Celebrating the Newly-Rebuilt Marine Mammal Enclosures

by Heather Henderson, Stranding Coordinator

Ribbon Cutting, Jennifer Brent (left), Shannen Doherty and “Zuma Jay” Wagner, Photo by Harry Vamos

On January 11, 2018 honored guests, staff, volunteers, and our first California sea lion pup patient of the season all gathered to officially unveil the new and improved marine mammal rehabilitation enclosures.

We were fortunate to be joined by longtime CWC supporters, actress Shannen Doherty and Malibu City Councilmember Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner. The entire project was made possible with funds from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Mike Remski, Marine Mammal Program Manager, shared CWC’s rehabilitation and response history and details about why this rebuild had become a necessity.

2018’s first sea lion patient, Photo by Heather Henderson

Highlights of the new enclosures include additional drainage with sloping floors, a loading dock that provides access to the vehicles, and enhanced slip-proof entrance stairs. Finally, a redesign of the filtration system will enhance water quality during the busy season. The structure is built above ground, creating the perfect space for a seascape mural, donated and painted by former volunteer and friend of CWC, Ann Jin Chiu.

Throughout the presentation, the first sea lion pup of the season propped herself in the center enclosure, eyes closed and head held high. This body posture is generally displayed by sea lion patients as their health improves, suggesting that they are responding to care, and it is always wonderful to observe. While she was aware of the activity occurring in front of the enclosure, watching her behave in a natural manner is also a delightful sight, since our goal is to nurture these wild instincts. It was a great reminder of why the enclosure is so sorely needed.

Justice Served

By Denys Hemen, Hospital Manager

X-Ray of Hawk with Bullet

At CWC we have received 36 patients so far this year that have been shot by a pellet, BB, or shotgun. Last year we received 51. In all of these cases the perpetrator was never known and most of the patients had to be euthanized. The animals were found by caring members of the public, unable to fly or crawl away.  Most of these people had no idea that the animals had been shot and were very shocked to find out when they followed up with us over the phone. This can be a very frustrating situation for us and the public. We know there are multiple people in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas shooting wildlife, but we are helpless to address the situation without evidence. One day recently, that all changed.

A hawk was brought into our exam room unable to stand or fly. As we do with all our patients, CWC staff gathered important information from the rescuer. The rescuer told us how he found the hawk in his backyard and that he believed it was shot. He stated that he knew someone in his neighborhood that he had seen shooting birds. We quizzed him and made sure he had seen the gun in the person’s hand actively pointing at birds and firing.  X-rays confirmed that the bird had pellet fragments inside it’s body. Finally, that helpless feeling began to go away. We gave the rescuer the contact information for the proper authorities. Then we followed up with the same department. We gave the rescuer’s contact information to the officer and by the next day they had contacted them. An officer arrived at the scene later that week and questioned the perpetrator who immediately admitted to the shooting. Justice had been served. Not only for the hawk but also for the numerous other birds this person had illegally shot.

Shooting nongame migratory birds is a federal offense and a state offense in California with fines that can reach into the thousands of dollars. This story proves that we are not always helpless when trying to protect our wildlife from poachers. Sometimes it pays off to be persistent. If we have proof, then the law is on our side. Even though our California State Park and California Department of Fish and Game departments are underfunded and understaffed, there are eager individuals who are passionate about our wildlife and are willing to serve justice. If you ever witness a person shooting non-game wildlife or shooting any wildlife in the city limits, please call the CalTIP line at 888-334-CALTIP or visit the website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.

Being an Intern at CWC

By Luis Vasquez, Seasonal Animal Care Intern

Luis Vasquez
Photo by Alyssa Schlange

If you are blessed with the time and opportunity and have a little voice inside questioning whether you should intern at CWC or not, DO IT. It is incredible how much you will take away. I interned at CWC for 10 weeks this summer and it was wonderful learning about how to care for injured or orphaned animals, the differences between species, and the overall importance of wildlife rehabilitation.

When animals come into CWC, wildlife technicians, with the help of interns, assess the patient’s condition and create a treatment plan. From there, patients are monitored every day. This includes feedings (meal prep, assisted feedings), medicating, and providing behavioral enrichment (to stimulate behaviors they would have in the wild).

As an intern, I had the responsibility of helping determine when the animals showed significant improvements to be moved out of isolated care to larger group enclosures, and finally to be released. For example, one American Crow came in as an orphan during my first week. Throughout the length of my internship, the technicians and I helped with his unfortunate digestive issues, parasites, and cough. He went from isolated care, to a fledge pen, to our fledgling crow aviary. Finally, after 9 weeks, he is a juvenile crow and is in Pelipen [a large flight aviary] with the rest of our orphaned juveniles, where he is strengthening his flight so that he can soon be released.

Personally, this experience has helped me develop a preference for working with wildlife versus domestic animals in the future. In addition, the people you get to work with are awesome. I treasure them. They owed me nothing, yet stood by me in light of my clumsiness, awkwardness, and mishaps in an effort to advance my knowledge of wildlife. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for letting me be part of the Center’s common denominator: assisting in the well-being of California’s wildlife.

