Wild Bunch Newsletter â€“ September 2006
Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on our activities during the month of August. 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 5 raccoons. At the Refuge, Diana received 1 blue heron 10 ospreys, 2 green herons, 2 bald eagles, 2 red-tailed hawks, 2 Cooperâ€™s hawks,13 squirrels,1 gray fox, 2 doves, 1 quail, 1 wood duck, 1 mallard, 4 rabbits, 4 bluebirds, 6 wrens, 5 robins, 1 Canada goose, and 2 raccoons.
At Erikaâ€™s, August began with an unusual sort of predicament: two of our wilder, young raccoons found an opportunity to go AWOL from their cage in Erikaâ€™s basement and ended up spending several days at large in the house. The story ended happily, but only after several anxious days and sleepless nights for Erika as she listened to the escapees moving around between the house walls and between floors and ceilings. One of the runaways was the young female raccoon we mentioned in the last newsletter. Late one July night, after several days of heavy, flooding rains, she had been found by a veterinarian. She was entangled in a fence and trapped in the mud. The little raccoon arrived at Erikaâ€™s encrusted in mud, limp, unable to walk or even stand. Fearing that she had a broken spine or other serious injuries, Erika took her to a vet for x-rays and a thorough exam the next day. By appointment time, the little raccoon was well on the road to recovery and quickly became a very feisty little creature. It wasnâ€™t long before an animal control officer picked up another young female raccoon marching on her own down a suburban road. This raccoon also came to Erikaâ€™s for care. Although young, both of these animals had clearly been living on their own and they wanted little to do with their human benefactors.
The two scrappy little raccoons were put together in a large, tall cage in Erikaâ€™s basement â€œanimal room.â€� They were allowed to remain in the cage even when it was cleaned. One morning, during cage cleaning and feeding time, they discovered that their door was momentarily ajar and unguarded. They decided to make a break for it. When their disappearance was discovered, a thorough search was begun. Eventually, they were discovered in an unreachable area under a staircase in Erikaâ€™s laundry room. Humane traps were quickly set and doors were closed. But these were not ordinary escapees; these were curious, agile, adaptable raccoons. As days passed, Erika became increasingly concerned that they hadnâ€™t had food or water for some time and that they might not be able to return from between the walls or wherever they had ended up. The traps were relocated and reset with smelly canned cat food as bait. We kept our fingers crossed. When Erika next checked the traps, she was overjoyed and very relieved to find a little returnee lying calmly in each one. The two little explorers were returned to their large cage where they have passed the following weeks without further incidents.
In early August, Erika, Bonnie, and Linda Jasper, who also volunteers at Erikaâ€™s, were among the attendees at a meeting at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. This was a follow-up to a meeting that several area wildlife rehabilitators had had with shelter director Karen Diviney and members of her staff to discuss ways that the rehabilitators and shelter personnel could better work together on matters involving injured, orphaned, and displaced wildlife that are brought to the shelter. Because in Fairfax County, animal control activities are run by the police department, Karen invited Mike Lucas, Fairfax Countyâ€™s chief animal control officer, to attend the follow-up meeting. And because the State of Virginia has overall jurisdiction over matters involving wildlife, Karen also invited our area game warden to participate in the August meeting. Information, ideas, and suggestions were exchanged that will, we hope, improve the chances for wildlife that are brought to the shelter by animal control or members of the public.
