Back to School & Back to the Wild

fawn

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.

https://www.facebook.com/richard.jones.3388/videos/10207247969986659/

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.

Missing Colors in Nature

henry (2)

Working with so many species, we see so many variations of traits among the individual species. This season we have had a record number of patients,  and each is just as unique as we are. But on occasion, we get the truly rare and unique patients. Just as we as humans have variation, wildlife does as well. We have many examples of these traits right here at Cedar Run.

One of the most surprising is color variation. Recently, we received a Red-Tailed Hawk that was injured by car impact. She is a full grown, mature female; an amazing feat to reach adulthood with such a unique appearance. She has leucism; a condition in which there is  only a partial loss of pigmentation resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of her  feathers, talons, and scales.  Below is a comparison of our leucistic patient and our resident female Red-tail , Genesis. Genesis exhibits a “normal” variation of the local populations, although all have  their own  patterns and markings that make them unique.

We have also recently had many calls about white deer. Commonly called pied ball deer or piebald, these White-tailed deer are becoming more common in local populations. Without the presence of predators, these are able to reach adulthood, and produce the beautiful trait. I often joke about how it may be evolution before our eyes, as cars are currently the only predator to deer. The white coloration makes them easier to see; safer for them, safer for us. SAM_0188

henry (2)King Henry currently resides in our Nature Center. He was found as a nestling that had been tossed out of the nest, most likely due to his visual trait. He was brought to our animal hospital just as many of our patients are. The finder was unsure of what they had found and had no idea that he was actually an albino Northern Cardinal. Henry was raised to be released, but has a reduced range of vision due to his albinism; a common side effect of the trait. He does exhibit slight colorations on his crest, primary, and tail feathers simply due to the structure of the types of feathers. His eyes are red which is due to an absence of pigment. His feathers are also lacking melanin, creating a lack of pigment that makes color in skin, feathers, and scales. Henry loves visitors, and will sing his sweet song if you are patient.

Chloe, another one of our residents is truly an oddity in nature. As a Corn snakIMG_1259 (2)e, life is spent on the ground. To be white is a fatal trait. It makes them easy for predators to find, and difficult to camouflage in their forest or field habitats. She and her sibling, Dylan,  were found together and brought to us several year ago. They are nearly inseparable, and often confuse visitors by twisting in a way that makes them look like a single bi-colored snake. Dylan exhibits the “normal” variation of a corn snake, while Chloe is also truly albino- exhibiting the classic trait of red eyes, and lack of coloration of her scales. You can see them above in their traditional snuggle.

If you stop by our pond just next to our Nature Center, be sure to stop, wait, look,  and watch. Our Green frog population is jumping! But not with just any Green frogs, BLUE-green frogs. Well at least one anyways. I first saw this particular frog 2 years ago. The picture does not give it justice. Her colors are iridescent turquoise blue on her head, and an interesting shade of purple on her hind legs.  We all know that blue and yellow make green, but this frog does not produce the yellow pigment xanthophyll. This gives the blue and purple coloration much like when leaves lose their colors in the fall making them appear red.Below is a comparison of Green frogs in our pond at the same location, at the same time, on the same day.

Why not come out to our little corner of the forest and seek these wonders in nature. Of course the current trend is to seek the virtual kind, you won’t get points for finding our creatures, but they are truly as unique as you and me. Maybe you will spot something rare and magnificent to share with your friends and family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s under the shed?

ghog baby

I became inspired for the edition at a friendly neighborhood barbeque.  I am the neighborhood go to when it comes to backyard wildlife. I often have the text or Facebook message asking the usual questions about baby bunnies, or fledglings, but my favorite question of all time was just last night.

ghog nose!
The Nose under Sandy’s shed!

I was asked to identify a nose. Yep, just a nose. My neighbors have had bunnies under their shed for years, and even created doors for them to comfortably come and go in style. They refaced the shed and even added a doorway complete with trim. The animal was described as having a longer nose than a rabbit, but yet very similar. I guessed it had to be groundhog because they are the usual under-shed suspects, but I was soon offered a blurry picture to confirm. It was a young groundhog. My friend couldn’t believe that I knew what it was with the evidence presented. She asked how I could be sure? Honestly, I have seen a lot of groundhog noses. I had just gotten done a shift at the animal hospital where we have at least a dozen.

Sheds are the perfect shelter for many suburban wild things. A home with dry ground, a roof over their heads, and protection from the local cat or dog, a shed makes the perfect home for many species. Groundhogs are the #1 shed seeker. They might pile up some dirt around the edges, but they don’t cause any harm to your yard or shed. They will take advantage of potted plants though.

Rabbits will seek refuge after a wild night playing and feasting on clover and dandelion, and hang nearby to ensure safety from hawks and owls. Opossums will share the space as well. They are welcome visitors eating ticks, grubs, and other insects that we find unbearable in our yards. Baby birds, raccoons, mice and the occasional snake may even utilize our out buildings for their own habitat. One shed amy have several species coexisting like an apartment complex.

It is important to share our yards with wildlife.It is fun to watch the furry neighbors come and go, and it is so important to have no fear of them. We need to teach the next generation to respect these creatures just as my friends had offered them a little doorway to their underground home. They are simply seeking shelter in our backyards. Offering them the space under our sheds is the least we can do for tiny harmless beings that are not only adorable, but beneficial to our tiny backyard habitats.

ghog shed door
Doorway complete with moulding by Mike.

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Baby Boom!

Fox 2016-1-1

Fox 2016-1-1

It is officially baby season here at Cedar Run. In just 1 week, our young patients have tripled.  Last week, there were about a dozen raccoons, a hand full of squirrels, one groundhog, 3 fox kits, and a few nestlings in the incubator. This weekend, I arrived to work my  evening shifts and was welcomed by 40 raccoons, 15 more baby squirrels, 20 opossums,  5 skunks, an incubator full of various bird species, and a fledge room with dozens of fledglings. Our baby season has BOOMED!

skunk

Our hospital gears up all winter for this season. We have accepted over 900 animals this year already. In the winter, we care for mostly raptors and adult mammals that have been injured, but this time of year we are caring for hundreds of orphans, and young injured animals. Each animal has a unique story, but we do encounter many similar stories.

Most often our orphans are brought to us because of human or pet interactions. With the mild spring weather, we venture to the out of doors and happen upon furry infants. Often they are perfectly fine, but our human instincts tend to project how we would feel all alone on a cold rainy day without a parent.  The young animals are scooped up and rushed to the hospital.

I had received my first fawn just last night. I asked if it was injured, and the young girls mentioned that it was simply lying still in the yard with no mother around. They assumed it was injured since it did not get up and run away. I gave it a quick check up and it passed the health exam. I then asked the family if they remembered where they had found it and explained to them that this particular fawn was only a day or two old. Having a strong desire to educate everyone about wild habits, I gave a friendly lesson to the family. “When a fawn is removed by humans or a predator, the doe will continue to look for it for two to three days, repeatedly returning to the area where she last left the baby”.  It is a natural behavior for a fawn to sit perfectly still when a predator approaches, the predator just happened to be the two young ladies that day. They took the fawn back, and successfully reunited him with his mother in only a couple of hours. Good going ladies!

