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.

Severe "humane" trap injury

By Rebecca Dmytryk

This morning, I responded to a call about an injured opossum. The reporting party said the animal was captured in a "humane" cage trap but that its teeth were somehow caught on the wire mesh.

When I arrived, I found a very sad and very damaged opossum in a wire cage trap. From the feces build up, it appeared as though the animal had been in the trap for some time - possibly more than 24 hours... maybe even longer.

Opossums are generally quiet, but this animal was very slow to respond. If I may anthropomorphize... as if it had given up.

The opossum's teeth were no longer stuck on the wire as the RP had mentioned, however, the opossum had sustained a severe mouth injury - it had a gaping wound on the right side of its mouth, exposing its lower jawbone. Horrible.

The cage was stained with blood. How long this animal struggled - how long it was in this wire cage trap, exposed to the elements, we don't know.

The owner of the property said her son in law had set the trap to catch skunks that had been getting into the garage... entering the garage at the base where there is about an 8" gap... 

I explained the California trapping regulations and warned her that this was not a legal "take" - that in order for her son-in-law to trap wildlife, he would have to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife to get a number assigned to the trap and, in addition, he would have to get written consent of neighboring homeowners... and the animals would have to be killed or set free on site... blah, blah, blah... 


I transported the opossum to Native Animal Rescue - Santa Cruz's only wildlife care facility. 

Unfortunately, there are very few veterinarians in Santa Cruz who are willing to treat wildlife and none was available today. The animal needed immediate medical attention.

I contacted Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose, and they agreed to evaluate the opossum's injuries and provide medical treatment.

This afternoon, one of our first responders, Andrew Bear, volunteered to transport the animal from NAR to WCSV. 


UPDATE: 11-2-14

The opossum underwent surgery at WCSV and is in stable condition. There's hope for it to make a full recovery.


Oct 27, 2014

Great Blue Heron Rescue

By Deanna Barth

When I was forwarded a call about a possibly injured great blue heron just a block away from my house, I was ecstatic! 

Let me clarify... I wasn’t happy it was injured or sick, but this would be my chance to finally see one of these magnificent birds up close.

The great blue heron is “my” bird - my home is filled with photos, paintings and statues of these beautiful creatures. I've just always been intrigued by them. While I've rescued numerous types of birds, I've yet to hold a Great Blue in my hands.  

Today, might be the day.  

Like a child going to Disneyland for the first time, I drove to the location with a smile from ear to ear.  

I arrived at the address and was met by a gentleman who anxiously showed me onto his property. It was obvious that he was very worried. 

As I followed Curt, I paused to enjoy the beauty and soothing sound of trickling water. The yard was lush with greenery draping over various rocks and bridges, and there was a pond filled with koi. Surrounding it were statues of great blue herons meant to ward off the real thing (but it doesn't work very well).  

I complimented Curt's work and he proudly explained that his backyard had been certified by the National Wildlife Federation.  

We continued around the back of his house to the side yard where the trash cans were kept. There it was - I could see the heron huddled in a corner. 

Without a thorough exam, it would be hard to say what was ailing this poor bird, but this was certainly not normal behavior. 

Herons are typically very skittish and flighty, never letting a person close before taking flight.

While it's not unusual to see a heron or egret in one's backyard - especially one that is so lush and with offerings of a fish pond, the bird's behavior is what clued us in to this being an ill or injured animal.

When the call was transferred from the Hollister Police Department to WES, Curt was asked to describe the bird's reaction to approach. When he said it ran away from him rather than fly, we knew something was wrong.

I approached the bird slowly with a large sheet in front of me, and I was able to stand within inches of the bird without it moving. 

Finally it made a feeble attempt to stand and flee but was too weak. It turned to face the corner and that's when I draped the sheet over its body to contain its wings.

Maintaining control of its head, I walked to my vehicle and loaded the heron into a large animal crate.

I contacted the SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center, and Staff was kind enough to meet me half way. 

My fingers are crossed for a good prognosis for my favorite bird.

