It’s only April 18, and LWR has already received 33 animals for the month. Yep, you read that right—33. This doesn’t bode well for the rehab load—or my sanity—for the remainder of baby season.
The five older squirrels from the April 4 update are now pretty much on their own; I see them once or twice a day but they’re increasingly skittish, which is good. That, after all, is the goal of wildlife rehab: to put these animals back into their natural environment with the skills they need to survive…and unfortunately, because of the high levels of idiocy, cruelty and apathy in the human race, fear of humans is a necessary survival skill for wildlife.
The “fragile” squirrel is no longer the least bit fragile but is still shy. He’s in pre-release now.
The three pinkies are, as you can see, no longer pink. They’re a bit dehydrated in this photo; the unusually low humidity, combined with their need for supplemental heat, caused some issues for them but they’re looking less wizened now.
The “mourning doves” turned out to be Eurasian collared doves, and they’re now in the flight pen. Their name comes from a faint “collar” around the back of their neck—you can’t see it in these photos, and it’s actually pretty faint on these birds. Some have more pronounced collars, though. These two are sweet and quite gorgeous and have about another two weeks before they’re ready to leave the flight pen.
Of the 33 animals I’ve received thus far this month, 21 of them were possums. Of course, 6 of them came in Easter Sunday, in time for the April 4 update. Another 9 came in that Monday, in two groups, and on April 12, yet another 6 came in. In a bizarre case of “what the…?” all 21 possums died, most within 12 hours of coming in. Seven were just too young; their mouths weren’t even fully formed and they should have still been vacuum-sealed to Mama’s nipples in the pouch. The remainder were severely underweight (half their normal weight and size) for their developmental stage. I consulted with other rehabbers, and the best explanation we can come up with for the widespread underweight issue and sudden deaths is that the recently-ended winter was unusually harsh, meaning Mama Possum had nutritional deficiencies that led to more severe issues for her babies.
I’m still a bit shell-shocked by the sheer number of possums received in such a short time, and their unexplained deaths have done nothing to improve my overall mood. Possums normally do quite well in rehab, so I’m not real happy to’ve lost so many so quickly, for no apparent reason. As I’ve said before, that’s one of the frustrating things about wildlife rehab—sometimes when you’re doing everything right, it still doesn’t matter and the animals die.
LWR also received a turkey vulture who’d been shot; X-rays clearly showed the lead pellets (see above ref. high levels of human idiocy, cruelty and apathy). He was slowly dying of lead poisoning, and the pellets had broken his wing, so we euthanized and I reported his shooting to DNR and FWS, as both the state and feds must be notified of suspected illegal activity.
A young rabbit whose sibs were killed by a dog spent a few days at LWR before being released. Despite his small size, he is independent. For future reference, any young rabbit who’s at least 2/3 the length of a dollar bill is out of the nest and own its own, requiring no interference from humans unless it’s injured or ill.
We’ve also had two GHOs come in: a female with a broken wing that couldn’t be mended and a runt male who’d hit a barbed wire fence. The female probably had babies in the nest, which is heartbreaking, since without their mother they will most likely starve to death. The male’s wing is pretty nasty-looking but nothing is broken, so he should be good for release in a few days. Since he’s an adult with an established territory, he’ll be released near where he was found.
Just as the doves were reaching flight pen readiness, three nestling mockers came in. Their eyes were just beginning to open, so they were less than a week old at intake. They’re doing just fine, growing by leaps and bounds.
This fledgling brown thrasher wasn’t as lucky. He was attacked by a cat, probably on his first flight out of the nest, and we thought his right leg had sustained only bruising, as it wasn’t broken. Within 12 hours, though, he’d also lost the use of his left leg, leading us to suspect a busted hip, which won’t show in x-rays of birds. His chances don’t look good at the moment, which is another heartbreaker. He’s sweet, alert, eating well and he’d like to fly, but he can’t perch since his legs are currently useless. If it is a busted hip, rest is the only treatment while the fracture mends—and that still might not resolve the issue. He may still have to be euthanized.