Fawns, bunnies, & birds all follow the same wild instincts; stay still and a predator won’t find you.bunny nest

* Bunnies tend to lie still in a shallow divot in gardens, under shrubs or in planters, and usually in a yard with dogs. The mothers come back to feed only at dawn and dusk.

fawn* Fawns are fragile and weak when born. They don’t have the strength to keep up with mom for a few weeks. They are often found lying in a bed of grass, curled up neatly along a trail, or in a garden bed. They do get up and move occasionally, but do not wander for long. Their mother may leave them for up to eight hours a day and will feed only when she feels it is safe.

* Bablue jayby birds are our most common patients this time of year. Helpless hoppers, they jump under shrubs and stare up at us as if they need our help. They do not unless they were caught by a pet.  A young bird will leap from its nest and be bound to the ground for up to 2 weeks. Too big for the nest, but too young to fly, they learn their life skills during this vital time in their life. Both parents are hard at work feeding them throughout the daylight hours. They chirp to them to sit still as they watch from the trees above.

All of these wild parents know if they are seen feeding or visiting their young, there is an increased risk of a predator finding them. They watch from afar and call out to them to stay put and stay still. Having limited flight or mobility, the babies are safest staying put.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the animal that you have found, it is best to visit our website. There we have a link under REHABILITATION, choose YOUNG ANIMALS.  Follow the prompts for helpful tips, and call the animal hospital at 856-983-3329 ext 107 if you need any more guidance. Leave a message if necessary, we will return your call. Feeding the hundreds of hungry mouths this time of year takes precedence, and know that if your animal is injured you can simply drop by anytime between the hours of 9am and 7pm any day of the week. We will have a staff member ready to assist you.

Our patients are consistently increasing. The best care for a wild animal is it’s wild parents. Please know that they are perfectly adapted for the great outdoors, and are able to weather the storms so to say. Due to increasing human interactions we are currently accepting an average of 40 animals a day. Our staff & volunteers are working very hard to care for the many hungry mouths and endless laundry during this year’s BABY BOOM!

Those Crazy, Crafty, Crows!

Crogin planning his next ruse.

 

Some of our most endeared residents are not fluffy or cuddly looking, but often brass and bold. They constantly holler at visitors, but sometimes whisper sweet “Hello’s”. In the darkness of their enclosures it is shocking to hear a shrill “HI!”, or the  sound of a woman screaming “Woah!”. Visitors will approach the sounds with caution, unable to see the source of the sounds,  inquiring about what could be making such odd, and often, obnoxious sounds.

Even though they don’t have the great size and bold white markings of our Bald Eagles, they do have unique personalities that supercede our national symbols. Aandeg and Crogin are definitely crowd favorites. They entertain everyone that meanders through our resident housing area. Cedar Run houses nearly 60 residents year round, but our friendly crows are surely the most memorable. Calling out to any movement on the grounds, they verbalize and mimic sounds for the attention of not just our staff, but each and every visitor.

IMG_0207
Aandeg, American Crow.

Aandeg is an American Crow. She has been with us since 2003. When she was originally found as an injured fledgling, she was taken to a local vet. It was there that she had interacted with humans and learned many of her words and sounds. Unfortunately, she was unable to be released with her permanent eye injury and imprinted, humanized behaviors.

American Crows are the larger of the 2 species of crows that we have here in South Jersey. They can have a length up to 21 inches and weigh between 0.7 to 1.4lbs. They usually live up to 8 years old in the wild, but Aandeg at 13 years old has surpassed that by several years in captivity.

Crogin, a Fish Crow, came to us just a couple of years ago with a very similar story. In 2013, he was found as a fledgling in a parking lot with a wing injury. While undergoing months of care at another facility, he too became imprinted. Also unable to fly, he found himself a forever home at Cedar Run.   He often whispers sweet sounds, but his most popular comment is his boisterous “HI!”.

IMG_0293
Crogin, resident Fish Crow

Fish Crows are much smaller than American Crows, and have a more nasally call. They tend to prefer habitats around water and marshes, but are seen inland as well. They will eat anything; trash, eggs, and even will even steal food from raptors.

Crows are very clever, and recent research has deemed them smarter than Bonobo Apes. Able to build and use tools, these birds can learn behaviors and teach them to their offspring and flocks. They can recognize and can even remember faces, houses, and streets. Their crafty ways are a true sign of their intelligence and they are now considered the smartest of all animals within the scientific community.

Crows are able to analyze a scenario, count, and make intelligent decisions that surpass even a parrot’s ability. But do know that crows are best adapted to be in the wild. Yes they can learn to talk and become problem solvers, and yes it is very entertaining  to watch Aandeg and Crogin solve their enrichment puzzles, but the wild is the best place for these crafty creatures. So if you happen to come upon and injured crow in a parking lot, or any animal anywhere for that matter, please know that its best chance for success is to bring it directly to the nearest rehabilitator with very little human interactions.

Be sure to visit with Crogin and Aandeg on your next visit; they just may remember you when you return.

 

Springing Ahead

bunny pile

bunny babyOur mild winter seems to have sped up our baby season. We accepted our first young patients all this week including bunnies, squirrels, and opossums! I am sure the raccoons, groundhogs and skunks are not too far behind.

Spring is a season of new life and growth. Many of us will venture out of doors, much like the animals coming out of hibernation. The longer days will inspire us to head to our yards and gardens to do some spring cleaning. This is where most of our young patients come from.

The neglected piles of leaves (in my yard, some are from October) will be raked, twigs and branches will be collected, and the tall tufts of grass and mums planted in the fall will finally be trimmed back. Some may even feel inspired to trim limbs of trees and prune back dead growth. Be aware that these little areas of neglect have become perfect microhabitats for wildlife.

bunny nest

Those piles that we can’t stand to look at any longer may offer a furry surprise. I have found several nests of bunnies under my azaleas over the years. The leaves that get caught under the bush provide perfect insulation for the litters. Mother rabbit just adds a bit off fur, and voila, NEST! Those leafy nests wound between the branches of tall trees are homes for families of squirrels. Each nest could have an average of five squirrels taking shelter, and this time of year could house many more with babies on the way. Opossums just love those discarded piles of twigs and brush. These slow moving harmless animals need an easy escape from predators, and hiding under a confusing pile of sticksraccoon is perfect for them.

Soon we will be receiving groundhogs skunks and raccoons. These type of animals are usually orphaned due to human interactions as well. Most people would prefer not to have a groundhog or skunk living under their deck, but before you know it, mama is trapped and relocated with babies left behind. Too often we raise young patients for these types of interactions.

Please know that wildlife has appreciated our lack of presence in the out of doors this winter. They have taken shelter and are now bearing young. When spring cleaning, be aware that you may find some babies out there. The best thing to do is leave the babies where you found them. The mothers will relocate their young if they feel they are in an unsafe environment. Our presence will make them uneasy and they will move their young on their own.

