The Carolina wrens, who were doing so well at the last update, all died last week. The runt was the first to go, which honestly didn’t surprise me, as runts either do really well or struggle to survive. He’d struggled and was behind his sibs developmentally. The other two seemed to be doing great, and then in the space of three days, they both keeled over for no apparent reason.
Sadly, this isn’t all that unusual in rehab. Other rehabbers and I have bemoaned the fact that an apparently perfectly healthy charge will often drop dead overnight. One fellow rehabber even calls 3AM the “death hour”, as it nearly always seems to be around that time that critters check out on us. It’s one of the many frustrating, heartbreaking aspects of rehab—you do all the right things and “lose” anyway. Yes, all rehabbers know you can’t save ‘em all. And yes, all rehabbers rail against fate when they lose a charge that was thriving one day and dying/dead the next. It’s not logical and it hurts…and it never gets easier, as you spend the next several days second-guessing yourself.
This dog-attacked rabbit looked pretty bad when he came in, and since rabbits don’t generally do well in rehab, I didn’t hold out much hope he’d make it through the night. Rabbits are very high-stress little dears, which makes sense when you realize that they’re prey animals. Frank Vinson, my former department chair from my days in academia, summed it up nicely when he said that everything but vegans and bluebirds eats rabbits!
However…sometimes ya get lucky and a rabbit does pretty well in rehab. This little darlin’ is healing nicely (circled area below is site of wound in photo above) and will soon be off antibiotics. Unlike most rabbits in rehab, he’s a pretty confident little fellow—note the upright ears. Stressed or frightened rabbits lay their ears back. He also eats while I’m watching, something else rehab rabbits almost never do.
This is just a neat shot of the downy GHO about to chow down.
LWR also received a downy barred owl. He may be cute, but he’s already an aggressive little fellow, clicking his beak and hissing.
This adult barred owl was hanging upside down from a branch over the river, tangled in fishing line. The rescuers shot the branch down to retrieve the owl. As you can see, the flight feathers on his right wing are well and truly trashed; the left wing suffered some damage but not nearly this bad. He’s a lucky bird; nothing is broken. But those trashed feathers mean he’ll be in rehab until he molts.
LWR received two possums from the same litter, several days apart. When possums leave the pouch and cling to Mama’s back, if they fall off or she shakes them loose, she doesn’t notice or look for missing babies. Possums are so lovably clueless…
These two both came in with severe respiratory infections. You can see the snot in the first one’s little nose; the second also came in covered with maggot eggs and fleas, hence the photo of her all wet. She had to have a bath first thing to remove all her “pets”.
They’re both still struggling but I’m cautiously optimistic right now, as they seem to be slowly responding to antibiotics. Possums seldom get sick but when they do, they do it with spectacular and often fatal flair. Right now, we’re taking it a feeding at a time and hoping for the best.
The flying squirrel should be named Harriet Houdini, as she’s somehow figured out how to escape from a locked cage! For the past two mornings, I’ve walked into the rehab end of the house to find her peering from a cabinet…OUTSIDE her cage. I’ve tested the cage and can’t find the escape route, so officially, we’re saying she’s channeling Houdini. Flyers in the wild remain with their mothers longer than gray squirrels do, and I always imitate that practice in rehab, as it increases their chances of survival upon release, but I do think Ms. Houdini is ready for the pre-release caging now!
You’ve all laughed at my descriptions of the beaver throwing tantrums—well, here’s photo proof. See those tear tracks? When beavers pitch a hissy fit, they do it right, tears and all. I was omigod 10 minutes late feeding Beaver Butt because I was outside getting him fresh branches to mutilate, and this is the result—he actually bawled!
All was forgiven once his belly was full and he had a nice swim, though.
And finally, LWR received our first mockingbird of the year, a nestling who had been fed an imbalanced emergency diet for 4 days before the finders called me. The result was a somewhat messy bird with diarrhea, but he’s improved now that he’s getting a proper, balanced diet. He's still a bit messy in the photos below, though.
Young mockers have really big mouths—literally. Because baby songbirds “gape” for food, rehabbers use the term “gape” to describe their beaks, as in “What color is his gape?” Here’s a classic mocker gape.
Mockers are always gaping…
…except when they sleep.