Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fell 'em in Fall!

Perhaps it's the unseasonably warm late September weather or the fact that WINC successfullly hosted another WILD Golf outing on Tuesday, but this week has been unexpectedly busy for many of us causing this blog post to be late; although very timely. Hope you enjoy!

After a long, cold winter, Wisconsin natives are antsy to get outdoors once spring rolls around; both the furred, feathered and human varieties! Often, homeowners want to start spring clean-up activities in the yard. This sometimes includes cutting down unwanted or dead trees. However, spring is the worst time of the year to cut or remove trees, at least for your wild neighbors. Great Horned Owls start nesting as early as January, often in old hawk or crow nests built in numerous types of trees. As the spring progresses, tree squirrels, raccoons, and many bird species build their nests and raise their young in trees. Cutting down trees in the spring can result in any number of negative outcomes for the animals that call those trees home. Nests can be destroyed, and animals can be displaced, injured, or even killed in the process.

Dead trees (called snags) provide important habitat for many species of wildlife. Woodpeckers often use snags as a source of their insect diet. They also drill holes (cavities) in live and dead trees which they use for nesting. The cavities that they create are important nest sites for a number of other cavity-nesting species that don’t have the ability to make holes in trees; these include chickadees, bluebirds, and kestrels. Snags also provide den sites (both nesting and wintering) for many mammal species. Squirrels, raccoons, and even bears use snags for dens.

If a dead tree is not posing a threat to your home or other buildings, consider leaving it, or only cutting off the most dangerous branches. If you DO need to cut down a dead or unwanted tree, do it in the fall - right now - well after the nesting season is done and before most mammals begin using trees for winter dens. So remember, if you can’t leave it, don’t fell it ‘til fall! You can contact the Center with any questions you may have regarding wildlife in your yard.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A free bird again

It’s always wonderful to see a happy ending to a story, especially when you get to be there for both the beginning and the end! Working as a phone counselor, admissions receptionist and visitor greeter, as well as development and marketing coordinator for the Wildlife In Need Center, I don’t often get to make a connection with any one patient that comes through our doors. Well, I did try to raise those orphaned white-footed mice, but we’ll save that story for another time.

I received a call early on a Thursday morning near the end of August from a business owner. He had rescued a Great Horned owl found with its leg caught on a piece of equipment. Upon arrival it seemed like the bird was in terrible shape, but a thorough examination revealed that, although dehydrated from the struggle, his injuries appeared to be primarily external.

We kept him calm for several days, treating the wounds and consulting with our volunteer veterinarians. It was confirmed that he had no fracture so it would just be a matter of time before he was healed and ready to go back home!

After 2 weeks of therapy and treatment his leg was looking much better and he was prepared to return home. The area where he had been found was a short way south of where I live so I was asked if I’d be willing to assist. So, after shutting down the office for the evening I watched as he was packed into a kennel cab for the ride. I drove home quietly and when I got there left him to rest quietly in the garage while we waited for the sun to go down.

After dinner my husband and I got in the car and headed out. We found the location easily and, since it was beginning to get dark, we pulled in with our headlights shining on the area we wanted to release him. Once we were set up I stood behind the kennel and opened the door. He hesitated for a moment as Andy was set-up to photograph the event and he could see him out of the corner of the doorway. Once he inched back a couple of inches however, the owl regained his bravery and came storming out!

The one shot of the event that turned out was this moment; the rest of his adventure was a graceful arch up and out, heading to the west and into a thicket of trees. One aspect of assisting on releases is that you get to talk to people. I talk to a lot of people during the day with questions regarding their wild neighbors and the center, but when you speak to someone during a special event like this it’s different. Before we could hop back in our cars to bid our owl friend a final adieu a vehicle stopped to find out if we needed any help. Once we explained what we were doing the passerby gladly took some information about the Center and said she was definitely going to contact us about volunteering. IF she joins us, hopefully we’ll be able to have even more happy endings.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Can Children Do to Help?

