Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter- August 2005

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update of our activities during the month of July. We are 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. The officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol and Bonnie Brown.

In the past month, the refuge received 21 ospreys, 1 killdeer, 5 wrens, 5 wood ducks, 1 baby turkey, 2 kingbirds, 1 broad-winged hawk, 2 squirrels, 32 opossums, 3 mockingbirds, 3 skunks, 23 raccoons, 5 robins, 7 mockingbirds, 6 rabbits, 1 starling, 1 blue heron, 3 grackles, 1 catbird, 2 box turtles, 1 pileated woodpecker, 1 downy woodpecker, 1 crow, 1 purple martin and 1 chimney swift. Erika received 2 baby raccoons that were only a few days old. She also conducted a program at the Arlington County animal shelter to teach young children about wildlife.

A particular challenge during the steamy, sweltering July days was making the raccoons in Erika’s large outdoor cage as comfortable as possible. Without electrical outlets, we couldn’t use fans to help cool the cage. We did, however, fill the raccoons’ large water bowl with ice cubes. This served a dual purpose. It cooled their drinking water and the raccoons discovered that the ice cubes were cool “toys� to fish out and push around the cage until they magically disappeared. We also froze water in plastic containers and added the ice blocks to the wading pool in the raccoons’ cage. Although we usually fill the pool with buckets, on the very hot days, we brought over the hose and gently sprayed the raccoons in their pool. The raccoons seemed to find this new activity refreshing and enjoyable. This often was a cooling activity for the holder of the hose as well when little raccoon hands tried to cover the end of the hose nozzle or when a couple of the raccoons, inspired by the spray, discovered the joy of doing cannonballs into the pool.

The phone continued to ring with calls about wildlife concerns. We received several calls in July about beavers cutting down trees. It is likely that these are two year old animals that were kicked out of their lodge by their parents after the latest babies were born. Beavers normally stay with their families until they are two years old. These youngsters then wander off trying to find a place to live. They often get in trouble during this period. In Virginia, it is not legal to relocate beavers and they can only be trapped with a kill permit. We have a few tips that we provide to those who call us with beaver problems. Our aim is to help the callers humanely encourage the beavers to move on, hopefully to a place that is more suitable for their tree gnawing and dam building. For example, we recommend mixing latex paint with coarse sand and painting trees 2-1/2 to 3 feet up the trunk as an effective deterrent. For larger areas or groups of plants or shrubs, sturdy fencing is the only solution.

We also received complaints about groundhogs eating vegetables and flowers. Because groundhogs don't like motion, a pinwheel or ball tied to a string and placed by the plants may well make them leave the garden area. Another solution is a small battery powered electric fence. A very useful gadget, the Scarecrow, is very effective with most wildlife. It hooks up to the water hose and when it detects motion such as when an animal walks by it, a terrific gush of water will spray the animal. After several scary blasts of water, the animal will usually leave that area alone. We can provide information about where to obtain the Scarecrow if needed.

As August arrives, we begin to finally notice the baby season winding down and start to think about the upcoming animal releases in September and October. Many species that are rehabilitated at Wild Bunch (birds, squirrels, rabbits), don’t require long periods of care and have long since returned to their natural habitat. Raccoons, however, are long term guests and ideally should be six months of age before release. September and October are the perfect months for release as the weather is still mild and they have a good opportunity to find suitable homes and food sources before winter. To give them the best chance for continued good health, they are vaccinated from a very young age against Parvo as well as canine and feline distemper. These vaccines are all given three times at three week intervals. Prior to release, raccoons, as well as foxes and bats, are given a rabies vaccine intended to provide protection for as long as three years. We consider rabies vaccination of extreme importance as we do not want to release animals back into the wild that could be at risk of exposure to this fatal disease.

Our True Story this month is a reprisal of a wonderful story by Stan Polinsky entitled “Hooked on Wildlife�. Stan’s story tells about what led him to become a wildlife rehabilitator and his experiences during his first year as a rehabber. Since this article was written, Stan has left the Virginia area and purchased a 217acre former horse ranch in South Carolina. That horse ranch is rapidly fading away as the property is gradually converted (rehabilitated and released back to nature) to a private wildlife sanctuary. Stan works closely with a local government conservationist and has a comprehensive land management plan focused on developing the entire property as a natural eco-system.

As always, we are grateful for your much needed donations. As the number of animals we take in each year continues to grow, so do our expenses. The financial burden on Wild Bunch to provide all the supplies, food, medication and equipment that rehabilitation demands is very challenging. Financial donations can be mailed to Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation, 402 W. Alexandria Ave., Alexandria, VA 22302. In addition to financial support, we also have a great need for volunteers to help out at the refuge. If you or anyone you know is able to spend even a weekend day helping with chores, please call us at 804-313-2240. We rely deeply on your support and appreciate everything you do to help us out.