Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last week I received a call from a woman in New Jersey …

A small bird, likely a Northern Cardinal based on her description, had flown into their window and they had rescued it but couldn’t find anyone in their area to help it. Although infrequent, it is not uncommon for us to receive calls like this. Sometimes someone has found our website online or sometimes someone who used to live in this area will call looking for contacts where they are now residing. Due to some of the severe weather in the south over the past few years we have gotten several calls from people in those areas attempting to rescue animal victims of the storms.

To protect animals (and people) it is illegal to possess a wild animal without the proper permits anywhere in the United States. That is one reason why we always get back to these individuals and do everything we can to get them in contact with someone who is at least in their state who may have access to more local sources. The National and International Wildlife Rehabilitators Associations are our best source for these out-of-state contacts, but anyone would be wise to check with their state and local offices for the Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a more complete listing of all those individuals who are licensed to help our wild neighbors in their own states.

National Rehabilitators Associtation
US Fish and Wildlife Service

If you have a question or are concerned about a wild neighbor that may need help visit our website at or call us from 9-5 seven days a week.

If you or someone you know would like to donate resources, skills or time to promote our online and telephone outreach efforts please contact us at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Tail of Two Star Crossed Lovers

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

The quote above may easily have been the call of a female Barred Owl, stuck inside a chimney in the Village of Menomonee Falls. On the eve of Saturday, February 13th, the homeowners heard a rustling inside the vent of their fireplace, similar to that of a trapped animal. The noise continued the following day, causing the concerned homeowner to call upon a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. It was early Monday morning when the rehabilitators arrived to inspect the fireplace and if needed remove whatever may be causing the commotion inside the chimney. To everyone’s surprise it was not a raccoon, squirrel or wayward bird, but a female Barred Owl! Given the time of year (see owl facts below), it’s possible that while looking for a nest site she found her way to the uncapped chimney. While inspecting the chimney, she may have fallen in and was subsequently not able to fly out. Thankfully, after being trapped for more than 2 days, the rescue was complete and an exhausted and dehydrated Barred Owl was brought to the Wildlife in Need Center. A short time later though, much to everyone’s surprise, the rescuers called to inform us that a second owl, (possibly the mate?) was also trapped in the chimney. Had he entered the area looking for his lost partner? Or had he been trapped higher in the chimney out of sight? Interestingly, Sunday, February 14th was Valentine’s Day and it was that day that most of the sounds had come from the chimney. Could the chimney have been the location of a lovers tryst?

It was later in the day that the male Barred Owl arrived, only slightly dehydrated and in better shape than his female counterpart. Currently both owls are being treated for dehydration and will hopefully be in care for only a short time. They have no idea the delight it brings us all each time they call to each other from their separate enclosures. Meanwhile, the homeowner of the chimney has quickly responded to the situation and is having all of their chimneys capped as this story is written.
Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.

Romeo, Act I, scene iv

The Barred Owl is a medium-sized gray-brown owl streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly, hence the name. Often confused by name with the Barn Owl, Barred Owls have a round-headed with a whitish/brown facial disk and dark brown trim. Their eyes are dark brown, and the beak is yellow and almost covered by feathers. There is no difference in plumage between the male and female. Primarily a nocturnal owl, you’ll find them roosting high in the trees, camouflaged next to a trunk, or nesting in an open cavity. Their calls are very distinct "Hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo" which can often sound like "Who, cooks, for-you? Who, cooks, for-you, all?" Barred owls will eat a variety of foods, but meadow voles are its main prey. Squirrels and young rabbits make up a part of their diet, including an occasional roosting bird. Barred Owls also eat animals you would find near a pond or marsh, like frogs, snakes, crickets, and grasshoppers. The courtship for these owls begins in February, with breeding occurring between March and August. Barred Owls mate for life. How long do they live? They can live up to 23 years in captivity and 10 years in the wild. Great Horned Owls are their only natural enemy.
-KF (aka CBL)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eaves and Leaves

I was walking my dog the other day and noticed a squirrel scamper into the eave of a home along the sidewalk. We get calls all year and nearly every day from people in our area who have questions or concerns regarding their wild neighbors and their ability to become uninvited guests. I wondered whether or not the person living in this house would be calling me the following day at the Center regarding this little fellow or if they knew all about him and out of the goodness of their hearts had decided to share, and so I decided to come up with the best answer to their likely questions.