So if you find what you think may be an orphaned animal as you are battling with Spring Fever, please visit our link Young Animals. We have helpful information on what to do if you are ever in this type of situation. There is no substitute for a wild mother, but we are here to help if the animal is truly injured or orphaned. Please do everything that you can to ensure the young animal is reunited with its mother. For any general questions or concerns regarding wildlife feel free to call us at (856) 983-3329. Just know that we are Springing Ahead this season as baby season has sprung!squirrle feeding

 

Winter Wings

tree hawk
Winter Wings

As many of you know, I have an unrelenting admiration for the migratory winter birds like the tiny warblers, snow buntings, juncos and pine siskins. I love hearing the sweet high pitched song of the dozens of White throated sparrows that have taken up shelter in our shrubberies and forests, and Boy is it easy to appreciate the colors of the male Northern Cardinal during the gray days of winter.  It is like finding a treasure in the forest to see and hear these seasonal visitors, and I do miss them when they leave in the early spring.  But it is some of our largest year-round residents that don’t seem to get the recognition that they truly deserve.

frozen lake
Cedar Run Lake

Here in South Jersey we have 2 species of vultures that live here year round; The Turkey Vulture and the Black Vulture. NO they don’t sing sweet songs, or frequent our feeders of black oil sunflower seeds, but they are out there in search of food and water just the same.  Most people like birding to observe the beauty and grace in nature. When it comes to vultures though… I often hear that the vultures are UGLY and (dare I say it) Gross!

I personally see the vultures’ unsightly characteristics as amazing adaptions. That could be because of my background in Biology, but nonetheless, they are truly fascinating when observed close up.

apolllo
Apollo, Immature Turkey Vulture & Education Ambassador

The Turkey Vulture has a salmon colored, BALD/ featherless head that aids in an eas
y clean up after a meal. If you’re sticking your head in dead things, who needs feathers just to get all mussed up? Also, there are no observable difference between the genders, and both can have a wing span of almost 6ft! They use their huge wings to teeter in a “V” shape at low altitudes to sniff out their next meal.  The smellier the better! Roadkill skunks are not a problem for these guys. With their huge nostrils they can locate the unsightly carcass, and it’s the clean-up crew to the rescue.

Now the Black vultures will also eat carrion, but have been observed to also kill small

Cora
Cora, resident Black Vulture at Cedar Run

prey. They don’t have the ability to sniff out an easy meal, but have incredible eyesight. They are slightly smaller, at nearly 5ft, they often soar with their flattened broad wings, above their red-headed cousins, watching them and waiting for them to pick out an easy meal.  They too have featherless heads, but their skin is all black. I think what I love most about the Black Vultures, is that they bark! Without a voice box, they make adorable grunts, hisses, and yes..barks.

At Cedar Run we get many vultures as patients annually. They get caught with their heads in a meal, and often get injured themselves. We have released many vultures over the years, while a few have become permanent residents. Come see our dear Cora, if she is feeling playful she may bark at you. Beware of our sassy Socrates, she has been known to attempt to snack on a shoelace or two. Apollo has visited many schools and been to several festivals as an education ambassador changing people’s opinions about these beautiful creatures.

Vultures are very curious creatures, and our residents and ambassadors will offer an up-close view of what most of us can only see meters above our heads.

cora head

Wild Winter

baron snow

What a wild winter we are having! This weather is unbelievable, and with it brings many unique experiences. This time last year, we had to break out the skis to pack down the trails. Scarves will surely make great gifts this season, but who knows when we will get to use them.

This past Saturday I led a survival birthday party where guests were dressed in shorts and tees. We had a great time building shelters in the woods, and we even got to see some unexpected visitors. The painted turtles had come up for an afternoon bask on the downed tree along the footbridge. They were stacked along the trunk as if it was as spring afternoon.  I even spotted an eastern fence lizard…in December! I was hoping we would spy a snake, but no luck.

Most of our creatures slow down in the winter, offering little to see over the chilly months. Fortunately, the weather had encouraged visitors to get outside and come see the delights of our piece of the Pineland forest. Our feathered, scaled, and furry friends put on a display that is normally only seen on quiet summer evenings.

The resident animals were all so active; Mika the raccoon was playing with his Kong, Baron the fox came to greet us at the door, and Jesse the Red-Tailed hawk showed off her flight skills by swooping so gracefully onto her swing, and Crogin the Fish crow whispered his sweet “Hellos”. Even our reptile room was energized. It was like a scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark; all the snakes slithered about as if they were trying to snuggle with the young visitors.genesis

Not only have the usual sights been stimulated by the strange weather, but our hospital has been unusually busy for this time of year as well. After the craziness of baby season (April- October), we anticipate the slow months of winter. It allows us to make repairs, do some deep cleaning, and maintain the 3 miles of trails throughout our facility. We are still taking in patients daily including; squirrels, hawks, doves, and owls. With the warm weather, animals are becoming more active, people are outdoors more often to find them if they become injured, and the young inexperienced animals are becoming more curious in the latter months of the year.Trail clean up

Give yourself the gift of nature this winter; we are enjoying the gentle changes. Before you know it, we will be buried in 3 feet of snow, the animals will all be hiding in their comfy abodes, and the trails will obstructed with drifts. Hiking the snowy trails is always a fun way to break in a new pair of snow shoes or boots, but why not enjoy the gift of mild weather this season?

So when thinking about the giving season, please know that our nature center is open for guests year round, and our hospital is always caring for wild patients and residents daily. Feel free to drop off a special gift for your favorite furry friend or offer the gift of volunteering; our orientations begin in January. We also have a wish list on our website for necessities needed for our hospital.Baron

What a gift this wild winter has brought to Cedar Run! I wonder what the New Year will bring…

nature center in winter

Autumn Activities

Baron smiles

Here at Cedar Run, we love the changes that autumn brings. Children leave with pockets full of acorns and brightly colored leaves, and family’s leave with lifelong memories. Making the trip out to Cedar Run is a huge adventure for children and adults alike, and Autumn is one of the best seasons to come and visit.

We get visitors from far and near; some trek hours, while many live in the adjacent neighborhoods. I love it when locals discover us for the first time. They often say they had no idea our little treasure was in their backyard. After all, we don’t have flashing lighted signs or billboards to direct you to our little corner of the pineland forest, nor do we sit on a main highway for all to see. We have quaint street signs, and rustic carved signs that welcome you with the quiet beauty of nature.

Fall Cedar Run LakeCedar Run is 171 acres of protected pineland forest with over 3 miles of sandy hiking trails that wind through the underbrush of blueberry and laurels. The trails are mainly flat, with a boardwalk through the wetlands, and an observation deck just where the upland forest meets the wetlands on the white trail. I love to search for green frogs and fence lizards down there. I saw both just this past Saturday; amazing since it was barely 50 degrees. The trails can be easily navigated by visitors of all ages and is wide enough for a double stroller if needed. I often point out the critters to visitors that unknowingly know that they are being watched form the waters below.

The biggest attraction I think is the mature pineland forest, and the many unique plants that are able to thrive in the sandy soils, or the tiny feathered migrants that come this time of year. But if you ask most, they are most surely here to see the nearly 60 animals that permanently reside at Cedar Run. Each has a heartbreaking story why they must live with us and not in the forest where they truly belong. It is their stories of human impacts on nature that many make personal connections with their favorite.

Baron smiles Like Baron, our resident gray fox. Raised in a home after being found abandoned, he is now habituated and no longer fearful of humans. He would not be able to survive on his own in the wild. He loves to welcome visitors and often sits at the side of his enclosure as if to say hello with a grin on his furry little face. Often it is the story of Orion, one of two Bald Eagles that live here permanently. Orion is a victim of powerlines, and can no longer fly or hunt.  Each has a story of their own, and each are now ambassadors for our local wildlife populations.

