[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Intermittent clouds
Intermittent clouds
Today in
S.C.V. History
August 15
1849 - Eight-pound gold nugget found in San Feliciano Canyon (Val Verde/Piru area) [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Friday, Nov 1, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugDave Stives is an “animal whisperer” at Placerita, a rare and incredible human being who knows how to handle and care for any wildlife, especially if it is injured and needs help.

He has a special sense of the need that an animal has, even without seeing it directly. He seems to know in advance what its reactions will be and how one should approach it, and he never fails. I have deep appreciation and admiration for him. Many times after I asked a question on the phone, I hang up and say softly. “Dave you are a god!”

I had the opportunity to talk with him about this, and would like to share some of what I learned with you.

* * *

How did you develop this ability, Dave?

davestives1I was born in Pennsylvania, in the small town of Bradford, known for making Zippo lighters. I grew up on a farm, with horses, cows and chickens. We were also surrounded with woods, where I would escape as soon as I was free. The closest house was three miles away, so there were no other kids to play with. I caught every creature you can imagine, and learned how to care for them if they were injured.

My twin brother and I got into lots of mischief. We found a bear cub that we raised and a deer named Peanuts that we kept for many years. I had my first hawk when I was 8 years old. My dad and uncle raised red-tailed hawks, and I learned from their experiences. I was absorbing everything I saw and learning along the way. My whole family was involved with animal rescue, starting with my grandmother.

I learned the ability to care for animals by being around them all the time and observing them. My education is hands-on, and it was an easy decision to start to do rehab for different veterinarians.

I became a plumber to be able to support myself, but I have always had animals at home, often hawks and snakes. On the East Coast, we all had hawks to hunt but certifications did not exist. When I came to the West Coast, it was the beginning of licensing, and I became a master falconer. You have to study the written material then you take a test with Fish and Game. If you succeed, you get a permit to trap the bird.

davestives4I trapped my first bird, a red-tailed hawk, in Palmdale. It has to be a young passage bird with its first plumage. Mine was female, about 6 months old. The bird needed to be trained every day and released to hunt wild game.

How did you come to Placerita for the first time?

I had to do some plumbing work there, and I saw the way they were handling the hawks and the equipment, and I thought, Maybe one day, I could make a difference here. Meanwhile I started to work at Vasquez Rocks for two years and Hart Park for eight years as an animal keeper. It took a few years, but I finally got the job at Placerita 15 years ago, and now I am in charge of animal care for seven parks. I travel from one facility to the next, making sure all are in compliance with state and federal laws governing everything from the diet of the animal to their educational use including permits, handling, housing and first aid. This is all my responsibility as the Park Animal Keeper.

How do we get the animals for the parks?

I work with wildlife animal rehabilitators. If some wildlife cannot be released, they will be euthanized except if they can be placed in a park for animal educational purposes, where they will be properly cared for.

davestives3What do you like about your job?

Working with animals is always interesting.

What do you not like about your job?

I sometimes have problems understanding people when it comes to their ideas about animals.

You are really an animal whisperer. You know how to approach every animal and have them trust you. How is that possible?

It comes down to how you hold yourself. I learned that as a kid, you have to watch for this non-verbal language. That is how you learn to communicate with animals – the way you hold your posture, the way you look at the animal. They recognize and react to those cues, and it is different with each species of animal. So you have to be close to them and observe their behavior.

I get many calls for assistance from Animal Control, county and city parks (departments) and animal rehabilitators when they have a problem. Injured wildlife is a liability, so you have to remove the animal safely and in the best way possible.

I also have a personal life. I have been married for 28 years. I have two daughters and just celebrated the arrival of my first grandchild, Joslin.

I also have two dogs, five chickens and three hawks that I train every day. I like country music, and I am a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

I keep my rabies shot very up-to-date, and they know me on a first-name basis at the hospital because I have been bitten by rattlesnakes 14 times.

In the 1980s I brought many rattlers to a college research program so they could extract the venom. They would pay me back by giving me rats to feed my hawks. It was a good deal and we all benefitted from this partnership.

davestives2I have rescued any animal that you can think of, and even some that seem dangerous.

The baby bear rescue was easy. Baby bears are taught by the parents to climb in a tree if there is danger and to stay there until the parent comes back. But this time, the parent did not come back. The baby bear was on top of a tree on a golf course, and people were starting to feed him sandwiches. That was not good. The baby was small, so we used a catch-pole to lift him out of the tree, and it was sent to Lake Tahoe to a bear rehabilitating facility.

The bobcat rescue was not as easy. It was caught in a live trap. I had to get him out of the trap to put him into a crate. I used a catch-pole to do that, but there was a certain amount of screeching involved – some was mine – and he was not a happy camper.

