animal rescue

Schlepping Sully, the End

Through rain and sleet. . . kidding. Actually, as much as I'm not fond of a high desert landscape, the rain and the black clouds made it kind of beautiful. Sully and I dipped into Nevada, then back up into Oregon. As we neared the California state line, a single thought occupied my mind: will the fruit and veggie border patrol let me bring a gull into the State. I was hopeful. I brought my parrot in 22 years ago. I needn't have worried. They are still only looking for produce.

That day we made it to Burney Falls. I found a motel easily enough, but the less expensive queen rooms did not have tubs. For $20 extra, I could get the last king, and did I have a pet?

I was getting better at lying. "A bird, but he can stay in the car."

Though the motel looked like something out of the 1940s, it had the best bathroom of the trip. (As you can see.) I let Sully out and he flapped his wings, lifting off the tile floor, like a dancer. While I filled his bath, he bounced around the room, tapping the floor with his webbed-feet, and flapping his wings to lift himself inches off the ground--a ballet of sorts.

This was our third night in a motel, and Sully knew the drill. He flew over landed on the towel on the side of the tub and dove in. I had to close the curtain to keep him from flinging the contents of the tub out on the floor.   

The remaining fish was looking a little gummy, so I left him to enjoy his bath, and drove to Safeway, where I found two Tilapia fillets for four dollars.

The next morning, my tire pressure light was on. (And of course the Maintenance Required light still burned brightly.) I passed Mike's Automotive Repair on the edge of town, did a U-turn, and pulled in to have them check the oil and add air to the tires.

I think the worst part of the drive for Sully, and for me, was listening to him being pitched from side to side in the cage for the entire the length of Hwy. 20--the last leg of our journey.. (For unfamiliar readers, Hwy. 20 from Willits to Fort Bragg, is 33 miles of unrelenting twists and turns.) (Our roads, from inland to the Coast, are what keep us from looking like Disneyland in the summer.)

Sully and I had driven 1600 miles and I still hadn't decided what I was going to do with him. I'd whittled the choices down to Noyo Harbor, where the gulls trail after the incoming fishing boats, or Lake Cleone, which is north of town. It's a fresh water lake, and since Sully had been born on a freshwater lake, I was leaning toward it. At that moment, I was too tired to decide anything. It was 3 p.m.; I drove home.

There is an 8 X 8 foot flight cage in my backyard from my animal rehab days. I let Sully bathe in my tub, then took him out and put him in the flight cage. I decided to decide in the morning. 

Sully was not used to flying, so I wasn't sure how strong a flier he was. He was also used to being fed by humans, and foraging for himself on the ground. Noyo Harbor was ideal for gulls used to following boats, and diving for fish scraps on the wing. That was not Sully. I thought the competition in the harbor would overwhelm him, so before dawn the next morning, I got up, stuffed Sully in his cage and drove to Lake Cleone. No more thinking about it, or weighing my options. I opened the cage door, and dumped him out. He ran straight through the crowd of ducks, launched himself into the lake and took a bath. That's Sully in the picture below, one minute into his new life.

The other advantage to Lake Cleone is it's full of minnows, and insects, and just on the other side of an old road, is the ocean. There are hundreds of gulls over there, and they come to Cleone to bathe. My hope was he'd join them. Until he did, I would drive out every day to feed him.
Lake Cleone at sunrise

My heart nearly broke the next day when I went out with fresh fish and a scrambled egg and couldn't find him. 

The day after that, he was sitting on the grass with the ducks. He saw me wave to him through the windshield, blinked like he couldn't believe his eyes and ran to meet me. Fending off a young herring gull, I fed him a bowl of fish and an egg. He headed straight to the lake for a bath. 

For the next two days, he wasn't there when I was, then, last Thursday, I think I saw him for the last time. There are other 1st winter Ring-bills out there, but once the boo-boo on Sully's bill healed, I couldn't tell him from the others. I think it was him. He was near the picnic table, and he took what I tossed him, but he didn't come any nearer than the other three gulls. 
Lagoon Point looking west.


It's what I hoped for, of course, but I also miss him. I keep telling myself that I did all I possibly could. That's the hardest thing, isn't it? The not knowing for sure.
Just on the other side of the road from Lake Cleone looking north
P.S. I've been out 4 more times since the last time I saw a Ring-bill and knew it was him. If he's there, and I can't imagine why he wouldn't be, he's been absorbed and is back to being a wild gull.


Responsible or irresponsible?

