Wild Bunch Newsletter -- May 2004
Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update of our activities during the month of April. We are a 501(c) (3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of native wildlife. 83 acres have been developed in the Northern Neck of Virginia near the Rappahannock River to serve as our refuge. The officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana Oâ€™Connor, Charlene DeVol and Bonnie Brown.
At the refuge, Diana received 10 rabbits, 1 osprey, 1 barred owl, 1 robin, 3 raccoons, 1 cat bird, 14 mallards, 12 opossums, 1 red tailed hawk, 1 baby great horned owl and 1 baby groundhog. As you can see, the baby season has begun and we know that we will be receiving more and more animals through the spring and summer.
Erika received 12 raccoons and 1 red bat. The bats that have been in residence for some time now were finally released during a warm spell. It was a real pleasure to see them fly off after their long confinement. We were also able to release the five raccoons that had wintered over. They were so happy to explore their new surroundings and especially took to the nearby pond.
What we have found interesting so far this year is the overall numbers of animals going to rehabbers are much lower than this same time last year. We would like to think that finally our constant efforts at public education and helping people co-exist with wildlife are having a positive effect. This may be true to a small degree, but we tend to agree with the general consensus that loss of habitat is the biggest reason. As the animals are pushed farther and farther away from the areas we live in, there simply are less of them. West Nile Virus has also played a part in the dwindling numbers of some animal species.
Calls are coming in almost daily about raccoons in chimneys and attics. We are usually successful in convincing the homeowner to let the mother and babies stay until the babies are 6-7 weeks old. Since they are much more mobile at that point, the mother will normally move them to an outdoor location, where they can be taught to climb and hunt for food. We have had a number of calls where the mother raccoon was evicted from a dwelling, leaving the babies behind. Fortunately, the babies were placed under a nearby tree and the mother picked them up during the night. Other calls involve foxes with mange, which we continue to help the public treat with great success. We also get calls about fox cubs playing in yards. After explaining how fox families work, people usually leave them alone and enjoy watching them.
The seven red foxes that were rescued in March are growing up fast and now look like miniature foxes. Until they are about eight weeks old they look more like kittens. Their fur is molting and the beautiful russet color they are known for is starting to come in. They are now in an outdoor enclosure where they have plenty of room to run and play. Logs and tree branches are provided as well as lots of dirt for digging. Foxes have a natural instinct to cache their food and we continually find chicken bones hidden. Kent Knowles has been very generous in providing us with mice, that are required dining for foxes. They love chicken but need the mice, including the hair, fur and bones to develop properly. They also have to learn how to hunt and mice are their main diet in the wild.
Bonnie and Erika returned to the Wild Bunch Refuge to check on the contractorâ€™s progress in removing the debris from the barn we lost during Hurricane Isabel. He is also clearing the woods of trash, large old farm equipment and other unsightly items that deter from the beauty of the surrounding woods. The results so far are impressive. The demolition and removal of an addition to the old homestead that was in terrible shape and in danger of collapsing was successfully completed. The homestead is in fairly good shape now, but needs work done to transform what was formally storage space to a rather primitive but fun place to stay for short periods of time. It has been Erikaâ€™s dream since first purchasing the property to fix up this old place and make it a rustic getaway. Plans for different barn styles were also reviewed and a new one selected. This is scheduled to be constructed at the beginning of June. In the meantime, cages are being moved and rebuilt as well as the continual maintenance and upkeep of the other structures on the refuge.
An unexpected expense occurred regarding a bridge on the property. Due to much rain and inclement weather during this past winter, the banks of the stream have eroded and have to be built up to support the bridge. Major work has to be done to protect it and a great deal of the wood used in the original construction needs to be replaced with a more durable, weather resistant material. The bulkhead supporting the bridge needs to be reinforced to keep the banks from further erosion. This project is of great importance since most of the property is on the other side of the bridge. We are disappointed in that this repair will certainly take away from funds that were previously earmarked for animal care. As always, we rely on your support in providing the funds that allow us to do this valuable work.
The story of the month on our website will be a revisit to the original True Story we posted several months ago about the little girl raccoon that had the unusual and serious hip problem. We are delighted to report that she was just released back into the wild and we have added an update to her remarkable story.
As always, we are grateful for your many generous donations. Your support is greatly needed and we appreciate everything you do to help us out. Please invite your friends and relatives to view our website. The more people that know about us and can find ways to contribute to the well being of our native Virginia wildlife the better for all.