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Patient Stories

bird print bullet points Northern Spotted Owl bird print bullet points Chestnut-backed Chickadees
bird print bullet points Striped Skunk family bird print bullet points Red-tailed Hawk
bird print bullet points Gray Fox bird print bullet points American Crows
bird print bullet points Peregrine Falcon bird print bullet points Virginia Opossum
bird print bullet points Mexican Free-tailed Bat bird print bullet points Wild Turkeys
bird print bullet points Glaucous-winged Gull bird print bullet points Northern Raccoons

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 Radiographs Glaucous-winged Gull

Radiographs show a bullet lodged in the brain of this Glaucous-winged Gull.

Glaucous-winged Gull #0042

A gull was observed standing alone on January 27 at Hanson Aggregates’ pond, (“Lake Jackson” to employees at Pier 94). “Lake Jackson” is the only freshwater source in that area, and one that attracts many birds. The gull had a small wound on the right side of his head and could not seem to see or hear on that side. As part of an agreement with the San Francisco Port management, WildCare staff member Kelle Kacmarcik rescued the “sick” gull.

Radiographs on intake confirmed that the gull had been shot through the ear. It was surprising that the bird was still mobile. Treatment was not possible, and the gull was humanely euthanized. Without witnesses, the case cannot be prosecuted.

 Hawk Keratin Disorder

Blood samples. Photo by JoLynn Taylor

Blood samples taken from this hawk may help find a cure for other avian species affected by this disorder.

Red-tailed Hawk #1710

The adult hawk was found in a field in American Canyon, weak and unable to walk or fly. She was brought to WildCare on November 30, 2011. She was very thin, and her overgrown beak covered in matted fur and meat, as if she had been eating road kill. Her beak was trimmed and she gained weight.

In researching the beak condition, Maxine Zylberberg of the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) confirmed Avian Keratin Disorder (AKD), a disease in which beak keratin builds up until the bird can no longer eat. The condition does not improve. In the wild, the bird would slowly starve to death, and possibly spread the condition to other birds.

Once the hawk was humanely euthanized, blood and tissue samples went to CAS for further tests. Samples were shipped to the Alaska Raptor Center to aid in their study of the disease, and more were frozen and kept for future use in finding the cause and potential cure.

Read the entire case history here.

Three NOSO babies. Photo by Nick Cedar

Northern Spotted Owl brancher with a parent and sibling. Photo by Nick Cedar

Northern Spotted Owl #0751

A nestling owl fell from his nest in Fairfax, and was brought to WildCare on May 10, 2011. A complete examination, including blood tests and radiographs, showed him to be healthy and able to be returned to his nest. Jim Cairnes of Small World Tree Service climbed up the next day and returned him to his parents and sibling.

The finders have been monitoring the nest and tell us the family is thriving.

sticky chickadees

Three sticky chickadees were covered in applesauce as a result of a misguided finder's attempt to feed them. Photo by Melanie Piazza

Chestnut-backed Chickadees #3784-3786

Three nestling songbirds arrived on June 18, 2011, covered in applesauce after their rescuers attempted to feed them.

Even after the birds were cleaned and put on a proper diet, their feather condition remained very bad. Feathers are made of keratin, like fur and fingernails, and the bad diet during their early development had caused structural damage and weakness.

Most birds molt their feathers only once a year; these birds will remain in care until their new feathers have developed.

Mother skunk and babies

Mother skunk waited 41 days to present us with three newly-born patients. Photo by Alison Hermance

Striped Skunk #0190

Patient #0190 was brought to WildCare from McNear’s beach, limp and unresponsive, on March 18, 2011. At first the suspicion was that she had eaten snail bait, which is highly toxic and attractive to skunks. But once she was stable, radiographs showed a fractured scapula, broken ribs and front ankles, and trauma in the thoracic spinal area.

After a month of care and medications  the skunk was healing well. Then, 41 days after she had been admitted, four baby skunks appeared in her kennel. One had died, but three tiny new patients, #0401-0403, were healthy and eating well. Mother and young were moved to a quiet outdoor enclosure and given food and privacy. After another month, the family was moved to a slow-release enclosure in Olema.

Grey Fox

The Gray Fox is the only fox native to California. Their diet consists predominantly of rodents, although they also eat some fruit. This fox died while under anasthesia and tested positive for anti-coagulant rodenticides. Photo by Melanie Piazza

Gray Fox #0070

A Gray Fox was admitted on January 29 showing the symptoms of rat poison toxicity, which include lethargy and anemia. He was put under anaesthesia to take blood samples and radiographs, but during the procedure, the fox died. Samples were sent to U.C. Davis for testing to determine the cause of death.

Results from the liver samples submitted to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in Davis came back positive for three anti-coagulant rodenticides. These rodenticides are all second-generation, long-acting poisons that interfere with normal blood clotting and cause depression, anorexia, anemia, bloody feces, ataxia (lack of coordination), weakness and subcutaneous hemorrhages among other symptoms.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcons are adapting to life on the high buildings in many cities. Urban pigeons are a staple and reliable food source. Photo by Trish Carney/

Peregrine Falcon #0063

This female falcon was rescued in Oakland on January 25 after crashing into a building while she was hunting a Rock Pigeon. A number of urban falcon observers witnessed the event, and protected the bird while arrangements were made to transport her to WildCare.