Which leads me to another rant: people, control your cats and dogs! I love the cats who share my life. But they don’t go outside, because they’re predators and will prey on the very wildlife I rehab. Same thing with dogs—they see an unnested bird or squirrel, and it’s instinct to go pick up the live squeaky toy and chomp down on it. Obviously, some dogs are just too large to be inside-only, but they can be trained to leave wildlife alone—if you don’t have time for that, here are two suggestions: 1) maybe you just don’t have time for the dogs, period; 2) provide them with a spacious pen that gives them room to run and play but keeps them from harassing the resident wildlife when you’re not able to supervise them. Keep your domestic animals away from wildlife, for the safety of all concerned.On an “up” note, those of you on the LWR mailing list received a message last week about the Green Choice Campaign that LWR was recently invited to participate in. For those who didn’t get the e-mail, here’s the important stuff again:You have an exciting opportunity to help us make even more of a difference in our community. GreatNonprofits – a site like Yelp – is conducting a campaign to find the top-rated environmental nonprofits and has invited LWR to participate.Won’t you help us participate in the campaign by posting a review of your experience with us? All reviews will be visible to potential donors and volunteers. It’s easy and only takes 3 minutes! Go to: www.greatnonprofits.org/reviews/laurens-wildlife-rescue-inc (You may have to copy and paste this link.)Be sure to choose "Green Choice Campaign" from the drop down menu of campaigns when writing your review. AND…LWR is now listed with GoodSearch, a useful and painless way to donate to our efforts! Here’s how that works:Just download the GoodSearch – Laurens Wildlife Rescue toolbar at http://www.goodsearch.com/toolbar/mode/ (Again, you may need to copy and paste the link.)Each time you search the web with GoodSearch's Yahoo-powered search engine, about a penny will go your charity or school. Also, every time you shop online at 1,000 participating stores including Amazon, eBay, Target, Apple, Staples, Expedia, etc., a percentage of your purchase will be donated for free! The site also has thousands of money-saving coupons! To give you a sense of how the money can add up, the ASPCA has already earned more than $30,000! And yes, I’ve been working on this update all day, between feedings. Around here this time of year, somebody always needs feeding…
Since the March 17 update, LWR has received 18 animals—yep, the busy season has definitely begun!
We’ve had six more squirrels come in: 2 sibs, an “only” and 3 more sibs. Add that to the three we’d already received, and I have nine squirrels now: the original 3 and the 2 sibs are now in pre-pre-release caging; one fragile baby I didn’t expect to make it through his first weekend with me is now in a small indoor cage as he continues to improve, and the latest three sibs are just past pinky stage, about 10-14 days old. See below for more pix.
We're active little rascals these days!
These pinkies are about 14 days old.
The fragile baby was found with his dead sister and wasn’t in real good shape himself when I got him. His breathing was very labored, and his right back leg dangled limply: I was sure it was broken. A trip to Smalley’s Animal Hospital and x-rays proved otherwise, however; in fact, we could find no medical reason for his labored breathing or the dangling leg. Soon-to-be licensed vet Richie Hatcher (who will be returning to Smalley’s this fall when he graduates!) suggested severe bruising to his lungs and leg, so we opted to give him some time to recover. The poor fellow debated whether he wanted to live for several days, but he finally decided life was worthwhile and is doing great now. Since he’s too young to be with the other five and too old for the “baby” babies, he has to remain an “only,” which makes him a little shy, though.
Thanks to Sarah at Smalley's for the photo.
I also received an adult least flycatcher, a small and quite beautiful insectivore, with what appeared to be a small puncture wound to the side of her head. She also appeared to be beak-breathing, which is never good, so once again we made the trip to Smalley’s where, while waiting to be seen, I discovered that the bird’s tongue had nearly been severed. A thorough exam by vet Shelley Baumann revealed that the tongue was not fixable and the head wound was severe enough that the brain was exposed. Our best guess is that she nearly became some Cooper’s or sharp-shinned hawk’s next meal, escaping after the hawk’s talons had punctured the skull and nearly ripped the tongue out. Obviously, the least flycatcher was euthanized.