My First Day Volunteering at CWC

By Cindy Tansin, Volunteer

As a volunteer, my secret motivation for working at CWC was for the thrill of getting an up close sneak peek at wildlife that I would normally only get to admire from afar – if I was lucky.  I volunteered to answer phones, because that’s what was needed. A small thing, yet obviously important.

My Day One couldn’t have been more exciting and wonderful. Phones weren’t particularly busy that day, so after my initial lesson on phone and intake protocols, I was introduced to Eva, another volunteer, to help with kitchen duties. Eva was on her way to the upper enclosures.  She handed me some food dishes and showed me how she changed out the cages.  Much to my surprise, she asked if I wanted to do the next one, and I jumped at the opportunity.

Upon entering the bird’s world (don’t ask me which species), I tiptoed in as it stood by watching warily, changed out the food and water, and I was pumped! Back at the kitchen, Eva began training me on how to prep the next day’s meals. It was fascinating. They had very specific recipes for more species than I could have ever named. In between chopping, plating and labeling, I fielded phone calls.

I learned how to re-nest baby squirrels, how to deal with a crying young coyote who couldn’t find his way out of a construction area, and how to handle a crow with a broken wing. All in all, it was a very thrilling day for someone who signed on only expecting to answer phones.

I thought Day One couldn’t have been more exciting until I experienced Day Two. I came in on my second day with a spring in my step ready to report to duty.  On this morning I got to work primarily in ICU.  I was immediately shown how to feed a baby hummingbird and tasked with strict instructions to do timed feedings every 20 minutes throughout my shift. Then I was asked to feed an injured squirrel, which didn’t go so well.  I got more food on his feet than in his mouth. I cleaned and restocked a hawk’s cage while he was being treated and checked.  I held some form of large bird in a towel while he was tube fed. Throughout the morning I prepped meals.  The phone rang regularly with calls from good-hearted citizens asking advice on a variety of situations.  It was heartwarming how much they cared and how willing they were to help.

I learned two overriding lessons in my first two days. 1) Get a picture from callers.  Being able to to accurately identify the animal is the #1 starting point. 2) I love this place.  I love what they do.  I love the spirit and the people who work here.  And there’s never a dull moment.

I am a humble phone answerer who is so happy to do all kinds of “mundane”/exciting side duties to help the cause.  We are blessed to share our planet with these creatures.  We are obligated to respect and care for them and their habitat so they can thrive and fulfill our lives with their presence.  I can’t wait for day three!

California Wildlife Center Makes Some Shocking Improvements

By Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator

CWC Carport 2004

Our hospital building was a carport used for storage before being converted into the ICU, one of many changes to CWC since 1998.
Photo circa 2004.

In December of 2016, California Wildlife Center finally bid farewell to its 64 year-old electrical panel.  This change had been a long-time coming.

The main building was originally constructed in 1952 as a private  home and later became a ranger station.  In 1998, California State Parks granted CWC the right to use the building and land surrounding it. CWC grew as more animals needed care, adding three temporary buildings and turning the car port into what is now the Intensive Care Unit.  Along with the addition of buildings were more incubators, refrigerators, an X-ray machine, and countless other appliances and machines required for providing state-of-the-art veterinary care to our patients.  The electrical system, designed to power a single-family home, was simply not up to the task.

After receiving permission from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to make the required upgrades, and funding for the project, including a generous grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation, work began on December 12th.

The timing of the project was key.  We knew the electrical would have to be down for a period of time, so December was chosen because it is traditionally the month with the least patients.  Generators were used to keep key components running while the rest of CWC was in the dark.

The work was completed quickly and efficiently and soon CWC had new main and sub-electrical panels, repaired outlets, new outlets, and a new underground irrigation box.  The electrical system is up to code for a wildlife hospital and CWC will be able to continue to provide optimum care for our patients for years to come.

Show Your Support

By Development Coordinator Heather Patrice Brown

Support the emergency response, transport, rehabilitative care, and release of over 4,300 sick, injured, and orphaned animal each year by making a tax deductible donation to California Wildlife Center. A gift any amount, renewable yearly, enrolls you as a member of CWC. Click here to donate today!

Become a Sustaining Supporter

Show your commitment to native California wildlife by becoming a monthly Sustaining Supporter.  You only need to sign up once and forget about it., while making an unforgettable impact for the thousands of native wild animals that CWC cares for every year!  Click here to become a Sustaining Supporter!combined-logos-copy

Support California Wildlife Center on #GivingTuesday

November 29 is #GivingTuesday! Held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it kicks-off the holiday giving season and inspires people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support, like California Wildlife Center.

Donate here on November 29, and then share your story!

A Marine Rescue of a Different Color

by Jeff Hall, Marine Program Managerimage2crop

I’ve rescued hundreds….maybe even thousands of animals in my career.  From mountain lions and black bears to seals and dolphins, I’ve seen my fair share of different species and had a hand in their rescue.  Never in my career have I rescued a Green Sea Turtle, that is until earlier this month!

A man was fishing off a small rocky cliff at Topanga Beach in Malibu when he caught something on his line he wasn’t expecting.  Green sea turtles are normally warm-water-loving animals more comfortable in the oceans around Hawaii, or Central and South America.  California does have a healthy population of sea turtles, but we usually see Olive-Ridleys in these waters.  

