Friday, December 30, 2011

Dakota took another big step Tuesday - he moved from the small enclosure he has been in for the last 3 weeks to a much larger, completely indoor aviary! He has finally reached a weight that allowed his vet to give the "ok" for him to move. He still has some weight to gain before being at his normal weight, but he's getting closer. Also he was able to have his first fully furred whole prey meal which he finished in under 30 seconds...he loved it!

The indoor aviary Dakota was moved to is a new feature of our new building; it can hold temperatures independently of the rest of the building. This will allow us to very slowly decrease the temperature of the room to get Dakota to adjust to the outside winter temperature before actually moving him outside. This will be a slow process, but we are thrilled about the big steps Dakota continues to take forward!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is a pellet?

For those of you who’ve been watching Dakota’s progress you probably noticed that once he started eating solid foods he also began casting pellets. What, you might ask however, is a pellet?

Owls and other raptors, as you may know, maintain a diet primarily, if not exclusively, of protein. In other words, they eat other animals. Raptors are unlike humans who can cut, cook, and otherwise prepare our food to eliminate the indigestible portions. They also differ from carnivores like wolves that can tear the meat away from indigestible things like bones. They often feed on small animals like rodents and smaller birds. Weeding out the digestible from the indigestible parts of small animals like these when you only have a beak and talons to do so with isn’t always easy. The solution that raptors have come up with is casting pellets.

As a raptor digests its meal, its body separates these indigestible parts such as bones and fur. This material binds together and is later expelled through an action that very much looks like the bird is vomiting. They are not vomiting however, and it is not the same thing as a cat expelling a hairball either. Many people at one point in their lifetimes, whether it was in science class or just for fun, have dissected owl pellets. If you haven’t had the pleasure, these pellets appear as small forms of bound up fur. Often you can see small bones if you look closely. For those with strong stomachs we’ve attached the proof that Dakota is eating well and progressing better than we could have hoped for.

Dakota’s veterinarian plans to do another thorough exam on Monday complete with further blood work. We hope for good news from analysis of the results and will be sure to pass it along as soon as we can.

Dakota began casting pellets (complete ones) only two days after beginning solid foods
(the first note looks like it says 2/15/11 but it actually is 12/15/11)

On Sunday, December 18th, Dakota cast his 4th pellet! This is holiday cheer for those who work with wildlife!

When examined closely, you can find bones from small animals bound up in the fur. This is Dakota's 3rd pellet, in which you can see small bones from the mice he began getting on Tuesday, December 13th

This display was made for WINC to use for display and educational purposes. It shows examples of some of the things you might find if you were to dissect a typical pellet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dakota has had his first meal!

The results from Monday’s blood tests were mostly positive. While not all of his levels were improved, he was given the green light to begin introducing solid foods today. The levels that have not improved point to a continued need for caution however, the improvement is welcome news to all those hearts that have gone out to the ambassador bird over these past several weeks.

After his rescue last Wednesday, December 7th, Dakota was examined by Wildlife In Need Center staff who felt that he was dehydrated and very thin. Dakota had lost a total of 27% of his body weight, eliminating not only his fat reserves but moving on to deteriorate his muscle tissue as well. He was given a full physical exam by his veterinarian who also drew blood for testing and oversaw the administration of subcutaneous fluids. Results from these blood tests confirmed his fragile condition. His PCV (packed cell volume) levels were low enough to consider Dakota slightly anemic and his elevated kidney values also confirmed his dehydrated state. Additionally, on Thursday a fecal test was run. The negative results of this test ruled out the existence of any parasites that his already weakened system would have to fight off during recovery. The complete results from this examination made it clear that Dakota was at risk of suffering from refeeding syndrome. Because of this he was prescribed a treatment plan of fluids only.
On Saturday, December 10th, Dakota’s veterinarian completed another exam. She determined that his hydration levels were increasing enough to begin introducing a liquid diet. This liquid diet was given both Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with subcutaneous fluids.

Dakota gets another thorough examination with staff and his veterinarian Monday
Monday showed a slight improvement in Dakota’s behavior and attitude and cautiously positive results from blood tests were graciously accepted. While Dakota enjoyed his first few bites of solid food since his return, he’ll still be guarded closely for the next 24-48 hours to ensure that his debilitated system doesn’t react poorly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dakota's Home: An update to his supporters

Dakota definitely knew his rescuers. Thanks to the dedication of WINC staff and volunteers Dakota was finally rescued on Wednesday morning. Upon his return home, Dakota was examined first by staff and then by his veterinarian. It was determined that he was very thin, having lost more than 25% of his body weight, very dehydrated and weak.

Due to his state, Dakota is being kept on cage rest under staff supervision.

While Dakota has made it through the first 48 hours and has not shown any decline in his condition, he still has a guarded prognosis. We can never fully know what he has seen and done over the past few weeks, but are providing him with the best care possible now that he is home.

It's clear he's exhausted and still easily stressed. Because of this and his need for fluids and medical care several times daily, we are not allowing any visitors, media, or photography that could cause him further distress.

Thank you, once again, to everyone for their thoughts and wishes for Dakota. As of today he is still being monitored by staff, and still an a fluid diet. Based on the care his vet has prescribed we will not likely have any significant updates on his condition until Monday.

Until then, thanks for caring.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dakota Returns Home

Dakota has been rescued and is now safely back home. At 7:30AM this morning staff contained the beloved Great Horned Owl whose 3 week ordeal is now over.

At 6AM staff was contacted by the homeowner of a site that has been under surveillance for over a week. Dakota was seen on the rear deck and was still there when staff arrived at 6:30AM.

When approached, Dakota flew off to a tree, flying low to the ground the entire distance. After several more lower, short flights between homes, trees, and fences in the area, he landed on the railing of a nearby home. One of our staff members was able to slowly approach up the stairs and after an excruciatingly long few moments, was able to safely contain him. After successfully securing him for the ride back, Dakota was finally returned home.

