Originally published in 2014, updated with a few new photos in 2017
This is a random gallery of moments in our animal rescue and rehabilitation efforts. There are two reasons I don’t have a huge catalog of these photos. The first is that the wildlife facility where Hugh and I worked, and other places we’ve volunteered, posted no-camera policies as a general rule — to keep the welfare of animals a priority. The second is that I don’t have a GoPro or forehead-mounted camera — something I need to get. Not having a hands-free setup limits photo ops when the hands and paws are busy with other things … like untangling gulls from monofilament.
This is Bad-Eye Grey, the first feral cat we ever live-trapped. I wanted to take him in for a medical check and neutering — and to see if anything could be done for his eye. He was a neighborhood stray who roamed the passageways between our buildings. I had to borrow a trap from a local rescuer who generously offered advice, even though she was overwhelmed 24/7 with rescue requests. We later bought our own live trap for feral or injury situations.
Although he looks calm and gentle here, the poor guy was so wild and ferocious once trapped, the vets had to sedate him just to examine him. He was healthy and came out of the procedure a-okay, but we never did find out how he injured his eye.
A juvenile raccoon in the hospital, going in for a vet exam. Young raccoon kits purr like cats and behave like puppies. It’s impossible not to fall in love with baby raccoons and I will have immense fondness for them and their adult counterparts through my last moments on this earth.
A feather duster provides comfort for orphaned Mallard ducklings, huddling together in their heated incubator. Our facility did intake for ducks and other water birds, but the animals would generally be transported to International Bird Rescue which specializes in the care of seabirds. So we’d keep them warm and feed them duckling mash until they could be moved to better digs.
Me with one of several orphaned cottontails, moving her back into a freshly-cleaned cage. The care of cottontails, as is true with all species, is specialized and delegated to rehabilitators who have training with that particular animal. That wasn’t me, but I was helping out.
The leg band on an injured racing pigeon. Our facility didn’t take non-native or domestic animals, so we would temporarily take them to our halfway house (two-bedroom, urban flat) for transport to a facility or person who could care for them.
An owl being restrained for medication. For the most part, animals are left in dark and quiet enclosures to reduce their stress level. Handling is kept to a minimum.
A fellow volunteer collecting pellets from a raptor in a flight aviary, overseen by the hawk on the perch above. Our techs examined pellets to help track the recovery and health of these birds.
An injured Golden Eagle awaiting a medical exam, held by a vet tech.
The size of the talons on that same Golden Eagle.
Me, getting some rest and rehab of my own after an injury that kept me off my feet for a few weeks.
Orphaned baby fox squirrel siblings, tucked into a handmade, fleece hammock.
One of those same baby squirrels getting syringe-fed special formula.
A baby sparrow we took home to care for until we could get her to a wildlife hospital that treated her species. We used makeshift “nests” made of materials like margarine tubs lined with toilet paper which could be easily switched out for cleaning. The smallest babies with few or no feathers have to be kept in an incubator or in a critter keeper placed on a heating pad (set to low).
A juvenile gull being coaxed to eat lunch (defrosted smelt) on the examining table.
One of our rescued racing pigeons getting antibiotics.
A male coturnix (Japanese Quail), a non-native species brought into our hospital. They are often raised for food or for hunting purposes and dog training, so there was no way we’d leave him to fend for himself or risk having him end up back in that situation. He had a light fracture in his keel and an injury to his beak. We took him home and cared for him for a few weeks before getting him placement in a rescue aviary. He crowed every morning, the sweetest sound … unless you’re in an urban apartment with neighbors. 🙂
His first dust bath after being rescued. I used a mix of clean sand and peat in a large plant saucer. I truly loved this boy and shed some tears when we parted ways. I comforted myself with the knowledge that he was living in a safe aviary near the ocean, with a few female coturnix for company.