During a recent classroom interview, the teacher asked me to tell her students what I'd like them to remember. They'd read Hurt Go Happy. You would think, after 30 years of writing, I'd know what I wanted my take-home message to be, but I had to stop and think. What was my sound bite? What could I say that they would remember?

When I was growing up my mother took me to the Sanford (Florida) Zoo. I was only 6 or 7, but I remember feeling sorry for the animals. Sixty years ago, it was a horrible place. All the animals were is small cages, and people would throw peanuts or popcorn or the butt end of a hot dog bun at them, trying to get a reaction--some display of emotion. I've never been to another zoo, or a circus, or to a Sea World-like aquarium except to do research. Decades have passed and we still keep animals in cages, and whales and dolphins in concrete tanks, then starve them so they will do tricks for food. We lock monkeys and chimpanzees, dogs and cats in cages and test chemicals on them.

So what do I want from you? I hope, if you go to a zoo, a circus, or an aquarium, or see a commercial or a movie with an animal in it, that you will ask yourself where did that animal come from, and what was done to it to make it do what it is doing to amuse me? Then I want the life it's living to break your heart.

What should be, could be.

Last summer I wrote about the cats our local humane society  released into the woods surrounding their facility. Supposedly, they have changed their policy. Mike and Mary Beth Arago sent this story to me--a fine example of what can be done with the right mindset. 




Don't miss the music video at the end of this series of pictures.

Lanai’s 'kitty Shangri-La' delights visitors

Updated 4:11 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013
Never underestimate the power of a cute furry face — or several hundred of them.
That's one reason to explain the Lāna‘i Animal Rescue Center's status as the No. 1 attraction on the former Pineapple Island, per Tripadvisor.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that only 11 attractions are listed, but those who've been lucky enough to enter the "kitty Shangri-la," as one Tripadvisor reviewer calls it, are also struck by the creativity, commitment and compassion of the largely volunteer staff.

With just deer netting, a few discarded pallets and corrugated sheeting, co-founder Kathy Carroll and crew created an open-air sanctuary on 3.5 acres of land donated by then-owner David Murdock (now Larry Ellison) in fall 2009. Dozens of feral and abandoned cats — the largest number of homeless animals on the island — had already found a comfy, no-kill shelter there when I visited a month after it opened.

Returning last week, I found some 370 felines — a number of whom have been "adopted in place" — now make their home there, with plenty of places to lounge, socialize, play or hide, including an attractive bunkhouse with ladder, loft, benches and Adirondack chairs. "An Alabama woman came out after it had been a little rainy and told me, 'Ah'm gonna have mah architect build you a cathouse,' " Carroll said, with a delighted laugh.

The landscaping of a few trees and scrubby brush in red dirt now looks lush and lightly manicured. "We want it to look like a garden," explained Carroll, who has a part-time staff of three to help with animal care and shelter maintenance (and no, it does not smell like cats — fresh breezes help, too.) Since the center opened, a veterinarian who comes twice a week has spayed or neutered about 1,200 cats, Carroll said. The island's animal control officer also now brings them cats, instead of trapping and killing them to reduce the population.

Rescue dogs, such as the 90-pound black lab and a Jack Russell terrier currently with LARC, are placed in foster homes. In the coming months, the center will host its first dog obedience classes for island residents and an "animal camp" for children, who particularly enjoy visiting the site.

Local elementary school students recently recorded a music video at the shelter, "A Kitty Community," to help raise awareness, while the weekly Sunday "pet 'n' purr" open house which attracts five to 25 people weekly. "Kids can come down and play with the cats, who love it," Carroll said. "We just tell the children, 'Use inside voices and no pulling tails!'"

The two Four Seasons resorts on the island also encourage visitors to volunteer at the center, which coordinates group efforts as well as simple tasks for individuals. While some guests decided to leave with a new feline companion, others "virtually adopt" by donating a minimum of $20 a month toward the animal's care and feeding.

Pointing to a black and white cat, Carroll said, "Cupid came here two years ago, shot with an arrow. Now she's my inspiration. Some folks from Vancouver adopted her in place, and when they went back to get married, they made her the 'mews' of their wedding shower. In lieu of gifts, they asked everyone to make a donation in Cupid's name."

The wedding shower raised $1,500 for the center, which has now set up a fund for animals requiring urgent care called the Cupid Fund. Fund-raising T-shirts with designs by Mike Carroll, Kathy's husband and the island's premier landscape artist, and other gift items benefiting the center can be found at the Mike Carroll Gallery in Lāna‘i City.

