Wild Bunch Newsletter Summer and Fall 2011
Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native wildlife. 83 acres in the Northern Neck of Virginia near the Rappahannock River serve as our wildlife refuge. Our officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol, and Lynn Williams.
Summer has gone and we are in the mist of fall. We would like to give you an update on the many activities at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge during this period of time. Unfortunately, again, we were unable to gather the information necessary to produce a summer newsletter. It is very difficult to document all the many occurrences that would produce a really informative and worthwhile newsletter while we are overwhelmed with the care of many, many animals and all the many calls from the public with problems that need to be addressed. We will try to give you a general update of what occurred during the summer months.
After an unusually hot, humid and miserable summer, we were hopeful that fall was coming and we could look forward to releasing many of our wild friends in the very near future. Mother Nature, however, had other plans for us. First an earthquake, which briefly scared us but did no damage to our facilities. Soon thereafter, Hurricane Irene arrived with lots of rain, causing a number of large trees to become uprooted. Fortunately, no real damage and again, we looked forward to fall's arrival with predictably pleasant weather. Unfortunately, after Hurricane Lee caused major damage and problems in the South, it brought us the most incredible and terrible rain, that lasted five days and five nights nonstop. It caused lots of erosion and many large trees became uprooted and had to be cut down to keep them from falling on the release cages and other structures. Also, large branches and other debris had to be removed from the large stream that runs along the release cages. The biggest problem is huge erosion around the bridge over the stream. It is not usable and will require major work to reestablish the safety of the bridge. We are currently seeking a contractor that will come and evaluate the damage and determine what can be done to rebuild the area that is eroded and reestablishing the safety of the bridge. It is all frustrating, involving very hard work, and great expenses, but we are grateful that all the buildings, cages and other structures did not have major problems. We are also very grateful that we did not lose power during this period. Most homes in the area were without electricity, some for two weeks. Our generator kicked in and helped us survive this period. Though costly, the generator is one of the best investments we have made.
Since January of this year Wild Bunch has received over 900 mammals, birds, waterfowl, reptiles and others. We will give you a detailed count in the Presidents Message which you will receive in January of 2012.
Refuge Improvements for the Upcoming season
During the past months we were unable to make many of the repairs and/or enhancements that are needed at the refuge. Most of the older mammal cages have to be replaced. They have been used for many years and really have to be constructed better to make cleaning them easier. During this terribly hot summer it became uncomfortable for the animals, despite our efforts to keep them cool, a better ventilation system is needed.
The raccoon release cages need a major overhaul and some parts need to be replaced. Most of the sleeping boxes in the trees are falling apart, or have been destroyed. These denning boxes are usually occupied right after we release the animals and later on, often with mothers and babies.
Good News! As you know, due to the large number of raptors that come into rehab, we have been in great need a larger flight cage. We finally have detailed plans to build such a cage and have started to clear a large piece of land and are in the process of construction. This will be a state of the art flight cage that hopefully will be completed for the next rehab season. We can't wait to see the completed flight cage and being able to use it for the many birds of prey and others, which we rehabilitate. We will keep you informed of the process.
In order to be licensed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Federal Government many hours of training are required. Such training helps us keep current on newer, better ways to help our wild charges in particular wildlife in general. They also help us meet the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries educational requirements that must be completed before we can renew our wildlife rehabilitation permit. Most of our training takes place in the months after our animals are released, and before the next baby season begins again. We are in the process of planning and scheduling our required and needed classes before year's end.
Just before the very hectic baby season started Erika was asked by several people that were interested in becoming raccoon rehabilitators, and others that already worked as licensed caregivers, about receiving more training to learn more about these wonderful animals. Although early March was not a perfect time, as baby foxes and raccoons already kept us busy, the seminar did take place and was very successful.
