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garter snake
Garter Snake Removed from Glue Trap – Staff Encourage More Humane Methods

PHS/SPCA’s Wildlife Care Center received a garter snake fully stuck to a glue trap, the kind used to target rodents. Staff successfully used oil to free him and he sustained no injuries either before or during the delicate 30-minute procedure, despite the fact that his entire body and head were completely stuck to the trap.  The somewhat unusual rescue took all six hands from three workers to make sure a freed section of his 2-foot long body made no contact with the trap. Many unintended targets don’t fare as well. Birds stuck to glue traps can easily break bones or cause severe damage to the feather follicles when feathers are yanked out. Mammals may mutilate themselves in a desperate attempt to break free. Glue traps also pose a hazard for domestic animals and young children, both of whom often investigate every corner of our homes and yard. And, for the intended target – rodents – glue traps lead to a slow death by starvation. Despite their violent action, snap traps are actually more humane than glue traps since death is usually instant with the former. The best option is a humane trap.  When a rodent walks into a baited humane trap and across a spring-loaded plate, a trap door closes from behind, causing no harm. The rodent can then be released away from the home.

PHS/SPCA’s Wildlife Care Center is funded by generous donations. To make a gift and support the only wildlife rehabilitation center in San Mateo County and on the Peninsula, please contact Lisa Van Buskirk at 650.240-7022 x327 or

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Chipmunk Laundry by Autumn Stanley

          Gina sang a little song as she hopped down the stairs to the laundry room.  She was helping this morning, for they had been off camping all weekend, and her mother had lots to do.  The family cat, Whiskers, followed her down the steps.  Whiskers always wanted to help, too.
          Gina was only six years old, and she didn’t know how to run the washing machine yet.  But Mama had asked her to take the laundry bag down, empty it on the laundry table, and pick out all the white things for the first load.
          She dumped most of the laundry on the table, but she could feel that a few things were still in the bag.  She reached in to get the rest, when suddenly something moved under her hand.  It was warm and furry, and not at all like a towel.  Gina yelped, and Whiskers, who had jumped up onto the table, hissed and jumped back down. 
          Gina’s heart was beating very fast.  Something alive was in the laundry bag—something small and furry and warm—and moving.  She knew she had to get Mama, but she didn’t want to leave Whiskers alone with the sack.  She tried to yell for Mama, but at first her voice wouldn’t work.  Finally, she calmed down enough to tie the laundry bag shut again.  She checked to make sure the knot was tight, and then went running up the stairs.
          “Mama, Mama,” she cried, as soon as she got to the top.  She found Mama in the kitchen making breakfast.  “Mama,” she panted, “there’s something alive in the laundry bag!”
          Mama thought Gina was playing a joke.  “That’s a good one, Gina,” she laughed.  “Is it a monkey or an alligator, do you think?”
          “No, no, Mama—I’m serious—it’s little and warm and furry—and it wiggles.  And Whiskers is interested in it.”
          Now Mama knew Gina wasn’t joking.  She turned off the burner under the oatmeal, and took Gina’s hand.  “Let’s go see what you’ve found.” 
          The two of them raced down the steps and ran over to the laundry table.  Whiskers was sniffing and pawing at the bag.  He was making a funny, scary noise in his throat that Gina had never heard before.
    Mama lifted Whiskers down off the table, and untied the knot Gina had tied.  She put her hand very carefully into the bag.  At first, she felt only cloth—what turned out to be one of Daddy’s shirts.  But then she reached in further, and suddenly felt the same warm, furry, wiggling thing that Gina had felt.  Mama pulled it out gently, still partly wrapped in a pair of her shorts.  “Watch Whiskers,” she told Gina.
          When she got the whole bundle out of the bag, her eyes got big, and she laughed out loud.  And so did Gina.  For there on the table were four furry babies, blinking in the bright light and trying to get back into their warm hiding place.  Whiskers was still letting everybody know that he had business with these little critters.  They looked a lot like mice to him, though they didn’t smell quite right.  Gina kept a tight grip on his collar.
          “Mama, they’re so cute,” she said.  “What are they?  And how did they get into our laundry bag?”
          “They’re baby chipmunks,” said Mama, “and I don’t know how they got into our laundry.  They must have been looking for a warm place to sleep the last night of our camping trip.” 
          Gina looked up at her mother with shining eyes.  “Can we keep them, Mama—please?”
          Mama smiled and stroked Gina’s hair.  “No, honey, I’m afraid not.  These are really just babies—not old enough to be away from their mother—and we wouldn’t know how to feed them.  They wouldn’t make it with us.”
          Gina looked sad, but her mother gave her something important to do right away.  “Get Whiskers one of his kitty-treats, and take him up to your room and shut him in.  Then come right back down, and together we’ll call the people who rescue little wild animals who get lost like this.  They’ll know what to do.”
          “Can we take some pictures of the babies while we wait for the rescuers to come?”
          “Of course—in fact, that’s a wonderful idea.  Then Daddy can see them when he comes home from work.”  And so it was that Gina and her mother both got out their cameras, and took lots of pictures of the little chipmunks crawling around on Mama’s shorts and on some magazines on the coffee table.  One of them fell asleep in a little glass dish, and Mama took several pictures of that.  Gina got one picture of two of them rolling over and over, playing with each other.  She was laughing so hard she could hardly snap the shot. 
          The animal-rescue people came all too soon, and took the little chipmunks away, but Gina and her mother visited them several times before they got old enough to be taken back to the mountains and set free in their original home.
          When school started, Gina told the baby-chipmunks-almost-laundry story, and showed her best pictures, to her first-grade class for Show-and-Tell.  She said that was one camping trip she would never forget.  And if you were to visit Gina's house today, you would see four baby chipmunks frolicking--or dozing--all over the refrigerator, and in Gina's photo album.

