Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter Fall 2009

Wild Bunch Wildlife Rehabilitation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit Virginia organization devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native wildlife. Wild Bunch owns 83 acres, in the Northern Neck of Virginia near the Rappahannock River that serves as our wildlife refuge. Our officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol, and Lynn Roadcap.

Spring and summer have come and gone and now fall is here so it is time to give you an update on the many activities at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, we were unable to gather the information and produce a summer newsletter. It is very difficult to document all the activities that would produce an informative newsletter while we are overwhelmed with the care of many, many animals and handling all the calls from the public with problems that need to be addressed.

Since January of 2009, Wild Bunch has received over 500 mammals, birds, waterfowl and reptiles. Look for a detailed count in the Presidents Message that you will receive in January of 2010.

Release time has arrived, always a Bittersweet Occasion:

Hawks, owls, ospreys, black and turkey vultures, Canada geese, bats, flying squirrels, foxes, skunks, groundhogs, raccoons, opossums, bunnies, all types of songbirds and others have all been released this year. 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. It has two entrances and the animals can enter and exit via a ladder and a window. The inside has a compact floor and several large containers. The containers are always filled with dog and cat food and all kinds of wildlife visit to dine. This is a safe environment that protects the animals from roaming dogs, snakes and others predators.

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 November. Raccoons born late in the breeding season that are less than six months old will have to be kept during the winter months. We have a few babies born in August that will spend the winter months at Wild Bunch and will be released in next spring.

The fall migration of birds is now underway across our area. That ordinary-looking bird in the neighborhood tree could be a visitor in the midst of an extraordinary journey. Birds head south as their food sources disappear with winter's approach. The migration is triggered by the shortening of daylight hours rather than the falling thermometer. Songbirds generally migrate by night, while waterfowl and raptors migrate by day.

Seasonal Wildlife Tips:

Besides the pleasure of their company, many native species are very beneficial to us and our environment. Bats, owls, falcons, small birds, opossums and skunks consume billions of insects a year. Foxes, coyotes, skunks, opossums, raccoons, hawks and owls are excellent at rodent control. Vultures, coyotes, eagles, and opossums are carrion eaters. They help keep our roadways and neighborhoods clean. Unfortunately, they often are killed on our roads by careless drivers. Look out for wildlife when you are driving. Whenever possible, remove road kill off the road as many animals are killed or injured while feeding on these carcasses.

Winter is a really time for wildlife so we need to be proactive during the fall months. Here are a few tips that we hope will help:

  • In the fall, when there is no danger of trapping babies inside secure chimneys, put a chimney cap on your chimney; install vent covers on external kitchen and bathroom vents; check your roof, crawl spaces and under decks or patios for places where animals can get in; and secure any openings where there is lattice work or hardware cloth.
  • Please ask your neighbors and friends to collect and properly dispose of the antifreeze they use when they winterize their cars. Antifreeze is sweet tasting and many animals are poisoned by the product every year.
  • Box Turtles and snapping turtles are ready to hibernate and are sluggish and slow crossing streets. Please give them the time to cross or simply help them by picking them up and moving them to the side of the road in the direction they were heading.
  • Deer are most active during the fall because it is rut, or mating season. They are most likely to be on the move around dawn and dusk, so please slow down and watch the road and roadsides. On clear nights with a full moon, watch out for deer alongside the roads because they feed by moonlight. Deer rarely travel alone and many will cross roadways one at a time, in a single file. If you see a deer, brake carefully, flash your lights or honk your horn in short bursts, and watch for other deer.
  • Pelicans are relatively new to the bay ecosystem. The changing climate, including warmer weather and shorter-milder winters, has encouraged pelicans to settle in the Northern Neck and Bay area. Do not feed pelicans as it might make younger pelicans think that they can survive here in the winter. Southern migration starts in mid September for pelicans. By November, almost all the pelicans are gone. Stray pelicans not migrating to warmer climate often face frostbite. Even if rescued, they typically do not survive.

Refuge Improvements:

Quite a few improvements took place at the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge during this rehabilitation season. A squirrel release cage was constructed and placed at the edge of the woods past the wildlife meadow. Many nesting boxes that were donated the year before were installed around the various release sites. Most are already occupied and we are hoping to have more boxes constructed and installed. Despite of the fact that there is an abundance of large hollow trees around the release sites, it is still helpful to provide additional homes for them to use right after release.

It is very dark during the night around the intake center, old homestead, and all the many outdoor cages. There are no streetlights like in the city! Since it is necessary to do some of the chores at the refuge at night, we have had a lighting system on our wish list for a long time. We had received several estimates, but could not afford the rates that were quoted. We kept hoping for a more reasonable contractor. Our wish finally came true! A wonderful gentleman, who brought in an injured animal, offered to donate and install an elaborate lighting system. Now not only the outdoor area is lit, but lights were also installed in the old homestead and the big cages. A special thanks goes out to this wonderful donor!