He is resting and recuperating after being examined by his veterinarian earlier today. (we are extremely grateful for the hours volunteered by Dakota’s Veterinarian, Dr. Waliszewski and others who assist us with both resident and patient animals all year long) Dakota returned very dehydrated and thin, but has likely been able to find some food to survive. We are still waiting for results from blood tests to determine if he has other health problems that will need to be addressed.

Dakota will be monitored and cared for, including fluids, for the next week before another evaluation will be completed to see if his condition is improving. Obviously, his physical condition as well as his temperament will determine when he will be able to return to programs and resume his position as the Wildlife In Need Center’s ambassador. We are grateful to have Dakota back where he is safe and only he can determine when he will be ready to return to work.

Thank you to everyone for their support and concern over the past several weeks. Keep watching this blog for updates as Dakota's recuperation continues.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Increasing Dakota Awareness & Education

This has been a very busy week for us at WINC, due in large part to our efforts to continue to reach out to the community and increase awareness of Dakota’s situation. We know our efforts are working, because we have been contacted by so many new people who have reached out to us: people who have just started following our blog & our facebook page, people who have now seen our flyers and heard about our search locally, and people who are becoming aware of Dakota from news stories and the internet. It is an amazing thing to see, just how many people have been touched by Dakota’s plight, and the awesome distances his story has traveled. We have been getting calls from as far away as Canada, from people who want to share information with us & help us in any way they are able, and to contribute ideas to our efforts to see Dakota home once again. It cannot be overstated how heartened we are for the continued well wishes and positive support we receive. If there has been any upside to this sad situation, it has been the constant stream of caring we have been blessed with. We are humbled by the generosity of spirit the community has for Dakota, and overwhelmed by how he continues to educate, even during this current situation.

As a part of our education and outreach efforts, we would like to remind everyone that during this difficult time for WINC, one of the things that is of the utmost importance to us is that we return the respect we have received. We are ever mindful that we want our impact on the community to be a positive one, and ever mindful that the example we set in our search methods allows us to achieve maximum impact with a minimum “footprint”. We are striving to be very respectful of the people who live in the neighborhoods we are searching in, and are therefore keeping our search parties small and quiet in nature. We are so very grateful for the opportunities we have been given to search on private property with permission, and wish to publicly thank everyone who has so graciously allowed us to continue searching on their land. We are also grateful that everyone who has offered to help us search has continued to contact WINC before acting alone, and has allowed us to take the lead on any organized searches. This in turn has allowed us to conduct ongoing searches with minimal disturbance to the community, and maximum respect to it.  No search parties organized by WINC will ever venture onto private property wihout permission.

We are also mindful of the impact our searches have on the environment, and mindful that we continue to fulfill our core mission of helping wildlife in need, and not creating any in the process by disturbing the existing balance. We have been very careful not to create nuisances, both by being selective of where we place our feeding stations, and not disturbing the patterns of existing wildlife in any of the areas we are searching. Above all else, we would never want our efforts in our search for Dakota to bring any harm to the existing wildlife in the areas we are searching. We take extreme care not to harass any wildlife in those areas, and to be respectful of their habitats & not disturb them. Again, we want to thank everyone who has chosen to help us to watch out for Dakota for the care they have also taken and continue to take, to always be respectful of the wildlife that lives in those areas. Though we have stated it in our poster, it bears repeating: if you spot a Great Horned Owl that you believe to be Dakota, please, please, PLEASE do not approach him or call to him.  Please watch him closely while being extremely quiet, and contact the Wildlife In Need Center immediately. Dakota will respond to his handlers, and may be frightened by people he does not already know and is comfortable with.  We would not want anyone to inadvertantly further traumatize Dakota, or unduly traumatize any other owl(s) in the area who might be mistaken for Dakota.

During this past week we have continued to hand out informational flyers during our daily foot searchs, and have followed up on many leads from people who have reported hearing owls in their area. Unfortunately, we still have not been successful in pinpointing Dakota's exact location. We have heard owl calls from time to time, but not always received responses that we could definitively identify as Dakota’s. We have made some minor changes to the locations of the feeding stations, but still have not seen any measurable evidence that he is visiting them. Even though it may seem obvious, one of the things that people sometimes forget is that, even if he is not catching live prey, Dakota will eat dead animals. And even if he is not visiting the feeding stations to do so, he may be finding other food in that manner. We remain optimistic that Dakota is eating on his own.

We also remain optimistic Dakota remains in the general area. There is a statistic on released owls that points to most of them staying in a 5-mile radius from the area they are released in. As we know the approximate area Dakota was in when he escaped his captors, we have a fairly good idea of the areas we need to be most watchful for him in. Additionally, part of that range for us includes both our current building and grounds, and our old building. We have had many people ask, and yes---we do search the premises around our old building on a regular basis, on the chance Dakota has found his way back to that area.

The most important thing that we want people to remember is, we have not given up on our efforts to locate Dakota. We absolutely believe he is out there, and we will absolutely continue to search for him, and continue to raise awareness of him throughout the community. The eyes and the ears of the local community are one of the greatest resources we have available to us.  We have know from the very beginning that this would not be an easy process, but we remain committed to bringing him home. He is such an important member of our family, we are not whole without him.

Please continue to help us to find Dakota by remaining observant and vigilant especially when you are in the Dousman/Hunter’s Lake area. We have an improved version of our original flyer available & attached to this blog for download. We've added some specific information about Dakota's behavior and habits that we hope will prove helpful in further increasing education & raising awareness of Dakota in the local community. As previously mentioned, we’d like to again invite everyone to please feel free to print out the picture of the flyer included with this blog and post it-----WITH PERMISSION = please do not post it or distribute it unless you have the expressed permission of any given property owner, business, school---etc. 
((Reminder: it is ILLEGAL to place flyers in mailboxes.))

