Snapshots from Animal Rescue

//Snapshots from Animal Rescue

Snapshots from Animal Rescue

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.

Black-crowned Night Heron chick, stranded under the tree

Snowy Egret chick in a transport box, en route to the wildlife center



By | 2017-09-24T01:06:47+00:00 February 15th, 2014|Blog, Wildlife Rescue|4 Comments


  1. Kevin J Railsback December 10, 2014 at 7:46 am


    Images like these warm my heart!

    So many people take from nature but so few give anything back.

    I asked a wildlife rehabber once why she does what she does. She replied that man harms so many animals through hunting, vehicle strikes, habitat loss that she feels compelled to try and save as many as she can. Returning even one animal to nature is her way of apologizing to nature for all the destruction we’ve caused.

    I don’t know how you could call yourself a wildlife and nature artist unless you’re giving back in some way. If you’re in it for the paycheck or the recognition, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.

    I find it unthinkable to ask nature to give me incredible situations to film and not try and do something in return for the gifts bestowed upon me. I feel that just trying to educate people about nature and wildlife through my work is not enough.

    Sadly for me, time is in such short supply I can no longer act directly in the rescue, rehab and preserving the sanity of animals in need. But I still make sure I can contribute even if it’s only financially to make sure these groups have what they need to keep doing the great work that they do without fanfare or pay.

    It pains me greatly that the need so far outweighs the resources. I can’t imagine the stress these groups go through wondering of they’ll be able to keep helping animals because no one is donating or volunteering.

    Thank you for doing your part to make a difference!


    • ingrid December 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm


      That is such a nice comment. Responding to your last statement first — about time and resources — I am in the exact same position. When Hugh and I moved to Seattle, we left behind consistency and emerged into near chaos. So, like you, we each find ways to contribute as we can during this period in our lives, however small the effort.

      Based on our previous discussions, I think you’re doing far more than your part, simply in the way you live and view nature. Lifestyle changes alone, if implemented by more people, would alter the world. And your heartfelt perspective on nature and animals — on respect and care — those are elemental in global change. You’ve certainly influenced me.

      It’s probably the nature of humans who care about nonhumans to undervalue the contributions, because the need is so great and never-ending. But I also think the most important acts might be the personal shifts in belief and consciousness . Because for all the practical actions a person can take to rescue or rehabilitate, nothing changes fundamentally unless the underlying, utilitarian views of nature and animals persist.

      So, it appears I’m choosing the broader view of what constitutes “rescue” in this crazy world. 🙂

      And I agree with you about the give and take of nature artistry. We get so much from those experiences, I think there has to be a cosmic imbalance if you’re content to take without recognizing some commensurate responsibility. A lot of wildlife photographers do seem to get to that place, if not at first, then eventually.

      I recently watched an online seminar with famous photographer Tom Mangelsen. He was a former hunter now an avid conservationist, founder of The Cougar Fund. The type of immersion you get with other beings, through long hours of observation and connection, I think it can’t help but evoke deep emotion if you have any sense of justice. I often think about how much time we spend with those animals, not just in the outdoor experience, but then in post processing and editing, where our eyes meet theirs over and over before a photo even becomes tangible.

      I find myself looking back through my archives, even at the lousy photos, and recalling the feelings that accompanied the shot. I often wonder if that particular animal survived and where he or she is now. And I know that the more we humans decide that his or her life does have intrinsic value, the greater the chances they will have better lives in the future.

      Thank you, again, for your always thought-provoking comments.

  2. Ron Dudley December 10, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Ingrid, I can’t tell you how often I think of what it must have been like for so many injured and sick critters just a few decades ago when rehabbers were virtually unheard of. How much more suffering there must have been. In fact it brings back memories I’d just as soon forget. At least these days animals in distress have a CHANCE of being helped. And I’m so glad about that…

    • ingrid December 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      Ron, I know. It was just a few decades ago, too. When my family rescued our first crow in the 1970s, there was nowhere to take her in our area. We relied on the expertise of a nurse we knew, to set her wing. I cringe now when I think of the rudimentary skills we applied. In fact, I still have some sleepless nights over the times I was forced to adapt somehow to the lack of care for the wild animals I would come across.

      So you’re right. And I never cease to be grateful for the growing field of wildlife medicine and how sophisticated it is. Whenever I travel by car, I keep a list in the glove box of wildlife rescue spots along the way to my destination … just in case. There still aren’t nearly enough. I get nervous when I have to drive long stretches where no such places exist, always having a game plan in mind for what I’ll do if I come across an injured animal.

      My feeling is that fees from hunting and trapping licenses, from car license tabs, etc., should help pay for at least one wildlife rehabilitation facility in every major city. That would seem like just reparation. But that would require the agreement of an enlightened society.

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