Protect Gray Wolves under California Endangered Species Act

In 2011, something very dramatic happened in California, something that hadn’t occurred since 1924. A wild wolf tread on our land. OR-7, perhaps as famous now as any other wolf ever has been, traveled into Northeast California that year and stayed through most of 2012. OR-7, or Journey, as he was named by school children to help protect him from poachers, dispersed from his birth area of Northeast Oregon eventually traveling over 1000 miles to the northern counties of California

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The only known photograph of OR-7 in California (source California Dept of Fish and Wildlife)

The presence of OR-7 in California sparked the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center to petition the California Fish and Game Commission to include the Gray Wolf as an endangered species in California under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) as they make their anticipated recovery.

Now OR-7 is possibly mated and raising pups in the Rogue River National Forest. If so, another layer of criticality is added to our concerns. Pups that eventually disperse from Southern Oregon will surely enter California. The need for protection of this obviously endangered species will be even more apparent.

Bird Ally X/Humboldt Wildlife Care Center (BAX) stands with CBD, EPIC and the other petitioners in their call for CESA protection using the science of ecosystem-based management; that is, that wolves and other apex predators are a necessary and desirable component of healthy watersheds, forests, and range, and warrant state-specific legal protection in California. We agree with the petitioners that all things point to listing the Gray Wolf as endangered in California.

The only thing that stands in the way of wolf recovery in our state is the space that we provide them. That space has a name: endangered species protection.

It is an easy observation that habitat must be given to wolves if they are to have a place in our shared world. It may be less easy to see that a similar space must be provided within the public mind. California’s returning Gray Wolves must be invited, if they are to be welcome.

We respectfully disagree with the assertion that adequate protection for wolves is achievable through a variety of obscure regulatory codes. Public ignorance was the key factor in the extirpation of California Gray Wolves. A critical feature of the wolf’s recovery must be public education.

However important regulation, enforcement, and administration are in protecting endangered species, CESA is more than this – it is also a tool for public awareness, public education and the expression of the values of the citizens of California.

As wildlife rehabilitators, BAX strongly supports and promotes co-existence with our wild neighbors. Our commitment to our patients requires our allegiance to the health and well-being of all wildlife. If we are to effectively advocate for California’s natural heritage, we need the cooperation of the state. Listing the Gray Wolf as endangered will provide not only the legal protection wolves need, but also the framework for a better understanding of the contributions predators, and all wild animals, make toward the health and beauty of our lives and our world.

As wildlife rehabilitators, each day we talk with members of the public resolving conflicts between people and wildlife. A sparrow nest in the chimney, a raccoon in the backyard, a shopping plaza that destroys a colony of nesting herons – these and myriad other scenarios await us every time the phone rings. Each time, we must advocate for wild animals, for the laws that protect them, and for the best possible outcome, which includes greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world that sustains us. The best possible outcome includes greater respect for wildlife and wild space.

These experiences on the front line of wildlife protection teach us that rescuing endangered species is much more easily accomplished using tools that speak to each of us. The language of endangerment cuts across all cultures and perspectives. When we say that a species requires special protection, we either mean it or we don’t. We are either welcoming the wolf home to California, or we are not. If we are, then we must provide the welcome that will make a real difference, not just in the Fish and Game Code, but in the understanding of the people who must yield something so that the wolf might live. Only listing Gray Wolves as endangered can do that.

As do most Californians, from enthusiastic open space lovers, such as those of us who call Humboldt home, to the urbane citizens of the world class cities to our South, we look forward with excitement to the restoration and recovery of the Gray Wolf to their historic home in our state.

Speak up for Wolves!

It is reasonable to conclude California may host a functioning pack of Wolves within ten years.*

Listing of Wolves in California is absolutely inevitable.**

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* Chuck Bonham, Director, California Department of Fish And Wildlife

** Richard Rogers, Commissioner, California Fish and Game Commission

California’s first wolf in 90 years may have pups in Oregon!

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OR-7, in one of the only photos taken while he was in California (photo: CDFW)

Exciting news! OR-7, or Journey, the most famous wolf in the world, first wild wolf in western Oregon since the 1940s as well as the first wild wolf in California since 1924, may have finally found what he was looking for: a mate!

As reported today, biologists tracking Journey since he was a pup in Northeast Oregon have strong evidence that the wandering male has met up with a black female wolf in the Rogue River/Siskiyou National Forest in Southwest Oregon. While it isn’t confirmed that they are denning or have pups, their movements, still being captured by Journey’s radio-collar, indicate the strong possibility. It will be mid-summer before biologists will approach the pair to see if they have pups.

