Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter Summer 2008

Wild Bunch would like to update you on our April through June 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 second quarter of this year, Wild Bunch received 43 bats, 4 blue jays, 1 cat bird, 5 chickadees, 1 crow, 1 deer, 3 doves, 33 ducks (domestic, mallard, Muscovy, wood), 5 finches, 1 flying squirrel, 2 gray fox, 11 red fox, 9 Canada geese, 3 grackles, 15 groundhogs, 1 red shoulder hawk, 1 red tailed hawk, 2 mockingbirds, 77 opossums, 4 osprey, 3 barred owls, 2 great horned owls, 1 screech owl, 1 quail, 38 rabbits, 82 raccoons, 8 robins, 2 sea gulls, 7 skunks, 9 sparrows, 44 squirrels, 16 starlings, 1 swan, 1 turkey, 3 box turtles, 1 vole, 1 black vulture and 1 woodpecker.

2008 "Baby Season" is Underway

As we have often mentioned, we know baby season is upon us when the phone rings before dawn, continues to ring throughout the day and often late into the night. Many of the calls concern very young animals that, for one reason or another, no longer have their mothers to care for them. Others involve injured, sick, or displaced animals of all ages. The animals that we take in come into our care from a variety of places, but all of our rescue involvement starts with a phone call. Most of the calls we receive are calls for advice. Listed below are the most common reasons for phone calls. Answering these calls and giving detailed advice, most times, educates the caller and encourages the caller to leave the animal alone.

Humane Solutions We Provide to Phone Callers Regarding Wildlife Issues:

Q: Animals loose in house - How do I get the animal out of my house?

A: Squirrels and Opossums can be swept out of the house using a broom. Use the broom to guide the animal toward the door. Keep all other doors closed. Just open a door and allow animal to go out on own. The caller should stay back. Raccoons are most likely entering through pet door. They often will follow a house cat back into the house because they are looking for food. Opossums will also use pet doors. The caller should close the pet door for some time to prevent a recurrence. If they have no pet door, the caller should look for other points of access.

Q: Bats - What should I do if I find a bat on the ground?

A: Don't panic. Wear gloves and gently place a jar over the bat. By nightfall place it on a higher object like a table or chair. Bats can't take off from the ground and will not fly during the day.

Q: Bears - There is a bear getting into my trash/birdfeeder, what can I do?

A: Bears are attracted to any type of food left outdoors. Put your birdfeeder in your house during the night. Store all food indoor and all trash in airtight garbage cans. Spray the outside of trashcan with Clorox to remove all food odors.

Q: Beavers - Beavers are chewing on trees and building dams that flood roads, how can I get rid of them?

A: Single beavers, arriving in the spring and summer months are usually young beavers that have been evicted from their family. Beavers stay with their family for two years and when the newborn arrive in early spring the two year olds are evicted. These youngsters really don't know how to fend for themselves and often get in trouble. There are ways to wrap trees and install PVC pipes through beaver dams to control water levels. For details, check "Living With Beavers" on the Wild Bunch website.

Q: Birds - A baby bird fell from the nest and I touched it. Will the parents reject it?

A: It is a myth that birds abandon their chicks if a person touches them. Birds have a poor sense of smell. They will not know that their babies were handled. If the nest is still there, gently put the chick back into the nest. If the original nest was destroyed, hang a wicker basked close to were the original nest was and put the chick into it. Usually parents will soon come and feed their baby. During the few day of the fledging period, fledging birds tend to fall out of the nest trying to fly. During this period it is imperative to keep all pets away from the area until the chick is able to fly.

Q: Birds - A bird is attacking my window, what should I do?

A: Male birds commonly attack windows during mating season. The bird wrongly assumes that this own reflection is a rival in his territory. Hang a cloth or squares of aluminum foil outside the window to break the reflection. That should prevent the bird from thinking the window is a rival.

Q: Coyotes - There are coyotes in my neighborhood, will they attack my children or pets?

A: Coyotes are generally afraid of people and almost never attack humans. Dogs and cats should be kept inside and all outdoor food should be removed. Coyotes are opportunistic eaters and are attracted to places where they can find fruit, trash, or small animals.

Q: Foxes - There is a fox in my neighborhood that is out during the day and looks scraggly and scratches. Does he have rabies?

A: It sounds more like the fox has a case of sarcoptic mange. Red foxes unfortunately often are inflicted with this very unpleasant condition. It is not a sign of rabies. Sarcoptic mange can be easily treated.

Q: Foxes - Small foxes are running around in my yard during the day, will they hurt my children, pets?

