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The two coyote pups rescued after the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad earlier this year are featured in "Animal R&R," a KPBS series that follows the rehabilitation and release of injured wildlife. Courtesy photo
The two coyote pups rescued after the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad earlier this year are featured in "Animal R&R," a KPBS series that follows the rehabilitation and release of injured wildlife. Courtesy photo
Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Filmmaker reveals efforts to ‘R&R’ injured animals

REGION — Whenever a flippered, feathered or fur-covered creature is found stranded on the beach or injured in the community, the rescue often makes front-page news.

Less frequently seen are the follow-up efforts to heal the animals and return them to their natural habitats.

Elliott Kennerson, a filmmaker who grew up in Del Mar, is seeking to change that with “Animal R&R,” a KPBS natural history program narrated by wildlife preservationist Joan Embrey that follows the stories of rescued wild animals.

Funded by a grant from KPBS, and money raised by Kennerson, the show debuted in May as a two-part special. Kennerson is seeking to continue the series partly because he had so much great footage from the first shoot, “but we couldn’t fit it all in the two episodes,” he said.

Additionally, some of the stories had not played out before his deadline, including one about a red-tailed hawk found at a trolley station.

“His wings were injured from hitting the hot wire over the trolley,” Kennerson said. “We’re hoping to show his release in the new episode.”

He said the plight of the hawk is a perfect example of the “urban edge,” a term used by geographers that marks the line between the world of humans and animals.

“These points, or borders, are dangerous areas for people and animals,” he said. “That’s where a lot of the injuries happen.”

Other “stars” of “Animal R&R,” which stands for rehabilitation and release, include two coyote pups burned in the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad this past spring.

“They are so darn cute and sweet and lovable,” Kennerson said. “I’m in love with them. Their story shows (the consequences) of human actions and their frequency and intensity.”

Kennerson attended what is now known as Del Mar Hills Academy and is a 1992 graduate of the private Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

He received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and attended graduate school in Montana, where he became interested in science and natural history filmmaking.

“I became immersed in questions of nature and the relationship to humans,” he said. “I realized it extends to everyone. The urban edge is always nearby. It determines a lot of what we do.”

His thesis was on the seals at La Jolla Cove, which Kennerson describes as “the classic urban edge controversy.”

Two years ago he unsuccessfully applied for the KPBS grant, but was awarded the money on his second try after getting Embrey onboard. Kennerson is filming with Project Wildlife and The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, in Ramona.

The animals featured in the first series include a striped skunk, a peregrine falcon, two opossums, an Anna’s hummingbird, a red-tailed and a red-shouldered hawk and a screech and burrowing owl.

An osprey, Yuma bats, the two coyote pups and a black bear cub will be shown in the second series.

The bear cub was found clinging to his deceased mother. “I’m in love with him, too,” Kennerson said.

Viewers will see feathers being removed from a hummingbird, surgeries on a hawk and an owl and an opossum whose face was severely burned on one side by an electric fence. (Kennerson said the animal is nicknamed Two-Face after the character from “Batman” whose face was burned on one side by acid.)

“We don’t shy away from the gory,” Kennerson said.

The series will take viewers to some of the animals’ habitats and borderlands of the urban edge, including the Ramona grasslands, Torrey Pines State Reserve and San Diego’s downtown airport. One segment features a hummingbird habitat in a person’s home.

Kennerson received a smaller KPBS grant to produce his second episode, but needs an additional $25,000 to complete it. He launched a Kickstarter campaign last month and has until Oct. 6 to raise the necessary funds.

To help him reach his goal, visit

As of Sept. 29 he needed less than $5,000.

The series is currently limited to San Diego, but Kennerson said he would like to replicate it in other areas, possibly Florida or Northern California next.