Jun 22, 2017

Oakland Fire saves entangled osprey

by Rebecca Dmytryk

I was headed home from Lake Tahoe where, the night before, I'd given our presentation Living With Wildlife to a crowd of about 100 locals. I was passing through Berkeley when I received word about a fledgling osprey that was tangled in debris in its nest at the Port of Oakland. 

Local birders monitoring the nest had first noticed the bird was in trouble on Tuesday. They were waiting on the Port of Oakland and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for assistance.

I reached out to Tony Brake who was working with Wendy Parfrey, an Alameda Fish and Wildlife Commissioner, who had been monitoring this particular nest - the Oakland Middle Harbor Nest. (More on the Bay Area ospreys, HERE.)

Tony gave me a rundown of the history. The osprey pair was first observed at the nest on February 26th. Incubation began on March 25th, with hatching confirmed on April 30th.

All seemed well - the chicks were developing and starting to fly, when, on  June 20th, Wendy observed one of the fledglings was in trouble - it appeared “tethered” to the nest by some sort of line. 

On June 21st, Tony confirmed the chick was still caught. That's when Wendy attempted to contact Port staff and reached out to the USFWS. Tony also contacted Anne Ardillo who had helped arrange the rescue of a similarly trapped osprey nestling on a crane in the Port of Richmond in 2014. In turn, Anne reached out to WES.

The nest was atop a light post inside the 7th Street Terminal. You could get a view of it from Port View Park. I asked Tony to meet me there.

In the meantime, I contacted the USFWS to be sure they knew what we were up to. Our USFWS permit allows us to rescue imperiled migratory birds - I just needed to notify an agent. Check.

Next, I left a message for someone at the Port of Oakland, but decided not to wait for a callback before moving forward...

We needed a lift... hmmmm... We have had excellent response from local Fire when faced with difficult, technical rescues requiring a ladder, so, I called Oakland Fire to see if they'd be willing to help.

"I'm sorry - a WHAT?"

"An osprey - it's like a fish eagle."

"Okay, hold on a minute,..."

A minute or so later, Oakland Fire T3 was on the way! (THANK YOU!!!!!!)

I met with the crew to go over the rescue plan and contingencies. One of the most important things - don't just cut the line. In cases where birds are entangled, it's not enough to free them, all the material around their legs, feet, body, must be removed. If there is a serious injury, the bird will need to be taken to a local wildlife hospital.

With that, the crew made contact with Port Security to gain access into the terminal, and within minutes they were raising the ladder toward the nest. The parent ospreys and two siblings circled above.

As the ladder approached, the young osprey tried to fly but was clearly caught by the leg by some sort of material. After a closer look, Lt. Jessel knew the bird needed medical treatment - the line had cut into the leg, deeply. He snipped the material and carried the bird down the ladder where Tony and I met him with an animal carrier.

Tony transported the bird to WildCare in Marin (THANK YOU, TONY!!!). 

There, it received immediate attention. The line had cut deeply. According to WildCare medical staff, the bird is in guarded condition and will likely be in rehabilitation for two weeks.

Stay tuned.

Photo Credit WildCare.