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BrownPelicanPatient #444648: Brown Pelican

On January 10th, 2009 an adult Brown Pelican was found in a yard in Half Moon Bay.  The bird and was reported as not flying and appeared to be sick.  The pelican was picked up by an animal control officer and brought to the Wildlife Care Center.

Upon examination the bird was found have a very low body temperature and blood tests revealed that she was anemic and emaciated.  In efforts to stabilize her she was set up on heating pads and was given IV fluids. 

The bird’s temperature began to climb and she was a voracious eater.  By the next day her temperature had greatly improved and she was stable enough to be transported to the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Cordelia for more specialized care.

Once at IBRRC, staff continued to administer IV fluids and her blood values began to improve.  Despite eating well while at the Wildlife Care Center, she had lost interest in eating on her own and had to be force fed fish several times a day. 

Hoping to encourage her to self feed, she was eventually moved outside to a small aviary with another pelican who was a good eater.  Within a short time, she began eating on her own and no longer needed to be force fed.  She was then moved to a large flight aviary where she steadily gained weight and her flight became strong.  By February 8th, her weight and blood values were in the normal range and she was released back into the wild.

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Mallard DuckPatients #433086: Mallard Duck

On July 22nd, 2008 a female Mallard Duck was hit by a car on a busy road in Palo Alto.  Three other ducks were found dead nearby. 

Upon exam, the Mallard was found to have blood coming from her nostrils and right eye. Her eye was not responsive to light but was visual.  There was swelling along the right side of the duck’s beak and the lower part of the beak was not closing to normal position.  The bird was not standing and was lying with its head and neck extended out. 

The Mallard was started on anti-inflammatory and pain medications.  Radiographs were taken and revealed that there were no fractures.  The next day she was sitting in normal position and would stand when approached.  Within a few days the swelling on her face was beginning to decrease and her beak had returned to a normal position.

Although her injuries were starting to improve, she was not eating on her own and needed to be tube fed.  After about a week, she was eating small amounts of food on her own and was eventually moved to an outside enclosure.

On August 10th, once she had recovered from her injuries and her weight was steady, she was released back into the wild. 

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Cooper’s HawkPatients #432337: Cooper’s Hawk

On July 12, 2008 a nestling Cooper’s Hawk was found on a trail in Woodside, having fallen out of its nest. The bird was brought to the Wildlife Care Center and was found to be uninjured and alert. 

The hawk was housed in an incubator and hand fed three times a day.  After a week she was starting to recognize the food left in her enclosure and she began to eat on her own.  Several weeks later, once her feathers had grown in completely, she was moved to an aviary to practice flying.  She quickly grew to be a strong flyer and was eating well. 

On August 15th the bird was ready to be released.  Staff was able to meet the person who found the bird at the same trail where she was found and together they released the bird back into the wild.  Often times a member of the public who finds an injured, sick, or orphaned animal becomes very concerned for them and will follow up on their progress.  They may also ask to be present during their release; however, it is not always possible to have a member of the public present during releases. 

