Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fox and the Hedgehog

Okay, I fooled you, there are no hedgehogs in this post, but I’ve heard it’s a cute story. The real story starts with a phone call about a fox this morning and the picture that goes best with it is a rather unappealing one; you will see it below.
The caller lived in Southeastern Wisconsin, but had been at their lake home for the weekend. While there, they noticed a fox that appeared a bit rough and thin. Their neighbor remarked that it had been seen coming and going from the culvert under their driveway for a week or more.

The reality is that foxes have adapted well to urban life all across the country; whether it is City urban or Lake Home urban; and even in other countries. Since fall is inching its way closer the majority of fox kits have started out on their own and some of them struggle at first. What is also common in foxes in this area is mange.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, “mange is a skin disease of mammals caused by a tissue-burrowing arthropod.” They go on to describe Sarcoptic mange, which is the kind commonly seen in foxes in Wisconsin, as being “characterized by thinning and loss of hair, thickening and wrinkling of the skin, and scab and crust formation.” Patients we’ve admitted obviously have thinning hair, but they will also commonly have sores that are scabbed over and smell terrible over much of their body. Mange is treatable, and we do so with a dual treatment both internally and externally. The unfortunate part of the disease is that the animals eventually become weak from an inability to hunt from the distraction and fighting the ongoing infection from the wounds on their bodies. This is usually the time that they are finally contained and brought to us for care and treatment. [This is evident in the photo above. To read about the happy ending this pitiful creature saw you’ll have to watch for a future post]

But what about his 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 a mouse or an occasional cottontail, but rarely anything larger. Unless we interfere with their natural behaviors by trying to habituate them the average person will never have a bad experience with an animal like this. It is our responsibility as adults to teach children about wildlife and the world that surrounds us. This means encouraging respect, not fear, of our wild neighbors. It also means understanding that if we show them the respect they deserve, they will do the same in exchange. With development drawing more wildlife into urban areas it will benefit all of us if we learn this lesson.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Through an Intern’s Eyes

Working at the Wildlife in Need Center (WINC) as a marketing intern for the past three months has been a great ride, whether it was preparing for a fundraiser, navigating my way through a donor database, or admitting cute little orphaned or injured critters into the center. Working with dedicated WINC employees, learning the tricks of the trade in marketing within a nonprofit organization, and giving snacks to Waldo the Woodchuck in between my daily tasks has made this internship an informative and memorable experience.

I came into this internship having a love for but little knowledge of Wisconsin wildlife. Having grown up in a rural area, I came to know and have a soft spot for the little animals that found their way into my front yard and my mom’s vegetable garden, even though their crimes were not always warmly welcomed! However, I now feel that I have gained more insight into how I can live in harmony with wildlife. Reading the book Wild Neighbors by the Humane Society of the United States and learning from my supervisors at WINC have taught me how I can prevent wildlife from becoming nuisances around my home. Admitting patients in WINC’s front office allowed me opportunities to hold and identify wildlife.

But as many of you know, school is just around the bend. My free time to bird-watch and observe fascinating Wisconsin wildlife will be extremely limited. The months will get busier, and my head will increasingly feel heavier with school assignments and other activities. I am going to make the assumption that many of you will also have busier schedules upon the arrival of fall. Who has the time or means to donate to wildlife when there is no room on our calendars and never-ending bills to pay?

However, for those of us who wish to remember the animals in the midst of our busy schedules, we can still pitch in and help! For example...

  1. Whether it is shopping at the grocery store, filling up gas in our cars, or renewing our magazine subscriptions, there are many ways in which we can provide for wildlife during our everyday routines. Please visit WINC’s website at to read more about these easy and worthwhile opportunities.
  2. We can donate our extra veggies, pet foods, and/or other products that could benefit injured wildlife. View WINC’s wish list online at
  3. We should take precautions around our homes to ensure the safety of our families and nearby wildlife. We can find out what we can do to prevent any wildlife-related disasters from occurring by visiting the helpful links at
  4. If we do see animals that appear to be injured or in trouble, making a simple phone call to WINC or visiting its website to learn about the proper steps we should take could save lives!
  5. WINC is always in need of volunteers and interns throughout the year! Whether it is caring for the animals in person, working in the front office and reaching out the community, or educating the public on our wild neighbors, WINC always needs our help! View these awesome volunteer and internship opportunities at

I will miss my summer days with Waldo the Woodchuck, Daphne the Duck, and all of the other educational animals and patients at the Wildlife in Need Center. However, even though I will not be able to see them every day, I will always remember them and try my best to remain a part of WINC, whether it is contributing donations that fit inside my budget or volunteering my time at the center next summer. Where there is a will, there is a way!

