Wild Bunch Newsletter â€“ May 2007
Wild Bunch wishes to give you a brief update on our activities during the months of March and April. 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. Our officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol, and Bonnie Brown. 2007 "Baby Season" Begins With Both Triumphs and Tragedies We know that baby season has begun when the phone begins ringing before dawn and often continues late into the night with calls about wild animals needing assistance. Our first "orphan" of 2007 was a very young animal that was first thought to be a coyote. He turned out to be an extremely lucky little red fox. After great effort on the part of his rescuers, some temporary care at Erikaâ€™s, and many telephone consultations, he ended up being reunited with his family. You can read more about this heartwarming story under the "True Story" section of this newsletter.
Unfortunately, however, not all of the situations that we get involved in have such happy resolutions as that of the little red fox. We also must deal with heartbreaking situations that are the direct result of human thoughtlessness, selfishness, or even violent, deliberate cruelty toward our wild neighbors. We had one truly horrifying case in April that law enforcement authorities are currently pursuing. We have been advised that the case should be prosecutable, largely because of the courage and caring of some witnesses. Of course, this is little consolation to the animals or compassionate people involved but it is at least something.
Wild Bunch did not receive any new animals in March; in April, we received 25 raccoons and 2 red foxes.
Three Special Raccoon Survivors Are on Their Way to Release
In addition to the start of the baby season, spring is also the time when we release animals that we cared for over the winter, either because they were young or because they needed additional time to fully recover from injuries or illnesses. Regular readers of this newsletter may recall that during our 2006 rehab season, we saw more than our usual share of sick and injured animals. We grew increasingly sad and frustrated at an inability to get definitive diagnoses and appropriate treatment plans for a number of our animals despite the involvement of several veterinarians and various labs around the country.
The last animal that came to Erikaâ€™s in 2006 was a tiny female raccoon we named Jenny. Jenny was so ill during her first weeks with us that she was kept loose in Erikaâ€™s kitchen where she spent much of her time curled up in baby blankets lying motionless wherever we had laid her. There were many times that we dreaded picking her up to care for her because we were afraid that we had lost her. As a stop gap measure, various medications were prescribed for her while we searched desperately for a correct diagnosis. As these things often happen, once the correct answer was found, it then arrived from multiple sources. Once we had the diagnosis, Jenny was put on the proper medication and, to our amazement, was transformed almost overnight from an animal that was near death to a mischievous, curious little raccoon. She soon was moved to the large outdoor cage where she joined some male raccoons who were being over wintered. Jennyâ€™s new "brothers," Jack and Jim, had also overcome illness and injuries.
It would be an understatement to say that Jenny immediately took charge of the outdoor cage. We thought she was special but soon realized that Jenny shared this view as well. We quickly learned that treats and new toys were to be offered first to Jenny. If a treat was presented first to one of the boys, Jenny would usually race over and literally take it out of his mouth. Often, she did not really want what was being offered â€“ just the right of first refusal. The growing raccoons spent the winter perfecting skills that they will use in the wild since the large outdoor cage contains such amenities as a live tree, a pool, branches, and hollow logs.
Jenny, Jack, and Jim were vaccinated for distemper, parvo, and rabies. We waited until the weather stabilized and one day in late April, they were put into carriers and Charlene and Erika took them to the release cage in the lovely forest next to a stream that will become their wild home. Once in the release cage, they began exploring their temporary home. Jenny demonstrated her acrobatic skills as she maneuvered along the donated fire hoses that are strung across the upper areas of the cage. The "Js" will be cared for in their release cage for a few days. In early May, we will return to the release cage and open their window to their new wild life. All of our releases are bittersweet but we will especially miss our plucky Jenny, mischievous Jack, and gentle Jim.
Some Long-planned Improvements to the Refuge Are Achieved
After Hurricane Isabella and some other severe storms hit the Northern Neck, we realized that it was essential that we purchase a generator for the Refuge. During the rehab season, Diana Oâ€™Connor cares for many, many orphaned, injured, or sick wildlife of numerous species. Not only is electricity a useful utility to have but it is essential for the Refuge which gets its water from a well that needs electricity to run its pump. After studying up on the pros and cons of various types of generators, we purchased one and had it installed in March. We are certainly not hoping for major storms but if and when they come, the Refuge is now much better prepared to cope with them.
Another improvement that has come to pass is the controlled burn of the meadow area of the Refuge. One day between winter storms, Bonnie and Erika drove to the Refuge to meet with John Magruder, a local forestry consultant, and Braden Scott, who farms 18 acres on the Refuge and helps us with some of our projects. The meeting was to finalize plans for a controlled burn of the 3 acre meadow that is near the Refugeâ€™s fox cages. The purpose of the burn is to renew the growth of wildlife friendly plants and inhibit the growth of undesirable plants. In advance of the controlled burn, Braden Scott cut a six foot wide fire break around the perimeter of the area to be burned.