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Patients #429470-429480: Opossums

On June 8, 2008 an injured adult opossum was brought in with severe eye trauma.  The opossum was a female and had several 3-4 inch babies, some inside the pouch and some trying to climb back in to her pouch.  The babies were safely removed and placed in an incubator so that an exam could be completed on the adult to determine the extent of the eye damage.  Unfortunately, both eyes were determined to be non-visual with irreparable damage. 

Although the adult opossum would need to be humanely euthanized, the babies were all found to be uninjured and healthy.  They were cared for at the Wildlife Care Center for a few days and then transferred to foster care until they were released on July 27th. 

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Western Screech Owl
Patient #417729: Western Screech Owl

On December 11, 2007 the Wildlife Care Center received a Western Screech Owl that was found in Redwood City, stuck to a glue trap.

The bird was very down and had glue stuck to the feathers covering his chest and abdomen.  Maintaining good feather condition is very important to birds for many reasons, including the ability to stay warm and dry.  Often thermoregulation is compromised and feathers can be severely damaged when covered in a foreign substance.  Due to the large amount of glue covering the bird, several washings were needed to make sure the feathers were completely clean.  In between washings, the bird was kept in an incubator and offered food. 

Once completely clean and dry, the owl no longer needed heat and was moved to a secondary enclosure.  The bird became much more alert and was eating well on his own.  He was eventually moved to a flight aviary and after a short period of flight time was released back into the wild.

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Cooper’s HawkPatient #416361: Cooper’s Hawk

On November 21, 2007 a Cooper’s Hawk was brought in to the Wildlife Care Center after hitting a window.  The initial exam revealed a laceration on the left wing near the shoulder with some minor tearing in the muscle.  X-rays were taken and it was determined that there was no fracture in the wing. 

The bird was put on antibiotics and pain medication and the wound was cleaned twice a day for the next few days.  Although some areas of the wound were healing well, there was too much damaged tissue that needed to be removed in order for the wound to close and heal properly. 

While under anesthesia a staff veterinarian removed the dead skin and tissue and sutured the wound.  During the procedure the bird stopped breathing but the veterinarian was able to get the bird to quickly resume breathing. 
For the next few days the wound was checked for signs of infection.  Unfortunately, due to the location of the wound, most of the sutures did not stay in place.  The wound was dressed with a temporary dressing until it healed well enough to be kept open. 

After several weeks, the wound had healed well and the hawk was moved to a flight aviary.  The hawk was flying and eating well and soon was ready for release.  The bird was released on December 13 near the area it was found in La Honda.     

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Cooper’s HawkPatients #412141, 412142, & 412143: Raccoons

On September 23, 2007 three juvenile raccoons were found trapped in a dumpster behind a restaurant in Moss Beach.  The raccoons were completely covered in garbage, food, and grease.  An animal control officer safely removed them from the dumpster and brought them to the Wildlife Care Center, where they were sedated and given a thorough exam.

The raccoons were uninjured and were given a thorough bath.  Later that evening, once the raccoons had recovered from sedation, they were released back into the wild.

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Great Horned OwlPatient #406777: Great Horned Owl

On July 19, 2007 a Great Horned Owl was transferred from an emergency vet hospital in San Mateo.  The bird had been found at the Linda Mar shopping center on Highway 1 in San Mateo, unable to fly. 

The bird was given an exam and was found to have a fractured ulna on his left wing between his wrist and elbow.  Wing fractures on birds often have a poor prognosis when they are found on or near a joint, or multiple bones or fractures are involved.  These types of fractures usually do not heal properly to allow the bird to achieve 100% flight ability.  Fortunately, the x-ray confirmed that the fracture on this owl was a fairly clean break that was centrally located on the wing.    

The wing was wrapped to stabilize the fracture and the owl was started on a course of antibiotics and pain medications. Within the next few weeks radiographs were taken of the bird to determine if the wing was healing well.  The wing appeared to be healing well and eventually the wrap was removed. 

The bird was moved to a small aviary where it could begin to stretch and exercise its wings.  The owl was recovering well and was eventually moved to a larger flight aviary to continue to strengthen its flight muscles.  By September 28th, it had fully recovered and was released back into the wild.    

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