Apr 27, 2015

Western screech owl rescue

Today, WES received word about an owl that was caught inside a building in Santa Clara. It had come in through the front doors a couple of nights before, when workers were installing new carpeting.

When we arrived, the owl was tucked up in a space above the dropped ceilings of the office. We would never be able to get him out of there, so we worked with the bird's behavior to devise a plan...

Since the bird had spent most of the morning in the offices, perching on various objects, one can say it's "comfortable" with that space - not fearful (yet). We needed to keep it that way. Conversely, we needed to make the space above the dropped ceiling a "bad and scary" place, so we had Duane stick his head through one of the ceiling tiles.

It worked. The little owl dropped down into the office space again.

The company's employees, whose offices we had invaded, were all so wonderful. They were so concerned for the owl, and so willing to help.

We gave them jobs, positioning them in certain spots to prevent the owl from going down a hall that led to windows where it could be seriously injured. We assigned another to help with the net panel, and another helped with one of the nets.

We used a panel of netting to block one end of a hallway, with Duane approaching from behind. It worked, until the owl wiggled through a small gap. 

On the next attempt, the owl was successfully netted and quickly taken outside where it was placed on a branch of a tree.

There, it sat for some time. Looking around. Alert. Responsive. Then, all of a sudden it hopped across branches and took off toward the building (Please, don't crash into a window!) and straight up under an overhang.

We used binoculars to get a better look and found the owl nestled on a spike strip, padded with pine needles. Was this its roost or could it be a nest? 

Western screech nest almost exclusively in cavities of trees and will take readily to nest boxes. Pairs mate for life, but if a partner is lost they may take a new mate.

We will be checking up on this little owl in days to come. Stay tuned!


Apr 25, 2015

Skunk caught in covered trap

By Rebecca Dmytryk

This morning, we were contacted by UC Santa Cruz Police about a skunk with a paw caught in a trap. 

We thought it would be a Trapper T-Rex, one of those newer, heavy plastic snap traps that have interlocking jaws - powerful and deadly to rodents and dangerous to other animals. From the description, however, it sounded like the skunk might have reached into a plastic bait box meant to cover are conceal a trap.

Duane and I responded to the location immediately. There, under the porch of the Carriage House we found the skunk, tucked back against the building, trembling. At first, we could't tell what was on its front paw.

Duane used poles to move the skunk out from under the deck where I could net it. We draped a dark sheet over the animal to calm it and allow us to approach and get a good hold of it without getting sprayed.

I needed to have a really good hold of the head, so, while it goes against normal protocol, I doffed the thick leather gloves and gathered its scruff with a bare hand for a much securer, no-slip grip. Again, this goes against protocol and should not be attempted by anyone without a tremendous amount of handling experience and rabies prophylaxis. 

Once I had the skunk well-restrained, Duane went to work on opening the box and freeing the skunk's paw. It was quite an ordeal and took some time, but we finally got the animal freed. 

The skunk was placed into a padded carrier and transported to Native Animal Rescue's skunk expert, Monique, in Corralitos. We await word on its prognosis. 

Check out the video. Missing money shot due to camera user error! That would be me : (

Looking into the box where the skunk reached in and was caught by the jaws of the trap.

The T-Rex brand of snap trap exudes bone-crushing pressure meant to kill rodents swiftly. For larger animals, these traps can cause severe injuries. We know of many skunks that have lost digits. Some have lost their entire paw. One skunk lost its nose to a Trapper T-Rex.

The trap itself is not the problem, though, it's misuse by the consumer. We believe clearer labeling is needed to better ensure the traps are not placed where other animals have access to them!

Last September, I contacted Bell Laboratories and spoke with Vice President of Sales and Business Development Mark Westover. At that time, he indicated a willingness to look into adding language to the T-Rex and Mini-Rex product instructions to help reduce non-target wildlife injuries. 

With the cover off, you can see the trap is set, and how an animal can reach it through the hole on the side.

As for the "prtotective" box, we now know these boxes meant to protect other animals (and children) from reaching the trap, are ineffective - at least this brand by Liphatech.