Keep Wild Families Together, Don’t Trap Wildlife

For wild animals, Spring and Summer mean one thing: baby season! Everywhere you look sparrows, swallows, hummingbirds, eagles, skunks, squirrels, opposums and raccoons are starting families and raising young. Whether we live in the forests, by the ocean, or in the middle of town, wild parents-to-be, in need of security and privacy, seek shelter to make dens and nests. Sometimes this shelter ends up being in our homes – for many reasons this might not be the best situation.

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Whether it’s raccoons under the house, birds nesting in vents, skunks under the porch, mallards in your backyard, you might face these beautiful, mysterious and unfortunately unwelcome guests. If so, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center’s Humane Solutions Service can help. Our experienced wildlife staff provide effective solutions without trapping & killing.

Live traps, which manufacturers such as Havahart claim are humane, are not humane at all. We’ve seen a raccoon mother gnaw at a trap until her teeth were broken off at her gums trying to get back to her den and her little ones. Every year, countless times, wild mothers are trapped. Whether she is killed, ‘relocated’ or severley injured trying to get to her babies, she doesn’t make it back to her den and her helpless young are orphaned. These babies die alone, or if lucky, they’re found and brought to a facility such as ours. We strive hard to provide good care, and to keep wild babies wild, but no person can raise wild babies the way their parents can.

Not only is trapping cruel, California requires a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to use these traps. Written permission from all neighbors within 150 yards of the trap site is also required. Many people are not aware that relocation is illegal, and worse, usually fatal. Consider how you would respond if you were trapped and taken far from your home, and released to fend for yourself in a community where you don’t know anyone. The law is simple: once an animal is trapped, that animal is to be released on site or killed.

Beside its moral repugnance, killing one animal merely opens space for another wild animal to move in. The reasons for the animal’s presence, such as pet food, unsecured garbage, even koi ponds and other attractants have not been addressed. And if this is a den site, orphaned babies are left in the destructive wake.

Quite simply, trapping is not the solution!

If you have a conflict with a wild animal, please, don’t take matters into your own hands. There are too many ways it can go wrong. Call professionals who are committed to humane resolutions. Humboldt Wildlife Care Center’s Humane Solutions Service can safely solve your dilemma and keep wild families together.

707-822-8839
humane-solutions@birdallyx.net

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The Luckiest Hawk…

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Sometimes you get a lucky bounce. One of the best places to hunt, especially if rodents and other small animals are your favorite, is the edge of highways… mowed shoulders and medians reveal the little ones’ movements. Light posts and wires afford good perching to watch, wait and swoop down for the meal.

Hawks, especially Red-tailed and Red-shouldered, are often seen this way – perched above our freeways.

Obviously, such a strategy carries a horrible risk. During 2013, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/BAX admitted 9 Red-tailed hawks, 2 Red-shouldered hawks and 1 Sharp-shinned hawk that had been hit by cars. None survived.

Last Sunday, we took a call from a woman who was driving between Eureka and Arcata on US 101, near the Farm Store. She’d just seen a hawk get hit by a car. She stopped and found the bird lying still in the grassy edge. The hawk wasn’t moving except to take an occasional breath. She scooped him up in her jacket.

Our clinic isn’t far from this spot and she soon came through the door with the bird in her coat. She thought he might have a broken wing, a highly likely outcome. When we moved him to our holding incubator – something we usually do first since most injured animals are in danger of shock – the bird’s wings were held in an awkward position. It seemed as if indeed a wing had been fractured.

We gave him (on the small side for their size range so probably a male) some time in the incubator to calm down and gather his wits. After 20 minutes or so, we performed his admission exam.

He greeted us at the door of his incubator, on his feet, alert, ready to face what comes. In short, he was back.

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Not a single bone was broken. There was no visible bruising – not a scratch.

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We did find a brood patch, a bare area on the belly of many birds during breeding season that allows the warm skin of the parent to come in direct contact with the eggs so they stay at the right temperature. It meant this hawk is an expecting father, if his chicks haven’t already hatched. No doubt he’d been hunting for his family when he was hit by the car.

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After some fluids for his dehydration (stress can make a person want a drink!), we tested his flight in our raptor aviary. He passed with flying colors, as they say.

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Within the hour he was back in his territory and back at work bringing new Red-shouldered hawks into our world.

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You make our efforts possible. With your support we are ready to provide emergency care to all of Northern California’s native wildlife. Thank you!

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(All photos: Laura Corsiglia)

The Babies Have Landed!

Wild baby season has begun in earnest in Humboldt County. In the last 5 days the number of animals in care at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center has tripled. And this is only the beginning of the season … While the babies we raise are unquestionably adorable, as a hospital it is a simple fact of life that none of our patients have a happy story that brought them here. From the time of their admission, we strive to improve that story.