A: During late spring and early summer red fox cubs are usually old enough to come out of the den and learn how to hunt. Parents are always around, but are not usually seen. Parents will not attack; they will just watch their brood learn to be adults. This period does not last long. So enjoy this short and interesting period.

Q: Groundhogs - What can I do to prevent groundhogs from eating my vegetables?

A: Line your garden with a 3-foot high floppy chicken wire fence, which will bend backwards if the groundhog tries to climb it. Be sure to sink the fence 12 inches underground to prevent tunneling underneath.

Q: Opossums - What should I do if I find a dead opossum on the road?

A: Move the dead animal off the road. If it is spring or summer, check to see if the opossum is a female and if there are live babies in her pouch or in the immediate area. Baby opossums more than 7 inches long (excluding the tail) are mature enough to be on their own. If the babies are smaller contact Wild Bunch or a rehabilitator immediately.

Q: Raccoons - What should I do if a raccoon nests in my chimney or attic?

A: In spring and summer, mother raccoons may use chimneys and attics as nesting sites for raising their cubs. The best and kindest solution is to wait a few weeks for the raccoon to move out. Mother raccoons have another denning site and will move their babies when they are 6 to 7 weeks old to that site. Never remove an adult raccoon during this time of the year, because there are probably babies. Raccoon mothers will not move the babies during the day and it might take her a few days to move all the babies. The only permanent solution is to prevent more raccoons or other wildlife from moving in. Seal all entry holes once the animals have left.

Q: Skunks - How do I get a skunk out of my garage?

A: Skunks commonly wander into open garages when the door is left open. Make a patch of smelly cheese leading out the open garage door. Skunks have very poor eyesight so as long as you move slowly and quietly, the skunk will hardly notice you. You can also leave a 2-foot band of flour across the outside of the garage and watch for footprints to confirm the skunk has left. Keep your garage door closed!

Q: Skunks - There is a skunk in my window well?

A: Skunks are poor climbers. They often fall into uncovered window wells and can't get out. This goes for most wildlife, so it is best to cover your window wells. Put a piece of wood in the window well at a less than 45 degree angle to serve as a plank so the skunk can walk out.

Q: Squirrels - A squirrel is nesting in my chimney, how can I get it out?

A: In spring, late summer and early fall, chances are good that you have a mother with young. Try to find the nest so you can monitor it. Wait a few weeks and the squirrels will leave. Mother squirrels will move their young after they are fully furred. They will not stay in the chimney. They will move the young to their normal denning site. Once the squirrels have left, a metal chimney cap must be securely attached to the chimney. To prevent access to the roof, trim any overhanging tree branches.

Beavers are still working very hard at the Refuge

Beavers at the Refuge have created a completely new environment. Areas that used to be overgrown with vegetation, small trees and shrubs are now cleared and during rainy periods, covered with wildflowers. Several of the streams have multiple dams and lodges and some of the huge beech trees have been felled. We still have not seen our friends at work, as it is always done at night. It would be very interesting and fun to watch beavers in that process.

We do get quite a few beaver calls. It seems that young beavers are not wanted in suburban environments. Two-year-old beavers are always evicted from the family lodge when the new babies are born. These animals have to find a new home and usually try to create one where they are not wanted. It is not legal to trap beavers and relocate them but a kill permit can be issued. Hopefully most people will not have these youngsters killed. Unfortunately we can't take these beavers and release them at the Refuge. Beavers are very territorial and the beavers at the Refuge would kill all intruders.

Some Long-planned Refuge Improvements Have Come to Fruition

Some great things have happened at the Refuge! First of all, the old feeding station has been replaced. The old one was falling apart so we had to use our release cages as feeding stations. The new feeding station is very sturdy. It has two entrances: a ladder and a window. The inside has a compact floor with several large containers regularly filled with food. A new large owl-nesting box has been placed in a tree next to the feeding station. The raccoon-nesting box near the feeding station has been repaired and both are already occupied.

Diana O'Connor, Director of the Wild Bunch Wildlife refuge and long time rehabilitator, received permission from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to keep a permanently injured Red-tail Hawk as a foster parent. A special cage was required in order to get permission to keep the Red-tailed Hawk. This well designed flight cage met all standards and is already in use by the hawk, along with several chicks she is fostering.

As a real surprise to Erika, Diana went to a great effort to have the old homestead totally remodeled. Since the Refuge was started eight years ago, we had hoped to find volunteers that would help with this project. Unfortunately we never were able to get that help. The furnished and very attractive little house will be used for lectures and seminars.

