Episode 20 – Shaun Sears, Canopy Cat Rescue

20 Shaun Sears_FB

20 Shaun Sears_FB


We talk with Shaun Sears who is a certified Arborist, and a professional mountain guide. He has loved animals since as long as he can remember. Shaun was five years old when he adopted his first kitten. Currently, he has two feral rescue cats, Medi and Gari, that he has cared for since they were young. He also has two dogs that are his best friends. Shaun created Canopy Cat Rescue in 2009 where they rescue cats stuck in trees, any time, day or night. Shaun loves climbing trees and helping reunite owners with their feline friends. To learn more about Canopy Cat Rescue you can visit their website here, http://www.canopycatrescue.com

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is proudly sponsored by Joubert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re talking with Sean Sears. Sean is a certified arborist and a professional mountain guide, and he’s loved animals since as long as he can remember. He was five years old when he adopted his first kitten. Currently, Shawn has to feral cats, Mehdi and Gary, that he is cared for since they were very young. He also has two dogs that are his best friends. Sean created canopy cat rescue in 2009 where they rescue cat stuck in trees anytime day or night. Shawn loves climbing trees and helping reunite owners with their feeling friends. Hey, Sean, Welcome to the program. Hi. Thanks for having me. So tell us a little bit about you. Uh, well, I mean, I guess to start off with I really like cats of ah been a cat owner pretty much my entire life. I’m, as Jackson Galaxy would say by perpetual that I have cats and dogs on a fish. But yeah, Im ah, former mountain guide, uh, was a mountain guide on Mount Rainier for 11 years. Started climbing rocks and mountains when I was, like, 15. So that was my original passion was just using my, um, my monkey like body toe, excel up mountains and rock faces. And, you know, obviously I just like any other kid climbed trees as a young kid. But climbing trees was sort of the thing that I started doing to sort of span the season between climbing rocks and mountains. Generally, that’s a very seasonal thing. And so I started working for tree services and ah, my wife’s brother and, ah, you know, he told me that, you know, working for tree services and getting my certified arborist was a good thing to do in the off season’s of climbing mountains. And then fast forward him and I started a business where we we worked for department official wildlife. We would install eagle cams and you an eagle nesting osprey, nascent hair and nests. Um, And then we did that for a while and then sort of established our business. And then, you know, generally any certified arborist arborist, well known tree service is going to get called for things in trees. Whether they’re cats in trees, balloons and trees, drones and trees, remote control, you name it in trees. You called for things and trees. Um, and so, you know, we would we would get the occasional cat and tree call and of course, we would go out and do it. We got a kick out of it. We love helping people in their cats and, you know, just sort of snowballed from there. We would get the occasional call, and it’s we’ve got the more and more call because we were readily available. I I really loved helping people in their cats. I loved cats, always have love cats. And so I I love doing it. And, um, you know, we started spreading our information out a little bit more with people, and then it turned into a little bit more than just the occasional cat call. And we would, you know, turned into a one to a month, you know, maybe 10 a month, and then we decided to work off of donations is really like our ah ha moment. Really? Where? It sort of changed from just the occasional thing toe. Wow. We could really like, you know, do this, You know, every day. You know, most tree services air gonna range from $75 toe 56 $700 to rescue a cat out of a tree. Wow. Um, and obviously that price range. You know, your average person isn’t going to be able to afford that price right up front. Yep. And I noticed, you know, one of your questions that you had listed firm use. Well, what if it’s not their cat stuck in a tree? And that was a huge thing for us because, you know, a lot of people call and it’s not their cat in a tree. And if you give him ah, steady price. OK, we’ll come out and rescue this cat. That’s not yours for $200 they’re not gonna want to pay it. Grants not It’s not their cat in a tree. They’re gonna be like, Well, it’s not my cat. I don’t really want to pay its not my cat and the cat ends up suffering. And so we’re like, You know what? Let’s do this off of donations. Folks can pay if they want to, you know, But we’re not gonna We’re not going to give a price right up front because we don’t want the cat to suffer. We want them to put the money aside and be like, OK, let’s rescue this cat. Donate if you want to. So then that was sort of our turning point for us. Then. Obviously, we started Canopy Cat Rescue in 2009. Like I said, it went from one to a month, 10 15 a month. Then in ah, 2015 we had her own TV show on Animal Planet. Okay, broadcasted