Thank you to Curt for his deep concern for the heron’s well-being, and to the Hollister Police Department for referring the emergency call to us.

UPDATE: 11-2-14

Radiographs revealed the heron was shot! 

We have alerted authorities and are posting flyers in the vicinity for any information on who may have committed this crime. Thanks to supporters, we are able to offer a $5,050.00 reward. See our post, HERE.

If you'd like to add to the reward being offered, pledge by emailing us, HERE.

Image courtesy Wildlife Center at SPCA for Monterey County.

Oct 21, 2014

Golden eagle gets a second chance

Today, a golden eagle was returned to the wild after spending nearly a month in recuperative care at Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (WERC) in Morgan Hill.

On September 28th, Wildlife Officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife received a call from a resident of Morgan Hill. She'd been observing a large raptor perched on a fence, then watched as it was making its way across a field - on foot!

The officers responded to find the golden eagle very alert and wary - not letting them close. They watched as it made its way across the plowed field - flapping and gaining some elevation before landing again and scrambling on foot to reach a grove of trees

It was early evening. The bird instinctively wanted to get up high off the ground for the night. It could not fly well, but managed to get up into the low branches of a large oak. 

It was getting dark when a unit with County of Santa Clara Animal Shelter arrived with a long-handled net. 

Wildlife Officer Tyson Quintal used a flashlight to "blind" the bird, while Officer Chris Foster used the net to move the bird off the branch and onto the ground where they quickly gained control of the large bird's wings and sharp talons.

WERC arrived on scene and transported the animal back to their wildlife hospital. 

On examination, they found the young eagle had a puncture wound that hand ruptured an air sac. After weeks in care, she was ready to go home...

Oct 18, 2014

Young Cooper's hawk rescued from gymnasium

 Yesterday, Friday, we were transferred a call from San Jose Animal Care and Services - they needed help in rescuing a hawk trapped inside the gymnasium at Gunderson High School. 

Accipiters are slender-bodied, broad-winged hawks with long tails. They are agile flyers, able to maneuver through a dense forest with ease. Accipiters prey on small mammals and birds and are often referred to, in general, as sparrowhawks. 

The hawk was first noticed on Wednesday afternoon. It had evidently swooped down for prey and overshot its dive, ending up inside the gym. Instinctively it headed for the rafters for safety. 

Because the gymnasium was in use when we received the call, and a game was scheduled for the evening, we postponed the rescue for a quieter time when we'd have the greatest chance of capturing the bird.

Today, Duane and Rebecca met a security guard at the school so they could have access to the locked building.

Inside, the juvenile Cooper's was circling the gymnasium, lighting on beams and wires for a few moments before taking flight again.

The team placed a bal-chatri in the center of the gymnasium. 

A bal-chatri is a type of trap used to capture hawks and other types of predatory birds. It's basically a small wire cage, covered with snares. A live animal placed inside the cage is what lures a bird to the trap. The wire mesh must be small to prevent injury to the animals inside.

A society finch was placed inside the holding area... Frightened by the new surroundings it did not move. It stood, motionless. 

A domestic mouse was added to the cage, and immediately the movement caught the bird's attention.

It did not take long for the hawk to land on the trap. 

It did the typically "dancing" on the cage, even grabbing and lifting it. Unsure if it was snared, the team approached slowly... As they closed in, it flew a few yards away.

They backed off, and within a few minutes the hawk landed on the trap again. This time it was snared.

Check out the video.

Once they were sure it was caught, the team ran in to remove it from the snares. It was immediately released outside.

The mouse and the finch were a bit shaken but not injured. They were both re-homed.

We want to thank Gunderson High for being so accommodating in letting us have access to the gymnasium. We also want to thank Mary Kenney for the donated bal-chatri, and to the Erwin family for sponsoring this rescue.


Keep WES running! Help ensure our ability to continue providing our valuable services by making a contribution. Thank you so much!

Make checks to W.E.S. PO Box 65 Moss Landing, CA 95039

Oct 14, 2014

Oiled goose rescue

Yesterday afternoon, WES received an urgent email asking if we could assist with the rescue of a Canada goose that appeared to be covered in oil in Richmond, CA. It was seen traveling with other Canada geese near the harbor.