Thank you for your continued support of Dakota, and of WINC. Please continue to keep the faith that he remains strong, and will be home with us again soon.

(Guest Blogger K.P.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dakota Update - 11/27/11

Yesterday, we gathered a large group of staff members & trained animal care volunteer searchers to once again go out to look for Dakota. We split into several small groups, took maps, and were able cover on foot some of the areas we have been regularly searching, as well as some new areas.  We were able to cover a lot of ground, and were able to talk with a number of homeowners, as well as hand out some informational flyers.  Unfortunately, despite being out for several hours, we were hampered by the wet, rainy weather.  This was frustrating for us, because as we have mentioned in the past, we know that Dakota does not like the rain or the wind, and knew he was likely hunkered down into a sheltered spot & would not be moving about. We were not successful in locating Dakota yesterday, but remain committed to our daily searches for him.  We hope to be able to schedule another large-scale foot search this week (weather cooperating).

The good news is, since we were able to talk personally to some people who live in the greater Hunter's Lake/Dousman area southwest of the WINC facility (the area we still believe Dakota to be in), we found out a couple of things.  One, many people reported hearing an owl/owls on or around their property, giving us some more clues on areas we might expand our daily foot searches into.  Second, every person we talked to was aware of the situation with Dakota, was sympathetic to his plight, and all agreed to let us onto their property to look for him. This was a great bright spot in the day, to know that people are so well-informed, and are so willing to help us watch out for him.  It helps so much, to know that all of our considerable efforts to get the word out and make people aware of Dakota's situation are working so well. Thank you so very much to everyone we were able to talk to. Thank you for your kindness and caring on a rainy afternoon, thank you for your graciousness in agreeing to let us onto your properties to search, and thank you for your help in allowing us to continue our search efforts to bring Dakota home.

Additionally, we were able to participate again in "The World's Greatest Cookie Sale" in Pewaukee at the Country Springs Hotel on Friday, and we were overwhelmed with the number of people who stopped by our tables to ask about Dakota.  It was awesome to see just how many people made a point to take a moment out of their busy Black Friday shopping day and drop by our booth to offer support, and to let us know they wanted to thank us for our efforts.  That was very heartening to us, on such a hectic day, to feel the love the community has for Dakota & for WINC.  Once again, we want to express how blessed we are, to have so many people looking out for our dear Dakota.

As always, if you live in the local Dousman/Hunter's Lake area and believe you see or have seen Dakota, please do not hesitate to contact WINC.  Additionally, please feel free to print out the picture of the flyer included with this blog and post it-----WITH PERMISSION = please do not post it or distribute it unless you have the expressed permission of any given property owner, business, school---etc.  ((As a reminder:  it is ILLEGAL to place flyers in mailboxes.))  We have been contacted by so many people who have offered to help us in any way they can, and we are so very appreciative.  The community has been just wonderful in it's acceptance of our search, and we would not want to jeopardize in any way the efforts we have already made, or damage the trust of the community.  Thank you for helping the center find Dakota, and helping us follow the rules :) 

(Guest Blogger K.P.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dakota Update---11/22/11

Everyone has been so wonderful in being patient and allowing us to continue to focus our efforts on bringing Dakota home, and we are so very grateful for that.  Much of our current resources---in addition to continuing to provide constant care for our patients & continuing to keep our clinic properly staffed---are devoted to our recovery process, and continuing to evaluate that process & consult our resources within the rehab community.  It’s not always easy to have the additional resources to compile and publish daily updates on Dakota, and when we do provide updates, we want to make sure that we are giving you the most current and correct information.  Our sincere appreciation goes out to all of you for your continued patience, well-wishes, positive energy & prayers.  You are awesome.

Over the past weekend, staff went out multiple times and are pretty sure they heard Dakota on several occasions (tho he was not positively sighted).  This is still a very positive sign.  There are also now two feeding stations up.  Neither seem to have been visited yet, but staff will continue to check the feeding stations and continue to try to locate Dakota by calls at night.  We’re again asking everyone, please do not attempt to locate Dakota on your own. People he is not familiar with will frighten him (and, we want to again caution everyone about hunting season; it’s unsafe to be walking around the area we believe him to be in).  Thank you to everyone who’s been respectful of us & Dakota during this time.  The most important thing you can do for us is to please continue to keep Dakota in your hearts & have faith, and continue to be patient….this is not an easy process, and it is not going to be a quick process.  But we remain very optimistic, and are working hard to bring Dakota home.

Additional positives of our current search include the fact that we are still actively and regularly hearing 2 Great Horned Owls in the area we believe Dakota to be in.  Staff will be moving one of the feeding stations down into a lower area where we believe he has settled down in to get away from the wind (Dakota does not like the wind or rain).  Although he may be eating on his own (and we of course absolutely hope that he is), if he is not, he may be just starting to get hungry.  The most positive aspect of his current feeding situation is that Dakota was in great condition when he was taken.  He is healthy, strong, in excellent feather, and was extremely well-fed.  The extreme cold weather has not yet reached us, and that will allow him to further conserve his energy & bulk.  Because of these factors, we are able to be very grateful that we are blessed with the time and resources to continue to try and lure him in without further traumatizing him.  These are all very hopeful and positive assets!

Thank you all again for caring so much about Dakota.  It is so heartening to us that there is so much love in the community for him, and that he has—and continues—to touch so many lives.  Please continue to remain patient and ever hopeful that we will have him home again soon.  We will do our very best to provide regular updates, when we have developments to report.

(Guest blogger K.P.)

