Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter Spring 2009

The Wild Bunch wishes to give you an update on our January through March 2009 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 that serves as our wildlife refuge. Our officers and directors are Erika Yery, Pat Crusenberry, Diana O'Connor, Charlene DeVol, Lynn Roadcap and Shannan Catalano.

Interesting Refuge News

Typically, January, February and most of March are relatively uneventful months with very few animals coming in. This year was quite different. In the first quarter of this year, Wild Bunch received 3 bluebirds, 1 chicken, 14 ducks, 2 finches, 2 Canada Geese, 4 Red-tailed hawks, 1 gull, 2 Cooper's hawks, 1 screech owl, 1 kestrel, 1 pigeon, 1 turkey, 1 black vulture, 6 squirrels, 1 flying squirrel and 1 red fox.

The owls and hawks were brought by game wardens and rehabilitated by Diana. All had been hit by cars while trying to feast on road kill. Most had broken wings and one owl had an eye injury that is still being treated. In February, two of last year's baby squirrels were confiscated by a local game warden from a lady that wanted to keep them as pets. They were not fed properly and were too tame, so they will have to be kept until they are releasable later this spring. Soon after that, three pinky squirrels were found without a mother and arrived at the refuge. In early March, a farm in King Georges County was raided. It had many dogs, cat, goats, ducks and geese. All were in terrible condition, some dead and others close to it. All these animals had to immediately be placed. Diana accepted several domestic ducks and geese and kept them until they were in good health and a proper place could be found for them. In mid March three bluebirds got stuck in the flue of a local residence and were taken to the Refuge. One bluebird died right away, but the others are doing well. We recommended to the homeowner that she have a screen put over the flue opening so it won't happen again.

Diana spoke to a Girl Scout Troop in Warsaw. She talked about baby birds, how to care for birds in trouble, and impressed upon the girls that wild animals are not pets. The talk was a success and the Troop Leader would like to schedule a time when the girls can provide some kind of service at the Refuge this summer. This activity would help the troop to earn an outdoor badge.

Wild Bunch Directors met at the Refuge

The Wild Bunch Board of Directors met at the Wild Bunch Refuge in February. This area of the Northern Neck generally has mild winters, but this year was different. Diana gave us an update on the February winter storms that hit the Northern Neck area particularly hard. There was an unusual amount of snow and a Northeastern that kept everybody home bound for a few days without electricity for the area. Again, we were incredibly grateful for the generator. It immediately kicked in and ran for 17 hours. How did we ever do without it?

As usual we discussed the upcoming and always very busy season. Again there is great concern about the volunteers necessary to take care of the many animals, and keep the Refuge and grounds in excellent and clean condition. So far we have been proud of our ability to keep the grounds surrounding the refuge building as inviting and pleasing as possible, but each year we worry that we won't have enough help.

There is a lot involved to keep the property clean and trash free, the grass cut and the cages and nesting boxes maintained. In addition to all that, it is also imperative that we attach new nesting boxes around the Refuge area as well as in the release areas.

While the Board was at the Refuge, Diana took time from her very busy schedule to take the members to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Since the Wild Bunch property is adjacent to it and provides additional refuge for the released animals, we were very interested in investigating what our larger neighbors had to offer the wildlife.

The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The 7,700 acre Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge is bounded by the Rappahannock River to the south and west, and the Potomac River to the North. It consists of numerous small parcels of land that have been donated or purchased from the public. There is 1800 acres of this huge Refuge adjacent to the Wild Bunch property.

The habitats include cropland, wetland, marsh and forests. The immense forest habitat is a great habitat for species such as wood thrush and grassland nesting birds such as grasshopper sparrows and northern bobwhite. With more than 225 species of birds present, this refuge has become a rare refuge in the densely populated East. Indigo Buntings, Acadian Flycatchers, Red-winged blackbirds, Eastern meadowlarks and many other species are abundant. A large Bald Eagle population also nests there. They are joined by mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, such as the rare tree frog and many other rare species of wildlife and plants. During the last midwinter survey over 32,000 ducks, geese, swans, Canada geese, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, mallards, black ducks, wood ducks and tundra swans were counted.

