Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Outrageous Day

 Yesterday we admitted our first patient in four days. This is the time of year when things start to slow down in the animal world which gives the Wildlife In Need Center volunteers and staff time to clean up, rearrange and set-up for the winter months ahead. This unusually long stretch without patients made me think about the not-so-distant summer days when organizing files, catching up on emails, and planning ahead didn’t even make it on the to do list. I thought I’d share some of the details of one such day…

On this particular day I arrived at the office to find our Wildlife Education Coordinator, Leslie, already in, attempting to get caught up on some paperwork for upcoming programs. Even though our office wasn’t technically open yet, she had already admitted an injured bird and answered several questions posed by its rescuers as to how we would care for it. By the time I arrived she had also had to switch to the extra computer on the office counter because her normal one was working very slowly and she was having trouble opening some of the programs she needed.

Meanwhile, Lisa, the Director of Operations came in just after I did, donning her sweats and a respirator and armed with painting supplies. It turns out earlier in the summer the drainage pipe for our air conditioner had backed up and several weeks ago we arrived to discover a flood on the floor of the executive director’s office. The damage was severe enough that we had to remove the carpeting, which meant we had to remove all of the furniture first. Unfortunately, this office space was also home to a very important storage area for things like extra stationary, computer supplies and some donated auction items. But I digress. Feeling that it was unfair to ask a volunteer to do such an unpleasant job, Lisa had arrived prepared to put the final coat of paint on the, by now cleaned and primed, wood floor.

Sometime shortly after Lisa got started, Mike, the Executive Director arrived. Because his office was currently dismantled he had to use an open computer in the main office are, making it a full space. While this number was alright with all of us, it was not however, for Karen, our Volunteer Coordinator and Operational Team Leader who was hoping to use a spare computer to print a document she needed. She originally had a printer on her desk which resided in our Baby Bird Nursery, but it was rendered unusable when several resident mice decided to open up a new a hotel inside of it. A similar thing happened to one of the two computers being used by our Wildlife Rehabilitation Staff; now they have to take turns using a spare computer as well.

Throughout the year a long-time supporter and volunteer, Rose, and her community action team of young men from Lad Lake will come out to the Center to assist with myriad projects ranging from cleaning and building cages to mowing the lawns. This particular day they were here to assist with re-sanding our crow aviary.

At this time Mike, Lisa and I had just sat down to discuss the progress on our upcoming Charity Golf Fundraiser. We hadn’t gotten through half of our agenda when one of our office volunteers, Pam, pulled into the parking lot, her SUV filled with dog food donated by a local pet supply company. We managed to get the gentlemen from Lad Lake, who were taking a break from hauling sand, to assist in transporting the 20lb and 40lb bags into our basement to be stored until they were needed. Pam had promised to drop off a donation receipt to the retailer on her way back. This meant that she had to use my computer to do it.

Our meeting was coming to a close with all of the commotion anyway, but was officially over when a patient came in to be admitted for care. The patient was a Pigeon, complete with a band on its leg, which means it is a domestic/racing/homing pigeon. When we speak to people on the phone about these birds we direct them to visit the website to enter the band numbers and hopefully track down the owners rather than bring them into us or a local domestic shelter that may not know how to care for it properly. His rescuers however, believed it to be injured and hoped that we would be more equipped to assist than the domestic shelters nearby.

It was still only mid morning when one of the local humane societies contacted us with a young rabbit that had been brought to them. One of our afternoon volunteers that day often stops at a local grocery store to pick-up produce and fish that is going to be thrown out. This is great because it means he goes past the shelter before he comes here to volunteer; it also means he leaves his house earlier so we have to catch him before he does since he doesn’t have a cell phone. We attempted to contact him, but were too late so, as we’ve had to do several other times, we called the store and gave the message to the individual he was headed to see. Then all we could do was wait to see if the message was received.

As the morning turned into afternoon it began to heat up in the office. Leslie had left for the day and Mike was preparing to as well, which would help having fewer people in the crowded room, but with the windows open to vent the paint fumes, we were still subject to the rising humidity and heat.

At this point in the day we hope that things slow down so that we can get a few things checked off of our list before the end of the day (I say we hope because some days this is the case, but not this day). Someone walked in with orphaned squirrels in a wastebasket which I volunteered to bring directly up to the triage room to be transferred to a baby bin by Animal Care Staff. I directed her how to complete the paperwork we need to properly admit and care for them as patients while I was gone. Before I could leave the office however, another woman came through the door with another box containing a small bird. I directed her also, to complete the paperwork we needed and took all of the patients up to the clinic. For those of you who don’t know, our current facility was built out of an old farmstead. The office is housed in what used to be a garage and is separated from the main building by a minute’s walk along the sidewalk. Today the walk was nice, as the breeze outside was much more tolerable than the humid air in the office. In the winter this walk isn’t always as pleasant, especially when you are walking it to get to the only restroom on the property….

The best part about having fewer phone calls and fewer patients being admitted is that, hopefully it means fewer animals are getting into harms way than during the summer months when they are searching for safe places to keep their young, feeding their families and generally trying to survive. At this point in my story it was still before 1PM but I can’t help but return to the present on this cold, rainy November day. I have to remind myself that even though it was a long hot summer and a long, cold winter lies ahead (in an office sitting on a cement slab with little insulation, and inadequate doors and windows) that our wild neighbors will still need us. I’m reminded of that already as today I’ve answered many more phone calls, admitted 2 patients and as the evening approaches we’ll be waiting on more.

