Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter - April 2006

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update of our activities during the month of March. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of native wildlife. 83 acres on 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.

Erika received no wildlife in March. However, now that spring is here, wildlife calls in the Northern Virginia area have increased, mostly with questions and concerns about wildlife under decks, porches, stoops and other areas around the house. We believe it is imperative to stress to callers that there might be babies this time of the year and we explain the various methods that can be used to deal with these situations humanely.

In the past month, the refuge received 2 black vultures, 2 screech owls, 2 barred owls, 1 grackle, 1 seagull, 1 rabbit, and 1 box turtle.

Soon, baby foxes, raccoons and other mammals, as well as birds, will arrive and we are getting ready for them by preparing housing and obtaining all the necessary supplies for the upcoming season. We are also in the planning stage for an additional cage to be built for foxes at the refuge. In years past, babies have arrived as early as March 1st, which normally is a time that we are not fully prepared for babies as the over wintered animals have yet to be released. This year, we are fortunate and have had the luxury of planning for the release of our three "bears" without the added duties of caring for babies. Our bears are actually three male raccoons that have been with us since last fall. They have been a very amusing group and are lovingly called Little Bear (who remained tiny for a long time), Crying Bear (he has been a whiner since the very beginning!), and Big Bear (boy, does he live up to his name). This is the first time we have not had both males and females to winter over. This is actually a good thing as, this time of year, their hormones kick in and the maturing raccoons can be very rambunctious. We have enjoyed seeing this group grow up and we know how happy they will be to finally be released into their natural habitat.

Bonnie, Charlene, and Erika attended the quarterly meeting of the Wildlife Rescue League of Northern Virginia (WRL) where Connie Sale of Chesapeake, Virginia's Wildlife Response, Inc. was the guest speaker. An experienced and well respected hummingbird rehabilitator, Connie provided a wealth of information about what is involved in caring for injured and orphaned hummingbirds. We learned that as with other wild animals, life is full of danger for hummingbirds. They are killed or seriously injured as a result of difficulties caused by weather, predators (including free roaming cats), disease, and a variety of human-induced problems. It is a particular challenge to care for these tiny, fragile patients that are an inch long when they hatch and weigh 0.1 ounce or less when fully grown. Among the must have equipment is a magnifying visor for the rehabber to see and treat miniscule broken wings, broken beaks, injured feet, and diseased mouths. We learned that hummingbirds go into a hypoglycemic torpor if not fed frequently enough and that they are territorial, high strung, and easily stressed. Even for those of us who do not rehab hummingbirds, it was a worthwhile meeting. Connie offered a number of useful tips for those of us who put out feeders for these tiny garden visitors. One important suggestion was to avoid using bee guards on feeders. (A hummingbird with its beak inserted through the bee guard is very vulnerable and can easily break its beak if it needs to make a quick getaway from the feeder.) Armed with knowledge we learned in this class, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our area's Ruby-throated Hummingbirds this spring.

A second Raccoon Care and Rehabilitation Class was presented by Erika in March to a group of experienced and novice rehabbers from as far away as Norfolk, Virginia. It was a lively workshop with everybody interacting well. All of the participants had a lot to offer with new ideas for cages and other items needed for raising baby raccoons.

Erika also spoke at the Mt. Vernon Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia to 30 third graders. The program, which was sponsored by the Alexandria Animal Welfare League and the Alexandria School System, was called "Animal Magnetism". The youngsters were very responsive to learning about wildlife and most had stories to tell about experiences with local wildlife. Quite a bit of material was handed out, including a pamphlet for the children to take home for their parents to learn more about wildlife. Hopefully, the children as well as their parents learned more about our local wild neighbors through this program.

Bonnie and Erika took advantage of our (thus far) babyless days to make a couple of long anticipated visits. First, we went to the home of Alexia Scott, an area apprentice raccoon rehabilitator. We had a pleasant visit with Alexia, saw her outdoor raccoon cage, met some of her family -- both human and nonhuman -- and viewed some of her wonderful paintings. Erika first met Alexia a year ago after Alexia's family rescued six orphan raccoons whose mother had been harassed and run off by dogs at a home in Annandale. Alexia cared for the six babies for a few days before she found Erika to take them in and raise them. They kicked off the 2005 baby season at Erika's in a big way. (The story of the six siblings is included in the True Story, "The Delightful Dozen: Twelve Orphan Raccoons Grow Up" under "Encore!" on the Wild Bunch website.) Alexia then became an apprentice rehabber and recently took Erika's raccoon rehabilitation class. Following our visit with Alexia, we made a quick stop at the Town and Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax to see the display that our veterinarian, Dr. Anne Hiss, had set up to raise awareness about wildlife and funds to help defray the medical costs of providing treatment for seriously ill and injured wildlife. We were pleased to see that two of the three "medical miracle" orphans featured on the display board were ones that we had cared for and successfully rehabbed. They are discussed in this month's True Story on the website.

As mentioned above, this month's True Story on the website ( is a requested reprise of "The True Story of Three Severely Injured Wild Orphans and Their Miraculous Recoveries." It provides the heartwarming stories of three of our miracle orphans: Lawnmower Boy, a tiny raccoon that came into our care after he was run over by a lawnmower; The Little Girl, a fragile young raccoon that came to us with a badly broken and infected hip; and Mr. Fox, a feisty little red fox that had suffered severe abdominal wounds. The article provides information on the significant efforts taken by us and caring veterinarians to save these little wild orphans. It is accompanied by dramatic photographs of the young animals with their devastating injuries and cheery photos of the successfully rehabbed and releasable animals they became.

We want to thank everyone who continues to help our wild friends. We are grateful for the donations that make it possible to help so many animals. We could not manage the large scope of work we must accomplish without your help and support. Financial donations to the refuge can be mailed to Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation, 402 West Alexandria Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22302-4204. We hope you realize how deeply we rely on your support and how much we appreciate everything you do to help us out.