Friday, November 18, 2011


Our latest updates regarding our attempts to lure Dakota to the feeding station we have set up are as follows:

Thursday Nov 17
The feeding station was checked on Thursday morning, and all of the mice we had offered were still there. Staff did some calling and walking in that area, but heard only crows.  There were no significant signs that any other animals had visited the feeding station.

Friday Nov 18
The fresh mice put out at the feeding station the night before remained untouched this morning.  Some faint hooting was heard, but Dakota was not sighted.  Several dogs could be heard barking in that area, which made it difficult to determine which direction the hooting was coming from.

Staff is continuing to visit the feeding station and the area nearby on a regular basis each day.  Because we believe we have sighted and know we have shared vocalizations with Dakota in that area, we continue to remain hopeful that we will be successful in luring Dakota down from the trees to the feeding station, and that we will be able to see evidence he’s in that area on the trailcam that the homeowners who are assisting us are monitoring.  If we have any significant updates regarding our progress in these areas, we will post an update on the blog and/or our facebook page.

Thank you all again for the tremendous support you have shown and continue to show the center.  Please continue to join us in praying for the best possible outcome for Dakota---that he is back home once again with his family at WINC.  We miss him terribly, more than words can express.  Your positive energy and well-wishes mean the world to us right now.

Additionally, we wanted to let everyone following Dakota’s situation know, we appreciate the concern that has been expressed regarding the security of the grounds and the building at the current WINC location.  As always, our foremost concern is for the safety & well-being of the animals we treat and house at the center, and for the staff and volunteers who spend such a substantial portion of their time caring for those animals.

WINC is looking at increased security measures in light of our recent break in and theft of Dakota.  Because we are on UW-W property, we are working directly with the university system to discuss ways to increase security for the property in general. Our original plans for the building and our compound was to install security cameras & also use the same camera system to put cameras on patients and educational animals. Ultimately, we would like to be able to set up monitors in the public “Gathering” educational room so that visitors can see the animals, without disturbing the animals. These cameras would also help Animal Care staff evaluate and monitor patients by watching them when the animals don’t know they are being observed (with the hope that the animals would behave and move about as they normally would, without the added stress of human interaction). Winter weather this last year caused construction delays and increased costs for the building, so the camera project had to be put off until we can raise sufficient money to complete it.   We remain focused on continuing to secure adequate funding for that camera system, as well as for additional lighting, and also some physical changes to the building itself to increase security now. We have been asked repeatedly by our supporters and the public if there are ways in which they can help, and we are accepting donations from anyone who wishes to help us meet our goals with this project.  Every donation we receive helps us in our greater goal of providing care and comfort to the animals we treat.

For obvious reasons, it wouldn’t be in the center’s best interests to go into specifics on our blog or our facebook page of the exact details of every measure we are taking to add to the center’s security, because we would not want any other intruders to know what they might face if they come here. However… suggestion has been to deploy “Daphne”, our Educational Muscovy Duck, to patrol the clinic at night – anyone who knows Daphne knows she would make her presence known to any potential intruders J

(Guest bloggers L.R. & K.P.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Hopeful Progress Report

We wanted to check in again & update everyone on our progress in our search for Dakota.  

Search parties were out all day and early evening Tuesday, south of Hunters Lake/Dousman. We had several sightings and vocalizations. We’re secure in our belief that Dakota is in that area, as he has responded to Leslie’s voice several times and we recognize some of his “special” vocalizations. We were confused initially by sightings and vocalizations that seemed to be in different areas, sometimes at the same time. We now feel there are 2-3 owls other than Dakota in the area: a youngster from this year who makes begging cries for food when staff hoots, and 1 or 2 adults who are probably its parents.

We’ve had so many offers of search help, and want to again express how very grateful we are for the kindness and caring of everyone who has been touched by Dakota's plight. After several searches over the past few days, staff has decided that the best approach is to just attempt recovery with staff members, who Dakota is the most familiar with and comfortable around. We are also very mindful that we don’t want to lose our permission to search on these private properties by becoming a nuisance.  We think our best chance of recovery is with people Dakota knows well, especially since he is so traumatized.  We don’ t want anyone not familiar with (or familiar to) Dakota to try to grab him and be inadvertently hurt, or further scare Dakota. So at this time, we would ask that everyone (including our Animal Care Volunteers) stop going to this area, and not call or look for Dakota. If our staff members are the only ones calling for him, he is more likely to come to staff. But we want to again express how very grateful we are for all of the help we have already received and all of your generous offers.  We are blessed to be surrounded by so many people who care so greatly about Dakota, and bringing him home.

We did want to additionally remind everyone, in the further interest of public safety: deer gun season starts this Saturday, and there are several deer/tree stands in the woods where Dakota is staying. It’s too dangerous for any one of us to be moving in the woods even with blaze orange, and we need to respect the hunter’s rights.  But one house nearest to Dakota has generously agreed to let us use their yard as a feeding station & set up their trail cam on it. Even though owls in the wild do not eat every single day, without likely having eaten for several days now, Dakota is going to be getting very hungry. Staff is going to call from that feeding station starting Wed afternoon/night to draw Dakota to that area which we can safely access during hunting. Once Dakota starts feeding there, we think he may come to us, or we can utilize raptor traps.

As always, we simply cannot thank everyone enough for their kind wishes and help. We are especially grateful to the people who reported the Facebook page to the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, and to us. That was the tip that led to the arrests, and to the information on Dakota’s location. I know some of the people I talked to wanted to be anonymous because they were worried about retribution from these suspects and their friends. It was courageous of them to report the information.  

Thank you all for caring about Dakota, and please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  All of the positive energy everyone has been sending our way is so very, very appreciated.

(Guest Bloggers L.R. & K.P.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An update on Dakota...

