Wild Things Celebrates 2013!
What a great year! Life has a funny way of leading one down unexpected roads. When I opened Wild Things Sanctuary (WTS) in 2008 I aimed to be able to admit and treat any species of wildlife that needed help, but changes over the last year meant that I had to make different decisions about what patients were able to be admitted to Wild Things. The result? A decidedly new 2013 rehab path.
Delilah the Hoary Bat has a chance to hang out and relax.
Unexpectedly Wild Things Sanctuary is now very involved with bat rehabilitation, making WTS one of the few rehabilitation centers in New York State to see so many of these little flying mammals. How did this happen? I’ve always been fascinated with these little patients; every new bat patient teaches me more about these little personality-packed animals that are arguably the most important predators in North America. Bats consume countless insects, which means that they limit insect borne diseases and are essential to pest control in agriculture. In the last few years, White Nose Syndrome has devastated their populations. This means that bats need help and people need to learn about their importance to all of our lives, but many people don’t like bats and there are few rehabilitators who work with them. I decided to step up to the plate!
By specializing in bats, I’ve started accumulating lots of interesting observations about bat care, injuries, illnesses and behavior that aide in treatment. Other bat rehabilitators and I compare notes and have come up with new protocols to better care for our patients. Scientists at Cornell’s New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center have also been very generous about working closely with me when I have a patient with unusual symptoms. I’ve even been in touch with the Center for Disease Control in Georgia to compare notes about new illnesses being discovered in bats.
This is a rather typical bat rehab story: A bat is found on the ground unable to fly and the finders put the grounded bat into a box, leaving it for me to pick up in their front yard. The Hoary Bat patient is admitted and an exam indicates a fractured wing. The wing is surgically pinned and a rather big splint bandage is applied to limit movement. Eventually, once the bandage is removed, the patient is taught how to eat on her own. During recovery, her abilities are assessed to make sure she can be released back into the wild. Hoary Bats may roost in trees in below freezing winter temperatures, it is important that they are able to wrap themselves up in their furry warm tails. She demonstrates this ability admiralty in the last picture, hanging by one foot while the other foot and tail wraps around her body!
In addition to our patient care, in 2013 WTS has had fantastic success in getting the news out to the public that they can call Wild Things with all bat related questions and issues. Many folks who find bats in their homes (and are certain that no one has been exposed to a possible bite, though <2% of bats test positive for rabies, you still have to be careful!) now call Wild Things. If bats are found in the winter, the patient is checked over and given a safe place to stay until spring. I wish that you all could be there to experience “release day” in the early spring when cages are opened and the bats fly back to their wild homes!
Why is it important to care about these little animals? Even if you are not touched by their little faces, or impressed by their incredible social skills and amazing abilities, bats are an essential part of keeping our ecosystem healthy. They also save the U.S. billions of dollars a year in pest control.
This Big Brown Bat was caught in a snap trap set to catch a mouse. Though there was no break to the bone and this injury (her left wing, on the right of the picture) looks relatively superficial, by comparing notes with other rehabbers, we have learned that this type of injury can get bad fast! Nerve pain can cause a patient to self mutilate the damaged part of the wing, and the injury can easily become inflamed and infected, possibly due to the delicate vasculature to the wing. We have found that by not allowing a patient to hang upside-down, inflammation can be slowed down. It also is important to administer pain medication, anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics ASAP.
And Wild Things has still been able to help other species as well: a handful of raccoons, birds, and even a few reptiles. Donations made it possible to help other rehabilitators this year with supplies and cage building: Wild Things is a big believer in sharing donors' generosity to help wild animals!
One of our young raccoon patients was found trapped on an island in a small river freezing to death. He was so uncoordinated when I caught him that I thought he might have rabies or distemper. However, after warming him up, by the next morning he was alert and ready for breakfast at Wild Things Sanctuary. He was released shortly afterwards close to where he was found with strict instructions to be careful around the river! Many thanks to all who helped me get this little guy out of the river on that very, very cold day!
I often wonder where young patients go after they have been released. This young raccoon and his sister found a cozy looking burrow close to where they were found as babies. If I waited quietly by the entrance in the early evening, I was sometimes rewarded with a hello when they came out for their nighttime explorations.
As in previous years, WTS remains involved in helping raise public awareness about issues facing wildlife and how people can live together with wildlife in more humane and peaceful ways. In 2013 I gave talks at several local colleges and organizations about wildlife rehabilitation and what the public can do to help wildlife. The Wild Things website receives hundreds of visitors every day and continues to be a source of information to the public looking for wildlife information. In 2014 we are hoping to come up with new ways of assisting the public, in all areas of North America, find help when they find an orphaned, injured, or sick wild animal.
This was a rather strange story. Members of a large maternity colony of Big Brown Bats were roosting in a bat house and one day lots of babies were found on the ground after falling from the house. A great Wild Things volunteer and I drove to the scene (with all the bat rehab travel it’s almost time to get myself a batmobile!) to help. We examined the baby bats of all different ages, subcutaneously rehydrated them and placed them back in the bat house. While we were waiting to see whether the mothers would reclaim their babies, we made a “pup catcher” out of any materials that we could find. After a few hours only one tiny baby remained unclaimed. She came back with us to Wild Things. This little 4 gram female fought for over a week to stay alive but she didn’t make it, though she did make it into all of our hearts. One of the challenges for 2014 is to figure out why these tiny babies are so hard to keep alive: do we need to come up with a different formula? Different temperature/humidity conditions?
I am so grateful to all of the Wild Things Supporters for being part of this great year! And thank you to all the finders and volunteers who drove long distances to bring patients to Wild Things, and to the vets who helped treat the many Wild Things' patients.
Please consider making a year-end donation to Wild Things Sanctuary to help keep all the good work moving forward! You are a part of every success here at Wild Things and when someone from afar uses Wild Things as a resource to help an animal near them. Together, we can all raise awareness and help our wonderful wild things!
Many happy wishes for 2014!