Sep 15, 2018

Another victim of a rat trap

By Deanna Barth and Rebecca Dmytryk

This young opossum is the latest victim of a spring-loaded rat trap with interlocking teeth.

Please, do NOT place these traps outdoors! They are intended for indoor use. 

If you feel you must set them in your home - in the attic or crawlspace, or garage, make sure they are not accessible to children or pets, or other wildlife. Wildlife, like raccoons and opossums can squeeze through a 3" gap, so make sure there's no chance of occupancy by larger animals - only rats and mice. If you're not sure, place the traps inside specifically designed containers to reduce risk of injury to non-target wildlife.

These heavy-duty traps can cause significant damage to other animals - skunks, opossums, raccoons, dogs, cats, even deer. We have seen a skunk lose its nose to one of these types of traps.

Over the years we've seen an increase in the number of incidents involving larger animals caught in these relatively newer traps, the most common victims are skunks and opossums - the species that predate on rodents. So ironic.

While the use of snap traps is certainly better than glue traps and poison, just remember, killing a few rodents isn't going to solve your problem long-term. You've got to find the actual cause of the infestation, which is usually a food source, followed by access to shelter. You've got to focus, then, on remedying the cause. 

Exclusion and sanitation is key. Here is a list of things you can do to reduce or eliminate rodents from your property.

* Find and patch gaps in the outermost "shell" of your home that are 1/2" or greater, and set live-catch traps to remove the ones entrapped after repairs. Call Humane Wildlife Control for more advice on this.

* Store food in rodent-proof (metal) containers.

* Never leave pet food outside day or night.

* Keep garbage secured.

* Don't feed birds or squirrels, or expect rats and mice and gophers.

* Pick up fallen fruit from trees.

* Remove clutter and debris form your yard. 

* Remove ivy and dense ground cover, and trim shrubs away from your building. Keep grasses short.

* If you have chickens, make sure mice and rats don't have access (gaps 1/2" or greater) and keep it clean! Store their feed in metal bins.

Please, think about the impact to other animals in your attempt to eliminate rodents. Thank you.

Jul 13, 2018

Two more bobcats with mange show up in Santa Cruz

By Rebecca Dmytryk

Last night, WES received a report from a local photographer that he’d spotted a sick bobcat at Wilder Ranch Park. 

"We used to see lots of bobcat (at least once every four visits), but it has been a year since we last saw one there. Today, we were excited to finally see a bobcat, but dismayed when it turned around to be clearly suffering from mange."

Indeed, the bobcat appears to be suffering from notoedric mange, a skin condition caused by mites. Research suggests this condition is related to a compromised immune system, often seen in bobcats exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. See resource links below for more. 

Under normal circumstances, sightings of bobcats suffering from mange is a cause for concern. In this case, it’s alarming because of the number of ailing bobcats that have been found in and around Wilder Ranch and UCSC campus over the years. Similarly, Elkhorn Slough Reserve has had an abundance of sick bobcats. 

Since 2013, WES has been keeping track of bobcats found with mange. See the map, here: 

WES has documented approximately 40 bobcats suffering from mange - just in Santa Cruz County! A few were successfully captured. Sadly, only a few of those recovered.

Many that were found dead or died in care were sent to the Wildlife Investigations Lab near Davis for testing. Results from the necropsies show an undeniably clear link between the fatal illness and exposure to anticoagulant poison. 

Predators, like the bobcat, are poisoned when they consume an animal that has eaten poison - it could be a ground squirrel, rat, mouse, gopher. 

These powerful chemicals that cause hemorrhaging, referred to as second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, or SGARs, are long-lived. Unlike first generation anticoagulants, SGARs don’t break down quickly, but accumulate in the liver. Each dose, then, increases the animal’s “stored up” level of poison until it either overwhelms the immune system and the animal succumbs to a secondary illness like mange, or it bleeds to death. 

It’s not just the predators like bobcats, coyotes, owls and hawks that are being poisoned, it’s the scavengers too, like raccoons, opossums and skunks. Even dogs and cats are at risk should they find and eat a poison-laced rodent.

Since the last bobcat at Wilder Ranch, just over a month ago, park officials agreed to help whenever another bobcat was sighted, so this morning I notified their staff and made arrangements to store a large cage on site in case the cat is seen again. 

I also notified Santa Cruz Raptors Are The Solution (SCRATS). Tai Moses, who runs the local chapter, helped spread word about the sighting, encouraging people to report sightings of sick bobcats.

It wasn't long before she alerted me to another sick bobcat - this one was spotted on the USCS campus, just about 3 miles away. Totally different cat. Check out the video, HERE. Only three miles

For me, this is absolutely heartbreaking. I am so tired of picking up dead and dying bobcats. 

If more people understood how extraordinary one single bobcat is - especially in a suburban area. How much went into its creation, from the meeting of two wild bobcats, to its conception, its mother finding a safe place to give birth to her kittens, and her staying alive - avoiding cars, hunters, trappers and dogs long enough to raise her cubs and teach them how to hunt successfully... only to be rendered to skin and bones by society's addiction to anticoagulant poison and greed within the pest control industry.

Dying mother bobcat with its cub. UCSC campus.

Anticoagulant rodenticides ARE NOT NECESSARY!!!!!! 

There are plenty of effective alternative rodenticides that don't risk killing wildlife and pets as SGARs do. 

There are plenty of effective means of controlling rodents without the use of poisons whatsoever! 

THIS HAS TO STOP, and I believe we can stop it. It will be a hard battle but I think we can. At least locally.

No matter where you live, if you're interested in joining the fight to end the use of SGARs, please email me rebecca (at) wildlifeservices (dot) org.

If you want to donate funds - to cover the costs of testing the animals we find, to prove they were exposed to poison, and to cover costs specifically associated with this battle.

Please help in whatever way you can. 

REPORT SIGHTINGS TO 831-498-9453 or use the iPhone App WildHelp


Google album Faces of Rodenticide  (images are copyright protected - all rights reserved)

Jul 12, 2018

Grounded owl recovers

By Deanna Barth 

Photo: Rene Rodriguez .

I received a call from a concerned couple in Paicines on May 5th, when they discovered this injured Great-horned owl on their property. After making several calls in an attempt to find help, they quickly discovered that doing so in this county is no easy feat! 

They finally contacted the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center who in turn gave them my number. 

It was a beautiful drive to the location but I was dismayed at what I found. The owl had tucked itself into a hole in the ground and appeared weak and unwary. Significant puncture wounds were apparent on the left wing and fearing it may also be fractured, I explained to the couple that the prognosis looked poor. 

To my pleasant surprise, the thorough evaluation given by wildlife center staff showed the wing was not broken, however, it would require extensive care. I was cautiously optimistic each time I asked for an update, but with their wound care and physical therapy it continued to improve. 

Finally, after two months, I was filled with joy to make the drive once again, this time with the honor of returning this beautiful bird back home just before sunset. 

(Thank you to Rene Rodriguez for the photo)

Lead poisoning in a turkey vulture

By Deanna Barth

On the evening of May 31st, Dee Kramer noticed this turkey vulture standing on the side of the road. She listened to her intuition as she drove by, turned around and went back. 

There was no obvious injury but it appeared hunched over which told her something was wrong. She waited nearby and called me for help. 

Upon arrival, I quickly agreed that the bird appeared sick.

It was fairly easy to collect with a long-handled net.

I provided supportive care including warmth and fluid therapy that night and transported it to the SPCA for Monterey County wildlife center the next morning. 

Blood results showed that the bird was suffering from lead toxicity. Thanks to their amazing care, he recovered.

Today, I was able to return him to the location found this afternoon. He walked around, took time to stretch his wings and even posed for us on the fence post before taking flight. While turkey vultures may not be admired by most who see them, it’s important to note that they serve a crucial purpose in our ecosystem. Disposing of carrion helps prevent the spread of disease. So the next time you see them flying overhead, be thankful for “Nature’s Clean-up Crew.”

If you'd like to support Deanna and WES' San Benito program that 
she operates, please click the Donate button, below. Thank you!

Jun 9, 2018

Young girl, little bird, big heart

By Deanna Barth

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Victor and his compassionate daughter Jeanette. 