We wanted to take the opportunity to once again thank everyone who has been so kind and generous in your support of the center and our beloved Dakota.  Please continue to send your prayers, well wishes, and positive energy our way. The outpouring of local & state community support from our friends, our volunteers, the public who has been touched by Dakota, and the wildlife rehabilitation community at large, has been overwhelming---and appreciated more than we can say. Thank you all for keeping Dakota in your hearts.....Dakota is our heart and soul.  He is such an important member of our family.  Our greatest wish is to have him home and safe.

The most up-to-date information we have is detailed in the latest JSOnline article:  We have had a number of people contacting the center with offers to search & questions about sightings in various spots in southeastern WI. Dakota is believed to be in the local area. If you live in the Dousman area, please continue to keep your eyes open for a great horned owl wearing jesses (leather straps like leashes, 4-6 inches long, on his ankles), or acting strangely. Dakota is fully imprinted on people, and our hope is that he would therefore be more likely to appear "tame", and more readily visible than an owl who is fully wild (and therefore more instinctively shy of people). 

We are thankful and so grateful for the many offers to help search.  At this time, we are limiting searchers to our staff and trained wildlife volunteers that help at the Wildlife In Need Center. We are searching on private property with permission and do not want to lose that permission by being too much of a bother. This must be terribly traumatic to Dakota, to be attacked by strangers the way he was, and to be loose and alone in an unfamiliar area.  We feel people he is familiar with will have the best chance of recovering him.  Additionally, because he is a Great Horned Owl, he could possibly hurt someone from fear if someone unfamiliar with raptors tried to handle him. We are so very thankful to everyone who has contacted us offering to help. There are more good people in this world than bad and that’s inspiration for all of us.

Please continue to contact the facility at 262-965-3090 with any sightings in the local Dousman area. Please also continue to contact the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department at 262-548-7126, if you have any information regarding the theft of Dakota.

Thank you all so very much for caring about wildlife, and about bringing our Dakota home. People have contacted us from all over Wisconsin, and are reporting seeing or hearing owls they think are Dakota. Many say they have never seen or heard owls in their area before.  Dakota and the Wildlife In Need Center are still educating people about owls and other wildlife, and we will never stop.  We would also like to offer our most sincere thanks to the Waukesha County Sheriffs Department for their quick action and for treating this crime as seriously as they have.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has also been most helpful to us, and is looking into the case as well.

(Guest Bloggers LR & KP.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

*** ALERT = Important, Please Read ASAP ***

The Wildlife In Need Center is a small non-profit 501c3 organization that offers free medical care to orphaned and injured wildlife with the intent to release back to the wild.

Last night on November 12th, someone broke into our outdoor compound and three of our outdoor cages.  One of the cages housed our main animal ambassador, Dakota, a great horned owl.   Dakota was taken by the thieves.

Dakota is 11 years old and has lived in captivity all but the beginning of his life. Someone kidnapped him as an infant, prior to his coming into our care. He is fully imprinted on humans and can not fend for himself or hunt for food on his own.

Dakota has reached approximately 80,000 people in his educating career not including those through the media via the newspapers and TV. He appears at over 100 programs a year making an impact on girl and boy scout troops, adult charitable organizations, schools, senior citizen facilities and special needs groups.

PLEASEif you see or find a great horned owl with jesses (leather straps that would be dangling from his legs), or see an owl that is acting very friendly please contact the Wildlife in Need Center at 262-965-3090, your local humane society, or the Waukesha County Sheriff’s department who is investigating this theft.

Many children and adults have already planned their year end holiday celebrations around Dakota, and his message has always been to promote the positive things that the Wildlife In Need Center does for wildlife and the people that live with them.

Thank you for any information or help that you can provide,
to bring Dakota back home to us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Tale Of Two Opossums

Being a licensed wildlife rehabilitator makes you look at your surroundings in a different way than most people. When my husband and I drive anywhere, one of the things we are always looking for is good patches of dandelion greens to pick for the many cottontails we rehabilitate each year and the other being any injured animals that may need our help. One animal specifically we notice are any dead opossums because anyone of them could be a mom with babies still alive in her pouch. As the only marsupial in North America, mom opossums carry their young with them in their pouch for a number of weeks. They can have two sets of babies each season, one in spring and one in fall. That is why between April and October it is so important to check any dead opossums you see on the road (where it is safe to stop and check).

So the story goes that we are always on the lookout. On September 11th we found a great patch of dandelion greens in Ottawa. The following Tuesday morning my husband went back there for more greens and saw a squashed mamma opossum (he could tell because there were scattered dead little ones on the road). To keep anyone who would be grateful for the free meal from being in the way of traffic, he dragged her way off the road and started picking greens. After just a little while he started thinking; he’d seen her dead and all the little ones but didn't actually check her pouch. So, back he went to where he had dragged her and sure enough - one little guy was still hanging on - ice cold but alive. He brought him home, weighed him and tucked him into a box on heat to warm up.

That night, I had promised to release some orphaned cottontails in a friend’s yard in the town of Waukesha, so after work we packed them up and hurried over there. All went well with the release, but now it was almost 7pm, getting dark, and we need greens again for overnight and morning for the bunnies that were still at home. We wondered where to go - look around and waste time, or go back to Ottawa, which takes time to drive to, but where we’d be assured of abundant greens. We decided Ottawa was the best choice, so off we went. I started picking down the road one way and him the other. A little later he came over and said he thought he heard something but wasn't sure. I came over by where he was picking and listened but heard nothing. Then, a little sound, and nothing again. We didn't want to walk around for fear of stepping on any little ones, and needless to say, by now it was getting dark and we really had to keep picking greens. So I got down to ground level and started making mamma opossum sounds and my husband got down and began to make baby opossum sounds. Sure enough, in just two seconds we hear another little baby. He'd been out there all that time and was cold as ice, but we found him and as of this writing, he and his brother are doing really well.

So, it just goes to show you, if take the extra time you may be able to help save a life.

