“I went out to the Malibu Lagoon and confirmed there were 15 out of a group of 70 pelicans suffering from domoic acid poisoning,” said Dmytryk, who has been checking the lagoon twice a day and taking sick birds to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in San Pedro. While they could not comment specifically on Dmytryk’s new service, California Department of Fish and Game officials said it is important to find proper care for injured animals, and wildlife rehabilitation centers play an important role. “Our concern is to see that wildlife gets the best care possible,” said Harry Morse, a department spokesman. “Our key is to make sure that these animals get to people who are licensed to care for them and have the facilities these animals need for whatever type of care they need.” Nicole Carion, associate wildlife biologist with Fish and Game, said there are 110 facilities for wildlife rehabilitation in California, with some operated by a single person and others by hundreds of volunteers. Last year, 75,000 animals came through those facilities, she said. “That’s how many animals the public turned into these facilities,” she said. “Not only do (the wildlife rehabilitation centers) take in a tremendous number of animals, but they help answer a wide degree of questions concerning wildlife. They are very much a public service. We appreciate them greatly.” Each year, about 70,000 wild animals are found sick, injured or orphaned in L.A. and Ventura counties alone, Dmytryk said. “A large percentage of them die from improper handling; others are needlessly destroyed by animal control agencies,” she said. She said her new service will expedite the transfer of wildlife to rehabilitation facilities and reduce the number of animals turned over to shelters. Some animals really don’t need help, she said, like fledgling birds just learning to fly that people sometimes find on the ground. Although it might look like they’re dying or might be prey for cats, most are actually just making the first moves to venture out on their own and are being watched by their parents, she said. When she got a call from lifeguards concerned that an elephant seal had been shot, she found what looked like a bullet hole, but it was actually a natural part of all male elephant seals where their sex organs are located. But many times she finds animals that have been injured, including a peregrine falcon that was found in downtown L.A. wounded by a BB gun. The falcon was treated by a vet and eventually released back to the wild. She was able to help save a coyote that a man found seemingly dead in the road. After it was treated by a vet, Dmytryk helped the coyote recover and return to the wild. Sometimes her work is very delicate, as on Tuesday, when she was called by the Agoura animal shelter about a Malibu woman who found four baby skunks in her yard. It appeared the skunks were still dependent on their mother, but the mother had somehow disappeared, possibly killed or trapped by a neighbor. Dmytryk said she slowly approached the skunks so as not to alarm them and took them in her minivan to Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation for care. In 2002, Dmytryk got a call that there were 10 dead pelicans at the Malibu Lagoon. It turned out to be domoic acid poisoning, among the first signs of a problem that appeared up and down the Southern California coast, killing scores of animals, including sea lions. “If there is some type of epidemic happening, we are usually the first to know,” she said. Now she is seeing a new outbreak of poisoning by domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin produced by algae that is eaten by fish, which are then eaten by birds and sea mammals. A domoic acid outbreak in 1961 was believed responsible for the strange behavior of hundreds of birds in Capitola, which inspired Alfred Hitchcock to make his film “The Birds.” Dmytryk said domoic acid does not really make birds go on frenzied attacks against humans as depicted in the movie, but it can make them do strange things. “They don’t become aggressive, they just become disoriented,” she said. “They fly into windows. We had a pelican fly into a bicyclist, and one fell through a skylight in Watts.” A key to helping injured or sick wild animals, she said, is getting the public in touch with the wildlife specialists who can help. “Caring for a debilitated wild animal requires years of experience, knowledge, special caring and the necessary state and federal permits,” she said. “Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are qualified to evaluate a wild animal’s condition and provide the proper care and housing necessary for it to be returned to the wild.” [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Now 45, she is launching a new effort to provide information for people who find injured animals on the beach, on roads or in their own yards. This spring she set up a toll-free hotline for WildRescue, (866) WILD-911, and she is in the process of setting up the WildRescue Web site at www.wildrescue.org. “Based on a caller’s area code, we will provide the number to the nearest rescue organization or wildlife rehabilitator that specializes in the type of animal found,” she said. The telephone service and the Web site include information on initial things people can do to help animals, and how to stay safe. The hotline made its debut in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in April, but Dmytryk hopes to eventually provide the service to all of California. She already has extended it to the entire California coast for marine animal emergencies because of the domoic acid outbreak. Several weeks ago, she began getting calls that pelicans and other birds were turning up dead or sick along the beaches near her Malibu home. So she went into action. MALIBU – When she was 9, Rebecca Dmytryk found her pet hamster seemingly lifeless on a cold day. She thought the animal was dead. But her mother, who had made a habit of trying to rescue sick animals, put the little creature in an open, barely warm oven. “It came back to life,” said Dmytryk, who eventually embarked on a career of saving hundreds of animals, from pelicans to peregrine falcons to skunks to sea lions to coyotes. She got involved with the cause when she was 20, then opened her own animal rescue center in Thousand Oaks in the 1980s, she said. She founded the California Wildlife Center in Malibu Canyon in 1996, and in 2000 formed WildRescue.