Deer Rescue in Roseville, California

This blog was composed by Nora Schwab – CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program

NOTE:  On May 14, 2013, staff at the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab was asked to assist with the evaluation and possible rescue of a deer that had fallen into a deep concrete pit at the Roseville Wastewater Treatment Facility. The deer had been discovered that morning by workers at the facility who speculated that the deer had fallen 15 feet into the pit the previous evening. When we first saw her, the small deer was lying down in the shade and appeared unhurt, which amazed us all.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Environmental Scientists Canh Nguyen and Shelly Blair along with CDFW Veterinarian Dr. Pam Swift made an initial visual assessment of the doe from high above.  They were slightly reassured about her condition when she stood for a few minutes. After consulting with the two biologists, Dr. Swift decided that the preferred method for tranquilizing the animal was to inject her using a “jab-stick,” a metal pole assembled from six 2-foot sections that screwed into each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr. Swift selected the medications she would use while Shelly kept detailed notes on all actions that were taken for the deer’s rescue. Everyone who had been anxiously watching the little deer was asked to move away, out of the doe’s sight, so she would remain calm while Dr. Swift managed the 12-foot jab-stick.  Dr. Swift slowly lowered the stick down toward the flank of the deer and skillfully injected the unsuspecting animal with the tranquilizer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The deer had no visible reaction to the injection, but continued lying down in the shade by the corner. Everyone was happy that this difficult step in the process had gone so well. Dr Swift asked that everyone stay away from the top on the concrete wall for several minutes and to speak quietly so the deer would have no adverse stimulus. While we waited, we discussed how this small animal could have ended up at the bottom of the pit, which is surrounded by a 6-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire on one side. Did she jump from the top of the berm outside the fence? How did she not break one or more of her legs? Did she land on the concrete wall and slide down into the pit? It seemed so improbable that she could be where she was without sustaining a life-threatening injury!

In order to remove the deer from the pit, workers at the facility readied a stretcher and attached it to a small crane. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo ensure the deer was fully tranquilized, Dr. Swift gently tapped her with the jab stick. Steve Torres, a veteran in wildlife rescue, was the first one to go down the ladder. For his own safety, he was clipped into a harness before he began his descent. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext one down the ladder was wildlife biologist Canh Nguyen. Once in the pit, the two biologists coordinated their rescue plan. First, Steve gently put a face mask on the deer. Then they “hobbled” the deer’s legs, using wide leather straps, to prevent injury to the rescue workers from an inadvertent kick. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Finally, the deer was placed in a bag, which was then cinched shut with a rope. Canh held the doe’s head while Steve finished tying the rope. Then they attached the bag to the crane and slowly lifted the deer out of the pit. The Roseville Police, Placer County Sheriff, Placer County Animal Control, and the facility staff all joined in the effort.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Warden Lt. John Lawson assisted the crane operator as they lowered the deer to the ground and placed her in a shady spot.9 The deer had her temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate checked, and Dr. Swift drew some blood for lab analysis. To bring her temperature down, they doused the animal with cool water from a nearby hose. 11Once they determined the deer was in good condition, they identified an ideal spot to release her–a meadow near a small creek where there was an abundance of trees and no fences. They placed the deer in a shady spot near the meadow and Dr. Swift asked that everyone move away and maintain silence.12 She injected the deer with a drug that would reverse the effect of the tranquilizer.This was  the last phase of the rescue. It was a sight for sore eyes! Much as we all felt like clapping, we watched in joyful silence as the little deer rose, struggled a little to stay upright and eventually walked in the exact direction we had hoped she would–toward natural shade, water, and, possibly, her family. She gave us one last look and walked steadily into the wooded area.13

California to Host Desert Bighorn Council Meeting in 2015

Desert bighorn ewe and lamb

Desert bighorn ewe and lamb
photo by T. Glenner

California will be the host of the 2015 Desert Bighorn Council Meeting. The meeting will take place in Borrego Springs, California in April 2015.  This biennial meeting brings together wildlife biologists, scientists, administrators, managers, and others interested in the welfare of desert bighorn from the seven western states (Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California) to exchange information, present research and take action on matters pertaining to desert bighorn management.

The Council Chair for the 2015 meeting is Dr. Ben Gonzales, Senior Wildlife Veterinarian at the Wildlife Investigations Lab. The Program Chair is Steve Torres, Environmental Program Manager at the Wildlife Investigations Lab. Mark Jorgensen, former Superintendent of Anza Borrego Desert State Park will serve as Local Arrangements Chair.

For more information of the Desert Bighorn Council, please see:

New Publication on Disease Research in Bobcats

Notoedric mange is a scabby, scaly, skin disease resulting from hypersensitivity reaction and infection by the feline mite,  Notoedres cati. The burrowing of the mite causes intense itch resulting in self-mutilation, secondary bacterial infection, and often death of affected felids if left untreated. Dr. Deana Clifford from the Wildlife Investigations Lab has coauthored a paper on notoedric mange in bobcats (Lynx rufus).  Development and validation of a fecal PCR assay for Notoedres cati and application to notoedric mange cases in bobcats (Lynx rufus) from northern California has been published in the April 2013 Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

This paper describes the efforts of a team of researchers to create a noninvasive diagnostic test, by developing and validating a novel PCR assay to detect N. cati DNA in fecal samples of bobcats (Lynx rufus) and used this assay to investigate a recent outbreak of mange in northern California, United States.

This paper, which was Dr. Nicole Stephenson’s Masters in Preventive Veterinary Medicine project, illustrates the benefits of scientific collaboration between agencies and academia.

The publication abstract can be found at:

Journal of Wildlife Diseases. April 2013 49:303-311; doi:10.7589/2012-05-136

Two New Publications on Mountain Lions


Wildlife Investigations Lab staff have recently coauthored and published two papers on mountain lions (puma concolor) in the April 2013 edition of the Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

In the article, Risk factors for exposure to feline pathogens in California mountain lions (Puma concolor) authors Foley, Swift, Fleer, Torres, Girard and Johnson investigate the challenge to mountain lion populations due to habitat loss and fragmentation and how these habitat impacts could enhance disease risk by increasing contact with domestic animals and by altering patterns of exposure to other wild felids. A serologic survey for feline pathogens in California mountain lions (Puma concolor) was performed using 490 samples from 45 counties collected from 1990 to 2008.

Read the article abstract at:

Journal of Wildlife Disease. April 2013 49:279-293; doi:10.7589/2012-08-206.

The paper titled Feline Infectious Peritonitis in a Mountain Lion (Puma concolor), California, USA, authors Stephenson, Swift, Moeller, Worth and Foley document the May 2010 case of a malnourished young adult male mountain lion Kern County, California, USA.  The mountain lion was euthanized because of concern for public safety, and a postmortem examination was performed. A PCR for coronavirus performed on kidney tissue was positive, confirming a diagnosis of Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Although coronavirus infection has been documented in mountain lions by serology, this is the first confirmed report of FIP. The virus can attack many organ systems and causes a broad range of signs, commonly including weight loss and fever. Regardless of presentation, FIP is ultimately fatal and often presents a diagnostic challenge.

Read the article abstract at:

Journal of Wildlife Diseases. April 2013 49:408-412; doi:10.7589/2012-08-210

Preview more publications by Wildlife Investigations Staff by clicking on the ‘publications’ tab.