Starving Seabirds Need Nice People

Friday, 11 September 2015.

This morning at Ocean Beach I encountered what from a distance looked like a woman taking her pet penguin for a walk.

As I got closer I learned that the reality was less comical than it looked. The woman, who introduced herself as Leslie, had called Animal Care and Control to pick up a malnourished and exhausted common murre. This wasn't the first one she'd encountered in recent weeks. This feisty one didn't want to be put in a box, so she decided to wait for Animal Control rather than try to transport the bird herself and risk injury to the bird. She was waiting with the bird to keep it safe while rescue was on its way, and she had been for a while.

Dead and sick murres are washing up at Bay Area beaches more than ever before this year. The reason for this is thought to be the recent rise in ocean temperature along our coast, which causes fish to move out to colder waters further off shore or deeper below the surface. Fishing murres don't normally swim out that far and end up on our beaches starved and exhausted.

While Leslie and I were chatting about people's role as both caretakers and destroyers on this planet it soon became apparent that it was indeed necessary to stay with the bird to keep it safe. All dog owners leashed their pets and kept them under control around the bird, which was great to see, but one jogger showed less of a caring attitude and went out of his way to place his feet literally within an inch of the bird, despite (or because of?) Leslie's loud and repeated requests to watch out and not step on the bird. "They won't survive anyway", was his response. Indeed. Not with that attitude.

The cavalry finally arrived after Leslie had waited with the bird for about two hours. See my images below for the full story.

If you want to be an awesome person like Leslie and save a bird in San Francisco, call Animal Care and Control at 415.554.6364 whenever you find a sick or injured animal. This page has some more information and numbers for other counties.

In most cases it's our own species that's directly responsible for the misery of an injured bird, so we more than owe it to them to do what we can to keep them from dying when they're literally perishing right in front of us.

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Leslie stays by the murre's side to keep it safe from dogs and other disturbances.
Common Murre
The bird just sat there and preened every now and then, too exhausted to flee or react to people.
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Some people paid attention to the bird, some didn't.
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It's not surprising that some beach goers report seeing a penguin when an exhausted murre stands on the beach.
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Both Leslie and the murre wait patiently for animal control to show up.
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"We're over here!"
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Finally, an animal-friendly box.
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In to the box with you!
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The bird ended up having second thoughts and put up a bit of a fight...
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...but eventually he had to go in.
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Time to go!
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On to a new temporary home.
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On the way back I encountered many murres that never made it to a rescue center.

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