At WildCare, test results indicated that the bird was in normal health and uninjured, yet she seemed unable to fly in an aviary. After a week of cage rest, however she began to fly and was moved to a large outdoor aviary to rebuild her flight muscles.

By February 10 she was flying beautifully, and the finders were informed. The grapevine of peregrine fans went into action, and her release on February 13 became a celebration, complete with photographers. WildCare and Golden Gate Raptor Observatory volunteer Anne Ardillo banded the bird, and Glen Stewart of the U.C. Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group donated a transmitter and receiver to include her in their post release studies. On February 24 falcon #0063 was confirmed back in her territory in Oakland.

Mexican Free-tailedBat

Bats and insectivorous songbirds are attracted to struggling insects on glue traps. Many animals die a slow death of dehydration, or, if they do escape, die later of wounds or damage to fur or feathers that impairs heat retention. WildCare was able to save this bat through a laborous process of cleaning. Photo by Anne Barker.

Mexican Free-tailed Bat #0039

Bruce Fuller brought to this female bat to WildCare from Berkeley, where it had been found tangled in a sticky trap intended for use on insects. At WildCare she was carefully removed from the trap. Her wrist was bruised and swollen from her struggle to free herself. Her fur was carefully cleaned with a product to dissolve the adhesives, followed by treatment to remove the cleaning products. Treatment on such a tiny creature is a delicate and highly stressful process.

She was sent to foster care with Livia Stone, who administered pain medications, and trained her to eat the mealworms that are standard hospital fare for insectivores. Once the wrist had healed, Livia moved her into a six-foot enclosure to practice flying. On In February the recovered bat was moved to an outdoor aviary where she went into hibernation with several other bats. She’ll be released in April.

American Crows

Four of the six American Crows that survived strychnine poisoning. Nine more were dead on arrival at WildCare. Photo by Melanie Piazza

American Crows #1293-1307

Fifteen crows were rushed to WildCare late on September 7, 2010 by MHS Officer James Reis. The birds  had found in Marin City, and by the time he arrived, only six were still alive. All exhibited signs of some kind of poisoning.

Radiographs ruled out gunshot and lead poisoning. Necropsies on the dead birds showed corn and seed in their gizzards and internal hemorrhaging. Medical staff suspected Avitrol, an avicide (bird poison) used on pigeons, and began treatment.

The survivors were given fluids, medication to control seizures and pain, and activated charcoal to flush the poisons. Even so, one did not recover. Laboratory tests later confirmed they had been poisoned with strychnine-laced seed. The five surviving birds were released on September 17.

Strychnine is commonly used in gopher bait, and can only be used legally if buried underground. An investigation of this case by the Marin Humane Society was inconclusive.

Opossum after eye surgery

Virginia Opossum after surgery to remove the eye injured at a feral cat feeding station in San Francisco. Photo by Melanie Piazza

Virginia Opossum #1153

This young animal was rescued from a San Francisco feral cat feeding station, and admitted to WildCare on August 17, 2010 with a severely injured eye, probably the result of a fight over food. Opossums are not territorial, but feral cats are.

Medical staff quickly determined the eye was not salvageable, but its loss would not seriously impact his chance of survival as long as the injury was treated and healed. Opossums normally have poor vision at best; they rely on their senses of smell and hearing to find food.

Dr. Serena Brenner volunteered her time to perform the enuculation (eye removal). After successful treatment with antibiotics and pain medications, #1153 was returned to San Francisco on August 31, away from the feeding station.

[object Object]Juvenile wild turkeys

Four juvenile wild turkeys were orphaned when their mother was hit by a car. Photo by Alison Hermance

Wild Turkeys #1044-1047

Four turkey chicks were rescued on July 26, 2010 in San Rafael by Marin Humane Society Officer Stapp when their mother and several siblings were hit and killed by a car. Only 45 grams on intake, they were the same size as newly hatched ducklings. Turkeys, like ducklings, are precocial; that is, they begin to walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching. Needing the protection of an adult bird until old enough to fly, they instinctively follow their mother.

These small game birds were stabilized and treated for shock and exhaustion. They remained in intensive care in an incubator until August 1, when they graduated to a poultry brooder. They were old enough for an outdoor cage on August 15, and a flight aviary on August 24 to build their stamina.

Turkeys are becoming adapted to human environments, but they have little understanding of traffic. They were released in Lucas Valley on September 27.


Radiograph of pregnant raccoon 

Arrows point to five fetuses in radiograph of raccoon #0137 later diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer.

Raccoons #0137 and #1329

Northern Raccoon (#0137) was admitted to WildCare on March 26, 2010 from San Rafael because she was acting “too friendly.” Central nervous system problems are one of the symptoms of  Canine Distemper, a virus to which  raccoons are highly susceptible, and she was put in quarantine. In April radiographs indicated she was pregnant.

During the following weeks her condition deterioriated but no further signs of distemper developed. By the end of April she fell into a semi-comatose state and miscarried three full-term fetuses. With no further treatment options, she was euthanized, and samples sent out for laboratory testing. In August, the cause of death was confirmed to be a rare brain cancer called glioblastoma that had not been seen in raccoons before.

In October 2010, Northern Raccoon #1329, admitted from Fairfax displaying similar symptoms, was found to also have died from glioblastoma. The case is still pending as of February 2011, as pathologists continue testing.