Newsletter Archive

Wild Bunch Newsletter Spring 2010

Wild Bunch wishes to give you an update on our January through April 2010 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, and Lynn Roadcap.

MAY 30th WILL MARK THE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY SINCE THE WILD BUNCH WILDLIFE REFUGE PROPERTY WAS PURCHASED. Our next newsletter will feature the trials and tribulations that were experienced in establishing our currently successful Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Devastating Winter - Glorious and very busy Spring

Spring has finally arrived and we would like to give you an update on what occurred during this especially hard winter.

The Weather - Going back to December

December is typically a quiet and uneventful month for us with few new animals arriving. While caring for the animals that needed to be kept over the winter, we completed repairs and improvements at our facilities, took stock of the equipment and supplies we have on hand, and began obtaining what will be needed to see us through the busy spring, summer and fall months. The first two weeks of December we had mild weather. We were unprepared for what Mother Nature had planned for the rest of the month. Just before the Christmas holidays, record-setting low temperatures set in followed by a dangerous winter storm that brought 18 inches of snow and very dangerous road conditions.

After some of the snow melted and roads became more passable, we hoped that winter was more or less over. Mother Nature had other plans. There were more record-breaking low temperatures followed by back to back dangerous winter storms. The unusual heavy snowstorms made it impossible to drive anywhere. Fallen trees brought down power lines and left thousands without electricity for several days. We were very lucky that the generator provided electricity through all the storms at the refuge. Newland Road, the road leading to the Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge, was near impassible but, somehow, part of it got cleared. Diana was already at the Refuge but she was not able to reach the cages that house the resident owls and hawks that needed care. Also, the many wild friends that live at the refuge or come to feed at our feeding stations were unable to get food. It was difficult to replenish all that food.

Diana's right hand helper, Hope, persuaded her husband to take her with his heavy duty vehicle to the refuge to take care of all the critters and to keep the feeding stations filled with lots of food. Every day most of the food was eaten. We were surprised that the animals made it to the safety of the feeding stations. A Gold STAR for Hope! During the most difficult times you find out who your true friends are! As challenging as the situation was for us, it was nothing compared to the life or death situations that many of or wild neighbors faced while they tried to find food, water, and adequate shelter. Great Blue Heron, Pelicans, Mallards, and many others struggled to survive the frigid weather, icy waters, loss of homes, and loss of habitat.

From January through April of this year the following animals were received at the Refuge: 22 squirrels, 2 gold finches, 2 great horned owls, 1 black vulture, 2 crows, 2 barred owls, 1 turkey vulture, 1 red shouldered hawk, 6 red foxes, 2 box turtles, 6 robins, 1 gannett, 1 raccoon, 1 blue heron, 1 painted turtle, 9 opossum, 16 rabbits, 3 osprey, 1 sparrow and 7 mallards.

2010 "Baby Season is Underway"

As we often mention, we know baby season is upon us when the phone rings before dawn, continues to ring throughout the day, and often rings 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. Below are some examples of the advice we give:

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

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 a 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.

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

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.

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

Bears are attracted to any type of food left outdoors. Put your birdfeeder inside. Spray the outside of trashcan with Clorox to remove all food odors.

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

Single beavers, arriving in the spring and summer months are usually young beavers that have been evicted from their family home. 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 into 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:

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

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 basket close to where the original nest was and put the chick into it. Usually parents will soon come and feed their baby. During the few days 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.

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

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 window to break reflection. That should prevent the bird from thinking the window is a rival.

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

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 attracted to places where they can find food, trash, or small animals.

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

It sounds more like the fox with 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. Check the Wild Bunch website for more information.

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

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.

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

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 too sink the fence 12 inches underground to prevent tunneling underneath.

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

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.

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

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 6-7 weeks old to that site. Never remove adult raccoons during this time the year, because there probably are babies. Raccoon mothers will not move the babies during the day and it might take 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; put a chimney cap on your chimney, after all the animals have left.

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

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!

Skunks - There is a skunk in my window well?

Skunks are poor climbers. They often fall into uncovered window wells and can't get out. This goes for most wildlife, so it is imperative to cover all window well's 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.

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

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 squirrel 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.

How to Wildlife-Proof Your Home

Follow these tips to help keep wild animals where they the wild:

  • Keep garbage inside until trash collection day. Secure lids with heavy bricks or bungee cords. Spray closed can lids with Clorox or ammonia to eliminate food smell.
  • Don't feed your pets outside or leave food out for four-legged visitors.
  • If deer are a problem, erect fencing around your yard.
  • To keep rabbits and other garden visitors at a distance, place the plants they find most appetizing at the other edges of your garden; keep the less tasty closer to the home.

Unfortunately, since that time nothing has been done to maintain the meadow and it is covered with undesirable weeds and bushes again. It was bush hogged just to clear it, but it is, unfortunately now, a rather depressing site. So very much needs to be done on the refuge that have much higher priority than the luxuries of a wildlife meadow. However, we are hopeful that someday some wonderful patron will come and help turn our former beautiful meadow into a real paradise again.

Wildlife Rehabilitator Training

Right before "baby season" every year, we attend classes on a variety of rehabilitator/wildlife topics. Such training helps to keep current on new and 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," Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation" is always necessary and offered every year, in the hopes of attracting more rehabilitators that we so desperately need. Also we are very short on bird rehabbers, so we did offer the "Introduction to Raising Orphaned Birds" class. Furthermore a class mostly for experienced rehabbers was given: Rationalizing Euthanasia in difficult Trauma Cases."

True Story on the Wild Bunch Website

Beginning in May, The True Story on the Wild Bunch website, ( will be "A Red Tailed Hawk Rescue". This story is about a fluffy little red tailed hawk that fell from its nest and ended up at the refuge with Diana O'Connor, who raised it and eventfully released it at the refuge.

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 2009 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 from our website. We rely on your support and we appreciate everything you do to help.