Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter SPRING 2008

Wild Bunch would like to update you on our January through March 2008 activities. 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 Shannan Catalano.

In the first quarter of this year Wild Bunch received 11 raccoons, 26 squirrels, 1 great Horned Owl, 1 Barred owl and 1 cardinal.

Wild Bunch Directors met at the Refuge

The Wild Bunch Board of Directors met at the Wild Bunch Refuge in February and discussed the upcoming, as always very busy season. Shannan Catalano was elected to the board of Directors and will serve as secretary. Shannan has been helping for several years at our Alexandria facility. Without her initiative and hard work, Wild Bunch would not have qualified to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), a charitable donation program for federal government employees. Established in 1961, the CFC 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. To qualify for the CFC program is a difficult and time consuming process. Shannan researched how Wild Bunch could apply to participate in the CFC program. She spent many hours on this project making phone calls, filling out the many required forms, and hand delivering these documents before the deadlines. The funds we received through CFC contributions have helped tremendously in keeping Wild Bunch operations going and allowed us to update some of the structures at the refuge. We very much appreciate Shannan's diligent work and welcome her to the Wild Bunch Board of Directors.

The Wild Bunch Board decided that we would again make some changes that involve the newsletter, our True Stories which appear on the website, and other related activities. In many small nonprofit organizations, a few committed volunteers do much of the work involved in meeting the mission of the organization and performing the necessary administrative tasks. Such is the case with Wild Bunch, where a relative handful of people care for the animals, take the animals that need special medical care to and from vet appointments, maintain the facilities, obtain the necessary food and supplies, vaccinate the animals, treat illnesses and injuries, provide environmental enrichment, and prepare for the release of the animals.

Among other things, our volunteers also respond to numerous concerns and inquiries from the public. Giving and sharing information is of utmost importance and this is the case of the Wild Bunch newsletter and True Stories- not to mention keeping the WB website ( updated and maintained. It has been increasingly difficult to produce quality newsletters and True Stories without more help. Beginning with this Spring Quarter, we will proceed to a quarterly Newsletters and True Stories. We would also like to move to an email only format as a way to decrease our use of paper products and reduce waste. A form is enclosed in this publication that asks for your information should you like to continue to receive our newsletter.

Beavers at work at the Refuge

While at the Refuge we enjoyed a wonderful spring day and hospitality from the ever-busy Diana. Diana mentioned that our resident beavers have been particularly busy. We ventured past the area near the raccoon release cages in an area that has not been much explored. It is swampy after most rains and- with dense woods and bushes- is hard to get to during most times of the year. On the way where two streams meet, we were astonished to see that all around the area, up a steep hill and away from the streams, all sizes of cone shaped tree stumps became visible with the tell tale signs of beaver work. Most of the trees were relatively small, but still it was hard to imagine how beavers actually drag these felled trees to the stream to build new lodges. It would be very interesting and fun to watch beavers in that process but hard to do as all that is done during the night. There are several very large beech trees near the confluence of the streams that show beaver's work, and shortly they too will be felled and used for yet another new lodge. As time goes on we discover that the industrious beavers have expanded their territory and have built more dams and lodges along some of the streams. Unfortunately we still have not seen the beavers, although we have heard their large paddle-shaped tails slapping the water to let us know that they are around and do not appreciate us disturbing their area.

Refuge Improvements for the Upcoming Season

January, February and most of March are relatively uneventful months with few animals arriving. While caring for the animals that needed to be housed over the winter, we complete repairs and improvements at our facilities, take stock of the equipment and supplies we have on hand, and begin obtaining what will be needed to see us through the busy spring, summer and fall months. Dennis, Diana's always helpful husband, is working on the two raccoon release cages. We started out with just gravel on the floor of the cages and that has proved to be very difficult to keep clean. Dennis will put in the type of sturdy rubber floor mats that are used in horse stalls. This should make cleaning much easier and keep the floors more durable in the long run. We are also in need of another squirrel release cage and hopefully will be able to have this completed before the first squirrel babies are ready for release. Gray squirrels nest twice each year, in early spring and late summer. The first baby squirrels have already arrived at the Wild Bunch refuge and more are coming in every day.

