Wild Bunch Newsletter - July 2006
Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on 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 June, Erika received 18 raccoons, 2 groundhogs, 5 striped skunks, and one flying squirrel. At the Refuge, Diana received 19 raccoons, 27 opossums, 5 skunks, 4 fawns, 1 sparrow, 2 box turtles, 1 barn swallow, 9 grackles, 14 rabbits, 9 wrens, 3 ospreys, 2 ducks, 21 geese, 1 turkey, 2 red-tailed hawks, 4 robins, 4 squirrels, 1 white pigeon, 1 woodpecker, 2 terns, 2 great horned owls, and one duck.
As is usual for this time of year, we are wondering when the influx of animals will slow down. No matter what the species, there are always situations that require the help of an experienced wildlife rehabilitator. That, along with the large numbers of babies we have to take care of right now, really adds to the workload of our already fatigued rehabbers. Each "baby season" is different, with some much better than others. While the great majority of our animals are cared for successfully and released, this spring, we have dealt with the loss of a large number of raccoons due to a very aggressive bacterial infection. Rehabbers from Northern Virginia across to the Eastern Shore of Maryland have been reporting similar experiences. In cases like this, we must rely on the advice and expertise of our veterinarians in determining the best course of action. Although we have been devastated by these deaths, we hope that we are now able to dramatically reverse the spread of this extremely serious condition through the use of the appropriate antibiotics.
Not all of our June news is sad, however. Cynthia and Dave Harry of nearby King George, VA brought their Australian friends, Phillip and Lesley Machin to tour the Refuge in mid June. The Machins are very involved in wildlife rehabilitation in Australia and operate their own wildlife refuge there. They were curious to see some of the local animals we care for, view the facilities, and generally talk shop about similarities and differences in wildlife rehabilitation. They had never seen a raccoon before and were impressed. They also compared the similarities between our opossum and their marsupials. Owls and other raptors were another area of interest. The Machins showed Diana many pictures of the various reptiles, kangaroos, and wombats that they handle. It was amusing to see Lesley with a 35 pound wombat in her lap being bottle fed! Lesley specializes in snakes, and showed a photo of her untangling a brown snake (very poisonous) from bird netting. The interesting and informative website for their refuge is http://www.wildcare.com/au/.
Recently, Erika was asked to help the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) with a video they are producing for their Coats for Cubs program. The Coats for Cubs program was established as a way to help people divest themselves of their furs and use those same furs to help orphaned or injured animals. HSUS distributes the fur products it receives to licensed wildlife rehabilitators, who cut the furs into smaller pieces to create bedding for the wild animals in their care. For young animals, the soft pieces of fur provide comfort and often serve as a surrogate mother. Erika allowed the video team to tape footage of some of her baby raccoons enjoying the warmth and comfort of the donated fur. Erika was one of several people who were interviewed on the importance of this program and its positive benefits. HSUS advised us that when it is completed, the video will be available for viewing on their website.
More than 200 rehabilitators from across the United States and Canada participate in the Coats for Cubs program. HSUS accepts all types of fur garments, including coats, hats, gloves, scarves, muffs and items with fur trim. The most common furs to be donated are mink, fox, rabbit and raccoon, followed by the occasional lynx and seal products.
The good news is that more people are deciding to donate their fur: 1,500 people donated fur in 2005, up from 800 in 2004. In some cases, donors purchased the fur items themselves but no longer wanted to wear them and didn't know what to do with them. For others, the furs were inherited from a relative. Coats for Cubs gives these fur owners an opportunity to clear out their closets, do something to help animals in need, and even earn a tax break for their donations. The donors no longer spread the message that fur is fashionable and although it is too late to save the animal killed to make the fur garment, at least that sacrifice can help out other young animals in need.
The True Story for the month is "Meet the Gardener's Best Friend - Master of Pest Control: The Skunk". June is normally the time of the year when baby skunks first venture out and, because they are often erroneously regarded as a menace and a nuisance, the public typically wants them picked up or eliminated. In many cases, the mother is killed or trapped and relocated before the people become aware that babies are involved. We believe that many people are intolerant of skunks in large part because they are uninformed about what very useful and harmless animals skunks actually are. If you have skunks in your garden or yard, don't evict them, as they will eat the insect "pests" that you don't want eating your vegetables and flowers. Skunks are poor climbers, have bad eyesight, and cannot dig dens very well. Their only defense mechanism is the ability to spray to keep enemies away. It is not a foregone conclusion that if you are near a skunk, you will get sprayed. Some rehabbers, who have worked extensively with skunks over the years, have told us that they have never been sprayed.
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.