obviously in the United States. But it’s it’s broadcasted all over the world. So, you know, we regularly get, you know, messages from, you know, Australia are great Britain or Russia are you? Name it that says, you know Hey, we love what you do. We just saw a rerun on Animal Planet. We just did one season. We’re lucky to do one season where we thought it was really cool, But obviously we waken Gettinto. Why, we just did one season if you want to later. But obviously you know, having an internationally televised TV show. Now we’re by far the most well known for getting cats out of trees. And obviously it went from 1 to 5. A month to now we’re doing 50 60 cats among wow the daily thing. It’s very much a daily thing. I just did our 4/100 rescue yesterday. Eso We might get close to 500 rescues this year, so it’s very much a daily thing. Sometimes it’s, you know, it can be as many as 678 a day. Wow, Now walk us through. How long does one of these take? Yeah, and see, that’s That’s a thing you know, in regards to our TV show is it can take anywhere from 10 15 minutes to an hour. Um, toe, film it for a TV show. You’re looking at three hours per rescue. Wow. And so that was a huge thing for us, you know, Especially if we get multiple calls like the TV production really slowed us down and they couldn’t keep up with what we do, especially if we show up on a rescue were like, Okay, this is a super easy rescue. It’s gonna take 10 minutes. Um, you know, if fulfillment you’re looking at 2.5 to 3 hours and so obviously, if we have several other rescues to get to that day, it’s gonna put us in a bad mood. It’s not gonna, you know, we really want We don’t want to put the cat aside just to make a cool TV show. We want to make sure that we were able to get that cat down because the owners air stressed, You know, this isn’t This isn’t one of those situations where folks are like, you know, that cattle climb down eventually. Obviously, some folks are like that, but some people are very stressed that their cat is stuck up in a tree. You know, a lot of folks get really bad advice from that’s fire departments. Other people like that that just say, Oh, just put food at the base, the tree, they’ll climb down when they get hungry. And that’s the worst thing to tell folks in the situation. Sometimes they’ll do that. And then, you know, though, wait. Okay, 567 days later. And then they’re like, OK, I know I don’t know if you have cats at home, but my cat gets hungry after three hours 103 hours, generally generally, when cats are stuck up in trees as nothing to do with hunger. Um, when cats are stuck up in trees, it’s a It’s a very much a predatory activity betweens that they’re chased, um, there outside, their having to choose between climbing a tree and getting eaten or attacked. And so that’s why they’re up there, obviously, you know, probably one and 2130 cats are, you know, just that young kind of crazy little kitty that’s outside running around and then the they’ll run up a tree and then be like, Oh, I got myself into this. But obviously, sometimes that happens. Sometimes they are chased, seeing something like a squirrel or whatever, but generally the cats are the ones being chased, you know, obviously we try to do a lot of public education for why cats or in trees, why? To not put food at the base, the tree, all sorts of things. So what would your recommendation be if somebody’s listen to this and they hear about somebody’s Can’t that gets stuck in a tree? What would you tell him to do? Well generally? Generally we recommend after 24 hours, it’s time to get him some help. But that’s just a general recommendation. You know, Obviously, it’s It varies so much, you know, obviously, if it’s snowing, freezing rain or if it’s 100 degrees outside, you know that general recommendation goes out the door. Um, you know, obviously we have rescue cats that have had rime ice from freezing rain all across their back. Um, and obviously that’s, you know, the cats suffering. Now, if it’s a very, very skittish cat that doesn’t like people or, um, if if it’s like a friendly barn cat that nobody can handle, then we sort of extend that general recommendation. What we’re worried about with those cats is okay. If nobody can pick this cat up, no strangers. What we’re worried about is the cat jumping out of the tree and sustaining an injury. And so, you know, if it’s a it’s a feral barn cat that you know might let somebody touch it but doesn’t let anybody pick it up. You know, we’re gonna say three, maybe four days. Um, just cause we want really, we really want to give that cat a chance to maybe try to make it down. Uh, and sometimes cats can make it down. I mean, a lot of folks, you know, we do a lot of a lot of videos. A lot of people saw a great big story video, and, ah, you know, obviously thousands of people commented on that, and one and 15 comments are like, Oh, you’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, though, Climb down when they get hungry. And, you know, we you know, we take those comments with a grain of salt. You know, sometimes folks are just trying to be funny, but, ah, we sort of, you know, we think about it like, you know, these people that are making these comments there. They’re basing their comment off of one cat entry experience. They’ve had their whole life. Oh, I had a cat in tree when I was 15 years old. The thing went up, a tree climbed right back down. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that you can’t paint all cats with the same brush, absolute them. Sometimes cats and sometimes cats can make it down. Sometimes they can’t. And the other thing is that those people that are making those comments, where do they live? They live in Florida, Texas, Ohio. You know, somewhere where they don’t have, like, 100 plus foot tall trees. Yeah, I saw that in some of your videos. I was kind of surprised how far up you’re going to have to rescue some of these cats. Yeah. I mean, sometimes it’s a little is 2030 feet, but sometimes our highest ever cat rescue was 100 and 75 feet. Wow. Now, nothing about that 175 feet. And you’re telling folks that that cat’s gonna make it down when he gets hungry? I mean, it’s It’s one of those things where, um you know, like I said, it has nothing to do with hunger. We’ve We have rescue cats that have been stuck for 15 16 days up in trees without food and water, where they’re so they’re so emaciated. They’re just on their last leg at the very top of trees. And literally we got up there and we saved the cat’s life. Sometimes they’re literally stuck, not just figuratively. You know, sometimes there, just hanging out in a very comfy crotch of a tree. But sometimes they’re literally stuck like they’re in a V shape, um, crotch of a tree to where they can’t move. There has been more than one occasion where the cat was a really, uh, fuzzy cattle long hair cat that it actually tied a knot with their tail and they were dangling and they there would have been a cast skeleton in a tree. We hadn’t come along. And then the other thing that folks don’t realize is that in the Pacific Northwest, we have these big Raptors, eagles, hawks and owls that will take a cat at the top of the tree. Um, and so, you know, there’s all those things that we try to educate folks on that we’ve Just when we started doing this, we didn’t know these things. So, you know, doing it as many times we’ve rescued, you know, probably Tom and I probably 4000 cats now, So, you know, from when we started to now we’re Look, yeah, that’s that’s a lot of cats and nobody else. I don’t know of anybody else in the world that has rescued that many cats from trees. Um, do you think it’s something specific to Washington State? I mean, do other states compare No, no. And that’s just my guess, you know, but generally, um, you know, we don’t have any hard fact to back that up, but, you know, other than we can equate it to a couple things. Like I said, we’re the most well known for getting cats out of trees. And nobody else in the world has our numbers. Um, obviously the Pacific Northwest. Our trees are different than anywhere else in the United States. Obviously, other parts have tall trees, but not nearly the number that we have. I mean, almost every single person in the Washington state has a big tall tree. In their backyard are our urban rural interface, which a lot of people don’t really get. But it’s, um, you know, we have a lot of people that live on the edge of green belts on the edge of forests that that there’s wild animals, bobcats, coyotes that will come into the neighborhoods and pray on cats. Um, and that’s what we call our urban rural interface, where people live right on the edge of a forest land or big green belt. And we see one of two things. Quite often we see folks that live on the edge of green belts and the cat ventured into the greenbelt and up the tree goes or it’s in a it. It’s in a heavily fenced yard or neighborhood toe, where, you know, there could be a a dog on one side of the fence or another. And then up the tree, the kitty goes. And so those are two things that we see quite often, you know. Yeah. So, yeah, those those two things are definitely make it a little bit more prevalent in our Sure. Now, I’m gonna guess you don’t recommend people climbing the tree to get the cat themselves right? Because, as you said, you’ve got a lot of experience both in climbing trees, but also has a lot of situational experience in rescuing cats, in particular from trees. Talk to us a little bit about that process. Yeah, so I mean, um, no, we don’t recommend people, you know, climb the tree themselves. You know, however, we we always Tom and I sort of think about it like there is gonna be this skinny neighborhood kid that’s going to go up and rescue cat we There’s these trees that we call jungle gym trees, which air where there’s branches, right all the way to the ground and then it, you know, it’s basically like a ladder, you know, going up to the where the cat is. And so, yeah, you know, there’s probably some situations where folks can maybe climb the tree themselves. But, you know, a lot of times these big doug firs and cedars and hemlocks that we have here don’t have branches for 30 40 50 60 feet. Um and so you know you definitely. We’ve seen crazy stuff. We’ve seen people like have ladders upon ladders, ladders tied to ladders, ladders