We also have the most active wildlife hospital in the state. Caring for nearly 4000 animals annually,pport our mission is to return wildlife to the wild. Our hospital doors are open 7 days a week and on holidays to accept any injured or orphaned wildlife. Our Nature Center and trails stay open year-round as well.

Survival shelter
Our Scout programs are currently in full swing, survival themed birthday parties are a favorite this time of year, and our adult Walk on the Wildside tours have been filling quickly. We also have raptor photography sessions and Night Hikes running throughout the season. There is always something to do at Cedar Run no matter what the season, but I find Autumn to be a favorite of many.

Beware!

squam

Fall Cedar Run Lake

Or should I say, be AWARE of the animals that visit us in our yards during the autumn season, and usually at night. The fall has donned her beautiful colors, shedding her old leaves which will provide shelter and warmth for the tiny creatures that may live in the ground, and in the trees. Squirrels are stuffing nests with the abundance of fallen leaves, and tiny ground rodents use it to insulate their homes and  travel inconspicuously out of sight from predators.

But, many folks are not so fond of these nuisance creatures. Many animals, most nocturnal,  are feeling the autumn chill, and forcing them closer to our homes, and often into them. Mice, squirrels, raccoons, and even birds are beginning to move in just a little closer, sometimes too close. I myself have seen some new burrowing activity near the house; probably just an opossum. I don’t mind them as they are a great rodent patrol themselves.

Many people are resorting to baiting these unwelcome freeloaders. Even when the local health department is called they will fill the holes with the substance to reduce nuisance populations. The bait is usually placed in an inconspicuous corner of a basement, garage, and even outdoor yard.  Animals are drawn to the bait with its disguise as a tasty meal. The animal eats the poison and ultimately, slowly and painfully, dies.

Not only is a small rodent susceptible to the toxin, but so are our local pets and wildlife populations. The small mammal suffers and losses its ability to run and hide, making it a very easy meal for a raptor, or a toxic toy for our household pets. An owl may catch the contaminated meal, a dog might play with the fluffy toy, or cat may find the animal for a snack and then itself will die froowlettesm the exposure to the poison. More importantly, raptors are a keystone species of the natural food web. The use of poison can cause the natural balance to actually tip in favor of the pest, and has in areas that have over used the product that is so readily available to offer that simple solution to rodent problem.

Our hospital receives several patients that have been exposed to the fatal substance. It is never the rat or mouse they were hoping to poison. It is usually an adorable chipmunk or even a hawk or owl. It is heartbreaking to see them suffer the effects of a product that can be simply purchased at any home store. All animals are in danger of poisons used for rodent control; Dogs, cats, hawks, owls, and even children. Please know that there is no such thing as a safe Rat Poison! Please do not use it at all, try alternative methods, such as reducing food availability, keeping trash away From Moms old Phone 021from the house, and filling tiny crevices to stop them from even entering.

So, be aware that there is a population of native animals out there  keeping these populations in check.  Even when I let our dogs out in the dark, I can rarely see what they are up to when they are in the yard. Let the creatures of the night control the population on their own without toxic intervention. More mice will encourage more owls in the night, and even more hawks in the day. What could be more rewarding than that!squam

Flying into Fall

2015-09-15 19.14.53 (1)

With the summer coming to an end and the leaves beginning to fall, it appears that some new uncommon animals are falling as well. In the fall, it is never the usual suspects. There are no more baby birds falling from nests, fewer raccoons are falling into trash cans and dumpsters, and we will receive the occasional gray squirrel falling from trees until October. The gray squirrel is not the uncommon suspect that I am discussing today.

fawn releaseracoonsFall brings a breath of fresh air to our wildlife hospital. Although our doors are open year-round, we do accept fewer patients throughout our autumn and winter seasons. We released our fawns this past weekend, only have 30 raccoons left to be released, and our many gray squirrels are growing quickly. Baby season is over… for most species.

Working one of the last evening shifts for the season, our wildlife hospital received three familiar autumn patients. Every year, in the fall, we accept a rather unusual animal. When we receive the initial call, “Help, I have found a baby animal!” rarely does the caller know what the animal actually is. Weighing less than an ounce, we receive several of these adorable creatures every year.

A very caring woman called me and said, “It flew across the kitchen and landed on my foot!” She was very concerned, and was afraid she had harmed it after being startled. As soon as I heard the story I knew exactly what it was. I told her it was most likely a Flying squirrel. She had mentioned that she placed it outside and it hadn’t moved the entire day, so I had asked her to bring it into the hospital. Fortunately he was unharmed, but very young and malnourished.flying squirrel

Yep, we have flying squirrels in NJ! Not to be confused with the sugar glider, a marsupial uncommonly kept as pets here in our state. Flying squirrels are not pets!  Flying squirrels look much different than their distant cousin the Eastern Gray squirrel. Flyers only weigh a mere 3 oz. at their maximum weight. They are often found in homes during the fall and winter months; after all, what better place to move the furry family to than into the insulated walls of our warm homes once the chills of the autumn air come. The woman had mentioned she had heard some scurrying at night and just assumed that it was mice (I would much rather have flying squirrels in my walls than plain old mice). She was certainly not expecting a tiny little squirrel to leap out of her air vent across the kitchen.

2015-09-15 19.14.53 (1)They are also very sociable and often feed and den together, generally in crevices of trees in a forested habitat especially when the weather becomes colder. So, if you find one in your home, there are most likely others. They work very diligently to ensure the community has enough cache for the winter months. With nuts and seeds as a plentiful and favorite food source this time of year, they will store nearly 15,000 pieces in just one season. Removing Flyers during the winter is not ideal, and they will not survive without their stored resources. Flying squirrels are omnivores eating both plants and animals. They will also feast on fruits, mushrooms, and animals such as insects, baby mice, and even rotting animal carcasses if the food becomes available. I would say that makes them beneficial within their environment.

flying squirrel wingsTheir anatomy is what intrigues me the most.  Flying squirrels have a furry membrane on the sides of their bodies between their fore and hind legs that act as a parachute when leaping from tree to tree (or kitchen to foot in this most recent case). They also have an amazing flattened tail that acts as a rudder while in flight. It can slow their fall and even help steer their fall minimally.They are nocturnal creatures with incredibly adorable huge dark eyes that allow them to hunt and forage under the safety of darkness.

Our animal hospital received three flying squirrels just this past Saturday. All are well and on the road to recovery. Yes, they were separated from their families, but they will be raised as a community of their own. Our young patients will spend the winter in a cozy den that we will provide for them, out of the bitter cold. Too young to endure New Jersey’s chilly weather without their families, they will be released next spring when the weather breaks and when natural food sources become plentiful once again.IMG_2469 (2)

Back to School with Cedar Run

Leading group

With summer coming to an end, and the kiddos back to school, we too are going back to school. We welcomeLeading group field trips and bring entertaining and educational programs into classrooms and auditoriums.

Our education department has many STEM inspired programs. STEM is an acronym for Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and each is all around the natural world.

