Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter Fall 2008

Wild Bunch would like to update you on our July through September 2008 activities.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native wildlife. We have 83 acres in the Northern Neck of Virginia near the Rappahannock River to serve as our wildlife refuge. Our officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol, Lynn Roadcap and Shannan Catalano.

In the summer quarter Wild Bunch received 1 blue bird, 2 blue jays, 1 red chicken, 2 cormorants, 1 crow, 2 doves, 2 ducks, 2 bald eagles, 6 geese, 1 grackle, 7 gulls, 4 red tailed hawks, 2 great blue herons, 1 green heron, 2 hummingbirds, 1 killdeer, 8 mallards, 1 mockingbird, 11 osprey, 1 barred owl, 4 great horned owls, 2 pigeons, 1 red bird, 4 robins, 2 sparrows, 1 swan, 3 black vultures, 2 Pileated woodpeckers, 11 wrens, 1 red bat, 1 big brown bat, 2 fawns, 1 gray fox, 1 groundhog, 28 opossums, 12 rabbits, 33 raccoons, 5 skunks, 42 squirrels, 1 green snake, 6 box turtles and 1 musk turtle.

Summer Time and the Living is Easy…

It has been some years since this applied to rehabilitators and caregivers working with wildlife and, so it is at the Refuge again this year. During the spring months, a few likely possibilities of dependable helpers appear. Indeed it is a real problem finding anybody that is willing to help at the Refuge or otherwise. There are all kind of tasks, not necessary wildlife related, that are required to keep the Refuge running smoothly and the animals well taken care of. These individuals show some promise, come to help a few times, become familiarized with our operation, but then stop coming. The number one reason is most likely that it takes time to be able to really be of much help in the beginning. Because much time is spent training and explaining the various duties involved in volunteering, it takes a while to actually work with the animals and interest is lost..

As soon as the daffodils fade, these interested helpers, who finally have learned enough to be of help, disappear. Some just do not show up and we never hear from them again. Others have various reasons why this is not for them. Usually it is that they really would like to go by the motto, Summer Time, and the Living is Easy! We can’t blame them, but it is very hard on us.

During the spring months, we are so busy with all the baby animals, most of them on bottles and there is always a lot of laundry to be cleaned. Fortunately, they don’t require a lot of space at that time. When summer comes, the animals have grown up so cleaning and feeding takes a lot more work and resources. There are also space requirements at that time. As the animals grow up, they have to be housed in larger enclosures so they can learn how to climb, fly and get familiar with living in the wild. Although, most animals at this time don’t drink from a bottle, they need all kind of foods that often expensive and are hard to obtain. It is also very time consuming obtaining all the different foods for such a variety of animals. For ospreys, we require a lot of fresh fish; for raptors (hawks, owls) we require mice, rats and road kill; for foxes we require mice, groundhogs, lots of spinach, corn, and variety of fruits and vegetables; for raccoons we require dog/cat food, grapes, chicken, mussels and much more. All kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and more are needed to keep these animals fit.

Difficult and Challenging Diagnosis

During the summer months, the phone rings constantly with wildlife related questions, and it keeps us very busy. The past few months we have received several requests for information on Lyme Disease and it has indeed become a problem. Some people are afraid to work in the garden, go on hikes, or spend much time outside of the home in fear of contracting Lyme disease. The cause of this problem is the much-feared deer tick. It is the size of a pinhead when it starts looking for a bloody meal. People usually acquire the tick while walking through grassy or wooded areas. At times pet dogs are the source. Unlike the common dog tick, which is round and very dark, the deer tick is elongated and brownish.

The white-tailed deer and white-footed mouse are the tick’s most frequent hosts, but also they feed on dogs, birds, and other rodents, including squirrels. In some areas, as many as half of the deer ticks are infected with Borrelia, the Lyme disease bacteria. The disease got its name in 1975 from the first identified cluster of cases, among children in Lyme, Connecticut, who had rheumatoid-like symptoms of swollen, painful joints.

Very few patients recall being bitten by a tick. The most common sign is a reddish rash that often resembles as a spreading bull’s-eye. Up to 20 percent never develop the rash. Common sites of the rash are the groin, buttocks and underarms. It is often accompanied by flu like symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, headache and fatigue.

If untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can cause severe migrating joint pain and swelling, most often in the knees for weeks or months later. In addition, several weeks, months or even years after an untreated infection, the bacterium can cause meningitis, temporary paralysis, numbness or weakness of arms and legs, memory and concentration difficulties and changes in mood, personality or sleep habits. Some patients have developed temporary heart rhythm abnormalities, eye inflammation or hepatitis. Ordinary laboratory tests are seldom helpful. Tests for antibodies to the bacterium or for genetic footprints result in many false-negative and false-positive findings. Since the tick must usually feed for 24 hours to transmit significant amounts of bacteria, daily body checks and showering with a washcloth can help prevent infection. Those who will not or cannot avoid grassy and wooded areas should wear long sleeves and long pants with legs tucked into socks, and spray exposed skin and clothing with tick repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET. If the tick is attached to the skin, it should be removed with tweezers, not fingers. Press into the skin, grasp the front of the tick’s head and pull at right angles to the skin and then wash your hands thoroughly.


