September is a bittersweet time for all of us. We are optimistic as we say goodbye to the lazy days of summer, and prepare our children for the upcoming school year. Teachers have been preparing their rooms and lessons for their new students, and we here at Cedar Run have spent our summer preparing our wild orphans to be successful in their next stage of life.
Most of us have been purchasing new clothes, backpacks, and fun snacks for our kids hoping that everything new will ease the transition into the new year. We hope all of our care has been enough to prepare them for the unknown of new school year. Here at Cedar Run it isn’t much different this time of year.
We at Cedar Run are just as optimistic as a young mother sending her young ones off to school for the first time. The difference is we will never see our feathered, furred, or scaled babies again. We have raised hundreds of babies this season and hope that we have prepared them enough for the challenges of the wild. They won’t come home and tell us about their day, or share their triumphs with us at the dinner table. We open the crate, and off they go! No hugs, or first day of school pictures. No waves good bye or kisses blown in the wind. We never see our babies again, but are confident that they will be survivors, excelling at their wild antics. Release day is the proudest moment in the life of a wildlife rehabilitator.
Our staff and hundreds of volunteers have dedicated countless hours this year feeding, cleaning, and ensuring our young ones are ready for the big world. Our summer has been filled with education, but our rigorous curriculum is a bit different for our wild ones.
Flight school– It takes a long time for our nestlings to reach lofting heights. They practice first inside in large flight towers. Once they pass that test, they can advance to the large outdoor aviary. Over a couple of weeks, we make sure they can fly great distances with little fatigue. Once they have built up their confidence and stamina, they are released as a small flock on their graduation day.
Fishing lessons– A necessity for our raccoons. We offer them challenges that mimic opportunities in the wild. They will have to forage on stream beds and find food that moves. There won’t be any handouts or bowls of food where they are going. They must learn how to forage and find hidden meals before they are ready to go.
Physical Education– Squirrels seem to be the best in this class. They leap and climb all day in the suites that are nearly 10 feet high. They challenge their surrogate siblings to games of tag and keep away, never seeming to tire. On release day they whirl their tails as they seem to fly out of their box and bound up the nearest tree. To see them follow their instinct is always a proud moment for us.
Critical Thinking– Yes our raccoons are our little tricksters too. Able to work the locks on their enclosures, we have to come up with new solutions weekly. They watch and learn, and soon they are able to simple lift and pull any type of hinge or lock. They do keep us on our toes. The opossums and skunks are very good at their critical thinking skills as well. They make burrows out of anything honing skills to hide in plain sight. Living with hungry siblings, they learn that the one quickest to the bowl without being seen gets the best snack for the day. They wrestle, and argue just like children, developing life skills as they play.
Soon our hospital will be quiet, with only a few patients. Our fawn herd will bound into the forest, and the last of the orphans will be all grown up and on their own. The transition from chaotic summer to calm fall is very rewarding. We know that we have helped thousands of animals this season, and have put them back into the wild where they belong. There is no greater reward or feeling of knowing that our team of volunteers, visitors, and staff contributed to the future success of so many animals.
Thank you to everyone who donated their care, time, energy, interest, and funds to keep Cedar Run’s mission alive.
The school year is hectic, remember to take a time out from the frenzy of it all, and come to visit us this fall and winter. We will be busy preparing for our upcoming Wild school year beginning next spring.