tied to trees, ladders tied to boars propped on cars propped on trees. You, you name it, we’ve seen it. People get absolutely desperate trying to get the cat down themselves. And it really it’s a really one of the questions that we ask folks is just a rough guesstimate. How high would you guesstimate the cat in the tree? Sometimes folks are like you know, I think it’s about maybe 10 15 feet. Sometimes folks are like, Oh my gosh, it’s 200 feet up in the tree. And obviously, folks are really bad at guesstimating the cats hype. But you know, if they can guess tomato. Okay, it’s less than 20 feet than you know. That’s definitely a realm that somebody with a tall ladder can possibly get it down themselves. And so if it’s safe, if folks like, for example, yesterday I had 11 of our neighborhoods that the cat was literally 10 feet up in the tree. And so I’m not saying that we can’t help or won’t help. But that’s certainly a realm that it might be safe. Teoh somebody with a tall ladder to get it down themselves. Now, if they’re guesstimating 30 40 50 feet, I’m not going to suggest you go get a ladder and try to get it down yourself. Um, and so that’s obviously one of the questions that we asked folks is how high is the cat in the tree? Um, and that really, you know, tells us the urgency. Obviously, you know, how long has the cat been stuck in the tree you know, sometimes folks call us. The cat’s been stuck for 20 minutes. Now, it will definitely still help you. But as a general, we like to give him some time. You know, obviously, if it’s an indoor Onley cat that’s never been outside and we’re looking at some freezing rain or some pretty harsh weather conditions were gonna come out for sure. But as a general, we do like to give him a little bit of time because, yeah, sometimes they can make it down while other times they need help. So yeah. No, it’s interesting. You must have a lot of great stories. Is there any particular story that six out to you? There’s, I mean, a lot of stories, but, you know, I always sort of say that are my favorite story. Um, is when we get called for an unknown cat, you know, we’re going out. We don’t know anything about the cat. It could be a really mean cat. It could be a skittish cat could even be, you know, just, ah, stray cat that doesn’t have a whole lot of human interaction. Um, and so we’re prepared for anything with unknown cats, you know, we have. We’re bringing our nets along, bringing our bite proof gloves, bringing our special cat rescue sack and were literally prepared for anything. Um, one of the other big tools that we’ve come Teoh realize is a very important tool is a microchip scanner. And so we always carry a microchip scanner specifically for these unknown cats. And so we’re going up. We get the unknown cat on out of the tree and, you know, to our surprise, it’s a it’s a really friendly cat. Were like, Oh, man, we really hope that, you know, you have a microchip when we get the kitty down. We scanned for a microchip, and sure enough, it has a microchip. We we get ahold of the owners, and that’s really where it sort of gets emotional for us. Because when we talk to those owners that that have been missing their cat for who knows how long they’re like, Oh, my gosh, we thought our cat was dead. We put up signs all across the neighbor neighborhood. We haven’t seen our cat in eight days. We thought we thought they were dead. And, um, they show up, and we’re like, Hey, I’m Sean with canopy cat Rescue. Here’s your kitty back. He was stuck in this tree. These folks called. We had a microchip scanner. And, you know, now we just facilitated, you know, the most heartwarming re union you can imagine on. That’s that’s oftentimes our favorite. You know, scenario is when we can weaken reunite somebody with their pet that has been missing for a long time. That’s that’s our That’s one of our best scenarios there. Yeah, I can imagine. Now, were you ever involved in animal rescue before you got into doing this? Or was there something that inspired you to start doing this? No. I mean I as, ah, as a mountain guide. Um, you know, I remember talking to ah, one of my friends. Ah, long time ago. She’s a vet, and I’ve always wanted to do something with animals. Um, and I remember, like, I was sort of, you know, 3/4 of the way through my guiding career are sort of getting burnt out on taking people up mountains. And I was like, you know, I’ve always wanted to do something with animals, and I talked to her about possibly going to vet school And after about 10 minutes, I realized that wasn’t gonna be feasible for me. You know, I wasn’t gonna be able to go back to school. Um, and, ah, spend years and lots of money on schooling. So I was like, Well, throw that out the door and then, you know, fast forward in a year, you know, I started to realize, Well, I get the occasional cat out of tree. Well, why can’t I do that full time? And so we started. Ah, you know, sort of right around. Then we decided to work off of donations, and that’s when we came up with the name Canopy Cat Rescue. And then, like I said, we’re just sort of snowballed from there. Um, but yeah, I never really, you know, didn’t really have a whole lot