The rehabilitators, who were present at the Fairfax shelter meeting, were particularly interested when the state game warden mentioned that he had been among the attendees at a meeting in Richmond the previous day that was held for Virginiaâ€™s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to unveil draft proposed changes to the regulations concerning wildlife rehabilitation and rehabilitators. Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Virginia Health Department, and a very few rehabilitators representing some geographic regions of Virginia were invited to the quickly and quietly scheduled Richmond meeting. (We were surprised and pleased to learn after the fact that Diana Oâ€™Connor had been invited to represent the Northern Neck of Virginia and had attended the meeting in Richmond.) Although we have been aware for several months that some changes to the wildlife rehabilitation rules were likely, until word of the Richmond meeting began to spread, we had mistakenly believed that the changes being contemplated would deal with relatively minor administrative matters such as the amount of fees we pay for our permits, the length of time future permits will last, etc. A few days following the Richmond meeting, the proposed changes were put on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheriesâ€™ website at www.dgif.virginia.gov. As it turns out, changes are being proposed to nearly every aspect of the existing regulations, from what animals can be rehabilitated to whether or not they can be photographed by the news media. Interested parties, including members of the general public, have until September 8 to provide the Department with written comments. As these new regulations will affect everything we do in our efforts to rehabilitate wildlife, we are taking all of this very seriously and are working diligently on our comments on the â€œprocessâ€� and on the proposed regulatory changes.
Not all of August was spent cleaning and feeding animals, sitting with sick and/or injured animals in veterinariansâ€™ offices, trying to capture escapees, attending meetings, and agonizing over state policies and politics, however. We had wanted to visit the Refuge for some time but had been unable to get away. Erika and Bonnie picked a day in early August to try to go to the Refuge. Although we didnâ€™t pick the day for our trip by looking at a future weather forecast, we were blessed with cool temperatures, low humidity, and blue skies. We are always refreshed by a visit to the beautiful, peaceful Refuge but we always wish we had time to visit some of the areaâ€™s historic or other interesting destinations. Unfortunately, there never is enough time for the extras. Perhaps because this has been a particularly harsh rehab season, we decided to make the time for a sightseeing stop on this trip. We have driven past the George Washington Birthplace National Monument at Popes Creek Plantation dozens of times. This time we stopped. After getting oriented at the Visitors Center, we walked on the path along Popes Creek over to the birthplace site. While enroute, we spent some time watching a fairly big and definitely agile wild animal scampering ahead of us. It turned out to be a fisher, a larger relative of otters, weasels, and minks. We ended our visit with an enjoyable walk on the shell-strewn, sandy beach where the property runs along the Potomac River. Although we could easily have spent the day there, we were also looking forward to seeing the Refuge.
At the Refuge, we met up with Diana Oâ€™Connor. We found that all the new enclosures that had been constructed this year were being put to good use housing an incredibly diverse group of rehab animals. We saw (briefly) five sibling skunks that are about ready for release and we watched a number of medium sized opossums that were sprawling in, atop, and around logs in one of the new enclosures. We saw waterfowl and several raptors, including a Great Horned Owl, a Barred Owl, and many Ospreys. We also visited the new gray fox cage, which Erika refers to as the Taj Mahal, and saw the two resident gray foxes having a siesta up in the rafters. After Diana warned us that the biting black flies were quite prevalent, we decided to forego a walk to the beaver lodges in the swampy area near the raccoon release cages. As we were preparing to leave, Diana was awaiting the arrival of two Ospreys that were being transported to the Refuge from Marylandâ€™s Eastern Shore. After the Ospreys arrived and were checked over and settled in, Diana planned to go make her daily run to purchase fresh fish, a task she must do every day for the Ospreys. Reluctantly, we left. But it had been a great day.
This month, on the Wild Bunch website, the True Story is a reprise of an earlier article â€œOur Water Hawk- the Ospreyâ€�. Diana is one of very few rehabilitators who have the capability to handle and house these challenging rehab birds. Consequently, a large number have come to the Refuge this season for care. Some, from as far away as the Eastern Shore. There are currently 17 still in various stages of recovering from injuries, gaining strength, or continuing to mature and learn proper flight and hunting skills that will allow them to be released successfully. Diana loves working with these beautiful birds, even though they donâ€™t especially like her . . . just the fresh fish she provides. She says she marvels at the graceful flight and high soaring that takes place when they are released at the nearby marshes.
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.