Early in the morning, Jeanette found a nestling House Sparrow on the ground outside their home. She carefully scooped it up and carried it inside where she asked her parents to help it. They placed it on a soft cloth and began searching online for advice on how to care for it. 

Fearing he would do more harm by feeding it the wrong food, Victor chose to just keep it warm and left a message for me this morning (perfect!). They tucked the baby safely in a box and left it on the front porch so I could pick it up after work.

I was able to collect the baby around midday. I took it home to our (WES') makeshift ER and placed it in the incubator. 

Soon after, it was warm and actively vocalizing, so I began feeding it the proper diet about every 20 minutes. 

Once Victor returned home from work, I headed over to their residence to place the healthy bird back in the nest beneath the roof tile. 

I could hear the other nestlings loudly peeping and parent bird was hopping on the roof waiting impatiently for me to leave. 

A huge THANK YOU! to this lovely family for caring enough to make this wild reunion possible.

If you'd like to support Deanna and WES' San Benito program that 
she operates, please click the Donate button, below. Thank you!

May 20, 2018

Mallard hen and ducklings escorted to safety

By Deanna Barth

Earlier this week, I was contacted by a homeowner who had discovered a mallard duck and five little ducklings in her pool, which is not an uncommon occurrence, this time of year. 

Mallard hens seek out safe places to nest, and this particular backyard provided, not only a water source, but shelter from predators and mallard drakes. 

Unfortunately, a situation like this - a swimming pool and enclosed backyard, was not a suitable place for the wild duck family to stay. Keeping them there and feeding them was not an option. They might become habituated to people. 

For the well-being of the ducks, they needed to be returned to their natural habitat. 

Typically, we would open the gate to allow the hen and ducklings to leave on their own, or gently herd them a certain direction. 

Instinctively, the hen wants to lead her babies to the closest body of water - one that she has spied from her flights. The closest body of water, however, was across a busy highway. This would not only be dangerous for the ducks, but also to drivers, as the ducks could potentially cause a traffic collision. 

Most wild birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and wildlife in our state is protected by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This duck family could not be captured and moved to a safer location without prior authorization.

WES has a permit that allows us to move migratory birds that are either in imminent danger or may pose a threat to human safety. We also called our local game warden for his opinion. 

It was decided - we would capture the duck family and escort them across the highway to the closest pond. For anyone who has worked with mallards, you know it's not easy to capture a flighted adult. This was definitely a two-person job.

This morning, WES' founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, met me at the residence to assist in capturing the duck family. 

After observing their behavior, we made a plan to contain the ducklings first, then capture the hen by luring her with the ducklings.

We used long-handled dip nets to gently scoop the ducklings from the pool, then we set them next to a drop trap.

A drop trap, described in Rebecca's book Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide to First Responders, is the simplest and safest way to catch an adult mallard. Check out the video below to see how it works. 

Once we had the mother contained in a separate carrier for safety, we drove to the pond.

It's important for the babies to be let go first, in an open area where the mother can see and hear them.

All went as planned. A happy reunion!

May 19, 2018

5 Snakes Caught in Garden Netting

There are no warning labels. Nothing to prepare the consumer for what might happen if garden netting is used in a natural setting.

This is what can happen.

Today, WES responders received a call about 5 gopher snakes entangled in garden netting that was placed to protect the base of saplings. 

Four of the snakes were rescued alive, the fifth was dead when we arrived.

Watch the video below.

May 3, 2018

Young lady save baby bird

By Deanna Barth

I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely young lady today because of her desire to help a baby bird. 

After speaking with dad over the phone and determining that the bird was a healthy fledgling, we met on school campus so Alexa could show me exactly where she found it. 

As we were walking towards the area, the parent Starlings flew from their nest in the corner of the roof. 

I explained that the saying, “If you touch a baby bird the parents will abandon it,” is a myth. So she gently tucked it inside the bushes beneath the nest. 

We also discussed that there would soon be more fledglings hopping around the playground and that it would be her job to educate her teachers and fellow students to leave them be. 

I applaud her for her concern and willingness to help this little one today. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the next generation display compassion for all living things. 

Great job Alexa!!!