Topics addressed ranged from newborns to the successful release of rehabilitated animals. Information was given on feeding, housing, enrichment activities, necessary and useful supplies to have on hand, diseases raccoons are susceptible to, basic medical care and medical emergencies. In addition, such intriguing topics as "what you never wanted to know about maggots" and "unfolding the mysteries of pre-exposure rabies vaccine", is covered. Practical and creative solutions were discussed for the most common problems raccoons face in our high density, highly developed area. Suggestions were offered on how best to achieve the cooperation of the public in co-existing peacefully with raccoons and other wild neighbors. Class participants were given a manual containing details on the topics covered in class as well as additional material such as reference and resource lists. There was no fee for the class and the required 6 credit hours met the Virginia licensing requirements.
Seasonal Wildlife Tips
In early fall we receive many calls from the public about wildlife that they either normally don't see or have questions about what they can do to help wildlife when the temperatures sink and wildlife might be in need of help. Winter is a really difficult time for wildlife and one should be proactive during the fall months. Most of the animals killed this time of the year are this years' babies that have not become street smart. As they are running around looking for food, they often get killed crossing roads. Here are some of the calls we receive during the fall months:
Squirrels, raccoons, foxes, skunks and others are out during the day and hanging around people's back yards. They know that cold weather is coming and they want to stock up on food to survive during inclement weather when they might be unable to find their regular food source. They do not hibernate, but they often do not come out from their den when the weather is really bad and it is important that the fat reserve is there.
Whenever possible, remove road kill off the road. Many animals are killed or injured while feeding on these carcasses.
Secure chimneys, using a chimney cap; adult squirrels and raccoons seek a warm place to spend the cold winter months. To evict an animal during a snowstorm or other inclement weather is definitely not in the best interest of an animal.
Please ask your neighbors and friends to collect and properly dispose of antifreeze as they winterize their cars. Antifreeze is sweet-tasting and many animals are poisoned by the product every year.
Some Box Turtles and snapping turtles - are ready to hibernate, but are still out on a sunny day. They are sluggish and slow crossing streets. If you must help them make sure to move them in the direction they were going, not back where they came from.
Deer are most active during the fall rut, or mating season. They are most likely to be on the move around dawn and dusk, so slow down and watch the road and roadsides, on clear nights with a full moon, watch out for deer feeding by moonlight. Deer rarely travel alone and many will cross roadways one at a time, in a single file. If you see a deer, brake carefully, flash your lights or honk your horn in short bursts, and watch for other deer.
Miscellaneous events and educating the public
While most of our baby season activities involve caring for the animals, we also teach classes, participate in community outreach activities, and attend other events that will enhance our ability to help our wild friends.
In May, as usual, Erika participated in a favorite annual program, Wetland Awareness Day at Huntley Meadows, Fairfax County's large wetland park. Hundreds of visitors stopped by the table to view posters and photographs of our wild orphans, gather information about Virginia native species, ask questions, and discuss their own wildlife experiences. Children and young visitors were given special coloring books that provide interesting information about many of our area's wild animals.
Wild Bunch again participated in several Camps for Kids this summer teaching youngsters about animals and specifically wildlife. These programs are very poplar and are conducted by most Northern Virginia area Nature centers and some schools. It is very rewarding that some of the children that have attended previous years programs signed up again this year. Amazingly they did remember a lot and had additional questions.
Yes, again, Foxes, foxes, mangy and otherwise
Since the first of the year 2011, Wild Bunch received over one hundred calls with all kinds of questions and concerns about foxes. It used to be unusual to see a fox out during the day and many people have never actually seen a fox. However, the past few years' foxes have been seen in all jurisdictions and it is not unusual to see them out during the day. If a fox is born and raised in the area, they will den and usually stay unless evicted or their habitat is destroyed.
During the early summer months calls are mostly about young foxes out during the day.
Regardless of the season of the year, we receive at least one or more calls a day, regarding mangy foxes. These foxes are suffering from a debilitating condition called sarcoptic mange. They are often out during the day because their condition makes it difficult for them to hunt successfully. We offer callers a document that contains information on foxes, on sarcoptic mange, and on the treatment protocol. We also provide the necessary medication and detailed instruction on how to proceed. We also recommend that clean water and supplemental food be provided to help the foxes survive while they recover. We are delighted that so many people try to help these wonderful, but suffering animals get better.