We often get this question from parents whose children are budding veterinarians, environmentalists and Dr. Doolittles. One way that children can help directly is by participating in our Baby Bird Feeding Junior Volunteer program. This program requires that children be at least 14 years of age or 12 and 13 with a parent or guardian. The wonderful thing is that many children want to start helping at much younger ages that this! While they can’t volunteer to do animal care at the Center, they can help the wildlife in other ways. We are currently in the process of designing a hub on our site made just to recognize these enterprising young individuals. We hope that their caring and outlook on the world will inspire others to join us in helping our wild neighbors. If you have any suggestions for what would be helpful to include in this section please let us know. Whether it’s an idea we include right away or one we add down the road, we’d like to hear it!
So what if you are a kid who cares and want some suggestions on how to help now; or perhaps you already participated in helping us raise so many baby birds over the summer but you’d still like to help out this fall; what if you are looking for ways to help right now?

Here are some ideas:
  • Pick greens. Dandelions, clovers, plantain, and wide-blade grasses are important foods for cottontails and woodchucks. Just pick them into a plastic shopping bag and tie shut. Refrigerate until you can them to the Center. We can’t get enough dandelion greens for our hundreds of juvenile cottontails. It is their favorite food and helps cure diarrhea.

  • Gather native seeds, nuts or berries the next time you go with your family on a hike. These are foods many of our patients are used to, making them feel safer and eat better. Be sure you identify the plant you are picking from before doing so, to avoid anything that may be poisonous! Stay off of private property as well. And most importantly, please remember to leave some for the wild neighbors who live in those areas as well!

  • Grow food materials, even though it’s getting chilly you could still plant some greens or plan to plant sunflowers, greens or veggies next spring for our wild patients.

  • The next time it rains, head out of doors and gather up some of the night crawlers and earthworms from the sidewalk. Birds of all kinds love to eat them including our patients! If you prefer not to gather living animals, put them back in the yard. They will help the soil and the local birds may catch them on their own later.

  • If your family trims any trees such as elm, oak, willow and apple or thin raspberry and blackberry thickets, ask them if you can gather the branches. Squirrels and cottontails eat the leaves and bark and the branches are good for chewing exercise.

Be sure to check our website whenever you need information about your wild neighbors or the Wildlife In Need Center. And, although we may not be able to incorporate them all, if you have suggestions on how to make our site better we will always listen. Finally, for those “big kid” volunteers, be sure to check out our volunteer pages. They are still under construction, but I’m sure you’ll find more helpful information than you remember!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Caller Says #2, Turtles

Last June someone called to report that a turtle laid eggs in their yard. They have a 2 year old daughter who plays in the yard and wondered what they should do.

Initially, the turtle was left alone; it wasn’t until it had been there for over an hour that they realized what it was doing and contacted the Center for answers.

Once the turtle lays her eggs and buries them, she leaves and does not come back to the nest. Depending on the species and soil temperatures, the babies should hatch in 60-90 days. Once the babies hatch they leave to head to the nearest water. People often ask, but we don’t recommend moving the eggs. Once laid, the embryo soon attaches to the egg and can be killed by disturbing the egg, unlike birds that often turn their eggs during incubation. Leaving mom be to lay her eggs and leave is the best policy.

Calls about turtles can start as early as April or May, and can continue through to August and even into September as the babies begin hatching. Once hatched, they will come to the surface and instinctively make their way to water; often en mass. We will get a great many calls during the hatching period from individuals wondering what to do when faced with this amazing site. Unfortunately we receive a number of calls after this period, and throughout the year, from individuals who took one or more of these babies in thinking they needed assistance. Once these animals begin to get sick or go dormant from poor nutrition we have a lot of work to do to get them back to health. Even with the proper diet they need to be evaluated by a professional to ensure they are healthy as well as psychologically able to survive in the wild before being re-released.

If you see the babies hatching, resist the temptation to take them in. If you can gather them up and immediately take them to the nearest body of water, this gives them a big head start.

Turtles populations all over the country are diminishing, even the more common species. Just hatched turtles like to ones we’re talking about today are always going to face huge obstacles to survival, but turtles are very slow to mature. Turtles that make it to the age of reproduction however, can reproduce for many years which is why they have been able to survive. Human over the past 50 years have increased the death of adult turtles in recent years which means that each year there are fewer and fewer of them reproducing. For more information about turtles in Wisconsin visit: