Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rescuing Baby Squirrels

Sorry photos taken with my crappy cell phone camera!
We get all manner of strange requests at the pet store where I work part-time, but yesterday's was perhaps one of the strangest to date. A woman and her two kids dropped by to ask if we knew what to feed three baby squirrels she had just rescued from her yard. Luckily, for her, there were two of us at the store who know the laws concerning wildlife rehabilitation. And Lila, one of my coworkers, happens to be best friends with one of the area licenced rehabers.

Though we both considered the merits of explaining that it was probably best she leave the babies where she found them, the weather here sort of shot that option all to hell.  Often if you leave baby wildlife alone for a period of time, the mother will do her own rescuing, and trust me, a wild mother is a much better option for a wild animal than we are. However, we had torrential rains and tornado warnings all over town yesterday, and there were also several dogs involved in this scenario. So, no leaving the babies for mama. It was decided that Lila would shuttle the babies to her friend's rehab center on her way home, and thus we ended up putting together a traveling box for baby squirrels. The lady who found the babies, actually, did a great job, filling old socks with rice and heating them up in the microwave to create a nice warm bed for babies in an old shoe box.

Because they are already about five-six weeks old, they stand a good chance of surviving to be re-released again. Still, raising them won't be easy by a long-shot, and trust me, the fun wears off at about day two of hourly feeds and little to no sleep. Plus, finding the right formula to feed a wild animal is tricky at best. Though I'm guessing the kids were a bit disappointed to be handing these squirrel babies off to someone else, I'm sure mom was relieved for this reason and more. She had already been looking up the laws, and was beginning to question if she was legally allowed to keep and raise these babies herself. Good thinking on her part! Many wouldn't even worry, assuming squirrels are simply a nuisance species. And that's where they would be wrong. Squirrels don't make the list of nuisance species not covered by the wildlife protection laws in Virginia, but coyotes do. Go figure. You want to raise a coyote, be my guest, though you still need a permit to release said species back into the wild. But, don't get me started on the way we treat coyotes around here. That's a whole other rant.

If you want to rehab a squirrel, along with most of our Virginia native wildlife, you need  several permits and a license to rehabilitate. These things are not simple papers you can run over to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to file, either. It takes a good bit of planning, some classes, a sponsor, and a care facility that passes inspection. You can check out the steps to gain a license in the state of Virginia here. So, the moral to this story is if you find wildlife that is stranded, AFTER you have given the wild mother a safe and ample chance to rescue her own young, preferably before you interfere, you can fairly easily find out what to do. Contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia. They keep a list of the local rehabers throughout our state and, they will be happy to give you advice and the best number to contact for help.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manatees Need You

Who doesn't like manatees? I mean, what's not to like about these gentle giants, also known as Sea Cows. If you haven't made time to visit them in Florida, I highly recommend checking them out. They come into the inland waterways during the winter, and congregate near the coastal power plants, where the water stays nice and warm all winter long. If you are lucky, you'll get to see them stick their adorable faces up out of the water to munch on the leaves and grasses along the shore. Often you can see the calves swimming alongside their mothers. Snorkeling with them in the crystal clear water of the inland springs is amazing, but I have learned many of them aren't big fans of the bubbles created by divers, so be advised that snorkeling will usually net you a closer look at them. However, these amazing animals are endangered, so there are some important rules to follow if you plan on trying for a close encounter. You cannot touch them, feed them, or in any way disturb them, and this including blocking their path so that they have to swim around you. Sometimes, this can be difficult when you meet up with a friendly and curious one.

But, the fact is, this species is in steady decline. The two most detrimental issues to them are the destruction of the sea grasses and  underwater habitats they need for feeding, and the numerous injurious deaths caused by boaters who don't watch where they are going, or don't follow the watch their speed while traveling the Florida waterways. I have met a number of rescued manatees with horrible and permanent disfigurement and scars thanks to motor boats. It's terribly sad, because these animals truly are one of the most gentle and sweet creatures I've had the pleasure of meeting. I've been approached by several wild manatees in my day who just wanted to check me out and see what I was doing in their water. I've hand fed rescued manatees who have been through all kinds of hell and still don't mind letting a stranger feed and scratch them.

Now, manatees are in need of your help. There is a proposed dredging project on our gulf coast that keeps coming back to haunt those of us trying to help protect manatee habitats. If allowed to pass, this proposed project in Pasco County will cut a huge swath straight through Fillman Bayou, one of the best feeding grounds that manatees and many other species depend on to survive. For what? For another huge resort and more marina space, which according to the locals, is not really necessary. This proposal was already fought via petition and voted down once, but as seems to be the way any more, those proposing it have changed a few small things, and are resubmitting it again in hopes that we wouldn't notice it getting slipped through this time. We have until September 19th to sign the petition and help save manatee habitat. Please, won't you take the time to go read a little further and sign the easy petition? Every voice counts! I'm sure the manatees would thank you if they could.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Life Lessons from an Otter Pup

Otter the Great Dane Puppy is spending the weekend at the farm with us. He's only three and a half months old and already he's teaching us a few things about life. Here's what he has to say:

1) Life is all about play time. Play time should only be interrupted for occasional musts like sleep, food, and potty breaks. In fact, potty breaks should be put off as long as possible during play time. Oops, did I do that?

2) Accidents happen. When they do it is best to look very sorry and then snuggle up to whoever seems the most upset by them.

3) Sleep can occur at any given moment and should never be confined strictly to human sleep times. When you need sleep it is best to find a seriously comfortable place. I highly recommend crashing on top of the nearest human.

4) If at first you don't succeed in making friends, try, try again. The power of cuddling is always your greatest asset. However, this seems to work better on humans than on other dogs. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out the whole making friends with other dogs thing. I've opted to forgo friendship with cats all together. I highly recommend giving them a very wide berth at all times.
I hope these lessons will be useful to you all! Now, I have to be going. Play time is here!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take a Baby Break!

I've been hard at work on The Ravens Crossing (TRC) and my various other creative writing and visual arts projects for the past few weeks. Though, I've enjoyed every second of it, occasionally, I find myself feeling a little tired. Then, I get these wonderful email updates from my friends at the NC Zoo with various baby pictures. When the day seems gloomy, and I am frustrated by being confined to a mere 24 hours of work time, I get these random little baby breaks, moments of sunshine in my day.Thanks guys! You know who you are. I thought all of you might appreciate a baby break too. I hope it makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as I do. Above is baby Bomassa the Lowland Gorilla with mama. And, below, you have Nori, the two year old chimpanzee playing with one of her troupe members. Photos appear courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo. Now, I must get back to work on TRC. As always, if you are looking for something fun and free to read, head on over to Morgan & Holly's story and check out our young adult science fiction adventure series. Okay,break time is officially over. Have a lovely day!