Wild Bunch Newsletter - January 2005
2004 has gone by quickly, although I must admit there were times when it seemed that the year 2004 would never end. Reflecting back now on the many challenges we faced, I wonder how we managed as well as we did. The Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge has become well known throughout the whole Northern Neck area and beyond. Consequently, many more wild animals than we ever imagined we could care for, were brought to us in 2004. Game wardens from counties that have no resident rehabilitators brought all sorts of wildlife needing help. The general public, now, also turns to the refuge when they find injured, orphaned or sick wildlife.
During the year, Wild Bunch cared for over 475 native wild animals. If only the financial side of things increased at the same rate as our admissions, we'd be in great shape! Following is a list by species of the waterfowl and other birds, mammals, and reptiles that Wild Bunch received during 2004. Most were able to be rehabilitated and were released back to the wild during the year.
They include: Waterfowl and Other Birds: 5 Bald Eagles, 2 Barred Owls, and 18 Blackbirds, 4 Black Vultures, 5 Bluebirds, 2 Blue Herons, 9 Blue Jays, 5 Bluebirds, 1 Cardinal, 7 Catbirds, 1 Cedar Waxwing, 12 Chimney Swifts, 6 Doves, 7 Ducks (misc.), 1 Egret, 4 Finches, 5 Geese, 2 Goldfinches, 8 Grackles, 2 Great Horned Owls, 1 Green Heron, 2 Hawks (misc.), 1 Hummingbird, 77 Mallards, 1 Meadowlark, 7 Mockingbirds, 13 Ospreys, 1 Pelican, 2 Pigeons, 1 Quail, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Ring-necked Duck, 9 Robins, 1 Screech Owl, 2 Seagulls, 13 Sparrows, 3 Starlings, 5 Turkeys, 3 Wood Ducks, 2 Wood Thrushes, and 9 Wrens; Mammals: 4 Flying Squirrels, 4 Gray Foxes, 8 Little Brown Bats, 61 Opossums, 36 Rabbits, 64 Raccoons, 1 Red Bat, 13 Red Foxes, and 15 Squirrels; and Reptiles: 8 Turtles.
Due to the unfortunate disappearance of forest, woods, and farmland, many wild animals lose their habitat to construction of townhouses, highways, shopping centers, and other human-related projects. As a result, many wild animals not only lose their home, shelter, and food source, they increasingly get in trouble with the public. Many of these animals end up with a rehabilitator after they are discovered in backyards, garden sheds or other manmade structures. Instead of being left alone, many of these animals are either trapped and taken to a rehabilitator in the hope they will be saved or are turned over to authorities with the sad outcome being that they often are euthanized or otherwise disposed of. For the rabies vector species (bats, foxes, groundhogs, raccoons and skunks), Virginia law requires that the animals be euthanized if they are not released on the property where they were found. It is not legal for these animals to be relocated to another area. If this were explained properly to the public, hopefully, most people would think twice before they called in the authorities.
In addition to hands on care of the animals, we also spend a good deal of time receiving and responding to numerous wildlife-related phone calls. The Alexandria Wild Bunch rehabilitation facility alone received and attended to over 300 calls from the public, animal shelters, and many other organizations. Resolving wildlife problems and giving advice to the public has helped many animals survive that otherwise might have been trapped, inappropriately relocated, or killed. This is probably the most important part of our mission because if we give the proper direction and assistance, most animals will not be hurt and often will be allowed to live unharmed where they have made their home. Also, talking to the callers often eliminates many "kidnapping" situations where baby animals are wrongly thought to be orphaned and are taken to a rehabilitator when their mother usually is around and is best qualified to take care of her babies.
Many of the calls Wild Bunch received in 2004 involved red foxes that were afflicted with sarcoptic mange. During the year, we received over 150 calls from the public seeking advice on how best to help foxes with this debilitating condition. We provide such callers with a very informative document, "Foxes and the Treatment of Sarcoptic Mange," as well as the necessary medication and instructions on how to proceed.
We also help other rehabilitators. In 2004, Wild Bunch assisted rehabilitators in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia with supplies and caging. We paid for some rehabilitators' required preexposure rabies vaccinations. Wild Bunch also produced a comprehensive manual, "Raccoon Care and Rehabilitation," and, in 2005, we plan to offer several classes to prospective and current rehabilitators.
In addition to providing animal care and public education, we are also continually maintaining and upgrading our facilities. This is often time consuming and frustrating. It is also very costly. In 2004, we had many, mostly unexpected, expenses. For example, a new barn had to be constructed to replace the one that Hurricane Isabel destroyed in the fall of 2003. Then, during a spring storm, lightning struck the well that supplies water to the refuge and a new pump had to be installed. Mother Nature was not kind to us in other ways during the year. Because of heavy rains, the bridge connecting most of the Wild Bunch land with the area containing the input center, outbuildings, outside cages, release cages, and feeding stations, suffered serious damage and had to be repaired. We learned the hard way that the original bridge, which had cost a considerable amount, had been poorly constructed. In 2004, major repair work needed to be done on the bridge so that it would be better able to withstand the heavy rainstorms that occur periodically. Unfortunately, this project has not yet been completed.
The heavy rains also eroded the path that leads from the intake center to the release cages and feeding stations. The path had to be repaired. In addition, the long asphalt driveway from the main road, (Newland Road, Route 624) to the intake center had to be completely regraded and a new asphalt driveway installed. This work had to be done before winter set in to make it possible to safely drive to the feeding stations that have to be stocked with food, especially during inclement weather, when little natural food is available in the woods and meadows.
Last, but not least, when I purchased the property, the beautiful woods, meadows and streams were littered with such trash as old farm equipment, cars, and even a catamaran. Smaller trash including broken windows, numerous tires, and other unsightly objects had been dumped throughout the property. It seems that some people just dump their trash in the woods instead of disposing of it properly. It was my understanding that the trash would be removed before I purchased the property. I was told the clean up had taken place when I signed the contract. Unfortunately, this occurred during one May at the height of "baby season" and I could not personally ensure that the unsightly trash had been removed. It had not. As a result, I have been very troubled every time I visited the refuge to see this beautiful place so littered with unsightly objects. So, in 2004, we had as much of the trash cleaned up as was possible. Although we picked up and removed a lot of the smaller trash ourselves, we spent quite a bit to have the large items hauled away and properly disposed of.
I would like to mention that it is very difficult to get experienced, reliable and reasonable contractors and workers in the Northern Neck area. We are often faced with having to pay exorbitant fees for poor work. Clearly, this problem is not unique to the Northern Neck area but it is a great frustration for us.
We also worked in 2004 to further educate ourselves. We provide the best care available for injured and orphaned wildlife. But, in addition to raising wild babies, curing illnesses, and mending broken bones, we are continually confronted with new and more complex problems like the West Nile Virus that makes it imperative that we stay on top of information about new emerging diseases and protocols that must change as the diseases themselves change. The care and rehabilitation of wildlife, indeed the conservation of all wildlife, is far more complex and challenging than ever before.
To all of you who have helped to make the Wild Bunch Refuge a unique and wonderful place, my sincere thanks and gratitude. Please help us keep pace with the rapidly changing threats facing wildlife and the ever increasing amount of wildlife that need our help. We welcome and need your continuing support.
The gift you give wildlife today will make the New Year better for all of us!