The green sea turtle was hooked by the fisherman’s pole and reeled into shore where the line broke and the turtle became wedged into some rocks.  As waves crashed around us, the rescue team from the California Wildlife Center and I hoisted the 28-pound turtle to our transport van and quickly took it to the Aquarium of the Pacific.  There, the hook was soon removed image4cropand the turtle was placedimage3 in a rehabilitation tank for recovery.  It should be released within a month.  

Welcome New Staff

Volunteer and Outreach Manager

By Volunteer and Outreach Manager, Trish Jackman

I have really been enjoying the opportunity to get to know everyone and rediscover the city as the new Volunteer and Outreach Manager.  I have worked professionally in the animal field for over 20 years out of the area and moved back to help family.  Prior to my move back home, I held the position of Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation for a center in San Diego where I oversaw the overall operation as well as a large cadre of home care and care center volunteers who along with a small staff cared for approximately 10,000 wildlife patients each year. Prior to my time at the San Diego wildlife center, I worked as a senior keeper for the San Diego Zoo, as a wildlife trainer for the Living Desert and as the Assistant Curator for Wildlife Safari in Oregon where I gained a raptor background as a back-up technician for their raptor rehab program.   In addition to my wildlife work, I was part of a Hurricane Katrina task force with San Diego Humane to help oversee operations at a rescue site in Louisiana, have presented at wildlife conferences, published a case study on an emerging disease in Cliff Swallows, and represented organizations as their media spokesperson including a recent documentary on wildlife rehab for KPBS.   Throughout my career, one of the most consistent personal rewards has been the opportunity to work side by side with volunteers.  The volunteers at CWC demonstrate the true meaning of compassion and dedication every day and I feel fortunate to be able to witness it and be a small part of it.

Administrative and Database Assistant

By Administrative and Database Assistant, Anna Noble

I have always hoped to work for an animal welfare organization, and I could not be happier to be working at CWC.  Throughout my life, I’ve been rescuing as many cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits as my circumstances would allow.  And I have always been deeply troubled by the immense suffering that is endured by wildlife, ocean life, and animals that are bred for food.  Equally troubling is the indifference to this suffering by most of society.  After coming across some YouTube videos about CWC, I was extremely moved by what I watched.  It was so wonderful to see all the birds, squirrels, possums, ducks, and more being treated with the loving care and attention that is generally only afforded to domestic animals.

Most of my previous experience has been in administrative roles on television productions.  When I learned of the opening for an administrative assistant, I knew I had to apply.  I was so happy to get the call that I would have the opportunity to work at this wonderful place!  I have never so looked forward to the first day of a job.

The best I can describe my experience of the first few weeks of this job is that I have never before witnessed so many kind and generous souls converged in one place.  It is truly a privilege to join this amazing group of people, and to have a role in giving wildlife a second chance.

Wild and Wonderful

By Development Coordinator, Heather Patrice Brown

Wild and Wonderful_Air BlancaJoin California Wildlife Center for something Wild and Wonderful! The 18th annual Wild Brunch will be held on September 25, 2016 at Gull’s Way, Malibu.

Show your support for California Wildlife Center and its Wild and Wonderful animal patients.  Each year, CWC cares for over 4,300 wild animals native to California from Los Angeles and Southern Ventura Counties.  When you purchase a ticket to The Wild Brunch, you are helping ensure the continuation of CWC’s state-of-the-art medical care and rescue services, as well as rehabilitation and release to the wild for these animals.

This year’s event will include “Tastes of the Wild” vegetarian cuisine from top-rated chefs and restaurateurs; Wine-tasting courtesy of Malibu and Napa Valley vintners; Live and Silent Auctions; Festive libations; Complimentary Psychic and Healing Sessions; Live music; Children’s fun area and buffet; Wildlife Release.

To purchase your ticket to The Wild Brunch or to learn more about the event, CLICK HERE.

2016 Year To Date Numbers

By Executive Director, Jennifer Brent

Mallards by Jeff Hall

Mallard ducklings are one of the most common species of animal CWC rehabilitates each year. Photo by Jeff Hall

It’s been business as usual at CWC this season, with injured and baby animals arriving daily.  So far, we are receiving approximately the same number of animals this year as last—1833 as of this writing. In 2015 we took in approximately 4300 animals in total and are trending to do the same this year.

While we have a huge diversity of species that we accept and care for, there are a few species that make up the majority of our animals:  squirrels, opossums, crows and ravens and ducklings.

From January 1st to May 31st we received:

  • 196 Fox Squirrels
  • 129 Virginia Opossums
  • 203 Mallards
  • 138 American Crows and Common Ravens

From the first days of spring through to the beginning of fall, we see the vast majority of our animals during the warmest months.  To help handle this influx of animals, we bring in seasonal staff, interns, externs and extra volunteers to assist the year-round staff of eleven to help intake, assess, treat, feed, clean and care for these animals. We have people on hand to receive animals from 8am to 4:30pm every day of the week, including holidays and weekends.