STEM education effects what is closest and dearest to us, our youth. STEM education and careers are their future, the technological age in which they live, their best career options for their future, and the key to our global success.

With classes and teachers being constantly restrained by new state standards and curriculum changes, we are able to enhance their learning bvany either giving experiences in the field, or simply by bringing STEM programs in to them with our REFUGE on WHEELS programs. We use connections within our unique Pinelands habitat to captivate students’ interest in science, using and discussing the technology and data collection methods used to measure and identify any changes over time.

Our programs discuss habitats, ecosystems, adaptations, and diversity among a few of the topics. We delve into organisms from microbial to large mammals. We discuss the transfer of nutrients within a community and how it can be related to global issues. Introducing students to these issues we can make connections with global issues and gain an understanding of how the small things can ultimately affect the bigger.  But the crowd denise & hawkfavorites are always when they get to meet some of our scaled, furry, or feathered friends. Our resident wildlife educators are always inspiring future wildlife biologists, environmental engineers, and possibly the next alternme and homeschoolative energy or environmentally-friendly machine inventors.

Our programs are led and taught by engaging, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic educators using hands-on and minds-on activities. We make science, technology, math, and engineering fun and interesting. Our programs help students to learn and may even plant the “seed of interest” that could grow into an exciting and rewarding STEM career.

So why not experience STEM at Cedar Run during or onsite programs, travelling Refuge on Wheels programs, or our monthly homeschool classes. STEM is everywhere, out in nature, on the trails, in the dirt, under the stars, and in the water. It exists within our everyday experiences, and we are happy to share our experiences and knowledge with you.
boys at water

Valuing our Volunteers

Squirrel feeding

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls. ~David Thomas

Heather & Eastern Gray SquirrelVolunteers are at the heart of our organization. We love them dearly and could not support our mission without them. I have written about many of our patients and wildlife that can be found at Cedar Run, but what many don’t see is the dedication and hard work that our volunteers provide to support our organization.

Without our volunteers we would not be the organization that we are today;  They come week to week, working at sometimes grueling tasks and hours, with just a simple “Thank you” in return.

Our volunteers are asked to do some of the oddest things, but they delve into the tasks with enthusiasm and passion. Many of our volunteers have had very little experience with animals, and rarely do they have experience working with wildlife.

For instance, in a 4 hour shift they can be asked to assist with:

  • Securing animals during medical assessments and treatment
  • Hand feedings- (squirrels, songbirds,  crows, raptors,  rabbits, raccoons, skunks)
  • Cleaning of tanks and enclosures ( removing dirty/ filthy linens, scrubbing, & sanitizing)
  • WASH! – (Duck laundry has got to be the worst. There is no smell like it)
  • Sweeping & Mopping (2-3 times a day)
  • Disposal of trash
  • Answering many phone calls regarding injured & orphaned wildlife (9am -7pm)
  • Raking the housing area & trails
  • Scrubbing of crates after releases

These are just a few of the tasks that can happen at any time during any day. They never complain, and often ask what can be done next.  The job is sometimes quite physically daunting, and very exhausting.

Squirrel feedingHand feedings are not as cute and cuddly as one would think. We don’t coddle our patients since we want them to stay wild; no petting and cooing allowed. For instance, it takes about an hour for 4 people to completely feed 50 squirrels, but we don’t just feed them, we have to stimulate them (a fancy way of saying that we help them relieve themselves). Yep, 50 of them! The same routine goes for raccoons & opossums as well. Birds get fed every half hour, and once you have fed 40 nestlings from the incubators, you have to start all over again.

Our volunteers are scratched with tiny claws, skewered by talons, and sometimes even nipped by some of our frightened patients. They give us their weekends, mornings, afternoons and evenings to keep our animal hospital running, and they do it with a smile on! My crew works until 9:00 pm many evenings, and I am so proud of their commitment.

They come clean and leave dirtied, and continue to return week after week. They spread the word of our mission and support it by dedicating their time and selfless nature.Maria and Immature Red Tailed Hawk

I sincerely thank each and every hand that has helped our mission at Cedar Run. It is often a demanding job in a very fast-paced environment, but please know that you are dearly appreciated. You are the backbone of the organization.

The heart of a volunteer is not measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. ~DeAnn Hollis

mourning doveWithout your commitment and devotion, we could not care for the nearly 4000 animals that need our help every year.

Thank you!

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.” ~Edward “Ted” Kennedy

Hooked on Wildlife

Red Eared slider with Fishook in mouth

I thought I was going to have an easy afternoon working the animal hospital. During our changing of the guard we update the staff member on the next shift with new animal intakes that had come in throughout the day. Fortunately, we had only a couple birds and squirrels come in earlier in the day, and no animals needed intensive care for the day; a rare occurrence in the middle of our high volume season.

I took advantage of the time to organize and deep clean the bird room. Just as I had the room turned upside down, one of our volunteers came upstairs with a very distressed look on her face. “It’s an emergency”, she said. Little did I know how the day was going to unfold.

duckling hook (2)
Mallard Duckling hooked and trapped in discarded fishing line.
fishhook duck (2)
Freedom at last!

A poor mallard duckling was entangled in at least 10 feet of fishing line. The line was wrapped around the duckling’s legs, wings and neck, and that was the easy part. Once freed from his web, the true emergency emerged. A small rusty fish hook had sewn into the wing attaching it to his back in two separate places.  It took much time and patience to get the tricky little weapon out of the tiny duck. Overall, our young patient did very well, with 2 large punctures where the hook was attached, excessive scar tissue from being trapped for several days, and a laceration where he pulled his wing free from the hook before he arrived at Cedar Run. He stretched and flapped his featherless wings as I took the last bit of metal out of his back. He peeped as if to say, “Ahhhh, finally! Thank you.” He is currently doing very well, and his wounds are healing perfectly.

turtle fish hook (2)
Red-eared Slider with hook in mouth.

Within just moments of setting our new patient up in the duck room, De ja vu happened. Another emergency and another fish hook! This time it was a turtle. I met the family at the door, a gentleman with his two young boys. They must have been about 11 or 12 and looking very sorry and concerned. Their dad said he sent them out to catch fish, never expecting them to catch a turtle. Let me tell you, this was quite a catch, an 8 pound fresh water turtle with a fish hook attached to the roof of its mouth.

Not as challenging to remove the hook from the turtle, but it was tricky. Afterall, turtles pull their heads into their shells when frightened. He put up with me for a bit and fortunately it was only superficially attached with minimal injury to the turtle.

hook after removal
Hook removed from turtle

I praised the kids for being responsible enough to not to just toss it back where it may have eventually swallowed the hook, and even possibly die. I was so proud that they knew that something needed to be done, and I was happy to tell them that they absolutely did the right thing by convincing their dad to drive them out to the Pinelands of Medford to help the unfortunate catch. Without their concern, the turtle would most likely suffer and contribute to the fish hook problems in our local lakes and streams.

Every year we deal with fishing line, discarded hooks, and the occasional lure and bobber that get caught in and on our local wildlife. Not only is wildlife affected, but our pets can be also. Hooks are often cut free from the line when they prove too difficult to remove. Fish containing the hooks either die and wash ashore or are immediately tossed onto the shoreline. Gulls, raccoons, foxes, and geese are among the many patients where we have had to provide surgical procedures to remove the nasty things after thinking that they were going to just go for a swim or get an easy meal. Fishing line wraps around animals nearly severing limbs, and the hooks and lures are swallowed causing devastating internal damage.

