Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Providing Sanctuary

“I just installed my new clothes washer and now I have a frog in my basement. How do I tell if it is a native species and if so, what should I do with it?”

You may or may not know this, but there are animals who migrate to Wisconsin that aren’t South American birds. Whether they arrive via tropical houseplant, new appliance, or even hitching a ride on our own vehicles; these animals usually migrate here unintentionally. Although not extremely common, be aware when bringing foreign items into your home that this may be the case. Most importantly, if you find a reptile or amphibian that you suspect might be an immigrant, even if it appears to look like a native species, always contact a local rehabilitator, conservation warden, reptile or other wildlife specialist before releasing it. If the animal is not from this area it may not be able to adapt and will suffer, or worse yet, it may learn to adapt which can ultimately lead to serious consequences for competing native species.

More often however, the frogs and salamanders people find in their basements are native and have come in via much more common ways like our sump-pump wells. This frog was unfortunate enough to have been discovered on a, albeit seasonably warm, still cold, November day. By then the ground was too cold and the time too short for any amphibian to successfully prepare for hibernation. These situations turn out best if a rehabilitator or knowledgeable reptile specialist can “over-winter” the animal and properly release it when the temperatures are warmer. Last year we ended up over-wintering several young snakes and a frog. It is only December and this year we already have 2 frogs and a snake looking at a warm cozy winter with us. These little guys need lots of protein to stay healthy through the winter so if you would like to sponsor either of them by making a donation for their care please contact us.

If you are looking for more information about amphibians and reptiles in the Midwest you can also consult with the Midwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation at

Monday, December 21, 2009

Help us help wildlife

Did you know that the Wildlife In Need Center publishes an amazing calendar each year to promote the work its doing to help our wild Wisconsin neighbors?

I know that the primary goal of this blog is about helping wildlife and educating you about how you can help wildlife too. That is why I want to let you know that by purchasing a calendar for yourself or possibly for a loved one, YOU are helping to spread the word about how to help our wild neighbors too! This is our 15th year of providing care and we have chosen to feature some of the amazing stories we’ve seen in recent years. From the barred owl whose ground-breaking surgery, therapy, rehabilitation and release would have cost over $15,000 if were not for the generous donations of time and materials from our volunteer veterinarians, local specialists and volunteers to the tiniest physical therapy patient we’ve ever had in an infant 13-line ground squirrel. You can use your credit card and have your order shipped to you by calling someone in our office (262-968-5075) 7 days a week (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years days) or you can stop by anytime to see it for yourself. 2010 calendars are only $15 each and even if the high quality paper, binding and printing don't sell you, the amazing photos and stories will. Thank you for caring and we wish you and yours all the best in the coming year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do you know anything about elephants?

“Do you know anything about elephants? No, I don’t want you to think that I have seen an elephant in my yard, but I’ve called you guys on so many other things and you seem to be very knowledgeable.”

The caller went on to describe the situation which she needed clarified and ultimately said that since she wasn’t currently in a position to look the information up herself, she knew exactly who to call.

Her question was regarding a conversation she had with a friend claiming that a baby elephant weighed in at an extremely high amount and was walking after only a few days. Although I don’t know a lot about elephants I could relate to her that a number of large mammals are able to stand and walk very shortly after birth like deer, horses and cattle and that an elephant would likely fall into that same category of animals. In nature, every species fills its own niche and every animal is an individual, but they also have a lot in common –both with each other and with ourselves- if you take the time to think about them. We don’t often get calls out of our realm like these, but we are always happy to help when it comes to people who care about our fellow creatures as we do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fowl me once…

This specific story was actually from a year or two ago, but we inevitably get calls like this several times each winter. The caller was sure he had been watching a duck that was frozen in the ice near some reeds on the lake abutting his property. The Wildlife In Need Center does not have drivers on staff to rescue animals, we rely on the public and volunteers to bring animals to our center to provide care for them. We do our best to get volunteers when there is an animal in need, but sending a volunteer into water, even if it is frozen, is something we will not do for everyone's safety.

