Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native wildlife. Eighty three 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.
This year, we have reached a milestone as we celebrate our 10th anniversary of purchasing the Newland property in Richmond County. It was initially meant as a safe habitat to release all of the many native wild animals that we rehabilitate. This property was the perfect habitat, with streams, mixed-hardwood/pine forests and rugged terrain and away from highways and developments. Unfortunately, it was also littered with lots of old discarded objects such as, stoves, boats, rubber tires, sinks and other very unsightly objects. In addition, it did not have a bridge that connected the smaller part of the property with the very large part of the parcel near the Rappahannock Refuge, our next door neighbors. This was the area where we immediately wanted to construct several release cages facing Wilma creek. Also on the property was a well kept dwelling, the old homestead and several barns that were in dire need of repair. So, we decided to use the house as a small rehabilitation center. There was a lot to be done : clear up trash and remove as many unsightly items as possible; build several cages; and, of course, we needed a bridge going over the stream. Huge expenses, lots of work, very little help and lots of wildlife arrived to be rehabilitated as word quickly spread about our facility. After ten years, we are proud to report that it has become quite an operation. We have come a long way!
We learned of the Virginia Outdoor Foundation shortly after Erika purchased the property. In order to protect this serene and wonderful parcel of land, she decided to contact the Virginia Outdoor Foundation and deemed the property an open-space easement, thereby restricting certain activities such as development. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation was established in 1966 by the General Assembly to conserve and protect Virginia's scenic, scientific, natural, and historic open space areas. The primary mechanism for accomplishing this mission is its open-space easement program. In order to preserve the conservation values of the property, periodic inspections are conducted by VOF. In October, a representative made a site visit to review any changes and was pleased that the property was so well maintained. A detailed report was submitted and we are pleased that we have met all the standards that are required.
Summer has gone and we are in the mist of fall. We would like to give you an update on the many activities that took place at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge during the summer. Once again, we were unable to gather the information and produce a summer newsletter. It is very difficult to document and share all the many occurrences when 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 summary of what occurred during the summer and fall months.
Since January of this year, Wild Bunch has received over 800 mammals, birds, waterfowl, reptiles and several others. We will give you a detailed count in the President's Message which will be delivered in January of 2011.
We were unable to make many of the repairs and/or enhancements that are needed at the refuge during the past few months. We are now reviewing all of the areas that need help.
Of course, we are still in great need of a larger flight cage. Not only do we need funds for this expensive and complicated project, but we also have not been able to find a contractor that is competent to build a flight cage that meets standards and is affordable to us.
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 ways to keep them cool, a better ventilation system is needed.
The raccoon release cages also need a new roof and most of the sleeping boxes in the trees are falling apart. These denning boxes are usually occupied right after we release the animals and often with mothers and babies.
When we have our Wild Bunch Board of Directors meeting in January, a detailed plan of repairs/enhancements will be presented.
During this extremely busy and hectic time of the year, we depend very much on caregivers and other volunteers. There is never enough help to ease our heavy workload. This season, we were very fortunate to have found several really devoted and helpful caregivers and volunteers who were of tremendous help to Diana at the refuge as well as at the Alexandria facility. We are hopeful that they will stay with us for a long time. Caregivers must be licensed by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Federal Government to be able to work with a wildlife rehabilitator or at a rehabilitator facility.
Many hours of training are required in order to be licensed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Federal Government. This training also enables us to keep current on newer, better ways to help our wildlife in general and to 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. We are in the process of planning and scheduling our required and needed classes before years end.
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 drop and wildlife might be in need of help. Winter is quite a 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 examples and recommendations from the calls we receive during the fall months.
Squirrels, raccoons, foxes, skunks and others are out during the day and hanging around back yards. They know that cold weather is coming and 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. Be cautious as they are sluggish and slow crossing streets.
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.
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, 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 animal shelters 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 remember a lot about previous programs and had additional questions.
On October 1, 2010, Erika was invited to attend the 6th Annual Animal Services Awards luncheon hosted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Animals Services Committee and was honored to receive the 2009 Wildlife Advocacy/Rescue/Rehabilitation Award. The award was presented to Erika by the COG Animal Services Committee Chairman, Rodney Taylor. The COG animal services committee is responsible for animal care and control, wildlife, disaster planning, public service information, humane education and recommendations and proposals relevant to animal care and control in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Since the start of 2010, Wild Bunch received over one hundred calls concerning foxes and their behaviors. It used to be unusual to see a fox out during the day and most people have never actually seen a fox. During the past few years, however, 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, who are out sunning themselves and are not afraid of people. Always around, but seldom seen during this period, are the parents of the playful youngsters. They are nearby and watch to make sure they are not in harms way. Many people would like to have the babies relocated or brought to us for rehabilitation, but they don't understand that this is normal behavior. We always tell people to enjoy the few weeks young foxes are around. By August, most of the youngsters are old enough and are no longer out during day time hours. You should enjoy the time when they are around playing and learning how to hunt. It is an experience that should not be missed.
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 2010 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 local, national, and international nonprofit organizations.
Earlier this year, we also received a letter reporting how much had been pledged to Wild Bunch in the 2009 Champaign along with a check for the first installment. We were very pleased to learn 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 2010. We would be extremely appreciative if you would encourage any federal employee you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities. Our CFC designated number is 69040.
Beginning November 1, The True Story will be "Nocturnal wild neighbors, around, but seldom seen." As the dark days of early winter have arrived 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, providing needed supplies and, of course, 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 appreciate everything you do to help.