Winter can be a tough time for all the squirrels as there is a lot of snow in the ground and it can be hard to get and find all your nuts! Even harder if you were released late in the season and weren't able to store any nuts for the winter, like Bright Eyes, Tough Stuff & Little Girl. So here are a few updates to show you how well they are doing!
Here is ToughStuff! With a cashew. He is doing great!
Above is a picture of LittleGirl contemplating the snow. I don't see very much of her, and was very worried, but she appears to have turned up again. Female squirrels seem to disappear for a while and then reappear. Perhaps females are the sex that disperse, I don't know. Perhaps she found better squirrel feeders?! What is always amazing to me is how the little squirrels can be full of playtime one day and the next day they are wild and serious and being sqwerlz! Below is a picture of her playing with a stuffed toy before she was released- she is having so much fun!!
BrightEyes is also doing great (pictures on left). He & ToughStuff usually turn up together. They often fight over nuts, but there is plenty to go around!
And Lil'Mo is also doing fantastically! I see her usually at least once a day and she is very polite coming to say hello and ask for a nut. Below is a recent picture of her- hasn't she grown!! The person who found her wanted her to have a life as a wild squirrel, and she sure does ...with a few trips back for yummies!
Lil'Mo, ToughStuff & LittleGirl are easy to spot because of their dark reddish colouring, BrightEyes is easy to spot because he has such classic colouring, with a super white belly and a sweet, sweet face! Plus the little ones have had funny looking tails as they grow into their winter thickness!
By the way, you will all be pleased to hear that the Angry Young Man opossum, featured in the last blog, has gained almost ONE POUND in the last 2 weeks- that is about 30% of his original WTS body weight (i.e., he came in at 3.4 lbs and now about 4.5lb!)!! WOWEE. As soon as it gets warmer he is outta here!
And Ophelia, the little Screech Owl written up a few posts ago, has been sent to another rehabilitator with big flight cages (one day I hope WTS will have some!), where she will be tested with live prey (mice) to see if she can hunt on her own. I appears that she will never be able to see out of her left eye, but her right eye may have some vision- only time & testing will tell. If she shows us she can hunt, she is good to go, if not, I will try to find her a permanent home.
Things have been busy at WTS over the holidays!
Meet Ophelia, a young Eastern Screech Owl. Ophelia was hit by a truck shortly before Christmas and if it wasn't for the quick action of her rescuers who took her off the road and kept her safe & warm & called WTS, she might not have survived . Amazingly no bones were broken, but she sustained injuries to both eyes. This is a common injury in Screech Owls when they collide with objects. She has been on various anti-inflammatory medication and eye-drops with the hope that they will recover. Many species of owls, such as Screech owls, rely so much on their hearing when they hunt that even with the loss of an eye they are still able to be released and hunt successfully.
She was clearly doing well on her own and was nice and plump and very strong. She arrived here still with evidence of a recently eaten meal- so she was probably hit mid-hunt.
But as you can see in this picture to the left, when she arrived, her eyes were very sore and she was keeping them closed. But they are doing so much better as you can see in the above picture, but she does NOT like her eye drops (below)!
And this is a young male Virginia Opossum. He was brought to another rehabilitator but came to me so the vets could take a look at him at Cornell. He too had been hit by a car and sustained injuries to one eye (a corneal ulcer) which will probably leave him blind in that eye. He also had some intestinal issues similar to hemorrhoids, but is now well on his way to recovery. He is very gentle and loves to sleep all day in his blanket...but at night he is super active.
And when I get a good picture of Jose teh blind squirrel, another car victim who came to WTS at the end of 2008, I will post that too.
Biut for now we are all sending you a big Happy New Year and many great wishes for 2009!!
My brother sent me this photoshoped picture of a little Eastern Screech Owl that he had created. I just had to share it! One of the reasons why it is so perfect is that screech owls ARE like little Napoleons! They are so small (190g +/- 25g, and about 9 inches high), but have SO much personality! They are petulant, cheeky, spunky little escape artists that love to hang upside down in their cages and always give you this indignant look like they hate you and want to kill you, even if they only have one eye...which makes them cuter, much to their probable peevishness!
Btw, the smaller pileated woodpecker came back today at least twice: hooooray!!
After 2 days of what sounded like a fantastically fun time within my walls, the tiny squirrel has been caught! I know he looks a bit sorry for himself in this Have-a-heart trap, and I know that he was doing just fine living it up in my walls, but I have a feeling that as a licenced wildlife rehabilitator I'm supposed to have a bit more control over my residents! (The salamander, btw, is behaving very well...though at some point every night he makes a mess throwing dirt into his water bowl!)
Sorry little fellow! Btw, I'm pretty sure it IS a little FELLOW because he's a bit stinky and I think males have very active scent glands. Also, it appears at superficial glance, that he has all the male anatomy...though I didn't dare pick him up to examine him as I'm sure that would have led to him escaping again!
Meanwhile, I stopped by the Cornell wildlife clinic this afternoon to check on the patients there. Herodotus is up to 709g! He came in at just over 400g-- a normal Barred owl weighs about 800g-- completely emaciated with bones poking through his skin, so I am very pleased about his present weight. His blood work from a couple of days ago showed that his white cell count is normal, which means that his eye infection is under control. Yippee! But the vets will wait to remove this dead eye until he is in slightly better body condition- probably sometime nest week.