There are several drugs and antibiotics that have been tested and used with varied success. Most treatments are still in the experimental stages and very controversial. There is a new book on the market “Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic� (St. Martin’s Press). All of this sounds very scary and indeed it is. However with the proper precaution, getting Lyme disease can definitely be avoided.

Getting "Skunked"

Also we’ve had several calls came our way this summer from very unhappy citizens that have been skunked or had pets that had a run-in with a skunk and got sprayed. The usual recommendation is dipping the skunked animal in tomato juice, and washing the sprayed clothes with tomato juice. This treatment is not very effective and really does not take the entire odor away. Here is a foolproof recipe for people that encounter such a problem:

  • Skunk Spray Neutralizer
  • One quart of 3% peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • One-teaspoon liquid soap (laundry or dishwashing soap)

Use immediately and rinse after five minutes and repeat as needed. Do not store this mixture. Use it immediately after mixing. (If left in container, the oxygen gas released could make the container burst). This mixture can bleach fur and hair color. People that used the formula have called and thanked us profusely. You might want to keep this recipe in case you or your pet should ever get "skunked."

Are Beavers are still residing at the Refuge?

Beavers at the Refuge have created a completely new environment. In early summer several very heavy rainstorms completely changed the flow of some of the streams and also destroyed many dams in the streams at the Refuge. The flow of the water is currently very slow and the tree cutting has ceased. Since tree cutting and dam building occurs during certain times of the year we are hoping that this is the period in the summer when the beavers prefer to eat roots, grass and other vegetation .We are worried that the beavers have moved on, but hope that this is the “Off� season for tree cutting. It would be a terrible shame if they had left the area, as the refuge is the perfect environment for them with many streams, varied vegetation and peace. No one will disturb them there.

Squirrel Release Cage a Necessity

During the last few months, Diana received over 40 baby squirrels that she successfully rehabilitated. They were housed in different sized containers, cages inside and in an outdoor cage on the screened-in porch. Dennis built and attached many nesting boxes in the trees surrounding the Refuge Intake Center. We usually put the wooden nesting boxes in the cages before release and the squirrels will move with the boxes to the release site, where the boxes are nailed to a tree. There are also empty nesting boxes in the release site area attached to trees to make sure every squirrel will find a home after release. Unfortunately, this time, there were so many squirrels that there were not enough nesting boxes in the trees and many of the squirrels were not ready for freedom. They tore up the screen around the screened in porch that contained their former cages and many moved back into their former home. After a few weeks the squirrels were released again. Thankfully, they decided that freedom is really best.

This is the reason that we must have one or more release cages in the wooded areas near one of the creeks to eliminate so many squirrels being released in one area. It would also be a better environment for them.

Grants and miscellaneous events

Wild Bunch has been very actively involved working with the Northern Neck Audubon Society. The grant application has been submitted and we hope that Wild Bunch will be considered for the grant. If we are considered for the grant it will help to construct a large (40 foot or larger) flight cage that we desperately need. These flight cages are very expensive and we don’t have the funds to construct one without additional resources.

Wild Bunch again participated in several Camps for Kids this summer teaching youngsters about animals and specifically wildlife. These programs are very poplar and are conducted by most Northern Virginia area Animal shelters and some schools. It was very telling that they enjoyed learning about wildlife because some of the children that have attended previous year’s programs signed up again this year. Amazingly, they did remember a lot and had additional questions.

Release time has arrived, always a bittersweet occasion, for most of our wild friends.

Hawks, owls, ospreys, black and turkey vultures, Canada geese, bats, flying squirrels, foxes, skunks, groundhogs, opossums, bunnies, all types of songbirds and others have all been released. Most of the raccoons that arrived in early spring have also been released and are enjoying their freedom. Several more raccoon releases will take place in early and mid October. Later born raccoon babies, less than six months old, will have to be kept during the winter months. A few very late born babies (August) have arrived at our door and these babies also have to spend the winter month before release in the spring.

Quite a few of these wild friends are still hanging around the refuge grounds. They are enjoying the new feeding station that was recently constructed. It is very sturdy and has two entrances: a ladder and a window. The inside has a compact floor and several large feeding containers. The containers are always filled with dog and cat food and all kinds of wildlife visit to dine. This is a safe environment protecting the animals from roaming dogs, snakes and others.

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website

Beginning October 1, The True Story on the Wild Bunch Website Will be "Our Mischievous Wild Neighbor, the Gray Squirrel." Since this has been a particularly busy season with an unusual abundance of squirrels, this article is quite appropriate. We hope that this information will educate some people that might otherwise try to evict and harm these wonderful, smart and very beneficial animals.

As always, Our Sincere Thanks

We want to thank everyone who continues to help us help our wild friends by volunteering, by providing needed supplies, and, of course, by contributing financially. This support makes it possible for us to care for many animals each year. Financial donations can be mailed to Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation, 402 West Alexandria Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22302-4204 or be made via PayPal from our website. We rely on your support and we appreciate everything you do to help.

We would be extremely appreciative if you would encourage any federal employee you know to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities. Our newly assigned CFC designated number is 69040.