* * *

The story of Dave and Apollo is well known and loved in Placerita. Apollo is a Turkey vulture that had been hit by a vehicle in Virginia. A tendon in Apollo’s wing had been damaged, bringing her flying days to an end. Apollo was shipped west for treatment at a private facility in the Antelope Valley, where Dave helped with her care and training. Two years later, when the private facility went under, Apollo was moved to Placerita where she was reunited with Dave. It was love at second sight.

“She remembered me and trusted me, and she still follows me like a puppy dog,” Dave said of the black-feathered, red-headed vulture. “She has a serious crush on me. Works herself into a hormonal tizzy when I am near her enclosure during mating season. The rest of the year, she spins in circles and flaunts her tale doing a courtship dance.”

As you can guess, Apollo was misnamed and it was found much later that she was a female.

Why do you do this job, Dave?

To me that is part of my every day goal: to rescue wildlife and to put it back into the wild. We always have to try to rescue a wounded animal. You can never give up. If you save one animal that can breed next year, then you have done your job. They spend their life trying to survive to be able to reproduce and keep their species alive. We are not playing God; we are just trying to help them along so they can accomplish their mission.

* * *

I hope there still are children living close to the woods who are in the process of learning all that Dave did as a youngster.

Dave is a precious asset to Placerita, and we are grateful for the lives he saves and for sharing his gifts with us.



Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.


Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Really a good story enjoyed it a lot. He is a special person for sure!