The squirrel cage we were hoping to build is currently on hold, as we do not have the funds at this time to proceed with that project. At one point this season, Diana has had over 40 baby squirrels, so a larger pre-release cage is certainly next on the agenda.

Grants and miscellaneous events

As continued fund raising efforts are needed to keep the refuge going, we are currently reviewing the requirements for a Paul Newman Foundation grant. It involves a lot of research, paperwork and documents and, to date, we have not been able to complete all the paper work necessary to qualify for their consideration.

Wild Bunch is actively involved with the Northern Neck Audubon Society. We are also in the process of applying for a grant through them. If one or both grants are eventually awarded to us, the funds will go toward a large (40 foot or larger) flight cage. We desperately need it and it is very costly.

Sprint has implemented a program to encourage their employees to volunteer their time with nonprofit organizations. The program is called "Dollars for Doers". For every 40 hours an employee volunteers with a nonprofit organization, Sprint will grant $250 (one time per year). They send a check directly to the nonprofit organization that the employee selects. Our caregiver, Lynn Roadcap, who works for Sprint, has already submitted her 40 hours for time spent caring for our wild friends in 2008. We are grateful for the donation and equally grateful for Lynn's help with the animals.

Always a Bittersweet Occasion, Late Fall Raccoon Babies Released in April

The babies that arrive from the smaller late summer breeding season are often from the first litters 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 we care for them and release them in the spring. This was the case again in the past season as discussed in the Spring Newsletter.

By February/March, the three raccoons (Daisy, Maizy, and Henry) we had wintered over became very restless and started pacing. Daisy and Henry were very friendly and spent a lot of time together. Female raccoons Daisy's age can have a litter, usually a small one the first season. Henry was already able to mate. In nature, young males have little chance of finding a female to mate because older males always have priority. In a rehabilitation environment it is quite possible that two young animals will mate and produce a litter. The incubation period is 63 days.

It was time for Daisy, Maizy, and Henry to go back into the wild. On a pleasant April spring day Charlene and Erika got the three of them into carriers and drove them to the refuge. They were put in one of the release cages in the woods near a stream that would become their new home.

This cage initially had gravel on the floor but because it was so difficult to keep clean, Dennis installed a type of rubber floor that is used in horse stalls. This has made it much easier to keep clean and is also more durable in the long run. After slowly emerging from their carriers and inspecting every nook and cranny of the cage, they soon settled in. Shortly before the planned release trip we noticed that Daisy, the oldest female, was becoming increasingly restless. We thought she was probably expecting babies. We knew it was imperative to get her to her new home at the refuge. After just a few days in the soft release cages, we went back for the full release. We opened the cage window and soon all three raccoons walked down the ramp to the ground. They sniffed and checked every blade of grass and the rocks. They were in total awe of all the new sights and smells. Soon Henry started climbing up on one of the really tall trees that had a few lower branches. We were really worried that he might have a problem getting safely back down. Raccoons are excellent climbers and are one of the few mammals that can descend vertical tree trunks headfirst. It is amazing how quickly they learn to climb very high trees. Henry was a quick learner and came down from the tree before we left the refuge that night, to our great relief. Maizy and Daisy started climbing on top of the release cage. It wasn't long before Daisy settled in the large nesting box next to the release cage. We thought that this might be a birthing den if indeed Daisy was pregnant. We are happy to report that Daisy had four babies. She selected a nesting box close to the stream and is currently rearing her babies there.

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website

Beginning July 1, The True Story on the Wild Bunch Website will be "The Fox: Red and Gray." Since this is "the Year of the Fox", it will be helpful to refresh memories on the details about foxes. We do not get many calls on gray foxes and the difference between these two fox species animals is explained in this article. We hope that the information on foxes will be educational and deter people from wanting to evict or harm these wonderful, smart and very beneficial animals. If you are lucky enough to have foxes live on your property, enjoy it. It is an experience you should not miss.

A Final Goodbye to our friend and wildlife lover, Bonnie Brown

Bonnie remembered Wild Bunch in her will and requested that part of her ashes should be distributed at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge. She wanted the ashes to be spread near the raccoon cages beside a small stream because that was the area our released raccoons often explored first. A stone bench has been placed there in her memory and many of the animals we released there will surely check it out.

On a rainy day in April, we honored Bonnie's wishes and met at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge to bid her a last good bye. Bonnie's sisters, Debbie and Beckie, and other Wild Bunch members and friends fulfilled Bonnie's final wishes by spreading her ashes. A memory card with pictures of Bonnie with her favorite raccoons was distributed and a very touching wildlife related poem was read. We sadly said our final good bye.

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.