Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter – August 2006

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on 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, Erika received 7 raccoons and one mourning dove. At the refuge, Diana received 1 red fox, 7 raccoons, 3 blue jays, 6 rabbits, 11 opossums, 1 mockingbird, 2 ducks, 1 hummingbird, 1 groundhog, 9 ospreys, 8 squirrels, 1 grackle, 2 grey foxes, 2 blue herons, 1 green heron, 3 red-tailed hawks, 1 box turtle, 1 cooper’s hawk and 1 wood duck.

There have been many successful releases already this season. These include: blue herons, ospreys, red foxes, cooper’s and red-tailed hawks, and opossums. A goshawk, which Diana received as a baby in March, will finally be released in August. Goshawks are very aggressive and large, fierce hawks not normally seen in this area. This one lived up to its specie’s reputation by trying to attack anything that came into its enclosure. Goshawks prefer to live in mature, old growth forests and are excellent hunters. This hawk will be returned to its original habitat in Maryland for release.

Anyone who has experienced Washington summers knows how oppressive the non stop high heat and humidity can be; however, the weather this year has proven to be more challenging than usual both for us and for the area’s wild animals. After a particularly dry spring, the rains began in early summer, often bringing with them dramatic lightning storms, hail, and torrential downpours. The severe storms continued in July. Erika began the month caring for all the animals, many of them babies, in a house that had no electricity. Mud from her hillsides washed down into the outdoor cages adding greatly to our cleaning responsibilities.

While we were trying to cope with the power outages, flooding, etc., we knew that our wild neighbors were facing challenges as well. Late one night, following several days of downpours, a veterinarian brought Erika a young raccoon that the woman had found entangled in a fence and trapped in mud. The young animal arrived completely encrusted with mud. Although she was older than most of the orphans we receive, she could not stand and could only drag herself across the floor. Fearing that the little animal might have spinal injuries or other broken bones, after many calls, Erika located a veterinarian who agreed to examine the debilitated and lethargic animal. Happily, it turned out that by the time the little raccoon visited the vet, she was already well on the road to recovery. She soon became so feisty that we couldn’t believe that she was the filthy and pathetic creature we had first seen.

The intense heat, high humidity, and heavy storms have also had an impact on area foxes, many of which have lost their dens due to the widespread flooding. A large number of these foxes are suffering from sarcoptic mange. They are being seen out during the day searching for food as they are too debilitated to hunt successfully. The excessive heat and lack of available water adds to their misery. We are very grateful for the many people who try to help these suffering animals by using the protocol that has proven successful in treating mangy foxes.

We have followed with great interest what is being done in Great Britain to help mangy foxes. The National Fox Welfare Society has developed a program using a homoeopathic remedy proven to work against the dreadful condition of sarcoptic mange in foxes. Since the remedy is made up from natural ingredients, there is no fear of overdosing and nothing to worry about if a non-infected fox or other animal or bird takes the treatment. Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation has ordered the remedy and will experiment with the treatment.

So far, this summer, rehabilitators have reported an unusually large number of calls about raccoons and other wild animals that the public has trapped. Often, the homeowners call authorities for the animals’ removal or deliver the animals themselves to area shelters. In these cases, the homeowner will not permit the release of the animal on the land where it was trapped. Animals that are taken to the area animal shelters in their traps will most likely be euthanized. It appears that some local shelters actually lease traps to the public for a small deposit. Otherwise, traps can be readily purchased in feed stores as well as ordered online or from catalogs. This is a practice we highly discourage as most, if not all, of these animals should have been left alone. They had a home, source of food and water, and usually a family at the site where they were trapped. Many of those that are not euthanized are then handed over to rehabilitators. These animals are often quite challenging for the rehabilitators who must take on their care. Many of these animals are older, very stressed, difficult to handle and feed properly, and are unhappy at being caged. Often, sadly, the homeowners later discover that there were babies left behind that have died, will die or will end up needing to be raised by humans.

Erika gave a presentation on native wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation to twenty 6 to 13 year olds at the Arlington Animal Shelter. Although summer is a busy time of the year for rehabilitators, we believe that teaching children about our wild neighbors is one of our most important activities. We believe that as they learn more about our wild neighbors, the children will better appreciate the animals and will take actions that allow the animals to live peacefully among us. We encourage them to share what they have learned with their friends and families.

This month, on the Wild Bunch website, the True Story is a reprise of “Our Mischievous Wild Neighbor, the Gray Squirrel�. July is the month when the second groups of baby squirrels are received by wildlife rehabilitators in our area. While many other native wild animals only have one litter a year, usually in early spring, squirrels normally have one litter in late winter and a second one in mid summer. The True Story provides interesting facts about this amusing animal and contains a number of pictures of squirrels of various ages from hairless newborns to the fat, sassy animals we see raiding our backyard birdfeeders.

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