The septic system at the refuge was installed many years ago and badly needed to be updated. The system was thoroughly cleaned and some improvements were made around the area. During the spring through fall months, we wash many loads of towels, sheets, and other bedding for the many animals we care for. This will make it easier to deal with the tremendous water usage we have.


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.

A relative handful of people care for the animals, take the animals that need special medical care to and from veterinary appointments, maintain the facilities, obtain the necessary food and supplies, vaccinate the animals, treat injuries and illnesses, provide environmental enrichment, and prepare for and accomplish the release. In addition to all those things, they also respond to numerous concerns and inquiries from the public, give talks about wildlife at schools, animal shelters, and in other settings, and share information with the public at special community events. They also maintain the records required by the IRS, seek to ensure the financial viability of Wild Bunch, they write the newsletter, they write True Stories for the Wild Bunch Website, and create various informational sheets.

Animal caregivers are required to keep the Refuge running smoothly and to keep the animals well taken care of. Some of these individuals show promise. They come to help a few times and get familiar with our operation. It takes time to be able to be able to provide help in the beginning. When they start, there is a lot of time spent training and explaining the operations and various duties. This season we were very fortunate to have found several really devoted and helpful caregivers that were tremendous help to Diana at the refuge as well as the Alexandria facility. We are hopeful that they will stay with us for a long time. Caregivers must be licensed by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to be able to work with wildlife at rehabilitation facilities. We also had a volunteer for a short period this summer and hope to find experienced and truly devoted volunteers for the coming season. In addition, an experienced licensed Class II rehabilitator is needed to assist Diana and step in when she is not available. If you know of such a jewel that would be so very helpful to us, please let us know!

Are Beavers are still residing at the Refuge?

We get lots of questions about our beaver colony. Unfortunately, they have moved on or have been killed by roaming dogs. We are not completely certain that they have been killed by dogs but we still have a problem with deer hunting dogs roaming the refuge. The refuge is the perfect environment for beavers with many streams, varied vegetation and peace. Hopefully, something will be done about roaming dogs so that nothing will disturb the beavers and other wildlife at Wild Bunch.

Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels:

Squirrels usually have two litters every year, one in the spring and another in July or August. This year there were very few babies born during the spring season. However, the summer babies were more than plentiful. Diana had over 50 baby squirrels at one time and most were successfully rehabilitated. Luckily, we had the new squirrel release cage built (as mentioned above). All were eventually released there. We still would like to have more nesting boxes in the trees surrounding the area of the release cages, as we want to make sure every squirrel will find a home after release.

Miscellaneous events and educating the public:

Wild Bunch again participated in several Camps for Kids this summer. We taught youngsters about animals and specifically wildlife. These programs are very poplar and are hosted by most Northern Virginia area Animal shelters and some schools. Wild Bunch finds it very rewarding that some of the children who have attended previous years programs signed up again this year. Amazingly, they did remember a lot and had additional questions.

Wild Bunch participated at the 1st Northern Neck Community Event. We distributed pamphlets and other materials about wildlife. We also informed the public about wildlife and discussed our programs.

Erika participated in the Commonwealth of Virginia's annual Rabies and Wildlife Seminar. This seminar covered not only rabies, but also the status of other wildlife diseases in Virginia. Attendees were employees of animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians and officials of health departments.

Diana spoke to a Girl Scout troop in Warsaw earlier this year. She talked about the local wildlife, stressing that wild animals are not pets. She also talked about our mission: rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife. The troop leader recommended that the troop visit the refuge and think of a project the group could participate in. It was decided that the refuge grounds could use some beautification so; this summer, the troop and some parents arrived and created several beautiful beds with flowers and bushes and a bird feeder to attract some of the many birds that reside at the refuge.

This year we were very fortunate to have an abundant harvest of acorns. This will be so very helpful to many of our wild friends. Our beautiful Refuge is blessed with many trees, Beech, Hemlock, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, many Loblolly Pines and a few Walnut and Hickory trees. Unfortunately, there are not many oak trees. Several thoughtful people have collected and donated hundreds of pounds of acorns for feeding our wildlife during the winter months.

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website:

Beginning November 1, The True Story on the website will be "A Tale of Two Foxes." Since we get so many calls about mangy foxes and their treatment, we thought this story, written by one of our callers, will make it more understandable and clear how the program works. A picture of the mangy fox and another picture of one after treatment show how great this program works.

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 that you know, to consider making Wild Bunch one of their CFC charities. Our newly assigned CFC designated number is 69040.