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Stories About Wildlife Rehabilitation


A Christmas Eve Release

by Kathi Pollard
Humbolt Wildlife, California

The bundle of brown fluff sat upon the perch peering at me through suspicious yellow eyes. Ears erect and standing as tall as a Northern Sreech Owl can stand he did his best to appear the "Stoic Warrior". Though small, his spirit was a fierce one, and during his 6 weeks in captivity he never once backed down to the likes of me. Now the wing was mended and the weather was good. It was xmas eve ,the air was cold and the sky clear as I opened the aviary door and stepped back. The owl glared , clicked his beak in warning and soared off into the quiet night without an ounce of gratitude. But in the stillness I smiled for even though he had not meant to, he left behind a most cherished gift and it made my xmas a perfect one.

Surprise While Driving

by Heather Tonner

I just had my doorbell ring while trying to get 40 winks. I answer the door, and there's this large burly man standing there with a box. He explains that someone in town told him I take care of injured birds. The box contains a juv/female redstart.

How did he get this little bird? He was driving down the arterial road (80km/hr), and it flew in his window and hit him in the chest! Poor little bird must have had his whole life flash before his eyes!!

No injuries are apparent except for shock! (of both parties! :)

Daisy's Story

by Anne Milliken

Shortly after returning home from our vacation in early February, my husband Brad noticed one of our regular squirrel visitors that we named Daisy, in the back yard limping on a swollen front leg. After several tries he managed to trap her. She seemed quite depressed and may not have had much to eat or drink for several days. I was concerned her leg might be broken, but on examination I couldn't feel any broken bones, however there was a lot of swelling between the wrist and elbow. I took her to the vet where the diagnosis of a broken foreleg was made. It was splinted and bandaged, and if she would leave it alone for at least two weeks, her chances of a full recovery were good.

She continued acting sluggish over the next two weeks, sleeping most of the day and not eating much. Strangely though she wasn't getting thinner. In fact she seemed to be growing rounder.

One evening before going to bed, I checked in on her and heard a tiny squeaking sound. I looked into her bed to find a cute little pink baby squirrel. Within an hour there were two.The next morning I changed her blankets and Mom and her two boys seemed to be doing fine. I removed her splint since it had been on for the required minimum of two weeks and there was the danger of her injuring a baby with it.

On the afternoon of the third day, I checked in on the new family. There was no squeaking. Alarmed, I reached in under Mom and felt around. Sadly, I pulled out a limp dead baby. I reached in again and found the other one still alive and in good condition, although not much bigger than he was when he was born. Concerned that Mom wasn't producing enough milk, I began supplementing the baby with goat's milk three times a day. He quickly began to grow. Over the next week I tapered the feedings off.

One afternoon when the baby was about two weeks old, I received a call that there was an orphaned "pinky" that was just about the same size. Would Mom accept a stranger's baby? It was certainly worth a try. So I brought him home, hydrated him, and gave him a thorough bath to remove as much odor as possible. Holding him inside my fist so she couldn't reach him, I slowly reached into the cage. She sniffed my hand and lunged at me fiercely. She scratched and pawed at my hand, then started to bite. But very gently as if she didn't want to hurt me. So I placed him down on the floor of the cage ready to snatch him away if she got vicious.

She immediately started licking him all over, turned him on his back, gently picked him up, and carried him into the nest. She spent the next hour cleaning him. It was a big success. Because her workload suddenly doubled, I started supplementing their feedings again with goat's milk three times a day tapering down over the next several days.

Less than a week later another baby squirrel came into the shelter that was similar in size to the babies. Mom was more than happy to take him in.

By the time the third squirrel baby came, however Mom was feeling a little like everyone else on the squirrel team in the middle of the busy season. She unceremoniously dragged the little one into the nest. Her body language said it all; "Oh no, not another one!"

I continued to help her out by feeding the young ones three times a day until they became too wild to handle. One day I was feeding the smallest one and had left the cage door open. Mom came out of her nest and over to the opening and started making little grumbling noises at me, then she hopped onto my leg, climbed up my arm, and snatched the squirrel out of my hand and brought him back to the nest. From then on, I closed the cage door when I fed the babies. But Mom always insisted on watching closely when I had them out. Eventually they were old enough to be transferred to the outside cage, but two of them were still not completely weaned. Mom nursed them far longer than I expected her to. After several weeks outside, it was time to release Mom. Since she came from our back yard, we decided to release her there too. We let her out of the cage, and she happily ran off and was gone for the rest of the day.

First thing the next morning, she was back rattling the cage trying to get back in. I opened the door and she hopped in, climbed into her nesting box with her four youngsters, and slept all day. The next day we let her out again, only to have her return again. Finally after a week she decided to stop coming back to the cage. That's when we decided to take the four young squirrels to a nice park to release them.

She continues to visit every morning for nuts. Her broken arm is completely healed, and she looks very healthy. In fact she seems to be getting round again.

Human-Caused Injuries... a sad testimony

by Hilary Richrod, LWR

We have had a bunch of sad and senseless injuries of birds... animals with the following in them - nails, long sewing needles, and actual large darts. Usually in birds that could be lured close, like pigeons and gulls. This cruelty is on the wane at least for now due to some good old outraged publicity. It worked wonders.

I kept getting in pigeons (one with a nail through the eye... still alive! Poor thing) and some with multiple needles sticking out all over their breasts. Then I got a call for a gull with an arrow through the head - what we thought was a ball-point pen at first - but it turned out to be a dart. The bird was hanging around the local mall. The dart went through the skin right at the jaw and came out near the ear, not actually breaking the bones of the face, but it looked incredible and impossible like the Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head gag. The bird could even sort of eat (a little) and catching it was hard, though finally accomplished by Olympic Wildlife Rescue - with a net and French Fries (donated by McDonalds). Olympic Wildlife Rescue got ALL the Seattle TV news stations there when the dart was removed.

