Somebunny is Coming

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

Springing Ahead

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Missing Colors in Nature

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?

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!

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!

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!

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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!