The excitement is rising for the new Wildlife In Need Center facility and we want to share our progress with you! Visit our new blog dedicated to the construction and capital campaign progress at

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Harrowing Rescue Tail

Back in June of this year strong tornados came through southern Wisconsin taking down power lines and causing damage to homes of both people and animals alike. In the days after the storms had passed, one call we received was a caring woman who had a young a bald eagle that she thought was in need of help. Here at the Wildlife In Need Center we generally rely on the public to bring us injured, sick or orphaned wildlife but in some situations we are able to send trained volunteers or staff out on rescues. In this instance, Rick, a dedicated volunteer was able to help. After a long drive winding through the aftermath of the storms and avoiding all of the turtles that had found their way onto the road, Rick finally arrived at the start of his journey.

When Rick arrived at the home of the caller she showed him there they eagle was; perched in a very large tree over a ravine filled with other trees and vines covering the ground. Things were about to get difficult. The branch that the eagle was on was at the same level as the top of the ravine but too far away to simply reach out to. Rick attempted to use a net that was attached to a pole. It was just long enough to reach the bird but it kept getting tangled in the tree. At this point Rick had assessed the bird from a distance and realized that it was a younger bird and that it was pretty emaciated and most likely dehydrated. Because the bird was young, it's likely it was still unskilled in hunting and may have become too weak to fly well. This can be dangerous even though there weren't any substantial injuries because being too weak to fly means that he wouldn't be able to hunt which is how he became weaker to begin with. Rick succeeded in nudging the bird out of the tree and it glided to the ravine floor.

Rick followed the bird into the ravine full of tangled vines. He crept closer and closer to the eagle and just when he had it in his sights, the bird hopped away. This struggle continued across the ravine for about an hour, but even while tripping on and getting tangled in the vines with every move, Rick was not about to give up. He asked for help and even though the woman who called was not able to herself, she found other caring neighbors that could. The new recruits formed a human wall behind the bird to keep it from escaping onto the clearing and Rick moved in again. This time he successfully captured the eagle in a large blanket.

The bald eagle was, as Rick predicted, emaciated, dehydrated and very underweight. After spending just a night at WINC it was transferred to a rehabber at Pineview for expert care in a facility with more resources for the size and care required for this type of bird. After such a difficult rescue Rick wanted to make sure the eagle did well and asked to be kept informed on its rehabilitation progress. After the eagle had been returned to health Rick received another call, but this time it was to be there for the release back into the wild of the eagle he worked so hard to rescue.

Without teamwork this eagle’s story may not have had such a happy ending. Teamwork between staff, volunteers and the public is key in the success of both rescuing and rehabilitating an animal. If this caring woman had not made the call we would have never known there was an eagle in need of our help. Without dedicated volunteers or the other caring individuals who offered assistance, the eagle may not have been able to get the help it needed and this hard to top rescue may not have been such a success.

Rehabbers from the Center the Eagle was transferred to and cared for at release it back to its home territory while Rick photographed the moment he had been hoping to see since he first rescued the bird.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A kid from Chicago

Although we are not set up to be open to the public we are still happy to encourage the learning and respect that come from getting the opportunity to see (and interact) with our wild neighbors.

That’s why I agreed to have a young gentleman and his younger sister come in one day this summer with their extended family with whom he was staying for the weekend. The adults in the group explained that the kids were from Chicago so while visiting, they were looking for as many opportunities as possible to get them outside to see both animals and nature.

As I mentioned, and many of you know, anytime the public gets beyond the doors of our office it is a rare situation as we are not permitted to operate as a nature center or zoo. Several of our permitted educational ambassadors are housed in or near our office however, and they also work with people all year long through scheduled educational outreach programs. Because of this and the fact that the beautiful weather was helping to keep our wild neighbors out of trouble (the office was not too busy) I agreed to speak with them for a short time about the Center and share some of these ambassadors with them.

First they were introduced to the Center and what we do. Currently, our office is home to Slither, a Western Fox Snake, Maize, a Corn Snake, and Jewel, an Ornate Box Turtle (an endangered species in Wisconsin). Although some people get a little squeamish around reptiles and amphibians, most children are naturally curious and giving them the opportunity to interact with animals who have been trained to work with people helps to give them a more positive outlook and respect for these creatures who serve an important purpose in our lives.

Next, we walked outside to check on Dakota, our educational Great Horned Owl and Indigo, our educational American kestrel in their outdoor enclosures. The young man was absolutely fascinated by Dakota as he had never seen an owl in person before. Lastly, we stopped by the outdoor enclosure of Waldo, our educational Woodchuck. Waldo was lounging in his hollow log to keep cool in the midday sun but was content to have us enjoy him from afar. The entire family was thrilled by the concept of being able to see such an animal so close up, especially such a handsome specimen.

With construction of our new facility including an entirely new educational wing we are calling “the gathering area,” we hope to have this kind of impact on many more young people who may never have these opportunities otherwise. Our hope is that the educational experience itself will be enhanced exponentially through displays, video monitors, interactive materials and more. If you would like to help support our educational mission please consider making a donation to help cover the cost of these new materials, tools and books. You can do so online or over the phone with a credit card or by mail. You can also stop by our current location any day of the week between 9AM and 5PM. For more information about our education outreach program or our new facility visit our website.