Always a Bittersweet Occasion, Late Fall Raccoon Babies Release Time Arrives

In late summer, we begin preparing for the release of a number of the rehabbed birds and mammals. By September, most of our orphan raccoons are at the age when they will have the best chance of making a successful transition back to the wild. Early fall is ideal for release because the weather is still mild and the animals will have time to find suitable homes and food sources before the harsh winter months begin. At the refuge, feeding stations and some permanent nest boxes help ease this transition. Raccoon babies that arrive in late summer and early fall are usually from the first litter of young females who didn't breed earlier in the year. These babies are far too young to be able to survive in the wild over the winter so they are cared for and released in the spring. This was the case again the past season. In late August we got in such a late baby and named her Daisy. It is always difficult to raise single raccoons, so we hoped for one or two more babies for the long time Daisy would have to spend during the winter before the spring release. A few weeks later a very young and small female we named Maisy was put into Daisy's nesting container after a quarantine period. The two females got along well and soon were moved to an outdoor cage with sleeping boxes, toys, and a small pool.

Several weeks went by and one day, a real late comer, male baby raccoon arrived. Weighing only 11 ounces and just beginning to open his eyes, we named him Henry. He had to be kept in the house and required special attention, but as he grew older and stronger it was clear he needed a friend. Erika checked with other raccoon rehabbers to see if anyone had a raccoon in similar size to be his companion, but unfortunately no one did. By now Henry was very feisty and inquisitive and in his kitchen destruction phase. After much reluctance and not having many options, we decided to carefully introduce Henry to the two older females. Luckily, Daisy and Maisy welcomed him and soon Henry started to run the show. If a treat were presented first to one of the girls, Henry would usually race over and literally take it out of her mouth. The trio got along well and, as they continue to grow, needed more space.

After the release of the spring and summer born raccoons in October, Henry, Daisy and Maisy were moved to Erika's biggest outdoor cage. This cage has two rooms for the animals and a foyer area for supplies. The rooms have a small interior connecting door. The cage's amenities include numerous wide shelves, tree branches, ramps, hammocks, nest boxes, and potty boxes. One side is built around a tree and has a large wading pool into which we add stones, shells, and tub animals. There are hollow logs to climb in and on and a changing variety of toys to play with. The cage also contains a rope ladder, a tube that is hung from the ceiling, old fire hoses, and a bucket swing. In addition to keeping these complex, inquisitive animals occupied, the environmental enrichment also helps them develop the skills that they will need when they are returned to the wild. This is as good as it gets if a raccoon has to spend several months in captivity. During the winter sleeping boxes are lined with furs donated by the Humane Society of the United States, (people no longer wear furs and donate them to HSUS or other animal devoted organizations and can get tax write-offs and in turn these organizations donate the furs to wildlife rehabilitators). With these furs to keep them warm they were not bothered by the few really cold days this winter.

As the first warm days have arrived, it is clear that release time is near as they have started to become restless and at times pace along the cage walls. All have been wormed and vaccinated for feline and canine distemper, parvo, and rabies and will be over seven months old and healthy at release time, in early April.

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website

Josie P. Katz contacted us about a mangy fox in her area and wanted to help the poor animal. Josie agreed to write about her experience, and the process will be told in as The True Story on the Wild Bunch website ( Beginning April 1, "A Tale of Two Foxes" by Josie P. Katz will be introduced. I hope you will enjoy it, as we all did.

A Sad Goodbye to Bonnie Brown

We continue to mourn the passing of Wild Bunch Board Member and animal caregiver Bonnie Brown. For the past six years, Bonnie spent countless hours caring for all our wild friends…feeding and nursing babies, cleaning cages, making food and formulas, helping with the release into the wild of rehabilitated animals, writing and editing the Wild Bunch newsletter, True Stories and so much more.

Bonnie remembered Wild Bunch in her will and requested that part of her ashes should be distributed at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge, near the raccoon release cages. A stone bench has been made in her memory and will be placed alongside a beautiful stream nearby that the raccoons often explore first when they are released. Many of the released animals will surely check out Bonnie's bench and we will spend many reflective hours there thinking about our friend Bonnie and wishing she could still be with us.

The new rehab season has already started, and the first baby raccoons have already arrived. It is not the same without Bonnie who so very much adored the very first raccoon babies every year. She will be with us in spirit and we will think of her whenever other babies arrive, wishing she were here to help and be part of Wild Bunch.

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 through 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 Wildlife Rehabilitation one of their CFC charities. Our newly assigned CFC designated number is 69040.