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Archive for November, 2007

Lose your cockatoo? Got room at your Inn for Noah & Max?

Lose your cockatoo?
Someone’s lost pet cockatoo was recently hit by a car in Pittsburg, Calif., and taken to VCA Cottage Animal Hospital in Walnut Creek for care. They treated the bird and are now trying to find its owner so it can be returned.

If you think this bird is yours, please call 925-935-9080 and identify it. I’m sure it will be happy to see you again!

Noah & Max need a home
Two special 8-year-old cats, Noah and Max, are in need of a good home this holiday. Noah (a brown tiger tabby) and Max (who is all black) watched their human die on October 30 after a long battle with cancer. Since then, Noah and Max have been living alone in the house. Thankfully, a neighbor and their estate lawyer, who is in charge of their care and eventual placement, are doing the best they can to care for them. However, the longer they remain home alone, the more fearful and skittish they become.

Both cats would do best in a quiet non-smoking home with a patient person or couple with no other animals. If someone is willing to open their heart and home to Noah and Max, they will receive much love and joy in return. Plus Noah and Max come with lifetime medical care.

If anyone is interested in adopting Noah and Max, please contact their lawyer, Gretchen Wettig at 925-457-7453.

Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2007
Under: Lost and found | No Comments »

Fish & Game needs help

My friend Eric Mills, coordinator of Action For Animals in Oakland, sent me a copy of the following letter from recently railroaded Fish & Game Commissioner Judd Hanna to California Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara & Ventura counties). I think this letter is worth a careful read. It makes some interesting points.

(AB 821 is the bill that bans the use of lead ammo in the endangered California condor range.)

Hanna’s letter:

18 October, 2007
Assemblymember Pedro Nava
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 93030

RE: AB 821

Dear Assemblymember Nava:
I congratulate you and applaud your perseverance in navigating AB 821 through the shoals of ignorance and the reefs of paranoia. You have done the citizens of California a service for which our grandchildren will thank you. I applaud the Governor, as well, for his support.

If the hunting community had only opened their eyes to the irrefutable science of lead poisoning, had supported a lead ban and led the fight, every editorial and op-ed in the State would have, in turn, supported the hunter who claims to be the original “conservationist.”

Instead, a recent study done in California on the public’s perception of the hunter said: 74% of respondents believed that when game laws were broken, they are broken intentionally; hunters drink too much and hunters engage in unsafe activities. That might have something to do with the decline of the hunting community’s numbers (all 292,750 of us in California). And the dogma of the NRA is no friend of the hunter. Every member of my family has a lifetime hunting license and my grandchildren will know who to look to when the non-hunters of this state rise up and say “enough — hunters have no ethics — let’s just stop all hunting and be done with it.”

As the hunting and fishing segment of the state’s population dwindles and license revenues plummet along with the Department’s budget, one solution over which you might have some influence is to support the DFG’s funding, to a larger extent, by the General Fund. The Department should be given a more realistic budget to manage our State’s wildlife and habitat, including a real incentive to attract Game Wardens to the profession by giving them a living wage. Without Wardens, we will soon have little wildlife to enjoy as a hunter, fisherman, bird watcher, wildlife enthusiast or conservationist.

Many thanks for all you have done. Keep up the good fight.


R. Judd Hanna
Circle S Ranch, Mill Creek, CA

We definitely need to support more funding for the DFG in the strongest way possible. A large part of the Department’s budget comes from hunting and fishing license fees — so the DFG’s budget has dropped, along with the decline of those who hunt and fish.

As Hanna says in his letter, the Department needs to receive more money annually from the state’s General Fund. They need to be able to pay game wardens a living wage. Statewide, only approximately 192 of 352 warden positions are filled. They need to fill them all ASAP!

Back in the 1970s when I was Curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, the number of game wardens in Contra Costa County included: a patrol captain, a lieutenant and five or six wardens. Today, there are only two wardens to cover the entire county. It’s the same way all over the state.

Without wardens, who will protect our wildlife? /Gary

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2007
Under: Fish and Game | No Comments »

Aquarium Toilet Tank?? Talking pet bowl??

Sounds like it’s time for another Bizarre Pet Product of the Week session.
Only this time I’ve got TWO of these weird things!

Press Release #1: “Fish n Flush Aquarium Toilet Tank brings decorative twist to bathrooms.