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Thursday, Aug 2, 2018
City Manager Ken Striplin notes that a lot has changed in Santa Clarita since the 1970s, except the SCV Sheriff's Station, which opened 46 years ago and will finally be replaced by a brand-new 46,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, centrally located Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road.
Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018
​There are many things that make our City the unique and special place it is.
Monday, Jul 2, 2018
In her July message, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste wishes residents a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July, and recaps a bit of local history.
Sunday, Jul 1, 2018
The Mojave rattlesnake or “Mojave green” is a highly irritable and unpredictable pit viper. By comparison, the Pacific rattlesnake you might be accustomed to is fairly tame.
Friday, Jun 15, 2018
Your rights guarantee that you get the health services the law says you can get, protect you against unethical practices, and ensure the privacy of your personal and medical information. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, and to be protected from discrimination.
Friday, Jun 15, 2018
California voters just bought the feel-good tax proposition that was stated to raise yet another $4 billion for “clean water” funds. Days later, Brown declared it isn’t enough. There will be another ballot measure in November to raise another $8 billion.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1849 - Eight-pound gold nugget found in San Feliciano Canyon (Val Verde/Piru area) [story]
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for Aug. 15 - Aug. 17:
Aug. 15-17: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
Walk season is quickly approaching, and it's time to turn up the heat in the fight to end Alzheimer's.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s Offers up New Challenge
Twelve people are challenging incumbent Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro-tem Marsha McLean and Councilman Bill Miranda in the upcoming November 6 election. They are:
List of Candidates Running for City Council Released
As always with the schools, there is going to be congestion twice per day with the drop off and pick up of students. Drivers need to be extra patient in these areas to help traffic flow.
SCV Sheriff’s Offer Back to School Safety Tips
The Valley Industry Association will be holding its, "Hot August Nights Party," on Thursday, Aug. 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for a night of fun, friends and a little business.
Aug. 23: Valley Industry Association’s Hot August Nights Party
Your personal brand is the engine of a successful career. Having a strong online presence can lead to new jobs and career opportunities.
COC’s Community Education to Hold Personal Branding Workshop
The Canyon Country Advisory Committee (CCAC) will hold their next meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15 from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Aug. 15: Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meeting
Santa Clarita RE/MAX Realtor Josh Sinatra, of Sinatra Real Estate, spearheads back-to-school donation drive to help people in need.
Local Realtor Hosting Shoe Donation Drive for People in Need
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is pleased to announce that Logix Federal Credit Union has generously stepped forward to sponsor a palliative care teddy bear program at the hospital to help children feel supported and comforted when faced with the passing of a parent.
Logix Steps Forward to Help Henry Mayo’s Palliative Bear Program
The Santa Clarita Valley Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) actively encourages parents or community members who know of a child (birth to age 22) who may have special needs to contact their local school district office.
SCV School Districts Providing Services for Special Needs Students
The WiSH Education Foundation is thrilled to announce that its fourth annual signature event, Cocktails on the Roof, is back on Sept. 7, 2018. The event runs from 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Sept. 7:  Cocktails on the Roof Benefiting WiSH Foundation
Here is the Newhall Public Safety and Crime Information Report for July 30, 2018 - Aug. 5, 2018:
Crime Blotter: Petty Theft, Commercial Burglary in Newhall
RANCHO CUCAMONGA – After sweeping Rancho Cucamonga in Lancaster last weekend, the JetHawks were swept by the Quakes at LoanMart Field after falling Sunday afternoon, 5-2. The JetHawks scored the first two runs of the game, but were held to just three hits after.
Quakes Sweep JetHawks
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Administrative Center, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita 91350.
Aug. 15: Hart District Governing Board Regular Meeting
Here is the Valencia Public Safety & Crime Information Report for July 23, 2018 - Aug. 5, 2018:
Crime Blotter: Burglary, Robbery, Grand Theft in Valencia
RANCHO CUCAMONGA – Matt Dennis set a career-high with 11 strikeouts, but Lancaster fell to Rancho Cucamonga, 3-1, Saturday night at LoanMart Field. Dennis took the loss despite allowing only two runs in six innings.
JetHawks Fall to Rancho Cucamonga
Here is the Stevenson Ranch Public Safety and Crime Information Report for July 27, 2018 - Aug. 2, 2018:
Crime Blotter: Petty Theft, Domestic Violence in Stevenson Ranch
Saugus High School’s cheerleading squads are hosting a cheer clinic fundraiser Sept. 23 that will teach cheer skills to kindergartners through eighth graders, who will then have an opportunity to cheer the first quarter of a Saugus varsity football game in October.
Sept. 23: Saugus High Cheer Squads Hosting Youth Clinic
1986 - Canyon Country's Mitchell adobe demolished; components salvaged & later rebuilt at Heritage Junction [story]
The historic Big Oaks Lodge on Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus, destroyed by fire late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, probably cannot be rebuilt at its current location because of permit and code requirements, Angeles National Forest officials said Monday.
Forest Service Unlikely to OK New Big Oaks Lodge in Same Spot
The Lancaster JetHawks saw their six-game win streak come to an end in a 7-4 loss to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Friday night at LoanMart Field.
JetHawks Streak Snapped in Loss to Quakes Friday
The city of Santa Clarita has updated the list of productions shooting in the city and the Santa Clarita Valley the week of Aug. 13-19, 2018.
‘Santa Clarita Diet,’ ‘America’s Got Talent’ Now Filming in SCV
The Los Angeles County West Vector Control District and the County Department of Public Health have confirmed that a mosquito sample collected in Playa Vista is the first positive for the St. Louis Encephalitis virus in the county for 2018.
St. Louis Encephalitis Virus Found in LA County Mosquitoes
1961 - First Mass celebrated at new Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church (3rd building) in Newhall. Cardinal McIntyre attends [story]
A fire broke out inside the historic Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon late Saturday night, and by early Sunday, the popular 2-story wooden restaurant building was gone.
Witness: Kitchen Fire Destroys Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon (Video)
1944 - Newhall Refinery on Sierra Highway destroyed by fire (then rebuilt) [watch film]
2018 - Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon burns down. [video]
The Los Angeles Dodgers placed All-Star closer Kenley Jansen on the 10-day disabled list with an irregular heartbeat and recalled switch-handed pitcher Pat Venditte from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday.
Irregular Heartbeat Lands Dodgers Closer Kenley Jansen on DL
The Los Angeles Dodgers Friday announced that fans 21 years of age and older will be able to purchase beer from in-seat vendors at Dodger Stadium starting at Monday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants.
Dodgers to Start In-Seat Beer Service Monday
The historic Rim of the Valley Corridor may be added to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area if a U.S. Senate Energy Committee subcommittee moves to approve legislation authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California).
Senate May Add Rim of Valley Corridor to Santa Monica Mountains Rec Area
A San Francisco jury on Friday found that Monsanto must pay $250 million in punitive damages to a school groundskeeper because its Roundup weed killer caused his fatal lymphoma, the first such verdict against the agrochemical giant.
Jury: Roundup Kills More Than Weeds; Monsanto Must Pay $289 Mil.
A federal judge Friday praised the joint plan by federal officials and the American Civil Liberties Union to quickly reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
Judge Praises Feds’ Plan to Reunite Immigrant Families
The Los Angeles Dodgers reinstated right-handed pitcher Ross Stripling from the 10-day disabled list and optioned switch-handed pitcher Pat Venditte to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Dodgers Reinstate Hurler Ross Stripling
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Aug. 14, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Aug. 14: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Linux Foundation on Friday launched the Academy Software Foundation to provide a neutral forum for open source software developers in the motion picture and broader media industries.
AMPAS, Linux Launch Academy Software Foundation