Apr 26, 2018

Hummingbird returns home

By Deanna Barth

In the late afternoon of 4/15, I received a message from a lovely woman I had met from a previous rescue. This time she was concerned about a possibly orphaned hummingbird in her backyard. 

Her children had noticed it on the ground beneath the trees while they were playing. She was unable to find the nest, but carefully placed the tiny bird up high and made sure that everyone, including the family pets, were brought inside to give the parent bird the opportunity to care for it. 

She watched and waited, but nothing happened.

I asked several questions over the phone and while her answers prompted concern, I thought perhaps the feeding had happened so quickly (we’re talking seconds!) that she just didn’t see it. So, I drove over to the residence to see for myself. 

This time of year I spend a lot of time educating people about nestling and fledgling birds, often telling them to “put it back.” So the last thing I wanted to do was rescue a bird that didn’t need to be. The family and I watched quietly from a distance for nearly an hour, and although the fledgling was peeping loudly and there were adult hummingbirds flying through the area, sadly, none showed any interest in this little one. 

As the sunlight was quickly fading, I gently picked the bird up and placed it in a small carrier. It was hydrated and kept warm overnight and transferred to the wildlife center the following day. 

Staff confirmed this Anna’s Hummingbird wasn’t sick or injured but thought perhaps it had fledged prematurely. The bird received supportive care and after just a few days, began to self-feed. 

I had the pleasure of returning this little one “home” today. As soon as I opened the box it flew to the branch of an orange tree and rested for a moment before zipping away.

Deanna Barth runs WES' San Benito chapter. Keep up with her on Facebook at

Apr 21, 2018

Dove nest reconstruction

By Deanna Barth

Thursday evening I received a call from a woman who found a dove on her front lawn. It was dark when I arrived and by flashlight I could see the parent bird up above on the nest. I picked up the nestling with the intent to put it back the next day as long as wildlife center staff deemed it healthy. 

The following afternoon I returned to the site and cringed when I saw the second nestling teetering on the edge of the poorly created nest. 

I’ve renested many doves by attaching a basket to a branch. But this bird had chosen to nest on the side of a palm, in a small space created by the rough trunk. Placing a basket would not be easy. Adding to my frustration- it was 25’ high. It was a matter of time before the second nestling tumbled to the ground, but it would have to wait until my husband could help me set up his tallest ladder. 

Today I called the wildlife center for an update on the first nestling and was informed it had a laceration that had been sutured so it needed to remain in care. I focused my attention on preventing the bird currently in the nest from suffering the same fate. 

I drilled several holes in the bottom of a plastic basket and two more on the side to attach twine. Once at the top of the ladder, I picked up the nestling and placed both it and the nesting material in the basket. It was placed in the same location and tied to the trunk. 

The goal is to always keep wild families together and it often takes a lot of time and patience to make that happen. 

I couldn’t call it a happy ending until I knew the bird was being cared for. I went back shortly after sunset to confirm parent bird is back on the nest. Success!

Deanna Barth runs WES' San Benito chapter. Keep up with her on Facebook at

Apr 19, 2018

Commission Approves Progressive Predator Policy

By Rebecca Dmytryk

In December, 2015, I was appointed by the California Fish and Game Commission to serve on the newly established Predator Policy Workgroup. This group of ten, representing wildlife conservation, non-lethal wildlife control, hunting and agriculture, was tasked with the job of reviewing existing regulations that govern terrestrial carnivores and making recommendations to modernize them, and, developing a separate policy for predators.

It was a cumbersome process. Over a 24-month period, we met only 8 times, our meetings and communications were hamstrung by the Bagley-Keene Act, and, not only were we, on the wildlife conservation side, outnumbered, the majority of workgroup members were lobbyists - making compromise virtually impossible.

Despite the difficulties, the workgroup did accomplish some important work. After thorough review of the regulations, we submitted constructive feedback. You can view our recommendations, HERE. The group also crafted a comprehensive terrestrial predator policy, with only two points of contention - the inclusion of the word humane, as it relates to methods used to resolve predator conflicts, and exclusion of recreational take

Today, after listening to our final presentations and hearing testimony from professionals and members of the public (view the video of Agenda Item 32HERE)the Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt the Terrestrial Predator Policy (below) with a slight revision proposed by Commissioner Williams - which we supported.