Perhaps it's time to petition both companies to make the necessary changes to protect our wildlife.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: 4-27-15

The skunk's paw was not badly damaged. Monique suspected the female skunk might be a mother - it was important for her to get back back home, soon. This evening, Duane released her right back where she'd been rescued. She definitely knew where she was and took off!

Apr 22, 2015


By Rebecca Dmytryk

More than 40 volunteer hours.

Over 300 miles traveled.

Returning 6 baby owls back to the wild: priceless

It was Sunday morning around 9:00 AM. Duane and I had just arrived at our Sunday morning breakfast spot when we received a call from WildCare about a fallen owlet. It had been found at the base of a eucalyptus tree at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex in Alameda. 

I asked for the reporting party's number so I could get the details, firsthand - more about the baby, how big, its exact location, when it was first found, and maybe get a picture of it texted to my iPhone. All really important information to collect from the finder before it's too late - before the animal is dropped off somewhere and no one knows where it came from.

The finder, Jake, was very willing to help. He texted a picture of the owlet which confirmed it was a great horned owl nestling. We had him look around for other owlets, in case more had toppled.

In the meantime, I contacted the golf course to discuss renesting. It was during one of these conversations they mentioned that another baby owl had been found last week and was taken "somewhere". 

I contacted the nearest wildlife hospital, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, and sure enough, they had admitted an owlet from Alameda but had no information on where it had been found. Little orphan owlet, no more!

The day was getting on - it was maybe 11:00. It would take time to organize a renesting, so we asked Jake to give the owlet a ride to Sulphur Creek. There, it could get a proper evaluation by medical staff and be reunited with its sibling.

In the meantime, we received a call from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve that a baby great horned owl had fallen from one of the barn owl nest boxes (Yes, right.) They said it looked good except for a little bruising on one wing. 

As wildlife paramedics we provide first aid, but, if there's any question as to an animal's condition - if it looks sick or injured, it must be seen by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 

The SPCA for Monterey County was called to pick up the baby.

Meanwhile, WES received another call about fallen owlets. This call was patched through to us from 911. The RP was reporting 4 baby owls had fallen from a palm tree.

Duane and I rushed to the location to find four very upset barn owl chicks on the ground next to debris that had once been their home. The homeowner had been cutting at the dead fronds of the large palm when a big chunk of rotted wood fell from the trunk - inside were the babies!

We began collecting them.

You have to take great care when handling barn owls of any age. When frightened they'll use their talons to strike at and grab hold of anything in reach - a gloved hand, a towel, a sibling, even a part of their own body. So, their talons must be controlled at all times.

We collected the feistiest chick first, placing it into a box by itself so it would not hurt one of its siblings. The second oldest was also confined separately, and the two smallest were placed together.

They all needed to be examined by a licensed rehabilitator. 

Timing could not have been better! 

Jessica Shipman, manager of the wildlife rehabilitation program at the SPCA for Monterey County was nearby, picking up the Elkhorn owlet. We met up with her so she could have a look and a feel.

Sadly, two of the barn owl chicks were badly injured and could not be returned to their nest, but the oldest and the youngest appeared to be in good health.

The great horned owl from the reserve was also in good shape and could be returned to its nest, but we'd need approval from the Reserve's manager to work on site. Since this could take a day or so, and with other owlets to renest, the little great horned went with Jessica for the time being. 

It was now about 2:00. Duane spent the rest of the afternoon building a barn owl box for the Freedom owlets.

At about 7:00 PM, we headed over to the home in Freedom to install the owl box and renest the barn owl chicks. Two WES responders, Mary and Maureen met us there to help.

Over the past few years, Duane has gained a lot of experience installing barn owl nest boxes. 

With Maureen helping, it only took about 30 minutes to get this box raised and mounted securely to the tree.

When it came time to place the chicks, the youngest one was set inside the box first, to one corner. 

This is a really important rule. If you place the most aggressive baby in the box first, it will strike at each one being introduced, risking injury to the other chicks. Placing the most aggressive last and getting out of sight fast will lessen the chance of it hurting a sibling or itself. We sometimes use dark pillow cases to cover chicks until were our of view.

With the two barn owls safe and secure in their new home, we instructed the landowner to keep watch and let us know when they see an adult owl enter the box of make a food drop.