We had hoped to have the burn done by March but tricky weather conditions delayed things. One day in early April, John Magruder oversaw the controlled burn after notifying all appropriate authorities, and as an extra precaution, having on hand a "burning trailer" that contained 100 gallons of water. The burn was accomplished without incident and John Magruder sent us several before and after pictures. We expect to end up with a meadow that will provide food and/or shelter for many wild creatures. When Charlene and Erika visited the Refuge in late April, they were able to see healthy new growth in the recently burned meadow.
Rabies Awareness Week Panel Discussion
In late March, Erika attended the Northern Virginia Regional Rabies Information Forum II that was held in Fairfax City. Recognizing that there is a need to continue and expand the dialogue on the topic of rabies, this meeting was a continuation of the rabies forum which the Virginia Department of Health held last October in Centreville. The purpose of the Forum was to bring "rabies response partners" from across Northern Virginia together to continue 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. Presenters at the March meeting provided public health/laboratory perspectives, hospital emergency department perspectives, veterinary perspectives, and an animal behavioristâ€™s perspectives.
As Northern Virginiaâ€™s suburbs increasingly encroach on the few remaining areas that wildlife have left to live at least somewhat naturally, humans are increasingly coming into contact with wild animals that potentially could carry the virus. Since many of the animals we rehabilitate are considered to be high risk rabies species, this was an important meeting for us to attend to keep up to date on the latest research, to meet or become reacquainted with area "rabies response partners," and, as rehabilitators of "rabies vector species," to add a different perspective to the discussion.
Round Two(?) of State Agencyâ€™s Thus Far Misguided Efforts to Impose Poorly Thought Out and Improperly Vetted Wildlife Rehabilitation Regulations
Last August, we learned that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), the state agency that oversees wildlife rehabilitation in Virginia, was planning to institute major changes to nearly every aspect of the existing regulations â€“ even including what animals can and cannot be rehabilitated. As these changes would affect everything we do in our efforts to rehabilitate wildlife, we took this DGIF activity very seriously. We and other Virginia rehabilitators spent a considerable amount of time carefully reviewing the proposed changes and preparing and submitting detailed comments to the authorities. We had grave concerns over the secretive process that was being used by DGIF, the often vague and ambiguous language of the proposed changes, and the poorly thought out and often harmful policies behind the proposed changes.
Although we were promised last fall that there would be an open process before any new changes were implemented, in March, we were informed in writing by DGIF that a number of changes, including some that had not been proposed earlier, would take effect immediately. After a few days of high drama, we were advised that the new DGIF director, who was unaware of the letter his staff had sent out, has advised his staff and us that no changes would be implemented immediately, and that our current permits (which have already been extended a couple of times), will again be extended.
Ed Clark, President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, which is located in Waynesboro, Virginia, has spent an incredible amount of time and effort speaking with Virginia officials, rehabilitators, and other interested parties in an effort to open the lines of communication and to develop a fair process to review and, possibly, revise some of the current regulations. Over the course of about a week in late April, five well-organized "town hall" meetings were held around the state to provide an opportunity for the wildlife community to come together and discuss issues important to all of us, focusing on those related to the regulatory process and our relationship with DGIF. Spreadsheets were prepared of the issues that arose during the five meetings. A written report is currently being compiled that summarizes the input documented in the spreadsheets and explains in greater detail, the discussions that took place. We have been reassured that the Director of DGIF is well aware of our recent efforts and has promised that the agency is going to take a fresh look and a new approach to all of this. We certainly hope that will prove to be the case as we much prefer to work cooperatively on matters of great importance in our efforts to help our wildlife.
This Monthâ€™s True Story
As briefly mentioned above, the new True Story on the Wild Bunch website, (www.wildbunchrehab.org), is the story of our first "orphan" of the 2007 baby season. It is titled "The True Story of How Little Ken, a Tiny Red Fox Kit, Found His Way Home." Herndon, Virginia resident Ken Fisher and his family were responsible for the rescue of the little fox as well as his subsequent reunion with his family. Because the Fishers went to extraordinary lengths to save and do what was best for the lucky little kit, which we named "Little Ken," we asked (Big) Ken to write up the story so that we could share it. We encourage you to read the story because it shows the efforts that are involved in getting one little wild life back on track. We think you will agree that Little Ken and the Fishers got our 2007 baby season off to a great start.
As Always, Our Sincere Thanks
We want to thank everyone who continues to help us help our wild friends. We are grateful for the donations that make it possible for us to help so many animals each year. We could not manage the large scope of work we must accomplish without your support. 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.