When I received a call about a red-shouldered hawk with a possible broken wing, the vet clinic was closed for the day, so I picked up the hawk with plans to take him in first thing the next morning. An initial exam revealed no breaks, so I was guessing window-strike and concussion. However, shortly after I got home with the hawk, a first year male, he began having seizures of increasing intensity, screaming through each seizure. I called Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends raptor rehab for advice, and upon hearing the symptoms, he said I was doing everything that could be done, which was basically try to make him comfortable. He died at 1:15am, after a long night of suffering. When I picked him up to dispose of his body once it was daylight, very watery blood was draining from his beak, leading me to assume he’d eaten a prey animal that had consumed rat poison. I called Steve and described the blood, and he agreed, but suggested I call Smalley’s to confirm. Vet Peggy Hobby agreed with us; it sounded like the poor red shoulder had eaten a mouse that had been into rat poison.
Folks, rat poison and its kin are nasty, nasty ways to kill any animal, as they basically bleed out slowly. As the rat, mouse, pigeon—whatever—that has eaten the poison begins to bleed to death and slows down, it becomes easy prey for raptors, who then die from secondary exposure to the poison. Bottom line—there are much better ways to rid yourself of rats and mice, ways that won’t endanger the raptor population.
A hit-by-car turtle also came in, with extensive damage to its shell. Most of the shell damage looked to be treatable, but the turtle kept bleeding profusely, indicating severe injuries under the shell. Contrary to popular cartoons, turtles cannot leave their shells, so there was no way to treat the internal damage and the turtle was euthanized.
Doves on March 29
Two young mourning doves are at LWR after a young boy stole them from their nest and a concerned neighbor took them from the child and called me. Folks, nesting season is in full swing now, so please be reminded—and remind your friends and neighbors and their children—that disturbing a nest with eggs or young is a violation of federal law. You can attempt to prevent the birds from nesting in a particular location, but once the nest is built, LEAVE IT ALONE. And for goodness’ sake, don’t assume because you don’t see parents that they’ve abandoned their nestlings. I assure you, 90% of the time, the parents are nearby and waiting for you to leave before feeding their babies—and those babies need feeding as often as every 15 minutes, so the longer you stand there delaying the parents’ feeding, the more likely those babies will miss a meal…or several meals. If you’re really worried that the parents have met an untimely end, hide and watch the nest. Everyone I’ve recommended this to has called back within half an hour to report that the parents are indeed feeding their wee ones.
Doves on April 1
This fox kit weighed just 12 oz.
LWR also received a fox kit that was found mixed in with puppies. Apparently Mama Fox was moving her babies and something startled her, causing her to drop this baby—he was certainly too young to be trotting along behind her. Because foxes are rabies vector species (RVS), this little one was transferred to Bonnie Walker of M&W Wildlife Rehabilitation, who is RVS-licensed.
His eyes hadn't been open too terribly long.
The young screech that LWR sent to Steve Hicks last month made his way back to us for release. When possible, Steve sends the raptors that came from this area back here for release, and he sent this little guy back last week. He very obligingly posed for one final shot before flitting silently off into the night.
And just today, the Easter possum visited a family and left them with six very young possums. These babies were probably on their first venture outside the pouch when something startled Mama Possum and she skedaddled, strewing babies all over the caller’s back yard. Unfortunately, there’s no way to reunite possums with Mama—ain’t gonna happen. Possums are such oblivious little critters that I’m not even sure she knew she had babies, much less that she left them behind! Those babies are now at LWR, as well, bless their clueless little hearts.
If the past two weeks are any indication of what the remainder of baby season’s gonna be like, I may be in a straitjacket by fall!