Foxes are not Coyotes, and Coyotes are not Foxes
Several times a week we receive calls about coyotes and many times the caller is adamant that the problem is a coyote and not a fox. I have received some of the "so called" coyotes that even other rehabilitators were sure were coyotes. So far the coyote always ended up being a red fox. Yes, we do have coyotes and here is some information about our "Western Wanderer". People also call and say," I thought these animals only lived in the West." I tell them, "Not anymore!"
Coyotes were virtually unheard of in Virginia about 30 years ago. Native to western North America, they migrated south and east for decades, filling the space created as wolf and cougar populations were decimated by humans. Now, coyotes can not only be found in western Virginia, but also inside and outside the capitol beltway. Not only in large nature parks, but also in Old Town Alexandria and all Virginia suburbs. Coyotes do not migrate, but when the young leave the natural area they will seek new territory. During this process some coyotes have traveled as much as 100 miles. However, if food is plentiful they seldom travel more than five miles a day.
The adult western coyote looks like a slightly built German shepherd dog. Adult males average about 30 pounds, females average 25 pounds. Animals weighing over 40 pounds are not unusual. Adult coyotes have gray coats with brown or yellow touches at the outer ears. Legs and feet, at times with black tipped hairs on the back and black on the tip of the tail. The tail is bushy and is held low. Coyotes are solitary animals and are seldom seen during daylight hours. Coyotes are wary of humans and will avoid people. Coyotes are drawn to urban and suburban neighborhoods for two reasons: human encroachment into native habitat and the availability of food. The best solution is to ensure the current coyotes maintain their fear of people: keep garbage contained and secure, do not leave pet food outside, refrain from putting meat scraps and other edibles in compost heaps. Also, people can make loud noises by banging metal pots together when coyotes are on/near their property, which will reinforce that humans are something to be scared of.
Keep your pets in after dark. Coyotes have taken many cats and some dogs and other pets that people allowed to be outside after dark. In rural areas, farmers have enlisted the aid of donkeys and lamas to scare coyotes away from taking goats and lamb and other farm animals.
Great Financial News
In May, we were notified by the local federal coordinating committee of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) of the National Capital Area that Wild Bunch has again been approved to participate in the 2011 Fundraising campaign that will begin this fall. The CFC is a charitable donation program for federal government employees. It is the largest workplace charity campaign in the country and the only program authorized to solicit and collect contributions from federal employees at their workplace. The annual charitable donation drive provides funds to a wide variety of nonprofit local, national, and international organizations. Erika has been invited to give a presentation to several government organizations, explaining what Wild Bunch is all about. Hopefully some of the listeners will select Wild Bunch as their designated charity.
Earlier this year, we also received a letter advertising us how much had been pledged to Wild Bunch in the 2010 Campaign, and we were sent a check for the first installment. We were very pleased to learn that how many people selected Wild Bunch as their designated charity. A letter of appreciation and thank you notes to all of the donors were sent in May 2011.
We would be extremely appreciative if you would encourage any federal employee you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities. CFC designated number is 69040.
True Story on the Wild Bunch Website
Beginning October 1, The True Story on the Wild Bunch Website www.wildbunchrehab.org). Will again be "Nocturnal wild neighbors, around, but seldom seen." As the dark days of early winter arrive it is interesting to find out what our nocturnal wild neighbors are doing this time of the year.
As always, Our Sincere Thanks
We want to thank everyone who continues to help us help our wild friends by volunteering, by providing needed supplies, and, of course, by contributing financially. This support makes it possible for us to care for many animals each year. Financial donations can be mailed to Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation, 402 West Alexandria Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22302-4204 or be made via PayPal from our website. We rely on your support and we appreciate everything you do to help.