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.

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