By Monday morning, we'd had an excellent response from our Bay Area Team, with seven volunteer responders were willing to help renest the great horned chicks at the golf course in Alameda. Maureen, Lisa, Kathy, John, Julene, Kerry and Patricia! 

We made plans to meet at the entrance at about 5:30 PM. 

While waiting for Duane to arrive with the tall ladder, the team helped put the finishing touches on the replacement nest - a laundry basket transformed into a great horned owl nest, with sticks and willow, eucalyptus bark and coyote bush. 

Drainage holes were drilled into the bottom, and branches were attached to the sides of the basket for the owlets to perch on as they get older and begin exploring their treetop home.

Patricia Denn generously volunteered to pick up the owlets from Sulphur Creek Nature Center and deliver them to the golf course. 

Mike Prajsler, who works at the golf course and who found the first owlet the week before, he organized transport for our team - golf carts! 

Once Duane arrived, we headed out to to south field.

Our first task was to look for the nest. We scoured the ground at the base of the trees near where the owlets had been found, looking for traces of a nest, urates, pellets, carcasses. Oddly, there was nothing really obvious.

Then, Duane spotted an adult, on a spit of a nest, high in one of the eucalyptus trees. We assumed it was the female. Huddled next to her was the third chick.

Finding the nest with an adult present meant that we could swap out the old nest for the new one, place all three chicks, and feel confident the parent would return quickly and continue caring for the chicks as if nothing had happened. 

There would be no need to use vocalizations to draw in the parents, no need for someone to stay late into the night to confirm the reunion, but we would have someone check the next day.

But first, Duane had to scale the tall tree, collect the remaining chick, haul up the replacement nest and secure it to the truck.

Photo credit Patricia Denn

It was windy and cold and the sun was setting, but the team rallied. I was really impressed. They supported Duane during his ascent and helped get what equipment he needed sent up. They even organized the rope box! (THANK YOU!)

Then, it came time to renest the owlets. 

The chicks were placed together in a canvas bag that was lifted safely through the branches to their new home.

It went perfectly! Safe and sound.

Check out the video, below.


By Monday afternoon, we'd received permission to renest the fallen great horned owlet at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Since there was at least one baby in the nest, there was no huge rush, so we scheduled it for Tuesday mid-day.

At about 11:30 AM we met the SPCA for Monterey County at the Reserve. They had brought the fallen owlet, plus a little orphan great horned that was about the same age, hoping we could wild-foster it into the brood.

We never want to overwhelm a parent, but if there was only one chick still in the nest, adding this orphan, to make it a total of 3, would not be a hardship, especially with the abundance of prey in the area.

Duane climbed the ladder and peered inside the box. There was only one chick. That meant the orphan had a home!

This renesting was a bit unusual. We had to work with an existing nest box installed years ago. It's flawed open-platform design allowed nestlings to reach the edge and fall. 

Normally, great horned owls nest in trees, but this "open" box has been used before by a great horned. 

Instead of replacing the nest with a more suitable one, we were limited to making a few alterations to, hopefully, prevent any more chicks from tumbling. We added a higher rim and some branches for them to cling to. 

After making these few adjustment, all three chicks were placed inside.

Check out the video:


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UPDATE: 4-24-15

The Freedom barn owl parents have been seen making food drops inside the box. Mike called from the golf course and said one of the adults was on the nest the following morning, and, so far, the Elkhorn Slough Reserve chicks have stayed put.

Apr 17, 2015


By Rebecca Dmytryk

A sampling from our day...

The morning started out with a call from a woman in Salinas, she was really upset - her voice was shaky and I could tell she'd been crying. 

She said she saw a snake in her bedroom... 

She and the children were out of the room. I instructed her to jam a bath towel under the door so the snake would not be able to get out.

Duane went to check it out. When he arrived, the entire family was outside, waiting. He was escorted to the room.

There, he found an alligator lizard. A very large, very pissed off alligator lizard. 

Duane scooped it into a bucket and released it nearby.

During the lizard rescue, we were referred a call from the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter about a bird that had just walked into a medical clinic on Main Street in Watsonville - downtown Watsonville!

We rushed over to find a green heron brancher hiding in a filing closet. 

The bird appeared uninjured but its wings were a bit droopy. Not too unusual. 

