Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Disoriented coot admitted to rehabilitation center

It’s not a duck, a crane or a pigeon was the description of a bird found lying, presumably injured, in the road near someone’s home. Upon arrival we too were stumped, but 2 minutes into our bird books confirmed our suspicions that what had arrived was a duck-like bird commonly referred to as an American Coot.

Our coot wasn’t really drunk, he may have been hit by a passing car however, which causes head trauma and the characteristics of being inebriated. The phrases “old coot” and “bald as a coot” actually originate from the 1430’s. According to, John Lyndgate’s Chronicle of Troy refers to someone being “as balde as is a coot.” This idea of the coot being bald actually comes from white markings on the foreheads of many males. To direct one of these phrases to a person in today’s terminology often implies, according to the free, you believe they are a foolish person, especially an older man. As best we could tell from our research, this is where the “baldness” comes into play. If anyone else knows originations or meanings of the phrase I’d be interested to know.

At this point the coot is in guarded care. He/she (I don’t know yet) has a pretty severe fracture in one wing and they think they feel scar tissue which means that the fracture likely did not happen just this morning. We are waiting to hear back from one of our volunteer veterinarians to get it in for an x-ray. Even if it is a repairable fracture, with scar tissue already forming, time is not on our side. We’ve rarely seen these birds here at the Center so keep your fingers crossed for the little guy/gal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Turkey's were released

“The turkey’s that were released last week are still in the area. They come each morning closer to the house as we put water and a little food out for them. They come back again in the afternoon to check and see what’s left, but they spend the rest of their time scouring our land for bugs and seeds. It has taken them the whole week to gain the confidence to reach the outer edges of the property, but they seem to be getting braver each day and they are fitting into the landscape quite nicely.”

M. D. -WINC Member and release site registrant.

We do our best to keep as many young animals with their families each year as possible, but inevitably, summer is our busiest time of year as we raise hundreds of ducks, raccoons, squirrels, birds, cottontails and even some turkeys. Because these animals are being given a second chance at life at the Wildlife In Need Center and often a new family as well, they don’t have a territory to return to like our adult patients do. These animals rely on the goodness of the people in our release site program. Individuals who have property they either own or manage can fill out a form from our office or our website in which they detail the natural aspects of their property. Release sites need not be huge or even strictly rural, but urban lots and small suburban yards won’t do. All release sites are checked out by a staff member to verify that it is good habitat for the desired species. Releasing an animal on an ideal release site can be as important to its survival as the care it receives in our rehabilitation hospital. If you are interested in becoming a release site for the Wildlife In Need Center please visit our website or call us for more information.

And on the topic of releases: We were recently forwarded this wonderful story about a fellow rehabilitator and a succesful release of 4 sandhill cranes. The great thing is that two of these individuals came from the Wildlife In Need Center! Transferring patients between centers gives each animal a better chance to access the things that they need, whether it is a larger flight aviary, surgical care or a foster parent. You can find out more in future posts, by checking our website, or by giving us a call.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foxes Away!

The caller had a fox that had been “hanging around” his yard and wanted to know what could be done about it. What was really going on was that a fox had been passing through his yard several times a week throughout the past several months. Since this was not the time of year that there would possibly be pups or a den involved this is what I told him:

The reality is that foxes have adapted well to urban life all across the country and even in other parts of the world; coyotes, raccoons and skunks too. Since he had never witnessed the fox hunting in his own yard, nor had he noticed any signs of a den in the area it is most likely that two areas of this fox’s territory happened to fall on either side of this neighborhood.

But what about his dog and children? Foxes, and most wild animals for that matter, don’t want to have anything to do with humans or our pets. Aside from playful fox kits, they usually don’t want to expend any more energy than is necessary to procure their next meal. Since they are omnivorous, this could range from some berries under a mulberry tree to an occasional cottontail, but rarely anything larger. Unless we interfere with their natural behaviors by trying to habituate them or by taking risks that put vulnerable pets in tempting situations, the average person will never have a bad experience with an animal like this.

When incidents do occur between dogs or cats and wild animals it can turn out badly. We get hundreds of animals into the Center each year that have been rescued from the jaws of Fluffy or Fido. When larger animals are involved such as foxes, the situation usually involves a dog or cat trying to protect its own territory. This is why I always urge people to consider this fact with regards to their pets’ safety: if an animal is small enough that you would be concerned about an animal like a fox or a raccoon it shouldn’t be left alone, period. In my opinion, this also applies to every pet we take responsibility for. Additionally, cats who are let outside reportedly kill millions of songbirds each year regardless of how much they are fed. All pets will ultimately live longer, healthier lives if they are kept indoors or allowed outdoors only in safe, supervised situations. Most pet dogs and cats are more likely to have an incident with another dog or cat in their lifetime than with a wild animal that causes harm to them if we do our best to keep these guidelines in mind. While it is rare, there have been reports of foxes learning to live in harmony with outdoor cats and one gentleman even called to report that his dog had apparently befriended their local fox and he was having the hardest time trying to convince him to do otherwise!

As far as children go: it is our responsibility as adults to teach them respect for wildlife. This doesn’t mean that they should fear their wild neighbors. With development drawing more wildlife into the urban realm, now more than ever, we need to teach the kind of understanding that will help our children to protect the earth and all of its inhabitants into the future.

Most people will never be able to get close enough to a wild animal in a normal, respectful situation to be at risk of injury unless that animal is severely injured or ill. If a wild animal appears to be showing signs of being sick or injured, teach your children that the first thing to do is to go tell an adult. The best thing that adult can do is remove the children from the situation; then go back and assess the situation from a safe distance before or while they contact the Wildlife In Need Center or another wildlife specialist. These professionals can help to determine what may be at issue and whether or not action needs to be taken.