Since the beginning of April, the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has been inundated with gravely ill pelagic birds. Pelagic birds spend their lives in the ocean and are therefore particularly susceptible to domoic acid, a neurotoxin produced by a certain type of plankton known as Pseudo-nitzschia. During April alone, the Wildlife Care Network staff and volunteers had cared for 216 sick pelagic birds, mostly loons, grebes, and murres. By comparison, fewer than ten pelagic birds were brought to the center for rehabilitation in the previous two months.
The general public in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have noticed a change in wildlife behavior over the past few months as well, observing scores of pelagic birds, which normally stay in the water, beaching themselves. Pelagic birds typically land on beaches only if they are injured, ill, or severely malnourished. Research has confirmed that the current increased incidence of beached marine mammals and seabirds in Santa Barbara and Ventura is due to domoic acid poisoning.
In April, the SBWCN began to receive calls regarding pelicans exhibiting signs of neurological disfunction associated with domoic acid poisoning such as confusion, lethargy, seizures, head-bobbing or weaving, and foaming at the mouth. In total, the SBWCN has received 93 pelicans since the beginning of the year.
Macy Gradias, a student at Cold Springs school, just turned eight years old and wanted to throw the SBWCN a car wash to raise funds in support of our rehabilitation efforts. With a group of classmates Macy raised over $450! Thank you Macy for your passion and support of the wildlife we help!
On Thursday April 6th, local bicyclist Wendy Sandburg noticed a female mallard behaving oddly. Below is her story:
"There are some exceptional, humanitarian people in this town that deserved to be recognized. Adam Hodgson, Santa Barbara Park Ranger and Chuck Cail, volunteer of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.
They both showed me what being a caring, dutiful, responsible person looks like. The event that brought us all together was Thursday April 6th. I was riding my bike along Cabrillo Boulevard when I saw a female Mallard Duck having a conniption on the south side of the road just before the Cemetery. I figured I could escort her across the road to the bird Refuge, and thought it odd she just did not fly over, until I heard the peep, peep, peeps in the storm drain. I dialed the Wildlife Care Network.
Last month we received a total of 22 poisoned Rock Pigeons from the Stearn's Wharf area in Santa Barbara.
In September we received a Canada goose that was in bad shape. He was weak, limping and very thin. A few days later we received a beautiful male mallard that was found in someone's yard, also very weak and unable to fly. They were initially housed separately while they put on weight and regained their strength, but during that time they could hear each other vocalize. After a couple of weeks they were ready to be moved to one of our outdoor seabird pools and once they were put together, they were immediately inseparable. By early October they were ready to go back to the wild. They were released together near where they were found in Ventura and instead of going their separate ways, they chose to stay together. They were observed several days later and even though there were other ducks around, the mallard was still choosing to hang out with the Canada goose.
by Glen Carl Whitney
As a volunteer at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network I participated in the release of a gull and cormorant on May 4th, 2015 for all of the extended families of the Whitehouses commemorating the recent release of Jean and Linda Whitehouse. The Whitneys moved to the neighborhood in 1955 when I was five years old and Cathy and Linda Whitehouse were one! Linda's birthday was May 4, and she passed away recently, too young. Jean was born January 14, 1928, and passed recently, sharp as a tack.
Last week, Liz Holbrook, one of SBWCN'S volunteers noticed two cormorants suspended from the trees adjacent to the 101 southbound freeway near Ortega Hill and Sheffield where the cormorants nest in the Eucalyptus trees.The birds likely grabbed a fish hooked by a fisherman who then cut the line. When the birds go to roost the fishing line gets tangled in the tree limbs.
At least three birds have been hung up in this way recently. One was still alive Wednesday night. I tried to arrange rescue asking the fire department, Caltrans, Animal Control, Fish and Wildlife and even the Sheriff to dispatch the bird if it could not be cut down.The bird was dead on Friday.
Then we started getting more calls about a third bird Friday. This bird was still alive on Saturday morning as a volunteer informed me at 8:30 A.M. I spent the next 3 to 4 hours calling all the agencies again as well as the Humane Society Emergency Rescue. Because the bird was suspended approximately 100 feet high and 50 feet from the freeway, a rescue was beyond their ability. Then I began calling every tree care company in the book and found Doug Cole from Mesa Tree Care who was willing to help. Doug and our volunteer Ed Meyers gathered and transported the climbing equipment and Doug climbed up the tree on that very hot day to rescue the bird "like it was his own child" to quote Ed. Sadly, before he was able to secure the cormorant, the fishing line it was connected to snapped and the bird dropped and was killed.
Although not the outcome we had hoped for the bird is out of misery. I hope that the story will act as an educational tool notifying people who fish and catch seabirds on their lines that cutting the line is harmful, life threatening to the bird. We urge them to capture and contain the bird, and call SBWCN for rescue and transport at (805) 681-1080
Trembling, frightened, and alone with her dead mother by the roadside is how this little three pound, six ounce female badger orphan started her amazing odyssey from a life of obscurity to fame as an educational animal at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. A Good Samaritan came to her rescue and contacted the SBWCN for help. It was soon discovered how rare these little creatures are and how little is known of their behavior other than their reputation for a ferocious temperament. Caring for her was a priceless education into uncharted territory. Her caregiver found that this badger’s bark was merely intimidating and her bite was non-existent. Her “language” consisted of many different vocalizations easily confused with those of animals we are familiar with. Her growls were misinterpreted at first as those of aggression when that was the farthest from the truth. She was just calling for her mother. Soon, that low growling sound was a comfort to hear. She grew rapidly and was soon bursting out of every attempt at containment. Her curiosity was boundless. Because no other badgers were available to place her with, she unfortunately imprinted upon the only family she knew. Her survival in the wild would have been questionable at best, but the San Diego Wild Animal Park stepped in and, with open arms, embraced her as a good will ambassador for her species so that we can all profit from what she can teach us.
A couple of wonderful recent gifts were designated for mammal enclosures, and we’re just pouring concrete slabs for comfortable new quarters for juvenile raccoons. These are either youngsters who got into trouble or babies hand-reared by Network volunteers that are now ready to spend time outdoors “getting wild,” but are not yet able to forage for themselves. The raccoon enclosure will be ready go to by next spring when the annual rush begins.
The raccoon “resort” will be the first of several mammal enclosures we need to build for our furry charges. With your help we can take the next step in our plan to provide separate, specialized facilities for the wide range of native mammals that come to us each year sick, injured, or orphaned and needing food, shelter, and often medical care. Your year-end gift will help us be ready for next season’s young mammals.
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