Guest Blogger N.M.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Come Gather with Us

Change can sometimes be good, sometimes bad but the changes for our Education Department is GREAT! Moving into our new facility is opening up a wonderful new component for education. In the past our educational leaders and the animal ambassadors would and still do travel to your location of choice for an educational program. With our new Gathering Room we can offer educational programs on site. On October 20th we offered our first in house program to the Passage School students at Lad Lake. What a great experience we had not only the kids but also myself. With this new room the environment is much more inviting and receptive to an up-close and personal experience with the animal ambassadors that make up the education department. The kids could ask as many questions as they wanted to without any time constraints. Because the ambassadors were at their own home the kids could spend more time with them too. The critters appreciate not having to be packed up one-plus hours before the program and not going out into extreme heat or cold.

Question and Answer time with Dakota the Great Horned Owl

The space itself invites a more natural setting for wildlife education. Our building is surrounded by beautiful pines and prairie fields. You come into the Gathering Area to warm hues trimmed in maple and pine. The room is outlined with our herp educators who would love to inspire you.

Private lessons with Daphne the Muscovy duck

In addition to our programming, if your group or organization is in need of a gathering place give us a call to make arrangements to hold it at our facility 262-965-3090.

Guest Blogger L.K.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Fowl

Much like our feathered friend, Daphne, water and shore birds who are unable to migrate due to injury - or being domestic! - are going to become more obviously in need as the weather cools and the healthy animals begin to head south.
 Whether you like them or not, Geese and ducks are a big part of the fall landscape in southeastern Wisconsin. Large flocks descend on recently harvested corn fields and area lakes and streams. This is also the time of year when caring people will start to notice those unfortunate souls who get left behind due to injuries they may be suffering from.

Waterfowl poses a number of diffculties that we don't face with other types of animals. The saying goes around WINC, "they don't call them wild goose chases for nothing." Of course each situation is different, but many have the same obstacles to overcome:
  • The bird spends most of its time on water where it is difficult or impossible for a human (or any other predator) to catch him.
  • The bird can still run even when she does come out of the water making it easier for her to duck, dive and hide in the bushes where she’s safe from predators (us)
  • The bird can still fly even though they have a debilitating leg or foot injury. They will often stay in the water which supports their weight, only coming up on land for brief periods.
The reason many of the calls we receive about waterfowl this time of year are difficult is that injuries sustained a few weeks (in some cases even a few months) ago are oftentimes unrepairable. If an injury is severe enough to keep a bird from doing what comes natural to it, namely flying, and it goes unnoticed and untreated for too long, the chance that we will be able to re-set it and coax it to heal properly is small. Due to regulations (and the inability to survive if done so) we cannot generally just amputate the injured area either. Even if we could amputate, the animal's overall health is often not good enough to ensure their survival through the process or follow-up care; and permanent placement is difficult to find if the injury area will require ongoing medical attention or care.

If you see a goose, duck or other type of water or shore bird that you think needs help please gather the following information before contacting your nearest rehabilitator.
  • Where has the animal been seen most often and how near is it to water?
  • What behaviors (holding out or dragging one wing, noticeably limping, unable to balance) are you witnessing that could help us pinpoint the injury?
  • How close has a person walking (not a vehicle) been able to get to the animal before it responds (ie. tries to run away, dives into the water, or perhaps it can’t move at all)
With birds that aren’t yet approachable but are obviously injured the best situation would be for someone frequenting the area to offer up small tidbits of food like cracked corn, rolled oats or bird seed. This lulls the animal into a sense of security and will hopefully give that individual or one of our volunteers a better chance at getting close enough to contain the animal.

With many waterfowl species coming into season for licensed hunting please be careful when attempting to assist a bird in need. When in any area where hunting could potentially occur, always be on alert and be sure to wear bright clothing so that any potential hunters in the vicinity can see you too. If you have any questions about an animal you think needs help always contact your local rehabilitator for advice and guidance.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interested in helping wildlife? We NEED you!

Our wild neighbors need your help! Interns at the Wildlife In Need Center have helped care for thousands of animals over the years through hours of cleaning, feeding and care. But we also offer internships for those looking for experience in Community Outreach as well. The Community Outreach Interns have the opportunity to save just as many lives over as the Animal Care Interns do in our clinic; by providing education to thousands of children and area residents with the help of our animal ambassadors, by spreading awareness of the Center and our services to more people throughout the region, and by talking directly with the public in an effort to prevent the situations that may lead to an animal becoming one of our patients.

Last year the Wildlife In Need Center received a generous donation from the James E. Dutton Foundation. As our Center grows and our need to educate the communities we serve grows with it we have also begun to expand our internship programs accordingly. Our new partnership with UW-Waukesha means that we are enhancing the experiences and learning opportunities even more as we look towards the future.

We are looking for someone to help us in our relatively new Environmental Education and Communications Internship (EC) program. If you or someone you know might be interested in:
  • Learning how to assist the public with wild neighbor questions
  • Designing educational brochures for children’s programs
  • Creating educational displays and brochures for educating the public
  • Helping to present educational programs to the public
  • Creating and editing educational videos
  • and more...
Learning to live peacefully with wildlife as well as knowing when a wild animal may need our help are just some of the lessons you could share with others if you were an education intern at the Wildlife In Need Center.

We are also looking for someone to help us in the Marketing and Community Outreach Internship (MC) program. If you or someone you know might be interested in:

  • Learning how to coordinate a membership program and a variety of donor events
  • Creating and publishing images, videos, and other information online
  • Helping to interact with supporters through social media
  • Creating educational displays and brochures for educating the public
  • Learning how to assist the public with wild neighbor questions
  • and more...
If you want to help inspire and educate people both young and old about the wonder of the world around us then we want to hear from you! If think you’re the right fit to help WINC with Community Education and Outreach than we need to hear from you!