The refuge provides excellent habitat for wading birds, rails and shorebirds. The forests and fields are home to fox, raccoon, squirrel, skunk, groundhog, turkey, quail, dove, white-tailed deer and many types of snakes and amphibians. Hunting is permitted at the Rappahannock Refuge, but only for white-tailed deer. Hunting with dogs, and trapping is not allowed.

The Wild Bunch could not ask for a better neighbor. It is the perfect environment for releasing rehabilitated wildlife as there is so much suitable environment right next to us.

Hunting with Dogs and the problem it creates

Wild Bunch does not permit hunting at the refuge and signs are posted on the property. However, hunting dogs periodically roam the property and have created a lot of problems for us. Roaming dogs are exposed to serious and often fatal diseases such as distemper and rabies. Not only do they roam the woods and meadows, they often kill released or resident wildlife. These dogs also hang around the cages used for wildlife rehabilitation. We had a distemper outbreak some years ago and we believe it was caused by roaming hunting dogs that were not vaccinated. Since canine distemper is airborne, this was a major catastrophe for the poor wildlife that we tried to help. Some of the dogs were in sad condition, hungry and often sick and injured. We had to take several of the dogs to a local veterinarian. He was familiar with the dogs because they have been taken to him before by concerned citizens. These dogs are supposed to wear a radio collar, so they can be found by their owners but that seldom does happen.

Bob Duncan, executive director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said the increasing problems prompted a study, "Hunting with Hounds in Virginia" and it is currently being reviewed in the General Assembly. It can't be proven, but we suspect that dogs have killed our beaver family that lived in the creek.

Refuge Improvements for the Upcoming Season

We are still hoping to install electricity in the Old Homestead. We have had some estimates, but we are hoping to find a more reasonable contractor. A large squirrel cage is currently under construction. Hopefully it will be ready when the spring babies need larger housing. We have not found a contractor that has the skills and knowledge to build a state of the art large flight cage. Since we desperately also need more caging for skunks, groundhogs and other small mammals, we decided to spend the funds to have a large cage built with sections for these animals. We do have plans and are looking for a contractor to build it.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Training

Each year, usually before "baby season" begins or after it ends, we attend classes on a variety of rehabilitator and wildlife concerns. Such training helps we keep current on newer, better ways to help our wild charges in particular and wildlife in general. They also help us meet the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' educational requirements that must be completed before we can renew our wildlife rehabilitation permits.

This spring our rehabilitators attended classes that the Wildlife Center of Virginia held in our area for members of the Wildlife Rescue League of Northern Virginia. The Wildlife Center of Virginia is a well-respected and internationally known hospital for native wildlife that is located in Waynesboro, Virginia. One class, "Wildlife Capture, Restraint, Handling and Transportation" was very helpful to us. The class "Diagnosing and Treating Injuries in Wildlife" was taught by a wildlife ophthalmologist and was very informative and helpful because we do get animals with eye problems. Also, a class "How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator" attracted many interested people and we hope that some will follow through and become wildlife rehabilitators as we are in desperate need.

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website

Beginning April 1 the True Story on the Wild Bunch website, ( will be "A Tale of Two Foxes". We still get daily calls on foxes with mange that need help. We felt it would be appropriate to explain the Wild Bunch Program on how to help these poor animals. It explains how Mrs. Katz, a concerned citizen helped the foxes and how she went about it. We hope this will help others that see a fox in need and educate them on what to do to help it get well.

Some Financial News

Last year, Wild Bunch was delighted to be selected again to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) of the National Capital Area. The CFC is a charitable donation program for federal government employees. It 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. The annual charitable donation drive provides funds to a wide variety of nonprofit local, national, and international organizations. We were pleased that the 2007 CFC donations covered a major improvement we made to the refuge before the baby season began.

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

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. Thank you for the opportunity to give back to Mother Nature. We get the opportunity to contribute peacefulness to wildlife and to the world.