Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter - June 2006

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on our activities during the month of May. 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 May, Erika received 31 raccoons, 2 red foxes and 1 groundhog. At the Refuge, Diana received 1 gray fox, 3 ospreys, 12 opossums, 4 sparrows, 9 geese, 1 dove, 1 fawn, 1 barred owl, 15 raccoons, 1 robin, 1 broadhead skink, 2 red foxes, 12 rabbits, 4 bluebirds, 1 blue jay, 1 kestrel, 1 wood thrush, 1 hummingbird, 3 squirrels, 1 great horned owl and 1 hawk.

We are now well into the challenges of "baby season." Under the best of circumstances, baby season can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Wild orphans in need of care are arriving or needing to be picked up at all hours of the day and night. There are late night and early morning feedings and, at times, middle of the night feedings. The clothes washer runs from dawn until late at night washing baby blankets and towels. The cages and Lucite boxes used to house the babies need to be cleaned frequently. While keeping up with the daily routine is difficult, the new arrivals require significantly more time and attention. In the case of the baby raccoons, not all take as readily to being bottle fed as others. In addition to being more difficult to feed, many of the new ones do not sleep well, initially whimpering and crying out for their mothers. They also come to us in a variety of conditions: some arrive quite healthy, while others are cold, dehydrated, starving, sick, and injured. Every baby season, we must face the sad fact that there are always some that we cannot save despite our best efforts. Fortunately, though, most recover quickly from their early hardships, settle in well, begin to thrive and are soon captivating us with their antics. These will spend several months with us before they are ready to be returned to their wild lives.

Spring not only brings us many orphans needing care but also a great increase in calls about wildlife concerns. Typically, these calls are about perceived wildlife "nuisance" issues such as foxes under decks, raccoons in chimneys and attics, beavers gnawing on ornamental trees, and groundhogs digging their burrows in suburban yards. Some of these calls can be quite frustrating to deal with but we always try to offer suggestions that will be helpful to the callers without harming the animals. The best outcome is when we can provide information that allows the caller not only to tolerate but also to appreciate their wild neighbors and see them for the fascinating beings that they are.

Sometimes the calls result in the rescue of animals, which then arrive on our doorstep for care. With our area's shrinking natural habitat and the intolerance of many people towards wildlife, it is fortunate that wild animals are generally quite resilient and though they often come to us having been rescued from dangerous situations, hurt, starving, or ill, most survive. We would like to tell you about two such survivors we were able to help in May. One was a red fox we called Lazarus and the other was an adult groundhog we named Houdini.

In the case of Lazarus the fox, a lady from Reston called to say that after a recent heavy rain, she had found a very dirty, wet, and lethargic red fox that had been flushed out of a storm drain. She was unable to find any other red foxes in the area. She soon arrived at Erika's with a very pathetic and listless red fox cub. At first glance, Erika was afraid the little fox was dying or already dead. Erika expected that the animal would soon die but cleaned it, hydrated it, and performed the usual triage. The animal was a 6 to 7 week old vixen (female fox). Once the little vixen had perked up a bit, Erika placed her in a large carton in her living room. Still uncertain of the animal's prospects, Erika went to check on her a few hours later. Erika managed to grab a revived Lazarus just as she was jumping out of her box. It was hard to believe how near death the now bundle of energy had been. Lazarus has since joined the other red fox cubs at the Refuge where she will be released later this year.

Houdini groundhog was also a rescue case. One day in early May, the Fairfax City animal warden found an adult groundhog walking down the middle of Main Street. She took the groundhog to Dr. Anne Hiss at Town and Country Animal Hospital. After examining the groundhog, Dr. Hiss delivered it to Erika. Erika put the groundhog in a large, secure animal carrier and set it on the portico for Dennis O'Connor to pick up and deliver to the Wild Bunch Refuge for his wife, Diana, to examine and eventually release there. When Dennis arrived, he and Erika were very surprised to discover that the groundhog had chewed away most of the sides of the carrier and had nearly squeezed himself completely out. Using a towel, Erika and Dennis quickly grabbed the near escapee and hustled him into a wire cage. At the Refuge, Diana examined the groundhog and placed him in a sturdy, large wire cage. To Diana's great surprise, our Houdini groundhog was able to escape from the wire cage and release himself during the night. The Refuge is a great habitat for groundhogs. Houdini groundhog has taken up residence under the old homestead at the Refuge where he can burrow to his heart's content in the company of several other groundhogs that also live there.

In honor of Houdini and because we always receive many calls concerning groundhogs at this time of the year, our True Story for June is a reprise of "The Groundhog, Our Underground Architect." Groundhogs, which are also called woodchucks and, less commonly, whistle pigs, are among the many fascinating native species that live among us. Extraordinarily good diggers, groundhogs excavate underground burrows that include latrines (which they routinely clean out), dens, and tunnels. The burrows are even architecturally designed to prevent flooding. This month's True Story provides many interesting facts about these animals and discusses some of the groundhog-related issues that we receive calls about. You can find the True Story on our website at

We are also finishing up some of our bigger improvement projects both in Alexandria and at the Refuge. A new outdoor raccoon cage has been constructed at Erika's. Once the flooring has been installed and the interior has been "decorated," it will be ready for some of this year's orphans to move into when they are old enough to be moved outside. At the Refuge, the beautiful new fox cage will soon be housing gray foxes. It will provide both digging and climbing opportunities for the young foxes until they are ready to be released to the Refuge's woods and meadows. Diana is already putting the other cages that were constructed at the Refuge over the winter to good use housing a wide variety of rehabbed birds and mammals.

In addition to our other activities, we also took part in a favorite annual educational program. On a cool Sunday in early May, Bonnie and Erika participated in Wetlands Awareness Day at Huntley Meadows, Fairfax County's large wetland park. Many of the visitors stopped by our table to view photographs of our wild orphans, gather information about native Virginia species, ask questions, and discuss their own experiences with wildlife. Young visitors were given special coloring books that also provided interesting information about many of the wild animals that live in Northern Virginia. Several of the families began discussing and looking through the handouts together before even leaving the table.

We also received some welcome news in May, when we were notified by the local federal coordinating committee of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) of the National Capital Area that Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation has been approved to participate in the 2006 fundraising campaign. The CFC is a charitable donation program for federal government employees. It is the largest workplace charity campaign in the country and the only program authorized to solicit and collect contributions from federal employees at their workplace. The annual charitable donation drive provides funds to a wide variety of non-profit local, national, and international organizations. We are grateful to Shannan Catalano, who researched the CFC application process and hand-delivered the required forms and documents to the program's DC office. We are hopeful that our participation in CFC will provide much needed additional funds to support wildlife and our activities at Wild Bunch. Our CFC National Capital Area "designation number" is 7600. Please encourage any federal employees you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities.

We want to thank everyone who continues to help our wild friends. We are always 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. We are delighted to report that the Skyline Mall Target store is now giving us pet food that cannot be sold because of damaged packaging. We are also grateful to a Fairfax couple, who after bringing Erika a tiny female raccoon (now named Sheena), went home and immediately ordered boxes of hot water bottles and heating pads for Wild Bunch. These are being put to good use helping keep tiny orphans warm. This month, Wild Bunch also received generous checks from several longtime supporters who sent encouraging notes and said that the checks were to help meet the increased demands of baby season. These, too, are being put to good use. Financial donations 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.