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Each of the Canada goslings in our care are orphaned. Three were found between Eureka and Arcata, alone, frantically looking for safety along Jacobs Ave, stranded between the nesting place in the fields on the east side of US 101 and their desired destination on the west side and marshy grasses that ring Humboldt Bay. Each year geese families are killed trying to make this crossing. Two others were found at Moonstone Beach, with another sibling killed, probably by a dog, left lying nearby.

Canada geese are legendary for their devoted parenting. In fact, it is possible to allow another pair of geese adopt orphaned goslings. They will often readily accept the newcomers into their family group as if they were their own. We attempt this whenever possible. While we do have a purpose-built facility for their care and upbringing, a mated pair of adults of the same species are obviously going to be much better surrogate parents.

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We also have neonatal (or newborn) opossums in care. These tiny babies haven’t opened their eyes yet. Their mother was hit and killed by a car in Garberville, several of her babies died in the collision and three more succumbed to related injuries.

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Right now the three little survivors are doing very well. It will take at least 8 weeks before they are old enough to be on their own. Opossums, unlike many mammals their size, have a very short life span, averaging only 1.5 to 2 years in the wild.

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In another sad and frustrating case, Friday night we received a call from a veterinary clinic in Eureka. Someone had just accidentally taken down a Song Sparrow nest while cutting limbs on a tree. This is frustrating, of course, because tree limbing shouldn’t be done in nesting season for just this reason. But more so, because we have no idea who dropped these hatchlings at the vet, or where they came from. If we knew where the parents are, we could build a false nest for the babies and the Song Sparrow parents would continue to care for them until they were ready to fly. Instead these three babies will be raised by us.

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Reuniting wild babies with their parents is the first choice whenever possible. Humboldt Wildlife Care Center offers Humane Exclusion services for situations like this, for raccoon babies under the house, for nests made in chimneys, or whatever wild/human conflict you might experience.

No matter what the situation, please contact us:

822-8839, or
humane-exclusion@birdallyx.net

There’s a strong possibility we can help achieve a positive outcome for you and for the wild family.

Your support is what makes our work possible. Without you, we would be unable to care for these babies, and meet the diverse needs of the wide array of native wild animals who live among us. Thank you for your contribution. You rock!

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Attention Songbirds: Area to Be Mowed and Cleared

UPDATE: (12:30am 3 May) Bird Ally X has received word from Humboldt County’s 5th District Supervisor, Ryan Sundberg regarding this issue. Supervisor Sundberg reports that he has contacted the Pierson Company himself to make sure that it’s understood mowing and clearing must be done in accordance with the laws that protect songbirds and their nests. We extend our appreciation and thanks to Sup. Sundberg for acting quickly to guide community action.

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The Mad River Union ran a story last week of a plan to “mulch” acreage behind the Safeway in McKinleyville. While the ordinary, quotidian destruction of space that’s been reclaimed by the wild can be distressing, most of us are accustomed to these changes and allow them to pass with little more than a nod, or a passing lament. Before we know it we are parking our cars in what had been a favorite little green space.

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However, for this particular acreage, Bird Ally X was notified by a prominent area ornithologist of a pending catastrophe for nesting songbirds and other wildlife.

At stake is a mixed vegetation – alder, blackberry, coyote bush and more – green space of at least 11 acres. Many species of songbird currently use this space as their summer breeding destination. Many have flown thousands of miles to be here.

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During a short visit, BAX staff observed Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Song Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Anna’s Hummingbirds, other species of humminbirds, as well as Purple Finches. Two Red-shouldered Hawks were engaged in probable mating rituals.

In our line of work, we spend many hours performing community outreach encouraging co-existence with our wild neighbors. Each Spring, one of our primary tasks is to raise awareness of the harm tree trimming and other such activities can have on nesting birds, from displaced adults to nests destroyed along with the young lives they contain.

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According to the media story, the effort to clear this woodlot is being undertaken to rid the area of encampments used by people without houses. Ryan Sundberg, 5th District Supervisor, has helped move this plan forward, offering the use of county dumpsters. Although any of us may have an opinion on what society should or shouldn’t do to assist the poverty-stricken among us, that issue aside, songbirds and their nests are fully protected by law.

We urge Supervisor Sundberg, and all of those involved, to consider what is at stake. Don’t mow down a small patch of green that may seem like only a vacant lot or a nuisance to you, but means everything to its wild inhabitants. At the very least, honor the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and wait until fall and the fulfillment of this year’s baby season. Don’t waste these innocent, young wild lives.

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