“(Westminster, California) — It’s a unique new product whose decorative appeal could turn the bathroom into the most talked about room in the house. The Fish n Flush is a clear two-piece toilet tank that replaces a standard toilet tank and cleverly contains a fully functioning aquarium inside. The Fish-n-Flush’s insert can be filled with water for fish or left dry for use as a terrarium for a pet reptile or house colorful plants or foliage.

“‘We wanted to develop a product that had a dual purpose — to serve as a proper, fully functional toilet and also as a source of entertainment and conversation,’ says Richard Quintana, CEO of AquaOne. ‘Fish n Flush is definitely an attention-getter.’”

You can find out more about this silly contraption at

I guess it beats reading the Sears catalogue.

Press Release #2: “High-Tech Pet Bowl Helps Keep Pets Company.

“VICTORIA, BC — Contech Enterprises, designer of the ScatMat pet training mat, today introduced a new way to help pet parents be with their pets — even when they can’t be at home. Designed by Jay Taylor, a dog owner who felt his dog would be comforted by the sound of his voice, ChatterBowl plays a recording of your voice every time your pet eats or drinks. ChatterBowl offers pet parents a fun and easy way to be with their pet, even when they’re away.

“The key to the stylish, contoured ChatterBowl is the unique, light-sensitive TalkBox located in the back of the bowl. Simply record a message on the TalkBox and every time your pet eats or drinks it’ll hear your message. You can record a new message as often as you like — try surprising your pet with a new message every day. Ideal for free-feeding or water, the ChatterBowl helps keep your pet company when you can’t be there.”

If I had one of those things, my fraidy-cat, Newman, would never eat or drink again.

If you’re a glutton for punishment and want to see more about this, you’ll find it at

OK, I see where this is leading. It’s time for a little contest.
What would you record on your ChatterBowl? You can respond here under “Comments” or send me an e-mail at

Funniest recorded message gets to make the rest of us laugh so hard we’ll fall off our chairs! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
Under: Crazy Press Releases | No Comments »

Do glass walls and windows kill birds? Duh!

According to the Associated Press, Hearthside Homes in Huntington Beach, Calif., is building 350 homes overlooking a wetlands area full of birds. They constructed a wall around the development as a barrier between the houses and the open space area and made it out of glass so residents could still watch the birds in the beautiful wetlands area around them.

Local conservationists now say at least 12 birds have died after flying into the wall. (And those are just the ones they found.)

“You could not build a better passive bird killer in a better spot than they did here,” said Scott Thomas, conservation director for Sea & Sage Audubon, an Orange County chapter of the Audubon Society.

Audubon California says the reflection of nearby trees on the glass is likely what is confusing the birds. “It’s a mirage, basically, because the birds think they’re flying into the reflection,” said Gary Langham, director of bird conservation.

Anywhere from 100 million to one billion birds … that’s right, one billion … die every year after flying into glass windows on skyscrapers and other buildings, residential houses … and, yes, now they’re even flying into glass walls.

I don’t think a week goes by without someone sending me an e-mail about a hummingbird, Cooper’s hawk, mourning dove, or some other bird species flying into their windows. It’s definitely a major problem for the birds. According to the AP story I read this morning about that stupid glass wall, flying into windows is the most significant source of bird fatalities in the country, short of loss of habitat.

Think about it. That’s pretty amazing.

What’s next, giant glass billboards set up along the Pacific Flyway so we can clobber millions of birds as they migrate north and south every year?

And we keep wondering what’s happening to all the birds.

While we’re at it, here’s how to keep birds from flying into your windows:



WindowAlert ultraviolet decals:

National Wildlife Magazine — Creative Solutions:

Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2007
Under: Birds | No Comments »

CRASH! BAM! Hawk in the window!

I’m back. Hope you had as nice a Thanksgiving break as I did!

Last week my wife and I were up in Chico, California, for a Thanksgiving break (and Thanksgiving!) with my brother Terry and his wife, Meg. On Friday (Nov. 23), while we were sitting around recovering from eating waaay too much turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and salad and pie, we all suddenly heard a loud THUMP! on one of the windows out to the back deck.

When you’ve been working in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation as long as I have, that THUMP has instant meaning. A bird had plowed into a window.

It was a little male sharp-shinned hawk. It had been zigging and zagging to nail one of the many birds that were eating out of Meg’s feeders and had zagged when he should have zigged head-first into the glass. The sharpie was lying limply on the wood deck.

High on the window was a smudge mark and a single feather stuck on the glass and waving gently in the breeze.

