Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter- October 2006

Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on our activities during the month of September. 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 8 raccoons. At the Refuge, Diana received 2 bald eagles, 2 box turtles, 1 mourning dove, 1 night hawk, 1 pelican, 8 rabbits, 1 raccoon, 2 red-tailed hawks, 29 squirrels, and 1 wild turkey.

Recently, we began the yearly release of our spring raccoons. As it happened, the two "wild girls," whose adventures we had chronicled in last month’s newsletter, were the first to go. (They had escaped from their cage and spent several days exploring between the walls of Erika’s house before being trapped and returned to their large indoor cage thus allowing Erika’s blood pressure to begin to return to normal.) Their wild aggressive behavior made them a challenge to care for throughout their stay. Recently, their increased pacing indicated that was clearly time to let them return to life in the wild. Rounding up two animals for transport to their release site was certainly much easier than the up to one dozen that we have taken to the release site in one trip in prior years. The two girls were so quiet during the ride that we wondered if they hadn’t escaped again. However, all went well and we were happy that they were on their way to a life in the perfect surroundings of the Refuge. After spending a few days in their release cage, their window was opened and their new life in the beautiful forest began.

During our visit, we were able to wander around the Refuge and check out the remaining animals that were not yet ready for release. Still in residence, and maturing and/or recovering from injuries, are several ospreys, a pelican, opossums, red foxes, a great horned owl, and several barred owls. The new fox cage has been a blessing this year, as has the additional caging for other animals that was completed this spring. Diana says that the new enclosures have made a big difference in being able to rehab with less stress than usually occurs during the busy season. Just having enough housing for all the species that come in has made life much easier. If we just had some volunteers to help out, life at the Refuge would be even further improved. Although Diana’s husband, Dennis, does a great job helping at the Refuge on weekends, we face a continuing challenge in finding volunteers to help Diana feed and care for the often overwhelming number of animals representing diverse species that arrive at the Refuge.

Although this has been a very hard, sad, and frustrating year, sometimes good things do happen. In September, Erika received an e-mail from someone who had seen Erika’s business card on a bulletin board at Caledon Natural Area, a park east of Fredericksburg. In her e-mail, Kelly Westermeyer said that she and her family had moved to Fredericksburg from Ohio where she had been a wildlife rehabilitator. She said that animals were her passion, that she "missed her critters," and that she was interested in the possibility of volunteering with Wild Bunch. The Refuge is located about one hour from Fredericksburg so we were very interested in meeting Kelly. We invited her to come to the Refuge the day we returned to release the two raccoons. Although she has a very busy schedule, she was able to join us. We learned that her undergraduate degree was in wildlife management, that she had volunteered at the Columbus Zoo, had worked as a lab animal care provider, and that she had spent 6 years volunteering at the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, Ohio. She particularly endeared herself to us when she told us (over lunch) that she never minded "cleaning poop." Although Kelly has a husband, two young children, a number of pets, and a job, she hopes to volunteer at the Refuge on Sundays as well as do rescues and transport animals. We could use more volunteers at the Refuge but this is an excellent start and we are delighted to welcome Kelly to the Wild Bunch family.

We began the month by carefully reviewing and preparing comments to submit to Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) on their proposed changes to the state’s regulations concerning wildlife rehabilitation. As we were preparing the last newsletter, we had just found out that major changes were being proposed to nearly every aspect of the existing regulations -- including what animals can be rehabilitated. As these proposed changes would affect everything we do in our efforts to rehabilitate wildlife, we took this DGIF activity very seriously. We and other rehabilitators from around the state submitted comments expressing grave concerns with the secretive process used to develop the proposed changes, the often vague and ambiguous language of the proposed changes, and the poorly thought out and often harmful policy changes. DGIF required the comments to be submitted by September 8. We are continuing to anxiously watch the status of the proposed changes, few of which we found to be an improvement over the ones currently in effect. Although we have not heard anything officially, we have been informally told that the response to the comments was very strong and generally in opposition to most of the proposed changes. Assurances have been made that before anything is finalized, there will be a public hearing where rehabilitators and other interested parties will have the opportunity to make their case(s) in an organized way.

Late in the month, Erika and Bonnie attended a Northern Virginia Regional Rabies Information Forum that was held in Centreville. The purpose of the Forum was to bring "rabies response partners" from across Northern Virginia together to collaborate on rabies response, to evaluate regional needs and resources, and to develop a plan for greater community outreach on the issue of rabies. Erika was especially pleased that one of the Forum speakers was nationally recognized rabies expert Suzanne Jenkins, VMD, MPH, who discussed updates to the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control and related matters. Erika had found Dr. Jenkins to be both very knowledgeable and helpful in the past. Other participants included a veterinary epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, several area animal control officers, and staff of the Fairfax County and City of Alexandria health departments. Since many of the animals we rehabilitate are considered to be high risk rabies species, this was an important meeting for us to attend.

One sunny Sunday in mid September, Erika and Bonnie participated in the Town of Herndon’s Nature Fest at Runnymede Park. As many of you know, we consider public outreach and education to be extremely important activities, particularly in our highly overdeveloped area where the native wildlife are increasingly losing their natural habitats and are being forced to live in ever closer proximity to humans. We provided informational brochures, children’s coloring books featuring our wild neighbors, and the opportunity for people to ask questions and discuss wildlife. We were a bit surprised to receive question after question about hummingbirds.

Often, when we receive a number of questions about one particular species, we find that the questions are inspired by the various posters we have on display of animals that have been cared for by us and other area rehabilitators. We had nothing with us that hinted of hummingbirds but we welcomed the questions.

Our True Story for October on the website this month is "Nocturnal Wild Neighbors, Around, but Seldom Seen." Most people would be surprised to learn how much wildlife, of many species, closely share our environment. As many of these animals are primarily active only at night, we can tune in to the different sights and sounds that can be seen and heard to give us an idea of the variety of animals that are around us. We believe that anyone, who spends time observing these wild creatures of the night, will be greatly rewarded.

As always, 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 needing 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.

Speaking of donations, we were delighted to learn this past spring that Wild Bunch had been approved to participate in the 2006 Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) of the National Capital Area. 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 nonprofit local, national, and international organizations. The CFC’s 2006 campaign began on September 26 and will conclude on December 15. We are hopeful that our participation in the 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. We would be extremely appreciative if you would encourage any federal employees you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities. Donations can be made here.