A brancher is the stage of development where it's normal for a chick to be exploring the branches of its treetop world. Even on the ground, branchers often do fine, hiding under bushes,... but not on the ground in downtown Watsonville. 

We made the decision to transfer the baby to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where it will then go to International Bird Rescue in Cordelia until it's ready for release back in the slough.

Meanwhile, we dispatched WES' First Responder Ron Eby to take a look for a common murre, reportedly beached at the end of Jetty Road in Moss Landing.

Just a short time later, we were given a call from the Hollister Animal Control. A baby bird had fallen from its nest at the entrance of the Police Station. First Responder, Deanna Barth, took the call. By the time she arrived, the nestling house sparrow had perished - likely injured from the fall. THANK YOU DEANNA!!!

By then we'd heard back from Ron Eby. The murre was no where to be found. THANK YOU RON!!!

As Duane and I were headed up to San Jose to deliver the heron, we received a call from someone in Palos Verdes who wanted to know what she could feed her neighborhood squirrels because she just read on the Internet that peanuts were bad. 

I did all I could to kindly explain that feeding the squirrels was the wrong thing to do. She might love squirrels but neighboring homes probably don't share the sentiment, so, really, encouraging the animals isn't a good idea. If you love the animals, I said, don't feed them. 

She then wanted to know how they would survive - what they would find to eat on their own. Then she went on, wanting to know where on Earth do squirrels find sanctuary. In retrospect, I suppose I could have ended the call a little better...

Not long after that, the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter called on us again, asking if we'd take a call about a rattlesnake in someone's backyard.

I called the RP and had her text me a photograph. She sent a video and picture of a gorgeous gopher snake. She was worried because the snake vibrated its tail. I assured her - that's what gopher snakes do.

Next, we received a call from a farmer in Madera. A red-tailed hawk built a nest on a power pole. The fuses on the transformer have blown twice now, shutting off power to a pump that waters his vineyard. PG&E won't switch the power back on until the nest is removed.

We asked for photos and more details. I am sure we can find a way to give the hawks a better spot to raise their chicks and save the vineyard!

Next, we received a call from a person concerned for the welfare of a flock of Canada geese at Pasadena High School, and another from someone who had just helped a family of geese cross a busy intersection in Concord.

Later, a resident of Pasatiempo, in Santa Cruz, called, worried for a large gopher snake that had gotten wedged between her barbecue and fence. By the time we returned her call it had wriggled free and was fine.

The last call of the day was to check up on a barn owl chick that fell from its palm tree nest over 2 weeks ago. 

Under our direction, the homeowner has been looking out for the owlet as the parents come down to the ground to make food-drops of gopher and vole and rat. 

This was just a sampling of the calls we received today. It's a very busy time of year and you keep us going - paying for gas and supplies and equipment with every donation.

If you haven't signed up for monthly giving, it's a great way to give a little bit at a time and make a big difference! 

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Happy Birthday Jay!

Apr 11, 2015

The busy season is here!

The busy season is officially here! Here's a sampling of the calls we're receiving for help with wild animals in distress.

On Monday afternoon, WES was forwarded a call about a hummingbird that was stuck in an art gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Duane and Rebecca responded immediately, knowing the bird wouldn't survive long. Duane used a ladder and long-handled net to get the little bird down from the skylights. They offered it a bit of sugar-water before setting it free.

Late in the afternoon, one of WES' responders in Los Angeles, Grove, called in about a goose in the L. A.with plastic around its leg. He took this video to show its response to approach.

In planning a capture, we usually want to first test the reaction of an animal to approach and check to see if we can lure it towards us. This video shows the goose can be baited close enough to attempt a capture.

It was late in the day and the team didn't have all the equipment they needed, plus, the facility where the goose would go for treatment was closed. The rescue was postponed until the next morning. 

Later, at about 8:30 PM, Duane and Rebecca responded to a reportedly ill skunk. It was walking in circles. They were able to contain the skunk fairly easily without it spraying.

The next morning, the skunk's condition had worsened. 

After consulting with local skunk expert, Monique, the decision was made to have it euthanized. The animal shelter in Santa Cruz provided a humane death. Its body was sent to the State Wildlife Investigations Lab for testing. 