So when teaching our young ones to fish, let us teach them safety for not just themselves, but safety for the wild things as well. Let us teach them to be as responsible as the boys I had met recently. Let us teach them to care about the possible dangers that we may inflict upon the silent animals that we affect. They live in and on our local lakes and streams, and we are merely visitors and guests.

Our duckling and turtle will survive due to the kindness and caring of the people that found them, let us educate future generations of the dangers af discarding something so simple as a few feet of fishing line or just a tiny fish hook stuck in a little old fish.

Ryan Gosling
Canada gosling with hook and line injury to leg and foot.

There’s Wildlife in the Woods!

There is nothing to fear here, just creatures to adorn with sincere admiration in their home.
Mallard female with her brood on Cedar Run's Lake
                                                         Mallard female with her brood on Cedar Run’s Lake

Listening to a NJ radio station this week, I was infuriated and dumbfounded by some of the comments and callers. With this past week being SHARK week, the general public seemed to have some opinions about living with wildlife and the incredible inconveniences that come with them encroaching on our territory. WHAT?! Our territory?!  I believe someone even mentioned a zoo hunt to rid our state of such nuisances.

With the recent reports of shark attacks, bear attacks and even a lion mauling topping the news, the public unfortunately views our local wildlife to be a true threat to NJ humans and their cushy existence. The truth is, animal attacks on humans are quite uncommon, especially here in NJ. Human fatalities are extremely uncommon, and the injuries inflicted by wildlife are due to improper human interaction.

I am asked by visitors every day, “Does it bite?”, and I always respond with, “If it has teeth it can bite, and will if it is threatened. After all, wouldn’t you?”  The worst bite I have ever received, by any animal, is from my own child. Boy, he bit down hard, and left quite the mark! So much worse that any mark I have ever recieved working in the wildlife hospital.

Gaia Northern Pine Snake
Gaia, a resident Northern Pine Snake at Cedar Run. These are often misidentified as the Timber Rattlesnake in the wilds of Southern New Jersey contributing to their endangered status.

Yes, it is ok to be fearful of wildlife interactions, but it is the respect for them that is most important.

For example, here in South Jersey, we have the Timber Rattlesnake that many have concerns about. Living an elusive existence, this species is rarely seen.  We do get the occasional call regarding their presence in our neighbors’ back yards. The fact is, no one in the state has ever died from a bite from a local snake, including the timber rattlesnake, and the only people that get bit by this amazing, shy creature, are at their own fault. If you poke it with a stick or pick it up, it is going to try to get away. After all it has no claws, arms, or legs to kick, run, or scratch to get away. I find it very easy to respect these helpful natural exterminators since they survive on common household pests such as rats and mice.

Black Bear
Black Bear welcoming visitors at Cedar Run’s Nature Center.

Also, our Black Bear will soon be making the news. They feed voraciously preparing for the long winter’s nap to come where they will rest and bear young in their dens. They become very mobile in the late summer early fall. Unfortunately, with the reports come more human interactions. People seek them out for that once in a lifetime photo. These interactions put both humans and wildlife at risk.  The wildlife become threatened and act upon their instincts, or people begin feeding them and they become used to the handouts causing more unnatural interactions.

Back to the shark attacks; when did the ocean become our territory, and our territory to claim as ours alone? It is a well known fact that sharks live in the ocean. Sharks eat things that live in the ocean. Sharks would prefer to not snack on people, but if you dangle a snack in front of its nose……

No we don’t have alligators or sharks in our streams and lakes here in the pinelands, but we do have native wildlife that calls our forest home. I hope that I am not among the minority when it comes to NJ wildlife interactions, but I was according to the station I was listening to. Please remember that we are mere visitors in the home of so many native species. I always feel so fortunate to view them in their natural habitat. There is nothing to fear here, just creatures to adorn with sincere admiration in their home.

There is nothing to fear here, just creatures to adorn with sincere admiration in their home.
There is nothing to fear here, just creatures to adorn with sincere admiration in their home.

Insect Inspiration

swallowtail
Hyalophora cecropia
Cecropia moth catterpillar  found on White trail at Cedar Run

Now that the school year has come to an end and our days have grown longer, many of us will retreat to our own piece of wilderness called our backyards. We will spend countless hours outside with, or without, our families in tow. I love this time of year, as curious creatures emerge from their eggs, pupas, and cocoons, bearing new discoveries all summer long.

Nature will bear the closest inspection.
She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf,
and take an insect view of its plain.
– Henry David Thoreau

Yes, I am also intrigued by the insects as well as the feathered and furry animals that frequent our piece of paradise. The creepy crawlies are so often misunderstood. Without insects, our feathered and furry friends would not be able to survive. We would not be able to survive for that matter. Insects are essential for pollination, and without pollination there would be no food for any living creature. So many creatures eat plant,s while many eat animals that eat plants. We need bugs!

butterfly egg
Virginia Creeper with Sphinx Moth egg

My inspiration for this edition was a single blue-green droplet on a Virginia Creeper leaf. It was clearly some type of butterfly or moth egg. I took a photo in order to identify the species when I returned home. I was not in search of such a thing, nor was I intending to spend countless hours researching caterpillar eggs, but nevertheless I am glad I did. It will most likely become a Sphinx Moth according to my moth ID assistants. I did know that insects have host plants that they choose to lay their eggs upon, but I had no idea so many species preferred the same type of plant.

milkweed flower
Common Milkweed Flower

As many of us know, the Monarch Butterfly is a favorite to observe and track. It travels hundreds to thousands of miles to overwinter in Mexico. We even have its only host plant, milkweed, right here in South Jersey. Unfortunately, many of us don’t appreciate the plant as much as they do. The milkweed is considered a nuisance weed to many folks, and it is ultimately cut down, mowed, and eliminated from our yards and fields.  It is this type of action that is creating the decline of not just monarch populations, but many other insects that use our weeds to rear their offspring.

Of course butterflies attract the most attention with their amazing variations of color an beauty. The following local butterflies use these plants as host plants. Look for eggs and chewed leaves before pruning, moving, or removing from the garden:

Anise swallowtails –  anise, parsnip

Buckeye caterpillars – snapdragons, verbena and toadflax

Eastern swallowtails – wild black cherry trees, willows, tulip trees, sweetbay

Painted lady caterpillars – hollyhocks, thistles, mallows, sunflowers

Pearl crescents – asters

Red and white admirals – wild cherry trees, black oaks, aspens, yellow and black birches

Spicebush swallowtails –   spicebush, sassafras

milkweed with butterfliesMost butterflies and moths will lay their eggs on the underside of the leaf to ensure that they don’t get eaten or washed away with a heavy rain. Once they have hatched they will consume these plants quickly. Plant several or keep more plants to guarantee there is plenty to go around. It is ok to have insects eat our plants. We have had a detrimental effect on insects based on what we have considered a problem in the past, killing all the insects that eat our plants, is not a solution.

So this summer, let us commit to observing not just the beautiful creatures, but all of them. Whether they wriggle, crawl, fly, or flit, they are part of our piece of paradise keeping nature in balance.