I quickly slid open the glass door and Meg (who maintains a bunch of bluebird houses and is really into birds) and I slipped out. I gently scooped my right hand around the warm bird, taking care to grasp the skinny legs with my left hand so those powerful feet and half-inch long talons couldn’t grab me. The hawk’s head hung down limply, it’s eyes fluttering rapidly. I could feet the equally rapid flutter of its heart pumping against my index finger.

“Meg, can you please get me a brown grocery sack and put a soft wash rag in the bottom?” I said softly.

She was back with the stuff in a moment. “Why the sack?” she answered.

“I want to put him inside on the soft rag and close the top and leave him in a quiet spot so we can see if he’s going to recover. If he suddenly wakes up and starts to thrash around, he won’t hurt himself against the paper bag’s sides.” What I didn’t say was “if his neck isn’t broken.”

I sat the bag on the deck, pinched the top shut and we went back inside. If birds can’t see anything they stay calm. Paper bags work great. It’s the same principal falconers use when they put a hood over a falcon’s head. The bird immediately quiets down when it can’t see anything. I’ve rescued everything from tiny hummingbirds to big red-tailed hawks and put them in small and large paper sacks to lie quietly and get their act together after being stunned.

Five minutes later I went out and checked the hawk. It was standing up on the bottom of the bag and looking around. “Hey, guys,” I called. “Come watch.”

I took the sharpie out of the bag and gently checked each of his wings to make sure they weren’t broken. Head, wings, body, legs, they all looked great. Peering into his eyes I noted both pupils were equal in size. Fortunately, it looked like the bird had only been stunned. I’ve been doing this quite a few years and know what to look for. If you encounter a stunned bird like this on your deck, I recommend you give the Lindsay Wildlife Museum a call at 925-935-1978, ask to speak to the wildlife hospital, explain the situation and seek their advice. (If you live outside the San Francisco Bay Area, call your local wildlife rescue center.)

Then I sat the sharp-shinned hawk on the deck and stepped back. He stomped his feet a couple of times and looked around, finally tipping his head back and looking up at me.

“Ready to go?” I smiled down at the bird.

Definitely ready to go. He spread his wings and immediately zoomed off the deck and landed on the branch of an oak tree about 50 feet away. He immediately started preening the breast feathers I’d ruffled when I placed him in the bag.

“Looks good to me,” I said. “Wings work fine, flying is accurate, he’s standing tall and he was able to focus on that branch and land on it perfectly.”

Everyone had huge smiles on their faces, especially Meg.

“Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!” I grinned. Man, that felt good!

Posted on Monday, November 26th, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Need broad govt. response to the oil spill

(I’m taking a Thanksgiving break after writing today’s blog. I’ll be back on Nov. 26. See ya. /Gary)

Audubon California says federal and state agencies need to take the lead on clean-up, investigation and policy changes.

As the State Assembly Committee on Natural Resources convened an emergency oversight hearing in Emeryville on Thursday (Nov. 15) in response to the Nov. 7 oil spill in San Francisco Bay, representatives of Audubon California called for state and federal agencies to take the lead in “investigating the cause of the disaster, ensuring proper recovery measures and implementing appropriate policy changes.”

In other words, get the lead out, figure what went wrong, fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Local agencies and nonprofits have done amazing things in response to this spill, but it will not be enough moving forward.” said Glenn Olson, executive director of Audubon California. “We need the full weight of government action.”

The Bay has been designated an Important Bird Area of Global Significance by Audubon California. It was given this high designation because it hosts well over a million birds annually and remains home to a major portion of California’s remaining salt marshes. (Now we call them “oil marshes.”)

San Francisco Bay is host to the largest shorebird concentration in the West during the winter months.

By the way, November is definitely a winter month.

Olson expressed concern that first reports show that the initial response to the spill was slow and lacking the coordination needed to minimize the impact of the disaster. (Duh!)

This, in case you hadn’t guessed, is in the running for the Understatement of the Year Contest.

“Right now, it looks like the scope of the disaster was made worse by a flat-footed response and a lack of adequate preparation for this type of a spill in one of our busiest seaports,” Olson said. “This must change now.”

To put it more succinctly, “My bad” just won’t cut it. /Gary

Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2007
Under: Oil Spills | No Comments »

How do you feel about “No-Kill”? Do you understand it?

Let me explain.

** Should routine euthanasia of surplus pets by animal shelters be the social norm?

** Should we be operating animal shelters in this country where healthy and treatable dogs and cats are not euthanized for time and space considerations?