Several calls came into the office with no update on the duck and it was clear that there would be no convincing the gentleman that this was anything but an animal emergency. Eventually the individual ventured out onto the frozen water himself (which we absolutely never recommend). After a short trip, this gentleman called back, admittedly sheepish, and confirmed that indeed the “duck” had been an expensive decoy that must have gotten blown into the reeds or unearthed from the snow due to recent winds that week.

We absolutely want to help each and every animal, and ducks and geese could conceivably get frozen in the ice, but it almost never happens. They may choose to go to the middle of a frozen lake because they know they are safe from a number of predators out there and those that may still pose a threat can be seen from a distance. They often pull their feet up underneath themselves to keep warm when they are on the ice. We recommend if you see a bird on the frozen water that you suspect is hurt or stuck to first try these steps:

  • Try to get a closer look. If it is safe, walk to the water’s edge, or if that’s not close enough, track down a pair of binoculars or telescope to obtain a better picture of what you are looking at.

  • If you are unable to get a closer look, or if you do and are certain it is still potentially an animal in need, find some small stones or preferably a tennis ball or other softer item. Stand close to the shoreline and gently toss/roll/skip the item/s towards the animal. Aim to the side so that you don’t accidentally hit them though! This usually gets them to move so you can see they are free.

    If these techniques lead you to believe that this is an animal in need and that there is something wrong, contact your local rehabilitation center or humane society to alert them to the situation and discuss what options and next steps are available.

    We were very appreciative of this gentleman’s concern as well as his efforts to rescue this defenseless animal, but most of all we are happy to know that this story turned out to have a happy ending - because it was not a duck in need of our assistance.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Bad" Raccoons

“We have had problems with some ‘bad’ raccoons. They have been getting into the dumpster for our residential living unit and when employees leave at night they are on the porch sometimes and they don’t run away.”

Okay, although raccoons are notorious for being mischievous and opportunistic, I didn’t realize they had begun to form gangs. That said, I explained to her that because raccoons are so smart, part of the reason they have been exhibiting these behaviors is because the employees and residents of her building have allowed them to do so.

The first thing I recommended to her was to evaluate any possible food sources. The dumpster is an obvious target so I suggested they talk with management for the building and perhaps their waste disposal company as well, to look at fencing or locking options that would prevent or limit the access these raccoons have to the garbage within. If this were an individual residence, often the best solution is to put off putting the garbage out until shortly before it is to be taken away, but as this situation wouldn’t allow for this type of set-up we have to be creative. Sometimes just requesting a replacement dumpster with new lids and a clean exterior that cuts down on the smells attracting the raccoons is all that is needed.

Additionally, I explained that the most logical explanation for these animals hanging out around the buildings, aside from the plentiful food source, is that they simply feel comfortable there. Much of the year, especially in the colder months, raccoons live fairly solitary lives and usually only find themselves living in close proximity to other raccoons in urban settings which offer up much more varied and abundant food sources. This could also be a group of juveniles or a family whose kits were born unusually late in the season, but their behaviors were not uncommon to those that we hear of regularly. The fact remains that when the individuals within the building saw these raccoons on the porch – likely looking for food scraps – night after night, choose to stay inside rather than scare them off by turning on lights, making noise, or even just opening the door, they unwittingly made the culprits feel more at home. I explained that they could also try placing ammonia or synthetic predator urine scents in and around the frequented areas to make them feel uneasy as an added incentive to the other strategies to be implemented.

The final thing I suggested was that she speak with the other people who regularly encounter these animals and try to share with them the information I gave her. My philosophy is that once you understand how to live with your wild neighbors, you will begin to understand how to live without them – in your space that is. The raccoons weren’t the problem, the abundant and easily accessible food source coupled with areas where the animals felt safe made for an ideal habitat, urbanity aside. This is why we never recommend relocating animals. Not only is it almost never actually as humane as you would like to think (a large portion of animals that are relocated do not survive for any number of reasons in addition to the law prohibiting the release of wild animals without permission), it is almost never successful as most situations fall into the same category as the one I’ve just been describing. Once the “perpetrators” are removed, the territory is then left open for others to claim and the cycle will inevitably continue.