Winter in the Woods

Wondering what to do to cure cabin fever? There is no better time to visit Cedar Run than now. Although our woods are beautiful year round, I find it to be the best time of year to get to know our wild and resident wildlife. With a chill in the air and a forest that buffers the winds, our trails and animal housing area are open 7 days a week, no matter what the weather.

imgp2947
Harpo, Mute swan. Photo credit to Steven Wasson

Many people often ask what we do with our animals when the temperatures dip and our lakes freeze. As humans it is difficult to understand how animals can endure such drastic changes in our weather. We bundle up with layers of clothes, and cover every bit of exposed skin just to walk out of our homes in winter. Animals, on the other hand, are perfectly adapted for all types of weather conditions. All of our resident animals are animals that live in our area and climate year round. They are perfectly adapted for any seasonal condition. Of course we also provide extra warmth and comfort in their enclosures.

Wondering what happened to all those donated Christmas trees? We set them in each enclosure where they offer windbreaks and insulation, while offering new scenery and enrichment for the animals. Come see how our friends look with their seasonally dressed homes. You may need to look close, many like to hide among , in , and under the branches.

IMGP2858.JPG
Squam, Barred owl; photo credit to Steven Wasson

Come see our friends sporting their new winter coats. They fluff up their feathers, and grow layers of extra fur to provide comfort and warmth no matter what the weather. They also have the ability to stay dry with the top layers trapping in heat and keeping moisture away from their skin.

Not only do we have trails to explore in the winter, but often we get new visitors. With fewer large groups visiting, our local wildlife finds our property to be a safe haven, often meandering into the animal housing area for a visit with our residents. Some end up staying year round like our friend Penelope the Turkey, and our young deer friend that has been seen visiting our White resident deer Sassafras.

Just yesterday, I ventured down the Yellow trail and built shelters with some young friends. We talked about survival and what it must have been like to be a settler long ago. We built primitive shelters from logs, sticks, and old branches,  and retreated to the Nature Center for a quick warm up in the reptile room.

So remember, although it may be cold and dreary outside, our trails are always open, and our furry and feathered friends are always happy to have visitors. 

Happy Winter everyone! I hope to see you on the trails this season.

  • Any suggestions for the next edition, or comments on a visit, feel free to share your experiences and email me at Cheryl.Fisher@cedarrun.org.

 

  • Special thanks to Steven Wasson for submitting such amazing photos to this edition.

Dear Oh Deer!

winter-spike

You may have noticed a recent abundance of deer in our yards and along roadsides. There are several reasons why they are becoming more apparent.

All fawns have grown up and are exploring their new territories. They are becoming more confident and will wander into new areas to find different food sources. With habitat destruction in our state, and fewer food resources, they are forced to wander closer to humans, and unfortunately-our roadsides. They will travel a radius of about six miles in search of habitat and food.

fawn-release

Daylight savings means nothing to a deer, but it means everything to the time of day that we head to and from work. Deer are crepuscular, meaning they are mostly active at dawn and dusk. They lay low during daylight hours, and meander out of the forest edge when the sun begins to rise or set. We happen to be on the road at these times. In the summer, we are often traveling in the sun’s light, missing the presence of these beautiful beasts.

Beware of the darting deer! Male deer, bucks, will stay with other males most of the year, but the rules have changed this time of year; rutting (breeding) season is beginning. Male deer are trying to establish territory and will often move away from the bachelor pad to avoid competition. They are seeking mates and even fight for access to those lovely does. Being polygamous creatures, they will have several mates in a single mating season. They will challenge other males and make themselves known to the ladies by scraping trees, and marking scents in the area. Although the breeding season is not in full force until November, October is a time to be especially aware of the deer barging into traffic. November is also hunting season, and this frightens many out of the forests and out into the open areas and roads.

erins-shower-spike-288

So be careful this time of year. Take care of not just ourselves, but the animals that are forced into our areas by our own actions and presence;  especially deer.

Here are some tips on how to keep yourselves and deer safe this fall:

* Stick to the speed limit, and look for wildlife crossing signs. Signs are evidence of prior spottings or hits.

* Scan the sides of roads, looking for glowing or reflecting eyes and be prepared to slow down if you spot any.

* Watch for brake lights up a head, they may be encountering wildlife on or near the road.

* If an animal crosses in front of you, slow down or stop. There may be more.

* If it is raining, deer hooves will often slip on the wet pavement. Give them consideration to allow time to cross.

Deer are beautiful and harmless creatures. Observe with awe and be alert this fall!

Back to School & Back to the Wild

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.

Baby Boom!

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!

 

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.

 

Winter Wings

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

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

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!

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