I was only an intern at WINC this past summer, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel like I became a part of a…family. And shouldn’t family members always support each other?

...Daphne the Duck says, "YES!"

Guest Blogger J.M.

NOTE: Do you have any suggestions for WINC’s upcoming blog posts? If so, please post them in your comment, and WINC may use them in the near future!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Caller Says: #1, All A-Flutter

A small bird was in the backyard, not flying.

First question is always is this a small adult bird or baby bird?

Second question is what was the bird doing before you discovered it and what has it been doing since?

In the spring, summer and early fall you can occasionally find nestling babies that should be in the nest but that have fallen out due to the weather or other forces. These babies will have some naked pink spots yet. Those can be replaced in their nest should be, but only when warmed under a lamp or in your hand before doing so. In cases where the nest has been destroyed or is too high to reach the baby can be replaced in a substitute nest. A substitute nest can be made of a wicker basket, hanging plant basket or any plastic container with drainage holes in it. If using plastic be sure to line it with dried grasses, sticks or leaves so that it isn’t slippery. Hang a substitute nest at least 5-6 feet off the ground so it is out of easy reach of neighborhood pets and kids and within hearing distance of the original nest. Don’t feed the baby; it should be hungry and peep because of it – that noise alerts the parents to where it is and they will feed it as well as the siblings back in the original nest.

Fledglings are babies that are old enough to leave the nest. They spend a couple of days hopping around the ground and making buzz flights an inch or two above the ground a foot or two at a time. That is how they learn to fly and build up their strength; activities they can’t do in a nest. Their parents continue to feed them on the ground but don’t stay with the baby at all times. Fledglings are mostly feathered, with wing feathers and a start of tail feathers, but may still have a bit of baby fluff. Babies at this stage should be left alone and monitored from a distance.

In this case, the bird in question was an adult who had flown into the window. Most of the time window strikes cause a bird to be temporarily stunned. We suggest putting them in a covered box, or in a pinch a paper bag with a couple of air holes, and letting them rest someplace quiet for an hour. This protects them from predators and the quiet darkness also helps to reduce their shock. After an hour, take the box outside and open it. If the bird can fly out, fine. If not, it is more seriously injured and should come to a rehabilitator for evaluation. This bird was destined to have a better day and flew away after a short rest.

Thanks for caring!

PS. Don't forget that Tazino's Pizza and Salad Bistro in Menomonee Falls is hosting a 10% event for the Wildlife In Need Center this evening! Download a flyer [here] and 10% of your order will be donated to help us care for our wild neighbors! Tell all your friends and we'll see you there!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What is that?!?

Have you ever seen a blossom of slime mold? A lot of people have not and it has given cause for some of them to contact us over the years. If you recall, a few weeks ago I posted a blog about the descriptions of sound that we get on occasion. Another one of the things that we often get descriptions over the phone is feces. The best of these stories to date was a gentleman who had called to report finding large feces, “larger than a large dog,” in the flowerbed outside his home. After some discussion with the individual in the office it seemed unlikely it was any wild animal we commonly see in this part of the state. It is possible in cases like these that a large dog may be the culprit especially if a neighbor had out-of-town company or a new dog that they were letting out at night. In this instance he had a second thought revolving around a feud that had been steaming between him and his neighbor. It was recommended that if he really suspected that this was the result of a human, especially a neighbor, that he contact local law enforcement and get them involved. Yuck.

If you talk to phone counseling veterans you will hear countless stories of feces descriptions including ones filled with seeds or found in odd places. And just a side note that even though we do see and deal with a lot of the sort in a Center such as ours, we really aren’t interested in handling it to confirm that someone indeed has a raccoon passing through their yard on occasion.

Back to slime mold. Another classic call was from a woman who was convinced that something or someone was vomiting in her front flowerbed every night. The likelihood that this was the case was slim, especially after several days had resulted in the same outcome. WINC phone counselor Lisa however, knew exactly what the culprit might be; slime mold. I have been told that this type of mold looks like “colorful vomit” and commonly appears in wood mulch during and after times of heavy rainfall. According to my research this is a “fungus-like” organism but not actually of the fungi family. It gets its name from the early stages of its development when it often appears very “gelatinous.” It states that because it feeds on microorganisms that live in dead plant material, it is common to find them on the ground, especially on lawns and in forests.

Many people don’t know why they suddenly see piles of very small feces below their shutters in the summer, why they find deposits in the same area again and again, or what type of animal has been visiting the back deck at night, but if you have questions give us a call; everyone else does!

Thanks again and clean up after yourself!