Terrestrial Predator Policy 
(as amended by the Fish & Game Commission, April 19, 2018) 

It is the policy of the Fish and Game Commission that: 

I. For the purposes of this policy, terrestrial predators are defined as all native wildlife species in the Order Carnivora, except those in the Family Otariidae (seals, sea lions), the Family Phocidae (true seals), and sea otters (Enhydra lutris). 

II. Pursuant to the objectives set forth in Section 1801 of Fish and Game Code, the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) acknowledges that native terrestrial predators are an integral part of California’s natural wildlife and possess intrinsic, biological, historical, and cultural value, which benefit society and ecosystems. The Commission shall promote the ecological, scientific, aesthetic, recreational, and educational value of native terrestrial predators in the context of ecosystem-based management, while minimizing adverse impacts on wildlife and reducing conflicts that result in adverse impacts to humans, including health and safety, private property, agriculture, and other public and private economic impacts. 

III. The Commission further recognizes that sustainable conservation and management strategies are necessary to encourage the coexistence of humans and wildlife. It is, therefore, the policy and practice of the Fish and Game Commission that: 

a. Existing native terrestrial predator communities and their habitats are monitored, maintained, restored, and/or enhanced using the best available science. The department shall protect and conserve predator populations. 

b. Native terrestrial predator management shall be consistent with the goals and objectives of existing management and conservation plans. Management strategies shall recognize the ecological interactions between predators and other wildlife species and consider all available management tools, best available science, affected habitat, species, and ecosystems and other factors. The department shall provide consumptive and non-consumptive recreational opportunities. The recreational take of native terrestrial predator species shall be managed in a way that ensures sustainable populations of predator and prey are maintained. 

c. Human-predator conflict resolution shall rely on management strategies that avoid and reduce conflict that results in adverse impacts to human health and safety, private property, agriculture, and public and private economic impacts. Efforts should be made to minimize habituation of predators especially where it is leading to conflict. Human safety shall be considered a priority. Management decisions regarding human-predator conflicts shall evaluate and consider various forms of lethal and nonlethal controls that are efficacious, humane, feasible and in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations. A diverse set of tools is necessary to avoid, reduce, and manage conflict. To ensure long term conservation of predators and coexistence with humans and wildlife, all legal tools shall be considered when managing to address conflicts.  

While the Predator Policy Workgroup was officially disbanded earlier this year, I am looking forward to continuing to work on modernizing the regulations with at least one of the original workgroup members, Josh Brones. 

We're currently in recruitment mode, looking for people with knowledge and experience in wildlife conservation, hunting and agriculture, who are willing and able to invest the time and energy necessary. If you or someone you know is interested in being a part of this new ten-member workgroup, please contact me at rebecca (at) wildlifeservices dot org.

A huge THANK YOU! to everyone who worked on the drafting and review process and to the Fish & Game Commission for adopting a progressive predator policy!  

I also want to thank our WES supporters. Your contributions have helped get me to and from Workgroup meetings and Commission hearings. Your continued support is greatly appreciated. Thank you!!!

Apr 12, 2018

Opossum survives dog attack and being tossed in the trash

By Deanna Barth

This female opossum found herself in the mouth of a large dog on March 16th. Presuming she was dead, the homeowner tossed her lifeless body in the garbage can. 

Luckily the teenage daughter is a huge animal lover and when she went outside later to check on her, she not only found the opossum alive and well, but with several young in her pouch. 

The teen had no idea who to call for help and spent the next two days taking dog food, fruit and water out to the frightened animal. She was given my information on the third day and contacted me. 

Shortly after arriving I proceeded to empty the entire contents of the garbage can to be sure I had all the babies. 

Sadly, two had become separated and died but the nine in her pouch were warm and in good shape. “Mamma” opossum had one large wound over her left hip but appeared healthy otherwise. 

I transported her to the wildlife center where they have been receiving excellent care for nearly a month while her wound healed. 

Thanks to this teen’s compassion early on, I was able to return this family back to the same location tonight.

Deanna Barth runs WES' San Benito chapter. Keep up with her on Facebook at