A pigeon we rescued from the drink. She somehow fell into the Seattle boat locks, a deep channel between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. It was a freezing day, so I wrapped her in my scarf and took her home to heat up. We kept her warm and fed overnight. And because she was uninjured, we released her back to that site and to her pigeon friends the next day. She couldn’t have been happier to fly away from us, her gigantic captors.
Hugh working with a net that was trapping gulls over a bait pond in disuse after fishing season. This was in a fishing town in Washington, where we discovered gulls caught in this mess of a setup, a situation I wrote about a few years ago. Because gulls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, we called the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They told us they wouldn’t be able to send anyone out because hunting season was starting and all officers were busy with hunting enforcement. That’s always upsetting to hear. I pressed them to try, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that shortly thereafter, they did manage to get an officer out to check on the scene. He found the setup to be unacceptable and told the company owner to fix the situation asap to protect the birds.
This photo represents the first oil spill event I’d ever been a part of — the Cosco Busan spill on San Francisco Bay. I volunteered for field work, spotting and reporting oiled birds for rescue teams. I wasn’t yet certified to work hands on with oiled animals or do actual field rescue, so I’d go out with a different partner during my free hours, and we’d tramp across the shorelines, looking for and noting locations of birds needing rescuing. The helplessness of being in that position created such despair in me, it permanently altered my state of consciousness about oiled animals and the suffering they endure in these situations.
This gull, unfortunately, evaded capture — he could fly too well, despite his oiled plumage. Rehabilitators describe oil on a bird as akin to a hole in a wetsuit. It breaks the bird’s waterproof seal which is why birds can easily die of hypothermia after oil exposure. A short time after this spill, we were lucky to acquire Hazwoper certification for oil spill response, through our wildlife hospital.
This is another racing pigeon I found in the middle of a four-lane road in Seattle. Luckily, it was 6am on a Sunday, with fewer cars traveling. I saw a shape in the middle of the lane on the other side — your eye just gets trained for those anomalies, so much so that I have a habit of anthropomorphizing paper bags by the side of the road, always hoping they are, in fact, paper bags and not an injured animal.
I managed to get this guy just before a taxi would have barreled right over him. I drove him to a bird vet about 40 minutes away. Wildlife hospitals generally don’t treat domestic animals, and not all domestic animal vets treat birds. So I was lucky, indeed, to find a bird veterinarian open on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, this bird was too ill and too injured to recover. But he passed away in comfort and warmth, instead of alone and cold on the road.
This image is from a post I wrote earlier this year, the Western Gull I rescued from the surf at Redondo Beach. He was weak from a horrible entanglement in fishing hooks and monofilament. I drove him for care to International Bird Rescue, their San Pedro facility in Southern California.
This photo always makes me chuckle because after cutting the line that was wrapped around his bill, he became feisty. I was carrying him back to my car where I keep a collapsible cardboard carrier. I wrapped him in my jacket and put the hood over his head to keep him more calm. But all along the way, he’d toss off the hood and start biting me wherever he could reach me. I photographed him with my other hand holding the iPhone while we stopped at a traffic light.
As stressful as the situation was for him, I’m always so glad when feathered people like this one show that fighting spirit. I always hope it means they’re on their way to a solid and quick recovery.
These two chicks — a Black-crowned Night Heron and a Snowy Egret baby — were two of many I rescued at a California rookery last year. The birds had set up home in a single tree in the middle of a Starbucks parking lot. The lot itself was huge and not well traveled, so in some ways the ideal location if an urban spot can be ideal. But as is the case with these rookeries, young birds sometimes get pushed or fall out of their nests. And when those nests sit above pavement and human traffic, a fall means sure death without human intervention. It’s impossible, in a rookery with loads of nests, to know where that particular chick belonged. Herons and egret parents will not feed the young ones on the ground. If they’re not fully feathered, they can’t stay warm on their own, and in the fall they could have sustained broken bones or other injuries. So, until they all fledged, I made regular stops at this tree to check for babies below the branches. I later learned I was one of several people, independent agents that we were, making frequent stops to help these fallen chicks to the local wildlife rehab.