The call came into the Pacific Wildlife Care (PWC) hotline May 22 reporting that a seagull was stuck inside a motel chimney on Moonstone Drive in Cambria.
PWC Cambria volunteer Gwen Kellas arrived on the scene promptly, but the front desk — citing insurance concerns — refused to let her climb up on the roof. She did offer strategic suggestions to a maintenance worker who was able to use a PWC-provided net to rescue the soot-stained, flummoxed gull.
The gull was transported to PWC’s clinic in Morro Bay, where it was cared for by the nonprofit’s full-time wildlife veterinarian. It was released at Leffingwell Landing a few days later by another Cambria volunteer, Pamela Hartmann.
The rescue was just one of the estimated 3,000 injured and orphaned animals received by PWC annually. Many of those are rehabilitated and released back into the wild. (PWC is celebrating a milestone in 2018: its 30th year rescuing and rehabbing wildlife.)
The heroic efforts of the hundreds of PWC volunteers — and staff — was recognized earlier this month when PWC received the “California Nonprofit of the Year” award for Senate District 17, which includes much of Monterey, all of Santa Cruz County, portions of Santa Clara and all of San Luis Obispo counties.
In presenting the award, California State Senator for District 17, Bill Mooning (Senate Majority Leader), issued this statement: “Pacific Wildlife Care has done a tremendous job in its rehabilitation, advocacy, and education efforts for wildlife in San Luis Obispo County.”
I have served as a volunteer transporter and rescuer for PWC for several years. One incident that greatly impacted me emotionally was the rescue of a Brown Pelican a couple years ago on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve’s rocky shoreline.
As recently as 2009, these large iconic coastal birds were removed from the federal “Endangered Species” list. It had been determined that DDT caused pelicans’ eggshells to be too fragile for chicks to survive. Notwithstanding that use of DDT was banned in 1972, it’s residues remained — and still remain to some degree today — a threat to several species, including the California Condor and Bald Eagle.
Meanwhile, the Brown Pelican has made a remarkable recovery on the West Coast due to the declining negative impact of DDT.
The struggling Brown Pelican we rescued couldn’t fly — it was partially impacted with fishing line — and fishhooks were attached to its body. We were able to corral it from two sides against the rocks, throw a large blanket over it and transport it to PWC.
A big part of the reward for rescuing a large bird — or other injured animals — is the thrill that comes when witnessing its return to the wild. After several weeks of rehabbing, that pelican was transported back near the spot where it had been rescued. The door opened, it walked out of its carrier, looked around briefly, and then, much to the delight of witnesses, it flew away.
The number to call to report injured or orphaned wildlife is 805-543-WILD. Go to www.pacificwilfecare.org to learn how to become a volunteer.