Opossums Like Life.

Our August fundraising drive is almost over! It’s not too late to help push us over $5000. Your donation goes directly to the Rescue and Rehabilitation of the North Coast’s injured and orphaned wild animals as well as humane solutions to keep wild families together and the use non-lethal methods to resolve human/wildlife conflicts. Thank you for donating today!

Every spring and summer at Humboldt Wildlife Care, we admit dozens of baby Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) for care. As with all of our patients, none arrive by pleasant means. Each of these youngsters is an orphan, their mothers killed. Cars and dogs are the two worst threats, it seems, for Opossum mothers.

opossum weight checck and feeding 8:20:14 - 27Just weaned, a young Opossum explores his new outdoor housing.

The name Opossum is derived from the Algonquian word, Wapathemwa, or “white animal.”(1) Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. Like Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats and others, female Opossums have a separate pouch where their young continue their development after a short pregnancy. Born tiny (10 grams!), pink, and nearly helpless they crawl into their mother’s pouch to nurse and there they reman for the next 7-10 weeks.(2) A litter of twelve is not uncommon!

Of course, when a dog or a car kills a female Opossum, she may be a mother with babies in her pouch. At HWCC we take these babies in when they are found. Providing a good diet (which includes a specially prepared Opossum milk replacer) warmth, safety and as they age, an increasingly challenging environment to offer both mental and physical education.

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A periodic quick exam assures us that this young Opossum is doing well.

Adept at living around farms, roadways, industry, and cities, Opossums find shelter and food easily, but are exposed to the risk that all wild animals who live near civilization face. Excellent climbers, Opossums have a prehensile tail. While it’s not true that Opossums can hang by their tail (ouch!), they do use it to grasp branches, fence posts, and sometimes, the beltloops of their care-providers!

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All of our orphaned patients are weighed regularly to monitor their growth.

As their common name suggests, Virginia Opossums are not native to California or the west, but were introduced in the late 19th century by immigrants from eastern states. Unlike many non-native species, Opossums have little negative impact on the ecosystem they now call home.

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Opossums are opportunivores! They eat whatever they can find. We are careful to present orphans with a wide variety of natural foods: insects, fruit and vegetables, rodents, fish make up their diet. Not only do their meals sustain them, but they also must continue to teach. “What’s this?” each item asks… the answer: It’s Opossum food.

Yet still, these gentle, unobtrusive animals are persecuted. Opossums are frequently hit by cars and sadly, sometimes this is intentional. (Want to see how normal it is to disrespect an Opossum family? Click here for an LA Times story from 1994.) Routinely trapped, killed, even tortured, Opossums face myriad threats in their daily lives. Opossums are reckoned to live not much more than two years.

opossum weight checck and feeding 8:20:14 - 23
Berries and mealworms buried in a tray of potting soil await discovery! Each orphan we raise must have basic survival skills. Our housing is our most effective tool to help these little ones learn. This is the sad reality of orphans of any species, what your mom and dad would have taught you you have to pick up elsewhere, with varying degrees of success..

If an Opossum is being a so-called nuisance, you can be sure that something is attracting that animal. Feeding pets outdoors and failing to secure garbage are the most common practices that draw wildlife into conflict with humans. For far too many wild neighbors these conflicts end with death. Perceived as disease-ridden by people whose connection with nature was damaged or severed long ago, even in our laws it is hard to find any but the most vague anti-cruelty ordinances that protect Opossums. (The 20 year old news story linked above is still relevant. Click here to see how poorly the University of California addresses conflicts with Opossums.)

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Preparing housing for our patients requires imaginative inhabitation.

HWCC treats injured and orphaned Opossums all year – adults and babies. We encourage everyone to say a good word about Opossums, who live their short, mysterious lives to the fullest and teach lessons in how to love the ‘blaze of reality’ that burns through us all.

Your donation supports the care of these and all wild neighbors who need help. Thank you for making the North Coast and beyond a nicer place to be wild and free.
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Opossum: rhymes with awesome. Coincidence? We think not.

All photos Laura Corsiglia/BAX

1. https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Virginia_Opossum.html accessed 16:32 29 Aug 2014

2. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Didelphis_virginiana/ accessed 17:23 29 Aug 2014


In an Infinite Universe, Size is Irrelevant (but you still need to find your mom and dad)

A Young Hummingbird’s tale

5:19 hummingbird re-unite - 05A question we are often asked: The bird is so small, do you bother taking care of them? The universe is boundless, how can you tell what size anything actually is? None of us are any closer to the edges than anyone else, no matter our relative sizes! So, please, bring that injured hummingbird to our clinic!

Now in this particular case, it turned out the young Rufous Hummingbird was just that – young. She was still learning to fly. (click on the link to learn about this common bird who is also showing steep declines in population)

So we gave her some fluids to slake her thirst and packed her up and returned to the riverside trail in Orick (about 40 miles up the road) where she’d been found.