The goose was first observed on the 12th by a Marina Bay resident, Lisa, who watched over the goose as she reached out for help. Finally, after numerous calls and emails, WES was notified and took the lead in responding.

Geese can be very tricky to capture, especially if they are flighted, like this one. They tend to be skittish of nets. Instead, we use snares or simple lure them close enough to grab by hand. We asked Lisa to see how the goose reacted to a handful of grain and bread crumbles.

Lisa was quick to return video of the goose responding positively to food offerings. 

This helped us decide what method of capture we would try first, and which of our trained responders to send.

WES has not one, but two expert goose capturers - Deanna, who lives in Hollister, and Andrew, in Los Gatos. However, neither was available at the time.

We reached out to our few San Francisco-based volunteers, but it was getting late in the day - too late to capture and then transport the bird to International Bird Rescue in Cordelia. The rescue was postponed for the night.

By morning, Andrew Bear notified us - he was able to take the afternoon off from work! Ken Weidner, one of our San Francisco responders was also available. 

After being briefed on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe while handling the animal, Andrew and Ken teamed up to capture the goose. Here is Andrew's account:

When we arrived, the goose appeared very alert. I began by walking among the geese, observing their behavior. I wanted to see how close I could get to the oiled one. 
It did not allow me closer than about eight feet. 
Ken and I donned our protective equipment and goose wrangling gear. We both had a bag of seed and bread crumbles and we each had a bed sheet around our waists to use when grabbing the goose.  
The plan was for me to bait the goose close enough for capture, while Ken applied gentle pressure to keep it from moving off. He would also distract the older, more aggressive geese.
As we began tossing crumbles and seed, the geese began gathering close. One walked right up to me and would have eaten out of my hand!  
The oiled goose, however, kept a safe distance from me - about 8 feet away. 
I noticed that it would come closer for the small pieces of bread, so I worked the bread for a while longer.
Finally, after about 45 minutes, the goose got within about 2 feet and I was able to capture it with the bed sheet!
We placed the bird in a plastic animal carrier and Ken transported it to oiled wildlife experts, International Bird Rescue.  

Stay tuned for updates on this bird's recovery.

Oct 10, 2014

Man arrested for using bleach to kill an opossum

Last Saturday, WES received a call from a man who was trying to help an opossum that had bleached poured on it buy a co-worker at South Beach Pizza, Santa Cruz, California.

Chef Dany Pena tried to save the young animal. He scooped its body out of the trashcan where it had been left to die, and rushed it to Native Animal Rescue. 

Despite efforts to save it, the young female opossum expired shortly thereafter. 

Its body was transferred to the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter where authorities began an investigation into the allegations of animal cruelty.

News of this horrific act spread like wildfire, from Los Angeles to New York to London, with some discrepancies...

Some headlines stated the owners of the establishment had ordered the dousing, but Dany had reported he was told by employees that a relative of one of the co-owners had ordered killing. 

Understandably, the owners of the restaurant were quick to deny any involvement, but they went further... a lot further - accusing Dany of being a disgruntled employee using the false opossum story to extort money.

Well, those disparaging claims went down like a fast sinking ship on Thursday when Santa Cruz police arrested the former assistant manager, Alan Rockwood, and charged him with one count of animal cruelty.

UPDATE: Dany Pena quit his job over the opossum incident. He's struggling to get back on his feet, financially. You can help through his donation drive, HERE.

Related news coverage:

Oct 9, 2014

Entangled goose, saved!