The Bat in my Bathroom

Little Brown Bat (from
 My first clue that I had a bat in my bathroom was bat-poop in the sink. I'd go upstairs at night to find lots of little black, mouse-like droppings in the sink, but no bat. Then one night, sick with a cold, I went to bed early and was just drifting off when a small shadow circled the room, illuminated by the light from the TV, and flew into the bathroom. (I should add that nothing about bats scares me. I adore them.) I waited a few moments before getting up and turning on the light. There he was, hanging on the wall above the sink--preening.

Mystery solved--sort of. If this was his nightly roost, why hadn't I seen him before now? Was he a he? Was he/she the first of a colony? Where did he go to sleep?

The ceiling in my bedroom and bathroom is beamed, and to my astonishment, when he'd finished cleaning up, leaving a litter of insect legs and wings, he wedged himself between the beam and the ceiling planks. It doesn't look like you could slip a sheet of paper between them, but he had no trouble at all.

That was six years ago. And Johnny, my bathroom bat, is still my summer guest. He disappears in late fall, but occasionally shows back up in mid-winter. Three years ago, he over-wintered in my bathroom and a friend of his found refuge behind a painting in my stairwell.

Johnny is a male. Males are, thankfully, more solitary. It's the females that form colonies. I've very fond of Johnny, but not nuts about the idea of an entire colony of bats in my bathroom. (For another story, keep reading.)

 This link is to a wonderful story about a baby bat.

For more information than you might want to know.
From Wikipedia:

Habitat and roosting

The little brown bat lives in three different roosting sites: day roosts, night roost and hibernation roosts. Day and night roosts are used by active in spring, summer and fall while hibernacula are used in winter. Day roost sites are typically found in buildings, trees, under rocks, in wood piles and sometimes in caves. Nursery roosts are found in hollow trees and other natural crevices as well as around buildings. Night roosts tend to be in the same buildings as day roosts, however these roosts tend to be confined spaces with many bats packing themselves together to increase roost temperature. Bats congregate in night roosts after feeding in the evening. Thus night roosting could result in the accumulation of feces away from the day roosts which could make the latter less conspicuous to predators. Northern populations of bats enter hibernation in early September and end in mid-May while southern populations enter in November and ends in mid-March.


Little brown bats are insectivores, eating moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies, among others. Since many of their preferred meals are insects with an aquatic life stage, such as mosquitoes, they prefer to roost near water. Brown bats feed along the margins of lakes and streams, zig-zagging in and out of vegetation 2–5 cm above the ground. Later in the evening, they usually forage in groups over water staying within 1-2m above the surface. They echolocate to find their prey. They are very effective predators when the insect are in patches and at close range. As with other insectivorous bats, little brown bats catch prey by aerial hawking and gleaning tactics When taken in flight, the prey is taken by swooping or dipping maneuvers. When above water, prey is taken by the mouth. Brown bat do not claim feeding areas like a territory, however individuals frequently return to the same feeding sites. When hunting swarms, brown bats focus on one or two species to feed on. When insect are more scattered, they are less selective and will feed on multiple species. If they do not catch any food, they will enter a torpor similar to hibernation that day, awakening at night to hunt again. A bat will eat half of their body weight per night with lactating females eating more than their body weight per night.

If your curiosity about bats got you to read this far, I have a fun story to tell. I do a bit of wildlife rescue, mostly birds, but I did get a call one day to come fetch three bats. They'd been found in an attic, and the attic's owner wanted them gone. The only thing I had to transport them in was a birdhouse. Wearing gloves, I pressed each of the three bats to the inside wall of the birdhouse, replaced the wooden access bottom, and put one of my gloves in the entrance hole. The birdhouse was on the seat next to me as I drove home. See that gap in the front, right at the top?
The first I was aware that the bats were no longer in the birdhouse, was when one of them landed on the dash. That's when I noticed the gap. By that time, all three bats were flying around the inside of my car. The windows were up, so to an echo locating bat they were solid walls. At a four way stop near my house, I looked over at the person stopped to my right. She smiled then saw what was happening inside my car. The expression on her face made me start to laugh, looking maniacal, I'm sure since I was sealed in a Ford Explorer, laughing hysterically with three bats circling. But once I started laughing I couldn't stop. Tears were streaming down my face as I pulled away from the stop sign.

Once I got home, I simply lowered my windows and they all flew out into the woods. That's the same summer Johnny first showed up in my bathroom. Who knows, but I'm looking forward to year seven.