Re-uniting a songbird, or any animal, with his or her parents is a lot easier if you know what you are looking for – or listening for. “Please let the adults be present,” you wish fervently, “Please let our little guy cry for them so they know she’s around!” If the adults don’t come, the baby can’t stay. Re-uniting babies with parents can be a stressful operation.

When our team arrived in Orick and began to walk the levee along Redwood Creek looking for the best place to return this youngster, the sounds of adult hummingbirds filled the air.

After placing the bird on a blackberry leaf, no adults approached. Patience is important. These things, as they say, take time. And so our team waited.

Patience, yes, is a virtue. And so is action. So is believing in your own intuition. After several anxious minutes had passed, they decided to move the bird further from the trail into a more secluded location. Of course, as they approached, one of the fears of this kind of operation was realized – the bird flew on her own to a spot they couldn’t reach. Now it was up to the parents.

The team backed off and watched. The fledgling called. Adults circled above. Eventually one adult dropped down to the young bird. There was some conversation between them. The adult flew off to some nearby blossoms. Moments later, the adult returned to the fledgling. Feeding! The baby was back in her parents’ care.

An elated team drove home.

Your support makes efforts such as these possible. Keeping wild families together is the very heart of wildlife conservation. Wild families are the indivisble unit of wild populations. The seed, the growth, the flower and fruit of co-existence with – and embrace of – our wild neighbors, and therefore our own survival, is contained in the act of re-uniting a wild baby with her parents.

Thank you for supporting our work. To contribute to our August fundraiser (our goal is only $5000!) please donate here. Thank you!

Scroll down through the pictures of this bird’s return to her family.

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Taking the young hummingbird, smaller than a human thumb, from the box.
5:19 hummingbird re-unite - 19
Initially on this blackberry leaf, we waited, but no adults came near.
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And then she flew deeper into the thicket, out of reach of everything but the lens.
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A blur and blaze of beauty, the orange and green streak up and to the left of the fledgling is an adult Rufous Hummingbird who has just fed his baby. And so a small but mighty piece of the cosmos was restored. This is what your contribution supports. Thank you!

(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX/HWCC)


Lost Juvenile Found in Redway

Hungry, Anything Helps

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 01
In care at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center after making some inexperienced choices.

Sometimes when you first leave home, things don’t work out as you had hoped. Take a wrong turn and, instead of clear skies and easy sailing, you’re caught in one of the traps that seem set for the wayward juvenile.

This young Brown Pelican, like all the other pelicans her age, had recently left her hatching grounds far to the south and made it all the way to the North coast. And then for some reason, who knows why, she strayed from the sea, the only place where she can eat, and wandered into Redway. She was found walking along the road.

Day 12 in our August fundraising Drive: So far we’ve raised $600 of our goal of $5000 by the end of the month. Your help is needed. Every donation helps. Thank you for being a part of this wildlife saving work!

Emaciated from starvation and very weak, with a few scrapes as badges of her courage, she was plucked from certain death by a kind woman in the area.

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 02Feeling better! Brown pelican exercises her wings in our Pelican aviary in Bayside, CA

To recover from severe emaciation, as long as no other problems are present, takes about 3 weeks. Once the young Pelican was stable we housed her in our purpose-built aviary. Each day she consumed 3-5 pounds of smelt, a kind of small fish that is safe to feed in captivity to aquatic birds because it has less oil content than other fish and is less liklely to soil very important feathers. In all species of birds, clean feathers are critical, but for aquatic birds, contaminated feathers are a fast-acting death sentence.

With routine checks performed every few days, we knew she was doing well and bouncing back to her normal weight. At each examination we discovered that her strength was returning as well.

Soon she was flying well and using the high perch in her aviary. (see top photo) When she was ready to go, her health good, her flight strong, her feathers impeccable, our interns and staff took her to a spot on Humboldt bay favored by pelicans. We were glad to see several adults in the group she joined. Hopefully they can show her a few more of the ropes she’ll need to make it in the wild world.

Your support made her rescue, rehabilitation and release possible. Thank YOU!

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 03

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 04

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 05

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 06

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 07

Redway Pelican release 9 JUL 14 - 08

(All photos Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X)


Improvements that will protect Pelicans coming to Shelter Cove

Day 11 in our August fundraising Drive: So far we’ve raised $580 of our goal of $5000 by the end of the month. Your help is needed. Every donation helps. Thank you for being a part of this wildlife saving work!

Three years ago, August 2011, Bird Ally X began responding to fish-oil contaminated Brown Pelicans in Cresent City and Shelter Cove. Besides the 50 birds rescued, we noted that the infrastructure at both locations were the cause for the contamination. In November of that year we presented this information to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. It seemed that the situation would be rectified. A positive aspect of this event was our partnership with Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, which eventually led to the unification of the two organizations.