To apply send a cover letter describing your interest and previous experience as well as a current resume to For more information about WINC’s intern program visit our internship page.

Want to help but can't commit to a formal internship? Consider becoming a volunteer. We have orientations scheduled monthly and once you've completed training you can come in just once or twice a week! Visit our volunteer page for more information.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where'd you get that turtle?

Today we received a phone call from a gentleman who had a turtle question. Getting turtle questions is quite common during certain times of the year here at WINC because there isn’t as much education reaching the public about them as there is about animals like birds or raccoons. The difference was that the turtles he had questions about had come from Florida, not Wisconsin!

Although the Wildlife In Need Center answers nearly 10,000 phone calls each year and has admitted over 36,000 wildlife patients representing over 140 species that are native to Wisconsin, we often get calls like these as well because very few other agencies and nonprofits in the area are equipped to answer these types of questions. Unfortunately,

WINC cannot provide any care for or advice on care for domestic animals.

...even if the animal in question is considered “exotic” and may be difficult to find advice on through traditional resources. What we can and always try to do is help these individuals to seek out the resources that might actually be beneficial for their individual situation.

According to "The sale or distribution of turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches has been banned in the US since 1975 (Title 21 CFR 1240.62)." The sale of these quarter-sized turtles to the caller 2 year ago should not have been allowed under federal law. goes on to explain that "The ban was brought into effect under the Public Health Services Act by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the problem of Salmonella infections in children." While reptiles of all kinds carry Salmonella, the Salmonella they carry that can actually infect humans is passed to the turtles from us to begin with. This is why we institute high levels of sanitation and security with all of our turtle patients here in the clinic.
 In the caller's case the turtles had been purchased at a store in Florida while he was away on business and had now outgrown the tank and time he was willing to invest in them. Although I just said we couldn’t provide advice on domestic animal care, we don't have to be a domestic animal shelter to promote EDUCATION when it comes to the decision to make an animal a part of your home. Pets are a responsibility that should not be taken lightly regardless of what species they may be. Consider the age they might live to, the size living quarters they might need during that time, and what amount of care and socialization they are going to require from everyone in your family among other things. If you have an exotic pet you need further resources on, talk to your local humane shelter, a trusted and reputable pet supply center, or visit our Resources page for links to helpful people in these situations. Both the caller and I were grateful that he’d called before releasing these turtles in a pond down the road from his house. I was able to direct him to contact one of several reptile specialty breeders in the area to see if they would be willing to help find suitable new homes for them instead.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Top 10 Reasons why you should attend the WAUK with WINC event on Saturday, September 24th

10. If you register in advance you’ll get a high-quality, long sleeved event shirt!

9. It is a healthy way to spend time with the kids (even if they’re not your own)!

8. It is a great way to fight those beginning of the school year doldrums!

7. It is a good excuse to get some exercise!

6. You can have someone take your picture by the Anagama Wood Kiln!

5. It will be the perfect time of year to enjoy the fall scenery on the Glacial Drumlin Trail!

4. It is an opportunity to visit the NEW Wildlife In Need Center!

3. It is a good opportunity to hike and learn about the Field Station!

2. It is a fun way to support 2 great causes!

1. It will be a hiking HOOTING good time!

Find out more and register online here
Tell us why you'll be attending this fun walk/run event and you could be one of the lucky people chosen to have their picture taken with Wildlife In Need Center animal ambassador, Daphne the duck!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Plan ahead if tree trimming is in your future

Springtime may seem like a long way off, but for those homeowners whose spring clean-up activities will include cutting down unwanted or dead trees there is good reason to make those plans now rather than later. Even though spring means that the weather starts to cooperate and trees may still be dormant, it is the worst time of year to cut or remove them, at least for your wild neighbors. Right now squirrels and some birds, raccoons and a few other species are still nesting in Wisconsin trees, but soon, as the days become shorter and the nights cooler, they will have begun the transition into adulthood. Early-mid fall is not only after the nesting season is done but it is also before most mammals begin using trees for winter dens making it the ideal time for removing trees while having the least negative impact.

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 and summer can destroy nests and animals can be displaced, injured, or even killed in the process. We get a number of babies like squirrels, raccoons and a wide variety of birds whose nests or families have been destroyed from tree removal and trimming throughout these seasons.

Thanks to Volunteer and Photographer, Katie Pfaff for this photo of a playful raccoon being rehabilitated after his nest tree was cut down killing his mother and several of his siblings.

If a dead tree is not posing a threat to your home or other buildings, you could even consider leaving it, or only cutting off the most dangerous branches. There are a number of good reasons to keep them around for the sake of your wild neighbors. 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. These cavities are important nest sites for a number of other cavity-nesting species that don’t have the ability to make holes in trees themselves; these include chickadees, bluebirds, and kestrels. Snags also provide den sites (both nesting and wintering) for many mammal species including squirrels, raccoons, and even bears.

So, whether you are still relishing the summer sun or looking forward to the first crisp fall day, look up the next time you are outside and if tree removal is in your future, plan accordingly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Busiest Day

June is always our busiest month of the year at the height of summer and prime time for summer babies as well as adult wildlife. And every year one of those busy June days yields the “Most Patients Admitted in a Single Day.” In 2011 that day was Friday, June 3 when we admitted 30 animals of 8 species.

