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.
We recently released 12 young skunks who were raised by one of our dedicated volunteers. These little orphans had to be hand fed for several weeks until they were able to eat on their own. Then they were kept in larger outdoor pens until they were old enough to fend for themselves in the wild.
A location was found with a year-round source of water and good forage material and cover, but far away from busy roads and people. At first they were reluctant to leave the familiar safety of the carriers, but once they did they quickly started to investigate their new home.
Thanks to Curators of Vertebrate Zoology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, our newt has been positively identified as a Rough-Skinned Newt. This little guy arrived at La Sumida Nursery in a Christmas tree delivery from Salem, Oregon. The species is very similar to our local California Newt, but does not reside in the area. The newt will be hitching a ride all the way back up to Oregon after the holiday with some family members of one of our staff.
This morning in the drizzle, I was privileged to give a grebe his freedom. He had been at the SBWCN seabird pond for more than two weeks, brought in weak, seemingly unlikely to survive. But a diet of fish and vitamins brought him back to life. I've seen flocks of grebes in the harbor area (yesterday, I counted a 24 in a small flotilla) and so West Beach seemed a good place to be. The little bird, ungainly on land, hesitated in his bright red carry box and then rushed out before I could grab my camera. Without a backwards glance he dove into the waves and moved on to deeper waters. Thanks to June for her caring and the SBWCN for the fish! If you see seabirds needing help, a grebe beached, for instance, do call the Wildlife Care Network at 681-1080. It's quite likely the bird can be saved.