An amazing book on local plant and insect partnerships: BRINGING NATURE HOME: HOW NATIVE PLANTS SUSTAIN WILDLIFE IN OUR GARDENS by Douglas W. Tallamy

This is an excellent resource that articulates the importance and impact of native plants on wildlife. Please refer to Tallamy’s website for lists of the most wildlife friendly plants for our location (http://bringingnaturehome.net/)

swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on White Pine
Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis)
Imperial Moth on front steps of the animal hospital

Hatchlings, nestlings, fledglings, juveniles, and immatures!

robin

Baby Birds!!! Hatchlings, nestlings, fledglings, juveniles, and immatures! We receive them all. They are brought in to us under the concern of a human finder. We as human beings have this innate desire and need to care for anything that seems like it may be in distress. It is a wonderful characteristic of our species, but in the case of wildlife (especially birds) we often rescue without any reason other than to nurture our personal needs. 

I myself have personally experienced this. I was about 10 years old with my sister at a local park. We came upon 2 fluffy robins at the base of a tree. My mother was not amused when we brought them home to care for these birds that were obviously abandoned and in immediate need of a 9 & 10 year olds help. Within a day we had lost one most likely from feeding improperly, and the other would not leave due to imprinting; a term I am very familiar with today, and very guilty of doing myself. robin

Yes, it is cute to see wildlife interacting with us as a pet would, but it truly sad when it does not realize what it is. The poor robin would fly away only for a second then come back terrified. It was not my intention to do this to the poor fluff ball when I had picked it up at the park. I had imagined that I will make it a strong survivor, and release it to wild to be with all of its robin friends and family. Unfortunately, I was its only family now. I don’t recall how long it took to fly away, but I do remember it was a while. I can only hope it learned to make friends with others of his kind, and managed to have a robin family of his own.

I had a tour just yesterday morning and we were bombarded by chickadees. They were calling out their warnings frantically. Their young were fledging from their nesting box, just as we had turned the corner. We watched from a distance, the little birds were a bit clumsy due to their inexperience, but took flight quickly. One did rest quietly on the forest floor. He sat perfectly still, which is a fledgling characteristic. A predator will only hunt something that moves. To be still is a fledgling’s best chance of survival. With a huge group of human predators nearby, the parents called to it to not move or we, the predators, would see him. 

Even during a walk around my neighborhood, a fluffy little fledging robin sat in a neighbor’s yard. Uh-oh, I thought, a child is going to find it and try to care for it as I did many, many, many years ago. I thought about the phone call that was to soon follow at the animal hospital, “Help, I found a baby bird that fell out of the nest!”

My response is always the same “Is it feathered and fluffy? It is a fledgling; leave it where you found it and observe from a distance. The parents will care for it throughout the day. In the evening it will find a place to nestle. Tomorrow morning and for up to 2 weeks the parents will care for it while it is learning to take flight”.  Many finders are worried about the neighborhood cat finding them (That is another topic for another day), or the local raccoons. Yes, it is possible that they may become a casualty to these situations, but it is most important to remember that every bird has undergone this routine; Leaping from its nest only to be grounded for weeks, hopping along, being fed by its parents, hiding in the bushes still and alone for days, and finally taking flight and beginning its own journeyblue jay

Of course if the bird is truly injured or orphaned, we are always willing to accept it. We raise them with their own kind and release them as a flock. If you have any questions about what you may have found, we have help on our website or you can call our wildlife hospital. Please understand, that feeding 150 nestlings and fledglings takes time and we are not always available to answer the phones.

Please refer to these guidelines when coming upon any young animals, often the same rules apply. Just call before rescuing and removing from where it had been found. Case in point; Fawns– we have received 6 this week alone.

fawn

I love caring for our many young birds, as most of you know are my passion, but I truly believe with a bit of education and understanding, we can appreciate nature by observing their habits from a distance and appreciating the incredible strength of a tiny, flightless, fluffy bird.

Caring for the Creatures

flying squirrel

As many of our volunteers and staff will be reporting for duty for our big event on Saturday, I will be accepting many new patients at our animal hospital. We are in our busy season, accepting an average of 40 animals a day at our rehabilitation center.

Reality struck this past Monday when I walked in for my evening shift. I was informed that the raccoon population ballooned to 25 from just 10 the prior Saturday. I can only imagine how many there will be in just a few short days. We also had 4 Great- horned owls, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 adult mallards, 1 adult vulture, 2 flying squirrels,  20 baby bunnies, and our usual suspects including a couple dozen squirrels and baby birds (just to name a few). Goslings and ducklings also topped the list also at nearly a dozen each.

Every critter comes in with their own story, and unfortunately we hear similar ones over and over again, “I was having my trees trimmed and……” You can fill in the blank with just about anything here (squirrel nest, bird nest, baby raccoons). We are strong advocates for keeping the babies with their mothers, but sometimes it is just not possible, especially when it is our human behaviors that displace them. It is so heartbreaking to hear 25 raccoons cry in unison. I can only think about the loss the mother may feel, and the nurture from her that they will no longer get.

[If you are unsure of what to do regarding wildlife, feel free to give our hospital a call or check our website. We have many suggestions as to how to reunite families, and if it is even necessary to bring them in at all.]

When it comes to baby birds, they seem perfectly willing to accept a meal every 20 minutes from anyone dishing it out. Our ducklings and goslings are our mess makers, creating wash that weighs at least 20lbs per group; Filthy, but adorable little patients.

Not only did my 3 amazing  volunteers and I have to care for the current patients, but also the additional few that came in that evening. I spent a large portion of the shift piecing a very old male Eastern box turtle back together again.  He had been hit by a car and looked pretty shabby, but no internal injuries other than his carapace (top shell) broken into several geometric pieces. It was much like putting a puzzle back together.  I also received an injured gosling, 5 additional bunnies that had been caught by a dog, and a few hatchling songbirds that had fallen from the nest.

It is never a dull day when working a shift at the hospital. They come in boxes, blankets and, containers of various shapes and sizes. We accept animals all day, and we rarely know what will walk through the door next.

I will not be partaking in the festivities at the Flying W, but I will surely be busy this Saturday. While most of our crew will be hosting our big spring event, Whiskey, Wine & Wildlife, I will be up to my elbows caring for the creatures at the wildlife refuge.

Without our volunteers and fundraising events, we would not be able to keep our hospital doors open. Thank you, and have fun to all that will be attending!

Ruby Rehabilitated!

hummingbird

This past Monday, I was working an evening shift at our animal hospital. A woman had brought in a tiny patient, weighing only as much as a penny. Unable to fly, the woman found him sitting on the ground near her feeders. This beautiful little fellow was clearly in distress and needed immediate medical attention.

It was a male Ruby-throated hummingbird, an amazing creature that has traveled thousands of miles to many of our backyards for brooding season. We had spotted our first at the refuge just a week ago, which had been my initial inspiration for this topic. Eerily, a poor casualty had appeared at our hospital doors this week.
I removed him gently from the box which contained a nest made of horse hair and grass, not what a hummingbird uses for their nests. It was odd to see him sitting on top of such a structure, hummingbirds usually build their nests from mud and lichens, looking much like just a small walnut sized natural knot or galled bump on the tree.