Species                 Age           Reason for admission     City of Origin

American Woodcock     Adult       internal injuries             Waukesha

Big Brown Bat     Adult     Found in garage, unable to fly      Brookfield

Common Grackle     Juvenile  Unable to fly, fractured wings    Jefferson

Common Grackle      Juvenile    Found on ground calling        Sullivan

Eastern Cottontail        Infant    Nest found by cat               Hartland

Eastern Cottontail        Infant    Nest found by cat               Hartland

Eastern Cottontail        Infant    Nest found by cat               Hartland

Eastern Cottontail       Infant     Nest found by cat               Hartland

Eastern Cottontail        Infant    Nest found by cat               Hartland

Eastern Cottontail        Infant     Nest found by cat              Hartland

Eastern Cottontail        Infant      Cat attack                        Mukwonago

Eastern Cottontail        Infant      Cat attack                        Mukwonago

Eastern Cottontail        Infant      Cat attack                        Mukwonago

Eastern Cottontail        Infant       Cat attack                        Mukwonago

Eastern Cottontail        Infant      Dog Attack                         Hartland

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping   Watertown

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping   Watertown

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping   Watertown

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping   Watertown

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping   Watertown

Eastern Cottontail   Juvenile   Nest dug up while landscaping    Watertown

Eastern Gray Squirrel    Infant      Fell from tree               Oconomowoc

Eastern Gray Squirrel   Juvenile    Fell from tree               Oconomowoc

European Starling    Juvenile    CNS issue/disorder           Waukesha

Raccoon           Juvenile    Fell out of tree onto driveway    Mukwonago

Raccoon            Juvenile   Mom hit by car                      Oconomowoc

Raccoon            Juvenile   Mom hit by car                      Oconomowoc

Raccoon            Juvenile   Found in garage screaming      East Troy

Raccoon            Juvenile   Found in garage screaming      East Troy

Wood Duck         Infant     Wandering in road                    Waterloo

A close second in admissions was Monday, June 27 with 29 animals admitted of 14 different species. Does that date sound familiar? That was the opening day for our new facility! I guess the wildlife all wanted to be the first to see the new building. Here’s who came in that day.

Species               Age           Reason for admission                   City of Origin

American Crow     Adult    Found along road with fractured spine   Brookfield

American Toad    Adult     Found in yard disemboweled                Eagle

House Finch         Adult                Stuck in Jelly                         Dousman

Midland Painted Turtle    Adult       Hit by Car, fractured bridge      Waukesha

Mourning Dove       Adult      Flapping on ground, fractured keel             Hartland

Western Painted Turtle  Adult    Hit By Car, fractured shell, spinal injuries    Colgate

Woodchuck                   Adult      Hit by car, fractured leg              Delafield

Brown-headed Cowbird   Infant  Blown out of nest, fractured leg     Waukesha

Brown-headed Cowbird     Infant     Blown out of nest                  Waukesha

Sandhill Crane      Infant         Dog scared away parents           Oconomowoc

American Robin    Juvenile      Found on ground, CNS issues    New Berlin

American Robin    Juvenile      Found on ground                        Waukesha

American Robin   Juvenile       Found on sidewalk                     Waukesha

American Robin  Juvenile       Found on sidewalk                       Waukesha

American Robin   Juvenile       Found on sidewalk                      Waukesha

Brown Thrasher   Juvenile       Found on ground, CNS issues      Waukesha

European Starling    Juvenile   Fell out of nest, fractured wing      Oconomowoc

House Finch   Juvenile  Mom stopped going to nest 2 days ago    Delafield

House Finch   Juvenile  Mom stopped going to nest 2 days ago    Delafield

House Finch   Juvenile  Mom stopped going to nest 2 days ago    Delafield

House Finch   Juvenile  Mom stopped going to nest 2 days ago    Delafield

House Finch   Juvenile   Mom stopped going to nest 2 days ago    Delafield

Raccoon         Juvenile     Found in yard limping             Oconomowoc

Raccoon         Juvenile     Found on road, fractured leg    Waukesha

Mallard           Infant          No Mom                               Waukesha

Mallard           Infant          No Mom                               Waukesha

Mallard           Infant          No Mom                                Waukesha

Mallard           Infant           No Mom                               Waukesha

Mallard           Infant           No Mom                               Waukesha

For the entire month of June the Wildlife In Need Center admitted 443 wildlife patients of 56 different species. And we packed, moved and unpacked the entire operation as well that month including moving all the patients we had in care from the previous months. June was pretty busy for all the tired staff and wonderful volunteers of WINC. But our new home is wonderful and was worth all the hard work!

June 2011                             Species Number

13 lined Ground Squirrel             8

American Crow                          4

American Robin                        42

American Toad                           2

American Woodcock                  1

Baltimore Oriole                         1

Barn Swallow                             3

Big Brown Bat                            3

Black-capped Chickadee         10

Blue Jay                                     1

Brown Thrasher                         1

Brown-headed Cowbird            2

Canada Goose                          2

Chimney Swift                           1

Cliff Swallow                             1

Common Grackle                     11

Downy Woodpecker                 5

Eastern Bluebird                         1

Eastern Chipmunk                    11

Eastern Cottontail                     57

Eastern Gray Squirrel                 9

European Starling                     19

Great Blue Heron                       1

Great Horned Owl                     2

Green Frog                                1

Hooded Merganser                    1

House Finch                             15

House Sparrow                        14

Mallard                                    40

Midland Painted Turtle               2

Mourning Dove                        11

Muscovy Duck                           1

Northern Cardinal                       1

Northern Flicker                         1

Painted Turtle                             1

Raccoon                                  80

Red Fox                                     1

Red Squirrel                                2

Red-bellied Woodpecker            3

Red-tailed Hawk                         6

Red-winged Blackbird                 1

Rock Pigeon                                3

Ruby-throated Humming Bird      2

Sandhill Crane                             2

Snapping Turtle                           4

Sora                                            1

Southern Flying Squirrel               1

Tree Swallow                              1

Virginia Opossum                      14

Western Painted Turtle                5

White-breasted Nuthatch             1

White-footed Mouse                   1

White-tailed Deer                        1

Wild Turkey                                2

Wood Duck                              16

Woodchuck                              10