of influence from, you know, somebody else that was in animal rescue world. This was sort of something that we created from. We saw a need for it, and we were like, Well, we’re really good at climbing trees. We both really love cats. This is a need. Let’s do it. Um, so obviously, you know, we’re not the only ones that that do it. What? We just happen to do it more than anybody else in the country by far. Um, obviously, in other parts of the country, we just say, Hey, call your local arborist or tree service. You know, odds are they’re gonna be like, Oh, yeah. Okay, come all. Come on out. Um, I did a cat rescue a couple of years ago. You know, they’ll come on out and they’ll help folks on out. There is a website that we often times referred to folks to it has a directory on it. It’s not our website. It’s a Web site that was created by a friend, Dan Krause, many years ago that he actually started the whole cat in tree thing back. I think in the late eighties, early nineties, and then he sort of, you know, realized that he’s not gonna be able to do all these because he works for tree service. That’s his. That’s his specific job is, you know, cutting trees down, removing trees and what not. And so he created this website that has a directory on it. And so we’ll refer folks to that directory. Um, but then, you know, obviously Tom and I realized that, you know, we knew about this directory, but we realized that there is a bigger need, you know? Then just this random folks that you know might come out and help you. We realize that, you know, there is a big gap that needed to be filled for people that were really compassionate about getting cats out of trees. And, um, I really loved helping people out. And obviously, that’s where we formulated canopy cat rescue. Yeah, well, this is really cool. Sean, I really appreciate you. Sharing in 4000 is just a very impressive number. So thank you for doing that. Is there anything else that you want to share with our listeners before we wrap things up? Yeah. I mean, I I sort of touched on the whole cat skeleton and a tree thing. Um, but I can’t Can’t talk about that enough. I mean, uh, whenever we do, videos are, you know, talk to him. Any sort of media people. I really want a hammer that home because, you know, some people are going to hear this, and they’re going to be like, Oh, I’ve never seen a cat skeleton tree. What? These guys do is kind of dumb. They’re gonna all cats are gonna make it down, and that’s that’s not true. Um, this is Ah, this is a very needed service that we provide and let you know, like I told you. I mean, sometimes, you know, give the cats a little bit of time, but after they’ve been stuck for a little bit of time, Definitely. Um, you know, call your local arborist or tree service to help you out for sure. And they’re gonna be the ones that air gonna be knowledgeable as to whether this tree is Klima ble, whether it’s a very doable situation or not. Sometimes cats are in dead trees on, and that’s like a nightmare. You can’t just go climbing a dead tree. A lot of folks want a lot of folks want around the country are inspired by us, um, and want to do it. Want to help out, Um, and, you know, we we love it when people are inspired by us, but, um, and we don’t wanna, um, persuade them to not do this, but we just want them to have the proper training to do this. We don’t want people to go to their local outdoor store by a harness and a rope like, All right, I’m ready to go, Um, because we want them to go home to their family. Um, this is a very dangerous thing that we dio, you know, you don’t want to be up 100 foot tree and be like, OK, uh, what do I do next? Um and so you know, folks that one of our that are inspired by what we do want to maybe do it in their area, we definitely encourage them toe go through the process of getting certified as an arborist, get training, you know, maybe spent some time working for a local tree service. Um, you know, obviously getting all the gear is a pretty expensive thing, But the training that you get is invaluable because you’re not gonna be able to go up and get cats out of trees out of a tree. If you’re very new to climbing a tree. And then obviously there’s not even to mention that aspect of getting the cat down. You know, the cat behavior aspect of it, how to read whether this cat’s gonna be friendly or not. Um And so you know, I’m no my message to you about us possibly doing, like a certification or training, and that’s definitely in the future. You definitely like to train people around the country to do this sort of thing. But there’s there’s a lot to it, Um, and we definitely like to see people around the country do it on their neck of the woods. They just I just want him to do it safely. I don’t want I don’t want to hear about somebody trying to get a cat of a tree and then them falling to their deaths, which is which is actually happened. Um, you know, the fire department will come out and rescue you from a tree, but they’ll leave the cat most likely. Okay, but some thank you so much for coming on the program today. Ensuring with us. We appreciate it. Not a problem. 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