Because is it the middle of February, believe it or not we are into the final countdown for baby season to begin. This means that now might be a good time for certain wild neighbors to suggest they look for other accommodations. If you were to find yourself in a situation such as this these are the steps I would recommend:

  1. First identify if possible any and all entry and exit points. If there are more than one, try to repair the others, even if it’s only a temporary fix. To test your theory, wad up a piece of newspaper and place it in the entry space. Mr. (or Ms.) squirrel will have to remove it in order to get in and out like they have gotten used to. You can also try flouring the surface outside the opening or any other techniques that will allow you to monitor movement in that area without having to keep a vigil for 12 hours at a time.
  2. Scout your property and your nearby neighbors. If there are any food sources, especially bird feeders, that can be cleaned-up, moved, or removed even if it’s only temporary, your efforts will be much more successful.
  3. Purchase some ordinary household ammonia and for small openings soak a small bit of rag in it and place the rag into the opening being sure to keep it to one side so as not to block anyone in. For larger openings place a larger rag soaked in ammonia into an empty yogurt cup or tin can and place it just inside the area. For a squirrel you could do this during the day or night, even if they are awake your presence will further send the message that they should start packing. Continue to replace the newspaper into the hole each day that it gets removed so you can monitor your progress.
  4. If more convincing is needed try finding a portable radio. See if you can get it near to that area, or if that’s not possible leave it on in the house in a window or directly below that area. For a squirrel you will want it on during the daytime anyhow as that is when they would be awake. Turn it to a talk radio station to give them the idea that there are people around even when you aren’t.
  5. After a short time you should be able to ascertain that your uninvited guest has decreased or ceased their visits altogether to this area. Your next step is to repair that and all other areas where they previously had access. I recommend installing a 1-way door just to be sure that no-one gets trapped inside. Trapping an animal is not only in-humane, but almost certainly means more destruction, death by starvation and potentially more to repairs to deal with once the body decomposes.

    To install a 1-way door:

    a. Cut a piece of hardware mesh large enough to cover the opening.
    b. Cut a hole in the mesh large enough for our friend to get out.
    c. Cut out another piece of mesh slightly larger than the hole and attach it to the larger piece along the top half.
    d. The goal is to re-create a 1-way doggy-door style door out of inexpensive materials.

    Once your little friend has moved out and no longer has access to the area, permanent repairs can be implemented. These techniques should be used in many cases involving uninvited mammals however, if you are dealing with a wild neighbor during the spring and summer months, be sure to give them enough time during the ammonia and noise phase to relocate any offspring they may have nested in the area. If you have questions always check our website or contact a rehabilitator before taking any actions you may regret.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Only Chimney Swift Spending the Winter in Wisconsin

As many of you know, we are over-wintering a Chimney Swift this year at WINC. He (or she, there’s no real way to tell) came in as an orphan on August 20th. This is considered very late in the season for Chimney Swifts. But just like other baby birds, we fed our little Chimney Swift every 30 minutes for the first couple months to keep him going.

Eventually, as his weight reached a plateau at a healthy 20 grams, we put him on hourly feedings. Typically, as birds grow older they begin to self-feed and you can feed them less and less frequently until they no longer need any hand-feeding. However, Chimney Swifts are different. In the wild, they catch insects in the air as they fly which is very difficult to replicate in captivity. Because they will not self-feed in captivity, we knew we would have to feed him. He was the first patient we cared for in the morning and the last one at night.

Once he developed sufficient flying skills, we decided it was time to start looking for flocks of other Chimney Swifts to release him into. We had heard of flock sightings in Madison so a staff member took him there in hopes that she would find the flock. Unfortunately, it was a cold day so the flock was nowhere to be found. After a few more weeks with no signs of the flock, we had to face the facts: the Chimney Swifts had already migrated to the only place they go in the winter months, Peru! So we knew our 70 degree indoor aviary and hourly hand- feedings were his only hope for survival. Of course we were willing to do whatever we needed to do for him to someday be released.

It’s now the end of January and we’re still feeding our Chimney Swift whenever he desires which is back to almost every half-hour, time permitting. Having to keep any animal over the entire winter is not ideal for us or for them, but one you have to care for so many times a day can start to drive a rehabber a little crazy. It got me thinking about how much of our time this little guy demands. We’ve fed him approximately 15 times per day for the last three months and an average of 25 times per day for the two months prior to that. After a little math, I came up with an approximation of roughly 2,850 feedings since August 20th! So that’s where all of our mealworms are going!

As the days slowly grow longer, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Chimney Swift and hopefully he will be released into a flock once the summer months return. Until then, he has a safe and warm place to live where he will never have to worry about going hungry.

Guest Blogger, C.M.