Yesterday, we received a call from Mark Parsins, from Riverside Lighting in Santa Cruz(Thank you!!!). He reported a Canada goose with fishing line wrapped around its leg near the San Lorenzo Park. WES' Goose Whisperer, Deanna Barth responded. Here's her account of the rescue:
I arrived at San Lorenzo Park in Santa Cruz this afternoon to look for the injured bird. I had been to this location before to rescue birds, but had never seen any geese.
As expected, I walked the area and saw several coots, gulls, ducks and pigeons, but no geese.  
The caller had explained the geese were seen between the park and the Soquel bridge, so I made my way toward the river, scanning the area in all directions, with no luck. Then I walked to the far end of the fence and looked beyond the overpass. There, in the grass, I could see geese. Yes! 
I went back to my vehicle and drove to the location. 
This gaggle of geese was far away from people, and it appeared as though they preferred it that way. This was not going to be easy.  
Birds that frequent public parks and ponds are accustomed to seeing people and are often used to being fed by them. While the habituation is not necessarily a good thing, it does make rescuing them much easier.
This particular group of geese seemed like “outsiders", to me. 
With a bag of grain in my hand, I slowly, nonchalantly, approached them. 
As soon as they saw me they were on full alert - I thought for sure they were going to take to the sky.   
I immediately sat down to make myself appear less threatening, and waited.
After a few minutes I began tossing grain. No reaction.   
5 minutes passed, 10 minutes, 15...
A half an hour passed with no interest from the geese. 
I rose from my seated position and, again, they quickly stretched their necks high and appeared anxious.   
I decided to try something new, something I didn’t expect to work, but , I thought - What do I have to lose?  
I could see gulls and pigeons in the park nearby. I tossed grain high up into the air to get their attention.  
Soon, I was surrounded by 50 birds pecking at the ground near my feet.
This commotion got the attention of the geese, and, as I had hoped, they began moving toward me. I was so excited!   
These geese were cautious, but all of them came over to eat - except for one. 
I had no doubt that was the injured goose I was looking for. 
I walked away from the group of birds and made my way along the river’s edge, positioning myself between the injured goose and the water. I applied enough pressure to cause it to stand to confirm the injury. Sure enough, that was "my" bird! 
I walked slowly behind it while tossing grain, encouraging it to my right side, but every time I got it within arm’s reach, another goose would lunge at it and chase it off. 
It took over an hour of dancing back and forth before I was finally able to position the bird right where I needed it - and then I grabbed it!
I loaded the big bird into a pet carrier and transported it to Native Animal Rescue. 
There, I held the goose while staff removed the line successfully. It will be treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery. I hope to return the goose to its group within a week or so.
UPDATE: 10-24-14

Thanks to the excellent care it received at NAR, the goose recovered from its injury and was returned to where it was captured.

Wild and free again!

Oct 5, 2014

Yet another great blue in trouble in Los Angeles

This morning, residents of West Covina reported a great blue heron in their neighborhood. It has netting material around its bill, preventing it from opening its mouth. 

With few wildlife rescuers in Los Angeles to help capture this poor bird, we have turned to SMART for help. 

Thanks to Lynn and family for reporting this emergency!

Stay tuned.

Oct 2, 2014

Wildlife exposed to rodenticides near UCSC campus

The results are in. Both bobcats recovered from the UC Santa Cruz campus last month tested positive for exposure to anticoagulant rodenticide. We want to stress that just because the animals were found on campus does not mean they were exposed to rodenticides on campus.

The first bobcat - a mother with its remaining kitten by its side, was found ill on September 3rd. Read the full story, HERE. WES captured the cat and delivered it to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where it died later that night.

WES rescued a second bobcat from campus on September 8th. It had been struck by a vehicle. Read about its rescue, HEREIt, too, did not survive.

The first cat showed classic signs of exposure to rodenticide. She was suffering from mange and was extremely thin and weak. We sent her body to the California Animal Health & Food Safety lab in Davis for testing.

The second bobcat, a male, was rescued less than half a mile from where we captured the female. We decided to have his liver tested as well, even though he looked in fairly good physical shape.

Here are the results:

Bobcats and other wild animals are exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides when they consume mice and rats that have eaten the poison. Use of poison bait is common - too common, and it's taking a toll on our wildlife populations.

We will update this blog post as we find out information on how the bobcats may have been exposed. In the meantime, check out this post, HEREby Laurel Serieys, PHD. Laurel has done extensive research on bobcats and rodenticide exposure.

Stay tuned!