Image by wildlife photographer Steve Shinn.

Jill stayed in touch, keeping me posted on Roger's health. She kept up her daily visits, strengthening her relationship with the bird.

It was mid-morning on October 30th when Jill and I rendezvoused at the park. Wildlife photographer Steve Shinn was also on hand to help.

While Steve and Jill canvased the area looking for the injured bird, I picked the spot to lay the snare, close to where Jill had been meeting the heron each morning.

Image by wildlife photographer Steve Shinn.

This time, I was using the 30 lb test nylon-coated stainless steel wire we used to make the nooses. Plush grass held the loop up off the ground a couple of inches. 

I ran the line, taught, about 12' to the tip of a very long willow branch, then to my wrist. 

We were ready. 

Jill made her usual sounds and within seconds the bird flew in to the grassy area near a picnic table.

The bird appeared eager, but cautious, seemingly aware of the two strange ones. Even after the first fish was tossed, the heron spied us with reservation.

A few more tosses and Roger seemed to have adjusted to our presence, but still retreated quickly after picking up a fish.

There's finesse to all of this - to tossing the bait just so, to subtle changes in posture. It's a dance.

By about the 6th or 7th fish, I felt a surge of adrenaline... I'd read him - he was about to step into the snare... least he was stepping where I thought the snare was but I couldn't see it... ...neither could the heron.

Roger stepped forward, he leaned in. I went for it. I flicked the willow stick and heard the line whizz through the air... then I felt it - the tug - the live weight on the end of the line. I had him.

Jill quickly helped me gather the line. I grabbed the bird's head to control its sharp bill. Jill tucked in the bird's wings and helped me gather its body before she removed the snare from its leg. 

We had him. We finally had him. This poor, poor, poor bird.

I drove Roger to International Bird Rescue in San Pedro where medical staff examined him briefly before placing him in an enclosure to rest. He would be given a thorough examination and his condition would be evaluated by their veterinarian. It was no surprise, though, that the prognosis was not good.

A huge Thank You! to photographers Kim Moore and 
Steve Shinn for capturing images of our rescue attempts.

If you'd like to become a volunteer responder on our Los Angeles wildlife rescue team, please fill out an application HERE, and register for our Wildlife Search and Rescue Training on February 13th, and the hands-on training on the 14th, HERE.

If you'd like to support our efforts to expand our wildlife rescue team in Los Angeles, which is to include a Pelican Patrol Boat, please make a contribution through the link below, or send a check payable to Wildlife Emergency Services to Box 65, Moss Landing, CA 95039. Thank you!!!

UPDATE: 11-12-14

We are thrilled to report that Roger is still alive and in recovery at International Bird Rescue! 

The injury was so severe that his middle toe had to be amputated, but, there is still hope of him making a full recovery to be released back into the wild, and that could not come soon enough. 

Captivity for these flighty, highly sensitive birds is extremely stressful. So much so, they must be sedated so they don't hurt themselves in their enclosures. 

Oct 31, 2014

Rainy Halloween Rescue

It was raining heavily when WES received an emergency call about two juvenile raccoons stuck in a storm drain near Landmark Elementary School in Watsonville, California. 

WES' Duane Titus responded immediately.

On scene he found two cubs huddled together in a corner of the drain, water all around them. 

He pried open the drain cover and hauled the two youngsters to safety. One of them shot up a nearby redwood, where Duane thought he'd heard the mother. The other one, a bit more timid, scurried into shrubs below the tree.

Check out the video:


Oct 29, 2014

Trapped bobcat freed by wildlife officials

This week, Byron Jones, Wildlife Officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, released a trapped bobcat back into the wild. Check out the video below.

The bobcat was cage-trapped on a property where chickens had been killed. The poultry pen was built well enough to keep the chickens from escaping but it was not predator proof. 

The animal was freed and the land owner was advised on more appropriate housing and husbandry practices to keep from losing any more animals to the resident wildlife.

Section 401 of Title 14 in the California Code of Regulations requires certain information be collected before a depredation permit for a particular species can be issued - a permit allowing the "problem" animal(s) to be taken, or killed. This information includes a description of all non-lethal measures undertaken to prevent damage prior to requesting the permit and a description of corrective actions that will be implemented to prevent future damage.

Here are some helpful links to fencing, housing and husbandry:

GENERAL: Non-Lethal Predator Management


PERIMETER FENCING: Wildlife-Safe Fencing

WOLVES / COYOTES: A Guide to Nonlethal Tools

COYOTE: Urban Coyote Ecology and Management

BEAR: Short Term Recreational Safety Fence and Electric Fencing for Bear

MOUNTAIN LION: Keeping Livestock Safe

Image from Wildlife Online.

Image from Wildlife Online.

Image from Wildlife Online.

Oct 28, 2014

Skunk sawed free

By Rebecca Dmytryk

This afternoon, after rescuing the opossum in the cage trap, WES was referred another call from the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter. 

Apparently a skunk had gotten stuck in a fence bordering two properties. Its head-end was on one side and its business-end was at the neighbor's.

I used a sheet to shield me from the skunk's protest as I got a closer look at the situation. 

The skunk was in good shape - bright and alert and seemingly uninjured.

I was able to squeeze a couple of fingers between the skunk and the wood where I began cutting away using a hand saw.

Check out the video below.