Unfortunately, in 2012, it became obvious that the problems hadn’t been fixed. We ended up mounting a large response, treating over 250 Brown Pelicans out of our very small facility in Bayside. Trying to get the discharge pipe that was spewing fish waste into the water of Shelter Cove stopped was very frustrating. While some modifications were made, the outflow continued. It wasn’t until Brown Pelicans left the area and headed north that the contaminations stopped. (read about our 2012 efforts)

Preparing for the Possibility of Pelicans: 2013The discharge pipe at Shelter Cove – July 2012 (photo Daniel Corona/Bird Ally X)

Bird Ally X/HWCC inundated with Fish-oiled Brown Pelicans! Again!
Dead contaminated Brown Pelican – July 2012 (photo: Drew Hyland/Bird Ally X)

North Coast Fish Waste Response (updated)
Brown Pelican released at Shelter Cove, September 2011 (photo: Laura Corsiglia/BAX)

Now, two years later, we are happy to see that the Harbor District is taking its responsibility for the fish cleaning station at Shelter Cove seriously and moving forward to stop the discharge pipe. What follows is a news story from the Redwood Times that ran this Spring… We’re glad we were able play our part, with your support, in bringing these needed changes. Thank you for helping us meet our mission!

Harbor District meets with RID and the public in Shelter Cove

Sandy Feretto, Redwood Times
Posted: 03/18/2014 04:21:00 PM PDT

On Thursday, March 6 the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District met with the Shelter Cover Resort Improvement District and about 100 members of the public in Shelter Cove.

Jack Crider, chief executive officer of the Harbor District told the Redwood Times that the meeting addressed a variety of issues.

The Harbor District has a goal of eliminating the discharge pipe from the fish-cleaning table into the bay that has caused problems for the pelicans.

The first step is to eliminate the carcasses, Crider explained, and the next step would be to process the water from the fish-cleaning table and dispose of it in the resort district’s sewer system.

The solids separated from the water and carcasses can be frozen and sold as bait.

Crider said that over the last year the Department of Fish and Wildlife has finally acknowledged the district’s right to remove and sell the fish carcasses from the fish-cleaning table.

Since the harbor district first discussed the idea, Patrick O’Shea, of Shelter Cove, has entered into a lease agreement with David Mollett, the owner of Mario’s Marina that included the commercial boat-launching contract.

O’Shea intends to upgrade “the green building” that is in the middle of the parking lot at Mario’s. He plans to sell the frozen fish carcasses for bait and fresh, locally caught fish from the building. He has been in the process of obtaining permission from the Coastal Commission, Crider said.

Crider went on to say that the Harbor District’s easement covers the public access road down to the beach for recreation purposes, the breakwater, and technically the Harbor District owns the fish cleaning equipment. There have been some improvements made to the breakwater, but Crider said they are having some problems with sand that will require maintenance.

The Harbor District also has safety concerns with the public parking at the bottom of the beach access road. The district will post signs at the bottom to remind people not to park there.

He said that the Regional Water Quality Control Board has asked the district to test the beach sand and water in order to determine the impact of allowing cars to drive all over the beach. It will cost the district about $10,000 a year and take two or three years to yield results.


Brown Pelican Snared In Fishing Line Healed? Why, yes!

Please help our fundraising drive for the month of August. Our goal: $5000 by the end of the month! Every donation gets us closer. Thank you!!!

pelican release july 14 - 1A juvenile Brown Pelican, caught in fishing line, stranded – a sadly common story. All over the world, all over the country, all over California and here on the North Coast, derelict fishing gear, open bins of fish waste, poor angler practices, and more contribute to an environment with more hazards than ever for these iconic, magnificent birds.

Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/Bird Ally X has the expertise and the facility to provide the specialized care these birds require – and these are not easy resources to come by. Years of experience, and a lot of effort go into acquiring skills and the infrastructure to provide excellent care. Yet even with these, still we aren’t complete. We need you. Your support – moral, physical and financial – makes our work rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing injured and orphaned wild animals possible. You make it happen!

Found on the beach in Crescent City, she suffered from abrasions caused by fishing line wrapped around both wings. She also had a nasty constriction wound where the line had wrapped tightly around her left leg.

She also was severely thin, starving because she was unable to eat. Brown pelicans plunge dive from as high as 75 feet into the cold ocean. A remarkable feat that requires top form… soon this young bird would have died without rescue…

Constriction wounds can be very tricky. With circulation cut off, tissue on the far side of the embedded line can die, leading to complete loss of her foot. A Brown Pelican needs both feet to thrive. Fortunately, we got to her in time, removed the line and her foot survived.

To keep track of each patient we give them temporary colored leg bands. This young pelican was given a yellow band, and written on the band, the word YES. Her code for the duration of her care? Y for yellow followed by YES, or Y-YES!

It took nearly a month for her wounds to heal and her weight to climb back into a healthy range. When she finally was ready to go, man did she!

Check out her release photos below. And remember, it was your support that gave her a second chance! Thank you!

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All photographs Laura Corsiglia/BAX