Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter - July 2005

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update of our activities during the month of June. 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 1 box turtle, 3 blue jays, 2 ospreys, 13 robins, 3 hawks, 6 rabbits, 4 grackles, 1 turkey vulture, 2 starlings, 8 raccoons, 5 sparrows, 1 yellow warbler, 1 pileated woodpecker, 4 bluebirds, 3 ducks, 1 turkey, 2 fawns and 5 chickadees. Erika received 7 baby raccoons.

We continue to receive numerous calls each day from a variety of sources about wildlife concerns. In June, many of these calls involved raccoons in attics and chimneys, in sheds, or under decks. As our urban sprawl increases, so do conflicts between people and wildlife. When we destroy the habitat of wild animals, the animals work hard to survive in their altered landscapes. Raccoons have become masters at making adaptations. In the springtime, when we receive the raccoon in the attic type calls, the situation often concerns female raccoons who have entered chimneys, attics, etc. believing they have found a safe place to have their babies. We try to encourage the callers to let the raccoon family live there and assure them that the mother will move her babies on her own to a more natural den when the babies are about 6 weeks old. Sometimes, however, we aren’t called until after adverse actions have been taken and the wild mothers have been run off or killed and the homeowner has discovered that he now has several starving babies on his hands. In June, three of the baby raccoons that Erika received had fallen from chimneys into fireplaces. One arrived with singed whiskers and soot covered fur. Such home maintenance measures as capping chimneys, blocking holes to the attic, and repairing loose siding are the best ways to prevent the unwanted home invasions that result in animals being harmed and homeowners experiencing needless headaches and extra expenses. Of, course, one should ensure that no animals are inside before capping chimneys, ceiling attics, etc.

It is always of great interest each spring and summer to view the ups and downs in the numbers of the different wildlife species that come into the rehabber’s care. These numbers can change as a direct result of the environment, such as loss of habitat, disease, availability of natural food sources, be it plant or animal, and the capacity of a particular area to sustain an individual species. This past spring for example, there have been far fewer baby squirrels than usual. Many people believe that the cicadas of last year, having killed the tips of the oak branches, severely curtailed the production of acorns. Acorns are, of course, a major staple of squirrels during the winter months. With this food source not available, they were forced to find food sources elsewhere. Some of us, in our own neighborhoods, have noticed the squirrels are now returning, but in much smaller numbers. It is any one’s guess what the next birthing season in late summer will bring. On the other hand, robins are around in greater numbers than normal while woodpeckers’ numbers are reduced. We are happy to see the return of crows, a species which suffered greatly from the West Nile Virus.

In June, in addition to her other activities, Erika spent many hours working with her apprentice rehabilitators. As an experienced wildlife rehabilitator, each year, Erika often sponsors several new rehabilitators. In Virginia, wildlife rehabilitators must be licensed by the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. (An additional license issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is required to rehabilitate most birds.) The rehabilitator’s caging and facilities must be approved by representatives of the state. Those planning to care for rabies vector species (bats, foxes, groundhogs, raccoons, and skunks) are required to have a series of rabies pre-exposure shots. New rehabbers serve a two year apprenticeship under their sponsoring rehabilitator. The sponsor provides the apprentice with training, assistance in setting up and acquiring appropriate caging and necessary supplies, and ultimately, healthy orphaned animals to rehabilitate. Perhaps most important, once the new rehabber is caring for animals, the sponsor provides moral support. There is always a need for more competent, caring rehabilitators; Erika takes her responsibilities as a sponsor very seriously.

Our True Story last month was Erika’s article “Living With Beavers.� Its inspiration was our discovery of a stream at the Wild Bunch refuge that contained more beaver lodges than any of us had ever seen before. In response to a request, we are leaving it on the Web site as our June True Story. The article provides detailed information about these fascinating animals and the important role they play in creating and maintaining wetlands. Among other things, the beavers’ work provides a habitat for other animals, a refuge for sensitive plant species, improved water quality, and flood control as well as aesthetic and recreational benefits that humans enjoy. All too often, beavers are thought of only in the context of problems- with the first solution being to kill the beavers. The article provides information on how these problems can be resolved humanely. As in the case of wildlife in the attics and chimneys, the human response to real or perceived inconvenience caused by the animals is often to reach for guns, traps, or poisons. In all these cases, other solutions exist.

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. 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.