Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter - December 2006

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on our activities during the month of November. 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.

This past month at the refuge, Diana received one red-tailed hawk. Erika received one flying squirrel. At this time of year, it is fairly unusual to receive young orphans but we have been receiving many calls about injured foxes and raccoons as well as about foxes suffering from sarcoptic mange. We do, however, have several animals that must be over wintered either because they were too young or not physically ready to be released in the fall when they would have had time to acclimate to life in the wild before the harsh weather begins. Erika has 6 raccoons that we will be caring for over the winter and Diana has several owls, hawks, ospreys, and squirrels at the refuge.

In addition to the sick and injured wildlife calls, we have also recently received several inquiries about trapping and relocating foxes. In one case, a family in Northern Virginia has often been followed at a distance by an unusually bold fox as they walk about their wooded suburban home site. The fox is not aggressive towards the people or their domestic animals and appears to be quite healthy. The homeowners called because they are concerned about the safety of the fox not because they think it might harm a person or a domestic animal. In cases like this, we explain that moving the fox to another area is not in its best interest. This would be taking an animal that is quite possibly part of a family away from its home and putting into unknown territory. The animal does not know the food sources, does not have a den site, does not have companions of its species, and has no knowledge of the local predators or the competing wildlife population. In many cases, this can mean death for the relocated animal. We encourage these callers in this type of situation to allow the animal to remain in its home area and to take pleasure in the wonderful opportunity they have to observe wildlife so closely.

One move that we did support was the relocation of our only resident pelican at the refuge to a temporary winter home in Virginia Beach. This adult pelican was found stranded in the Potomac River after being blown about by a severe storm this past August. After spending R&R time at Wild Bunch, it was too late in the year to release it. There are no other pelicans in the area now and they need to be with others of their species. A well known rehabber in Virginia Beach, Lisa Barlow, was happy to drive to the refuge and pick up our very healthy pelican to take it to her facility where it will spend the winter months with several other pelicans.

Over the years, one of our continuing challenges has been finding competent, caring, and reliable volunteers to help Diana with the innumerable tasks that are involved in caring for the hundreds of animals of many species that are taken in at the refuge. Earlier this year, we told you about Kelly Westermeyer who had contacted Erika after seeing Erika's wildlife rehabilitation "business" card posted on the bulletin board of a park east of Fredericksburg. Kelly had recently moved to Fredericksburg with her husband and young children. She had previously volunteered for several years at an Ohio wildlife rehabilitation center. We invited her to visit the refuge. When we met with her, she told us that she "missed her critters" and although she had limited spare time, she hoped that she could devote some of it to helping out at the refuge. In the past few months, she has managed to arrange her work schedule and her family responsibilities to enable her to spend most Sundays at the refuge. In early November, her help allowed Diana to attend an out of town weekend wildlife conference. One of Kelly's primary duties that weekend was to hand feed a barred owl. Kelly reports that she is now helping with the intensive cage scouring that is needed before the next baby season begins. She also told us about a special baby squirrel whose prognosis she and Diana had thought was hopeless when he arrived at the refuge a few weeks ago. Kelly says that the little squirrel, who is now named Miracle, "is racing around like a happy little crazy guy!" We can only repeat what we said earlier, we are very happy that Kelly joined our Wild Bunch family this year.

In addition to the cleaning and sanitizing that Kelly mentioned, each year, during the relatively slow winter months, we spend a lot of time on general maintenance and improvements for our facilities. This winter, we hope to address something that has been on our refuge improvement list for some time. Every year, several severe storms hit the Northern Neck area. During power outages, the well cannot be operated. This can have a devastating effect on operating the refuge and on properly caring for our wild orphans and patients. The refuge uses a lot of water for preparing food, providing drinking water, filling pools, and, of course, for cleaning everything from baby bottles to large flight cages. Without electricity, the food that is in the huge freezers and refrigerators is in danger of spoiling; the air conditioning does not work; and the incubators and heating pads that help keep tiny orphans warm are useless. The answer, of course, is a generator that is capable of keeping things running. For the past several years, we had hoped to be able to afford one but there were always other priorities that seemed to be even more urgent. However, after this year's outages, we realized that we can no longer put off the purchase of a generator. After spending a considerable amount of time reviewing types of generators, looking for reliable companies that would have a quality product and provide good service, and comparing prices, we estimate that a generator will cost us about $7,000. Although we currently don't have the necessary funds, we will purchase a generator, one way or the other, early next year.

We want to make everyone aware of a program run by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) called Coats for Cubs. This program encourages individuals with unwanted furs to donate the furs to a good cause. HSUS collects the furs, fur-trimmed garments and accessories -- including coats, gloves, hats and muffs - and then distributes them to wildlife rehabilitators. The rehabilitators use these fur pieces as "surrogate mothers" for orphaned and injured wildlife such as foxes, raccoons, squirrels, and rabbits that are in their care. While this doesn't bring back the animals that were killed for their fur, in giving fur back to animals, people can help reduce stress and provide comfort to other wild creatures. If you or anyone you know has a fur to donate, it can be mailed to Coats for Cubs, The HSUS, 2100 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20037. More information is available at HSUS staff has told us that the website will soon contain a video about the Coats for Cubs program. Earlier this year, Erika and some of our raccoon orphans were filmed during the making of the video.

This month, to celebrate the holidays, we are departing from our usual True Story format this website. As we have for the last two or three years, we are featuring a special seasonal poem for animal lovers called "A Christmas Tale" by Peggi Rodgers. The poem is accompanied by a delightful drawing that portrays the fun loving animals that are featured in the poem. We hope you will enjoy it.

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 number of animals needing care 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 are hopeful that our participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the federal government's annual charitable fundraising effort, will provide much needed additional funds to support wildlife and our activities at Wild Bunch. Our CFC National Capital Area "designation number" is 7600. We would be extremely appreciative if you would encourage any federal employees you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities.

We wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and a wonderful new year.