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What to do if:

You find an injured bird on the North Coast of Oregon
     Common causes of sick or injured birds - The most common problems we see here on the coast are hypothermia, starvation and poisoning.  We get a lot of storms during the winter.  Many birds spend their winter on the ocean waters off of our coast.  Weak or juvenile birds can get caught in the surf and tumbled in the churned up, sandy waters.  When they are cast ashore, their protective feathers are wet and full of sand.  They are cold to the core and this condition is called hypothermia.  Even if these birds are not too bad off, many sea birds are simply not equipped to take off from land.  These birds need help and often respond well to it.
     There are a number of causes for starvation.  The most common are juvenile birds which have not learned to hunt and climatic variations (such as the infamous El Nino) which cause a reduction in food supplies.
     Many people put out rat or mouse poison, not realizing that birds will come along and eat the dead or dying rodents.  The birds are then, in turn, poisoned.  We strongly encourage the use of non-poisonous rodent control.  Snap traps work reasonably well, but the absolute best alternative is a device called a RatZapper which kills them instantly with an electrical shock. 
     You may find oiled birds, even if there isn't a famous oil spill nearby.  Oceangoing ships often pump their bilges in preparation for entering the Columbia River.  This is illegal, but nobody seems to care.  This activity can cause oil slicks which engulf birds and oil their feathers.  Oiled feathers lose their ability to repel water and to insulate the bird.  The oil may not be real noticeable.  These birds will probably not have the thick coating of brown gummy stuff all over them (crude oil) like you may have seen on TV coverage of massive oil spills.  White birds may show brown stains on their feathers, dark birds will just look wet and bedraggled.
     Along the roads you may also find birds which have been hit by cars.
     First - The first thing to do when you find an injured bird is to determine the type of injuries and the condition of the bird.  It might also be helpful to note the conditions in which the bird was found.  The beach right after a storm, for example, or a sunny day in late August.  Note whether there is an oil sheen or tar balls anywhere on the beach, even if the bird is not in them at the moment.
     Call for help - Next, call a bird rehabber, the police department, or call us at The Good Life (the new name of our physical store) and we will find someone to help you.
     The phone number for the Wildlife Rehab Center of the North Coast is 503-338-0331 and is monitored at all hours, so leave a message if nobody picks up.   WRCNC is operated by Sharnelle Fee, a licensed and highly experienced wildlife rehabber, and is physically located up near Astoria.
     These people, and anyone else you meet who is helping wildlife, are volunteers, so be nice to them, treat them with respect, and help them as much as you can.  They give large amounts of their own time and money to help wildlife, so please be flexible and prepared to spend a few extra minutes taking the birds to them or whatever else they ask you to.
     Help the bird - Once you call for help, and depending on what kind of bird is injured and what condition it is in, you may be asked to watch it and keep track of it, to guard it, or to bring it in for help.  If asked to bring it in, please do everything you can to minimize stress to the bird.  The best thing to do is to put a towel over the entire bird, including its head, and pick it up very gently so as not to damage its precious feathers.  Put the bird in a roomy box with air holes cut in it and newspaper in the bottom and close the lid.  (You can take the towel off of it after you put it in the box.)  Resist the temptation to open the top and peer in at the bird or to poke at it.  This causes stress and reduces their chance of recovery.  Transport the bird if you were so requested, or put the bird in a warm, dry, preferably dark location and keep pets away from it.
     Protect yourself - Many sea birds are predators and their bills have evolved to grab or rip and tear flesh.  Your hands and arms are flesh.  I'm sure you can figure out what this means: be careful handling these birds.  Some can harm you and some cannot.  Unless you know which is which, keep clear of their beaks and use leather gloves and long-sleeved shirts or jackets when handling them.  Ducks can bite you all they want, but can't hurt you.  Grebes have a vicious look in their eye and will jab away at you with their beaks, but don't hurt, either.  Gulls and kittiwakes can, and will tear the flesh off of your arms, though they most often just raise welts and cause bruises.  Loons are powerful and can cause puncture wounds which will probably get infected.  (We know about these things from personal experience. :-)  Herons are not usually found on the beach, but have been found after being hit by a car or caught by a dog.  They have an 8" dagger attached to their face and they know how to use it.  Don't handle a heron unless you have to and get advice from an expert first or you could lose an eye and get really beat up and lacerated as well.  Birds of prey have talons and beaks which are designed for gripping and tearing flesh.  You are made of flesh, so you should definitely get expert advice before handling these birds.  Generally speaking, throwing a towel over a bird will be enough to enable you to control it, but if you do not wish to capture the bird yourself, please stay around and keep track of the bird until a wildlife rehabber shows up to capture it.
     The Law - First, the legal disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is how things have been explained to my by a licensed bird rehabber.  
     It is illegal for anyone but a licensed wildlife rehabber to possess any native species and even rehabbers cannot keep them for any reason other than to nurse them back to health or for educational purposes.  It is, however, legal to rescue an injured bird and transport it to a rehabber.  If possible, you are encouraged to call and ask for help or get permission before you rescue a bird, but if doing so may cause even further distress to the bird (for example, if it is out on a cold, stormy beach and already suffering from hypothermia) then by all means, help it out right away.  If you always keep the best interests of the bird first and foremost, and get it to a rehabber as soon as possible (don't waste time eating lunch first and hauling it around in your trunk until you finally make it to Cannon Beach in the late afternoon - this has happened) then you will be safe under a "good Samaritan" clause in the law.
     Contacts
          Wildlife Rehab Center of the North Coast
               Sharnelle Fee
               PO Box 1232, Astoria, OR 97103 
               phone:  503-338-0331 your best bet in an emergency
               WRCNC website: coastwildlife.org
               You can send email to Sharnelle, but please phone her to report injured wildlife
          The Good Life shop (drop off point) - 503-436-9806, 800-281-9806, Cannon Beach
          Cannon Beach Police Department - 503-436-2811, after hours - 503-738-6311