On Tuesday, WES received word of an Egyptian goose in Anaheim, with an arrow through its head. Karen, the RP, sent us this video (below). It was clear, from the bird's reaction, it was going to be very difficult to get close to.

On Wednesday, as Rebecca was headed to Santa Rosa to speak at a California Fish and Game Commission meeting, she received a call from Mountain View about a crow stuck in a glass enclosed stairwell of a building still under construction. 

The caller, Brittany, was part of the construction team and just found out about the crow, which had apparently been trapped for at least two days. 

With no other entity to respond, Rebecca took a slight detour to save the bird. Check out the video.

Also, on Wednesday, WES received a call from Napa County Wildlife Rescue, asking for assistance with a Canada goose with a fractured wing that was staying offshore. Another call for help came from San Francisco Animal Care and Control, looking for advice on how to capture a gull entangled in fishing line and trailing a bobber. We sent them one of our training videos showing a technique that might work. 

On Thursday, an acorn woodpecker was rescued after it collided with a car. 

Later that afternoon we received a call from a woman in Oxnard, looking for help in getting a hummingbird out of their home. The home had vaulted ceilings and the hummingbird was flying well out of reach.

We provided some instruction. Open all doors and windows that can open and use curtains or sheets to block the windows that cannot open, then leave the area.

It worked! Within about an hour Carol called to let us know the hummingbird had made it outside.

These were just a few of the calls for rescues we received. You can help us respond by signing up to volunteer, HERE, or by making a contribution, HERE, to help cover gas and supplies. Consider monthly giving for as little at $5.00 a month.

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Apr 10, 2015

Little big brown

This afternoon, Duane and Rebecca were inspecting a large commercial property in Mountain View, hoping their company, Humane Wildlife Control, will be hired to help solve the company's wildlife issues humanely and without the use of poison. 

During a tour of the facilities, they stumbled upon (nearly literally) a bat on the ground.

The bat was startled, and tried to get away, but couldn't fly.

Rebecca scooped up the 2" big brown bat (that's its name), and offered it some filtered water. It lapped the water, eagerly. Check out the video.

The bat was placed in a 5 gallon bucket with plenty of ventilation, and given a pillowcase to hide under. We use pillowcases and dish towels with animals that have sharp little nails that might get tangled in a looser weave like a bath towel.

The little big brown was transported to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for care.

Friday Rounds: Moss Landing

One of our lead responders, Deanna Barth, takes time - nearly every week, to make her rounds, looking for injured wildlife. Here is her report from today:

I stopped at Moss Landing Harbor on my way home from work this afternoon to check for birds with entanglements. This is a very popular fishing area so I am usually able to fill a large bucket full of trash and fishing line each week.   
From the parking area, I looked out towards the jetty that is usually lined with a hundred or so pelicans and cormorants, and was surprised to see it taken over by sea lions! 

I started to walk toward the jetty to get a closer look and was horrified to find the sandy cove littered with a dozen or more dead sea lion pups in varying degrees of decay.   
The plight of the California sea lions has made headlines recently, but seeing it up close was heart wrenching. So many tiny lifeless bodies that never had a chance.   
I glanced at each one as I walked by, checking for flipper tags. I also checked a few dead birds for leg bands. This information is important to report to the organizations that originally identified these animals.   

I stopped in front of a dead pup that stood out from the rest. It had a yellow tag, a large number branded on its side and a transmitter glued to its back. I immediately contacted The Marine Mammal Center and they made arrangements to pick it up.   
I returned my attention to the birds, scanning each pelican for injuries through my binoculars when I felt the presence of someone behind me.  The gentleman and his wife had just been walking on the other side of the beach and found a bird that appeared to need help. He was unsure what it was when I asked, and responded with only “black and white.”   
The bird had been lying in the sand when he witnessed a Labrador Retriever run up and pick it up in its mouth. As soon as the bird began pecking at the dog’s muzzle, it was released and the dog trotted off. 
I crossed over the top of the sand dune and could see a Common Murre in the distance. The bird was a few feet from the water’s edge and appeared weak and disoriented. Thankfully, there were no obvious wounds or any indication of trauma from being picked up by the dog. I was able to scoop it up with my hands, easily, and place it into a cardboard carrier for transport to the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center.