** Is there a difference between “no kill” and “No-Kill”?

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, has written an excellent and perceptive blog, “Setting Aside Semantics: Not Killing Pets Must Be Our Goal.” In it, Wayne presents the best explanation I’ve seen yet about what “no kill” and “No-Kill” means, and why he feels we ALL have to become involved in this crusade to make it work.

It doesn’t matter if you have pets or even care about animals. This is going to affect you (maybe it already has) in some very important way, whether you like it or not. Read what Wayne has to say. Then give it some thought.

Just click on this:

What do you think? I’d like to hear about it.

Please leave your comments below under “post a comment,” or by clicking on “Comments.” Or you can send me an e-mail at

Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2007
Under: No-Kill | No Comments »

Oiled birds are getting state-of-the-art care

The International Bird Rescue Research Center, located at the Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia, has been helping birds caught up in oiled spills all around the world for over 30 years. They know what they are doing.

Too bad just about everything else associated with this spill has been so messed up.

** That ship should NEVER have hit the Bay Bridge in the first place.

** The Coast Guard did a terrible job in keeping Bay Area residents and municipalities informed as to the scope of this disastrous spill. Seems like the clean-up response could also have been faster.

** The other agencies responsible for responding to local oil spills in California should have been MUCH BETTER PREPARED to deal with the thousands of caring and concerned Bay Area residents who rushed out to try and help. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.

But regardless of all of the above … the volunteers and staff at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia were ready and waiting to give those poor oiled seabirds the most advanced care available in the world when they arrived.

Check out this video that Times’ photographer Jose Fajardo shot at Bird Rescue on Nov. 11:

You can also read about the care of oiled birds in more detail in my Wednesday (Nov. 14) Times’ column at:

Unfortunately, getting the birds to IBRRC for care was sometimes a lot more complicated than it should have been. Here are some interesting words about the spill by Jay Holcomb, director of IBRRC, entitled “Birds Always Come First.” After seeing what Jay has to say, read the comment from Tina Perricone at the bottom of Jay’s remarks:

International Bird Rescue is a non-profit organization and can always use a little help from its friends in the form of cash donations and certain materials to help them care for the oiled birds. If you’d like to help them do their work, you can find out what you can do at

Their Web site will also show you how you can get trained to become one of their volunteers. That is truly satisfying work.

It’s good to know that at least the oiled birds are well taken care of. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
Under: Oil Spills | No Comments »

Watch them clean oiled birds

I went up to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia on Nov. 11 (last Sunday) to observe them cleaning oiled birds rescued from the S.F. Bay spill. I took along one of our Times’ photographers (Jose Fajardo) so he could shoot some video of the operation.

Ever wondered what happens after an oiled bird gets rescued from the beach? If a wild bird has to get covered with oil, it should do it in California. Here’s why.

Take a look at Jose’s video:

I’m also writing about this in my daily column in the Times, comparing how we used to rescue and clean oiled birds 36 years ago, with how it’s done today with modern state-of-the-art techniques.

My first column, “The Way It Was,” was published today (Nov. 13) and can be read at

My second column, “State of the Art,” will be published on Wednesday (Nov. 14) and you’ll find it on that date at the same spot:

Did you happen to be on a boat on the Bay at the time the ship hit the Bay Bridge, causing it to spill 58,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Bay? Did you observe, hear, or smell any of the events that took place? I’d be interested in hearing about it, maybe for use in a later column. If you’re up to it, please send me an e-mail describing what you saw to: Thanks! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2007
Under: Oil Spills | No Comments »

Want to help beavers or oiled birds?

Here’s how you can do it:
Whether it has to do with saving beavers or helping save the lives of oiled birds, the organizations and caring people who do this work can ALWAYS use donations of funds and materials or ideas to help them do their jobs.

** International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia:
This is a nonprofit organization that is cleaning oil off the birds caught in the San Francisco Bay oil spill, even as we speak. Donations help them cover many expenses and keep their facility staffed with volunteers. Find out how you can help by going to the Web site at

If you don’t have a computer, just send a tax-deductible check or money order to: IBRRC, 4369 Cordelia Road, Fairfield, CA 94534. Questions? Call: 707-207-0380 ext. 109.

** Martinez Beavers:
There’s a new group out there in never-never land that’s dedicated to the beavers remaining where they are in Alhambra Creek in the city of Martinez. You can pass along your ideas or thoughts on how to do this (and why!) via e-mail to

Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2007
Under: Oil Spills | No Comments »