You find a seal or sea lion on the beach
     Dead - Dead mammals on the beach can create an unpleasant smell and may pose a health hazard. Call the nearest State Park or police department to report it. Someone will probably be dispatched to bury the carcass. It's too bad we must do this, though. Before DDT, there were many California Condors on the Oregon Coast. Much of their nutrition came from large, stranded marine mammals. Now they are gone from our beaches, probably forever, and we must do the cleanup ourselves.
     Alive - Leave them alone.  In Cannon Beach you can report them to city hall and someone will determine if the animal needs to be fenced off or needs veterinary attention.  Marine mammals come out onto the beach for a lot of very routine (to them) reasons and have been doing so for thousands of years.  In almost all cases, they are in perfect health and need only to be left alone and soon they will go about their business.
     Seals will often leave seal pups on the beach to rest while they hunt for food.  Why do they do this?  Because Killer Whales and Great White Sharks like tasty seal veal for dinner.  The mother is savvy and swims fast and strong and may be able to avoid being eaten, but the pups are an easy meal.  Also, seal pups are small and simply don't have the endurance to keep up with mom.  If she puts them on the beach, she knows exactly where they will be when she returns.  If you "rescue" a seal pup from the beach, the mother will return, assume it was eaten by a predator, stop looking for it, and move on.  Then, even if a rehabber brings it back, it's too late - the pup will die.  And if you or your dog harass it - even so innocently as getting too close to look at it - the pup may go back into the ocean and be washed away from the beach by the currents before mom is able to come back and find it.  And the pup will die.  So as cute as they may be, STAY AWAY from seals on the beach and keep pets away from them, too.
     Elephant Seals may also come up on the beach to molt.  Molting is when they shed their entire juvenile skin and grow in the adult skin.  It is a very stressful time for these huge animals.  It takes so much energy that they just lay there, still, looking and smelling dead.  It doesn't help that their skin is coming off and looks terrible.  If you leave these animals alone for a few days, they will finish their molt and crawl back into the water to take their place as some of the largest, most powerful seals in the ocean.  If you harass them they may die of stress on the beach or if you try to "help" them into the water they will have to come back again or might even die out there, depending on the stage of molt they are in.  Elephant Seals are also very powerful, dangerous creatures.  If you do manage to rouse one by harassing it, it could attack you causing severe injuries.  If this happens, don't blame the seal.



You see someone taking critters from tide pools
     Some tide pools are legally protected and some are not. Ours here at Cannon Beach are a protected Marine Garden and you are not supposed to take any living thing from them. If you see someone taking something from a tide pool, the first step should be to engage them in conversation. Talk to them about the creature they are holding; about how it is so specialized that sometimes even being moved to a different part of the same tide pool can kill it.  If they are holding a hermit crab, remind them that it could be older than they are (if they are younger than about 25 years of age.) Tell them about how badly a dead sea creature smells. If compassion doesn't work, you can inform them that it is illegal to take anything from the tide pools. If they still persist, don't get in a fight with them. If you wish, you can report them to the police, though I doubt much would happen unless some large scale poaching was going on.  Many people will put up a tough front, but if you turn your back on them they will put the critter back, or at least not take any more.


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