Another oddity was that only the female will build and sit upon the nest. Males will mate and run, only interacting with the female for a moment, resulting in 2 pea-sized eggs that will hatch in just 2 weeks.
Under close examination, the little guy seemed to have no breaks, and had full motion of both wings. He was eager to eat, and accepted medical care easily. His condition was a respiratory illness which had influenced his ability to fly. We see this a few times a year at our animal hospital.

Unfortunately, hummingbirds are extremely susceptible to a bacterium that often grows in the feeders. When feeders are kept in direct sunlight, it can cause the food to ferment more quickly and cause bacteria to grow. The hummingbirds feed on the spoiled food that has been offered to them, resulting in often fatal respiratory conditions.
It is extremely important to keep the feeders clean using only a mild detergent, DO NOT USE bleach. Make sure the crevices have been cleaned out and rinsed thoroughly before refilling, as this will just contaminate the new food. Also, only use the clear type nectar, do not add red food coloring. You can attach a red ribbon to the feeder to attract the birds. The red coloring of the nectar does not provide any nutrition to the birds and can have negative health effects.

Our petite patient had a rough couple of days, getting medication several times daily to relieve his symptoms. Just today he took flight and was released back into the area where he was found. It is undetermined what actually caused his illness, but at least we can prevent this from happening to our tiny visitors in our own back yards.

Somebunny is Coming

bunny pile

A very famous bunny will be finding his way into many homes this week to offer sweet goodies to our children. Here at Cedar Run, our wildlife hospital will be receiving not just traditional baskets, but boxes and bins as well… not full of candied treats, but full of wild babies!

With baby season officially upon us, our wildlife hospital will be bursting at the seams this spring. Many of our young patients are baskets of bunnies. They are most often found in the yard while cleaning out the old planters for new spring flowers, or under an azalea bush in a small pile of leaves. We often hear the story about how they were just laying in the middle of the yard and how the family dog had found them.

bunny nest

The funny thing about rabbits is they leave their babies lying around just about anywhere, and quite often right under the nose of our family pets. They are usually found in shallow divots filled with fur, grass and leaves. The mother only comes to feed the nest of (on average, six) offspring, at dawn and dusk.

While we are certainly eager to care for the young patients we receive, we do encourage well-meaning rescuers to leave bunny babies where they lay, even if it appears the nest has been disturbed. The hardest thing to handle for many rescuers to accept is that wild bunnies are not the type of bunnies you can keep as pets. These are the wild Eastern Cottontail, very different than the domesticated bunnies  found in pet stores. It would be like comparing a wild wolf to a domesticated Chihuahua. It took hundreds of years to selectively breed and domesticate dogs to become household pets. While rabbits may not hunt in packs or eat a carnivorous diet (although, that would make for a great story), the fact is they do not thrive in captivity.

Our hospital phone rings constantly from March to November with good samaritans conveying story after story of, “They were just lying there”. It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend the incredible endurance of these tiny beings. Helpless balls of cuteness, it is hard to accept as humans that leaving them be is actually the best thing we can do for them. They can withstand both bitter cold and unbearably hot temperatures, the downpours of spring as well as the summer rain. Bunnies are perfectly adapted for any condition.

Within just three short weeks they will be about the size of a tennis ball and out on their own. The poor mama will be busy, having potentially up to one litter a month. Rabbit gestation lasts 28-31 days, and mother rabbits can be impregnated again literally within minutes of giving birth. I cannot even imagine… three kids are enough for me!

Please refer to our link under REHABILITATION to see if your babies need to be brought to the hospital for care. Just know that often times leaving a baby bunny where you found it is better than “bunny-napping” it from a mama rabbit.  A mother’s care is the best care, but know that we will gladly accept them if they are truly orphaned or injured.  If you call us in advance, we can offer several remedies for pet disturbances and concerns regarding their safety.

So, when the kiddos are out there searching for colorful eggs and treats, keep in mind that our local bunnies may have hidden their treasures under foot and bushes as well.

bunny baby    Bunny blue

Spring is in the Air: It stinks!

Release day!

At 5:45 this morning, I learned exactly what I was going to write about this week. I had wanted to write about some of the critters that will be emerging soon in our backyards, but just didn’t have quite the focus on which to discuss. Since the winter has subsided and spring is within reach, I have eagerly awaited my visits from my furry neighborhood friends. The squirrels have been quiet for months only popping out of their nests to fill up on a couple nibblets of seed, and I can honestly say that I haven’t seen a chipmunk or rabbit since at least November.

My muse inspired this blog addition. I never got to see my muse, nor did I get to hear it. I am assuming it was only one and without company. It did not turn over a trash can, or make a single noise, and it didn’t even ransack my birdfeeders. My muse was most likely not very big, and it didn’t leave a trace, other than the thick fog that I had to walk through to get to my car for work.

It all began when the dog started barking immediately as I let him out for his morning business. I found it odd as he is usually quick and quiet. I opened the door to let him back in and he flew past me, rolling around on the living room carpet and rubbing his face on every inch of my couch. It took a good 20 seconds for it to hit me… ”CHACHI, GET IN THE TUB!”

My entire house now smells a little like burnt rubber with an added aroma that stings the eyes. My entirely helpless and nearly defenseless muse had nailed my curious companion right in the kisser. My poor dog was slimed by this elusive creature. He must have been sleeping when the dog found him. There was so much stink and goo on my dog’s face that ½ gallon of vinegar barely cut through the stink barrier. By 9:00 pm I had scrubbed the couch, cleaned the carpet and re-washed the dog with the old tried and true, tomato juice. I still cannot shake the smell. I am sure it must be stuck to every surface of my house by now, and probably to the hairs inside my nose.

Yes, I am just as annoyed as anyone else when it comes to being inconvenienced by a skunked dog, but I have a great appreciation for what people think are nuisance animals. Skunks are only a nuisance when spraying one’s dog at 5:45 am, just before leaving for work, but otherwise they are harmless creatures.

Our sweet friend from this morning will now have to wait 10 days before reloading that stinky distractor. It is a skunk’s only defense, with small teeth for eating grubs and earthworms, and stubby legs that don’t allow it to get anywhere quickly, it resorts to the amazing chemical spray to distract its potential predator. Yes, it is offensive to any nose within miles, but it did the trick. I am sure the little guy got away this morning. As I mentioned, there was no evidence that he had been in my yard other than the fog that I am sure I walked through. My poor students could not figure out what the smell was all day. I giggled a little every time someone got the look of… EWWWW!

Please be patient with these beautiful creatures, they only emit their funk when frightened or threatened, and again, it is their only defense. It is mating season and we will be smelling more of them, that’s for sure. The kits will be born in May and will also be armed with the stinky toxin, but remember it takes a while for them to make more, and they only use it when it is absolutely necessary.

Very early in the morning, I was reminded that spring is in the air and we need to be quite aware that our wild companions will be out and sharing our space with us and our domestic companions. Be assured some will be fully  cocked and loaded for their next surprise.

Baby Boom!

It is officially baby season here at Cedar Run. In just 1 week, our young patients have tripled.  Last week, there were about a dozen raccoons, a hand full of squirrels, one groundhog, 3 fox kits, …

Source: Baby Boom!