Sadly, but happily, Lucy Goosey will be leaving us. She is doing so well that we are sending her to a rehabilitator who can keep her over-winter until it is warmer. As she stretches and uses her wing more and more there is a good chance that not only will she fly again, but she might even migrate again. Her broken leg has healed very, very well, though she is a bit duck-footed on that side, no pun intended. At least she's not chicken-toed as that might really mess her up! :p Her persistent cough is much better, and an endoscope of the trachea confirmed that the tissue looks better and plaques that were present on the trachea walls have begun to resolve/break down.
This is another recent Cornell patient. It is a little Eastern Screech Owl. It appeared to be a bit cross-eyed and its eyes were cloudy. The opthalmology vets found that it has bilateral cataracts. This means that its vision will probably become more and more impaired. However, we found a rehabilitator who wants to put this animal on her "educational permit" (something I hope to get at some point!), so it will have a home.
We get lots of screech owls with eye problems. At the moment at Cornell 2 are waiting to have irreparable eyes removed. However, screechies can survive in the wild with one eye as long as their hearing is intact. Despite their impressive looking huge eyes, many owls rely more on their ears to hunt than their eyes, and studies of this little owl species has found that individuals hunt very well even if they only have one eye. They use their hearing to triangulate prey location- really impressive stuff, just check out any neuroetholgy text-book to learn more!
I was taloned this morning by a Red-tailed hawk. This hawk tuned up at the Cornell Wildlife Heath Center (WHC) a few days ago in someone's truck; they had found the bird on the side of the road eating road-kill and seemingly unable to fly. The hawk was in great body condition but some swelling over the wrist joint, and few X-rays later revealed that it has some sort of dislocation and reshaping of the ulna. It's unclear whether this is an old injury and the bird has been doing just fine, or if it's a newer injury and it will effect the bird's ability to survive in the wild. All I know is that almost 12 hours later and the base of my right thumb aches! The bird is full of energy and very "bright, alert & responsive", or "BAR" in veterinary speak, which is good, but makes it a handful! I was taking it out of its cage to administer its medications, and it grabbed the fleshy base of my thumb. it happened quickly, and there are just a few small incision marks and little blood, but damn, those talons must have gone deeper that I realized! Ow!
In the cage next door is my dear Christmas angel, Herodotus. We don't name animals, for many reasons, but this lovely Barred Owl somehow begged for a more personal identity than case 740411. He was brought in just after Christmas after someone saw him fall out of a tree. He was in really bad shape, appeared to be missing an eye, and was almost euthanized on the spot. However, he had no broken bones, so I asked if he could have 24 hours. We had had to put down 3 other owls over Christmas who all came to us with badly broken wings, and I wanted to try to save at least one. Well, less than 24 hours later after intense fluid therapy, his eye had inflated. It was clearly beyond repair, but at least it meant that he was rehydrating. Apparent dizziness& disorientation on day2 led us to suspect that the infection in the bad eye was spreading to the central nervous system, but after 12 hours of antibiotic treatment, he was standing up again. When an animal is as emaciated as Herodotus, you can't feed them too much or they can die. So, little by little we fed Herodotus with special formula, very diluted at first, and now a week later he is eating bits of mice all on his own! See picture!
And this is a picture of Lucy Goosey. Of course, it is uncertain if she IS a she, but it seems like she somehow! Lucy is a Canada goose, who came to us around Thanksgiving with a broken leg and a broken wing, both on the right side. Both were repaired by the superstar Cornell wildlife vets, and look how well she looks after 6 weeks! She has also slowly come to think of the treatment area at Cornell as her home and often wanders about if her cage door is open. this is good physical therapy for her, and she is getting better by the day. As someone who has had to deal with orthopedic surgery, I am very sympathetic!
Sadly, today we had to put down a paralyzed Red-tailed hawk and a Canada goose whose entire humerus (that's the arm bone) was sticking out of its wing. Both of them had no chance of recovering a life with dignity. After all, it's not just about if these wild animals can survive, but if they can survive and have a good quality of life. Every time Lucy walked by this other goose's cage he would check her out. I find that species recognition somehow very wonderful.
We also received 2 Eastern Screech Owls today from rehabilitators who need to have their severe eye injuries checked. Stay tuned on that.
And another Barred Owl is just about ready to go to a rehabilitator, the step before being re-released. She came to us a few weeks ago with severe wing lacerations and nerve damage that affected her toes; they couldn't move on their own and without toes and talons, raptors cannot survive (NB: raptor beaks may look super scary, but it's their toes and talons that are the real danger!). But after a few weeks, and specially designed shoes, this bird is doing great and has become a real demanding, beak clacking (that’s what owls will do if they are annoyed with you), mouse eating wild animal...and that's the goal! We call her Click-Clack or Clacky! I plan to bring her to a rehabilittor this weekend, who, in exchange, will give me two more owls to bring to Cornell (they need eye check-ups too- owls seem to have a lot of eye injuries), and send me back with my first patients for Wild Things Sanctuary: a Blue-spotted salamander & a Northern flying squirrel! yippppeee!