Anyway, there was practically a manhunt for the perpetrator, which turned out to be a high-school kid who had been "dared". These horrible dart kits are available at mini-marts apparently. The press all came again when the bird was released. The story went AP throughout the country and the world (someone saw it in Germany!).

Persons who do this being described as "sick", "demented", "needing counseling", and generally loathsome and disgusting, really helped cut down on the problem! For the nail darts - which had a specific kind of ear-plug on the end as the "feather" to the arrow - well, I went to the mill that used these and asked if this might be theirs, and suggested perhaps they monitor their employees since they were using mill equipment to practice cruelty to animals...they might not really like a press release on the subject! "Mill darts" stopped abruptly too.

The only press that ignored the problem was the local press (of course) and then they had to play catch-up by getting the stuff from the AP, so go to the next biggest market...some local press don't want to alienate even the most creepy residents from buying their papers.

For the poor pigeon with the nail through the eye - well, when the vet removed the nail, the eye came too. I kept the bird alive for some weeks, but there seemed to be extensive brain damage, the bird could not remember to eat without cueing her, and her temperature gauge was blown (she couldn't regulate her feather functions - puff up and down, etc.) The poor girl.


by Rebecca Troxell

Long before the days of rehabbers, a baby bunny with it's eyes still closed bumped into our house. We waited for momma rabbit to show up, but to no avail. We took it in, made it a nest, and started feeding it with a dropper. The funniest thing was that our poodle had always wanted puppies, but we didn't want any so we didn't let her. Her desire never went away and human babies (any babies) had her whining and trying to "sit" on them to nurse them. We tried her with the baby bunny. She thought her dreams had come true! She "thought" she was nursing the bunny but we still had to do that of course, but she also cleaned it and kept it warm next to her body. That bunny thrived and we released it when it was ready to fend on it's own. I still wonder if that bunny thought it was a poodle!

A Robin-Sized Anecdote

by Joe MacLeod

My wife Astrid and I got a call during mid-December about a robin flying around Winnipeg. We didn't quite believe it, but we none-the-less bundled ourselves up in our parkas, mittens and mukluks and away we went. The temperature was -27ºC (minus 17ºF). When we got to the well-treed neighborhood, sure enough, there was a juvenile robin, probably born this summer. It was in pretty poor shape, barely able to clear the treetops. It was eating frozen berries from a tree in the yard of the person who called us. We chased it around for about three hours until our feet were so cold we couldn't feel them any more, and then we gave up. We simply couldn't catch the little guy, even though we knew he would die during the night (the forecast temperature was -37º with high winds), and we were simply too cold to continue. It was starting to get dark (at 4 in the afternoon!) and we figured we'd better give him a chance to settle in for whatever fate lay ahead.

So, Astrid and I sat at home that evening feeling guilty, when Astrid reminded me that, because we had chased the bird around all afternoon, we had likely guaranteed its demise, since it couldn't eat while we were chasing it, and it had likely used up what little energy it had left. So off we went. When we got to the area, the temperature was -35º and the wind was 50 KM per hour (for a windchill of about minus 110º Farenheit). We searched the snowbanks and trees with flashlights for a while and then, as we headed home, Astrid spotted the robin on someone's front step. It was so cold that it lost all concern for its safety, and chose the warmth of the brick on the house. I pounced on it with my net. It woke up briefly and then went limp, so I assumed it was dying. When we got home, it was feeling much better, and the next day it was gobbling down worms at an enormous rate. Seeming quite happy to be in out of the cold.

I guess those of you who live in the South can only try to imagine what the weather was like here that day, but there's no way on earth a robin should have been able to stay alive!

Kinda makes you think it's all worthwhile... Our feeling of euphoria was way out of proportion to the actual value of what we'd done.

Now if my toes would only stop tingling.

Deer on Thin Ice

by Carole Pond

The most recent (and frightening) rescue we went through was when dogs chased a yearling buck onto thin ice in front of our home on Robinson Creek. It was obvious that the deer was unable to break his way to shore and was going to drown. So, my husband and I took our 16 foot boat out and hacked our way through the inch-thick ice.
By the time we got to him, he was slipping under. My husband grabbed his antler and held his head above water while I struggled to get us all back through the ice to shore. The little guy was almost gone and we did everything we could until people from Wildcare, Inc. in Cobbs Creek, Virginia arrived to take him to the clinic. We dried and warmed him, but he was still having seizures. The vet found that his blood sugar was dangerously low so they have him an IV. He seemed to be improving a little that night, though he never was able to regain his feet.

Unfortunately, the stress of the episode was just too much for him and he died the next day. It was heartbreaking. It seemed to be a catch 22. Had we gotten to him sooner, before he was exhausted, we might have been able to save him. On the other hand, had he not been totally exhausted, he most certainly would have panicked and may have injured us or even capsized the boat. I know how violent a grown deer can be. I have no doubt that this will happen again since this is a rural area with lots of water, many roaming dogs and lots of thin ice.

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Disclaimer:  The advice found on these pages is NOT intended as a do it yourself guide.  All native wildlife needs to be in the skilled hands of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator,  and any medical care must be provided by licensed veterinarians.

If you have an emergency with an injured wild animal, contact your local animal control or humane society for immediate assistance.  

This page last updated 11/27/2012 02:08 AM