Conference provides loads of info to wildlife rehabilitators

Attendees settle in at the conference.

Attendees settle in at the conference.
Tracie Hornung photo

By Tracie Hornung

Dr. Jean Cypher and volunteers of Rowena Wildlife Center recently traveled to Salem to attend the one-day Third Biennial Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference, sponsored by the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Highlights included cutting-edge speakers in the wildlife health and rehabilitation community. Staff members, volunteers and students involved with wildlife rehabilitation centers in Oregon and Washington attended.

It’s always fun being in a room full of “animal people” and this conference was no exception. And it was encouraging to see a broad range of ages – from experts who have been working with wildlife for decades to young students and volunteers just starting out in the field.

A whole lot of information was packed into the eight-hour conference. Physical rehabilitation, pain management, behavior, and recent research pertaining to birds and mammals were among the many topics. But I found the three most interesting were on positive reinforcement training by Cascade Raptor Center, black bear rehabilitation at PAWS Wildlife Center in Washington state, and the ODFW presentation on white-nose syndrome in bats. Bat researchers are trying to find the answer to why white-nose syndrome “jumped” across the continental U.S. from Minnesota to Washington, where the syndrome was found this spring. See the ODFW press release.

Other topics at the conference were:

  •  Release Criteria
  •  Criteria for selection of education birds
  •  Biosecurity and zoonotic disease
  •  Raptor re-feeding syndrome
  •  Seabird facility design and air sampling
  •  Small mammal rehab
  •  Update on regulations

This conference was a worthwhile experience for wildlife rehabilitators, and it’s great that the state clearly values and encourages the work of independent rehabilitation centers.

Postpone tree removal/pruning until fall or winter

By Tracie Hornung

Bird nest


Now that spring is here, one of the volunteers at the clinic says she hears chain saws in her neighborhood and worries that wildlife habitat will be destroyed in the process . . . which, of course, can spell doom for the animal — and possible offspring — whose home has suddenly disappeared.

In fact, that’s just what happened in the volunteers’ neighborhood. A tree trimmer cut down a tree containing the nest of a Western Gray Squirrel and one of the infant squirrels died. She notes that the clinic receives bird nests from felled trees every year, too.

Tree cutting

Don’t do this now!

Although you should wait until fall or winter to cut down trees to prevent destroying nests, you don’t have to curtail your other spring cleaning efforts as long as you use techniques that won’t harm your wild animal neighbors. Check out this “cheat sheet” by The Humane Society on how to do so.

Busy beavers help themselves and their ecosystems

By Tracie Hornung

Beaver

American Beaver (Castor canadensis), Oregon’s official state animal. Courtesy ODFW

If you’ve ever seen a beaver in the wild, you’re one of the lucky ones.

These mammals, North America’s largest rodent, are most active in the evening or at night. Beavers may weigh up to 65 pounds and average about four feet long. Their habitat consists of ponds, marshes and streams, and their bodies have evolved to fit perfectly within that environment. Thanks to webbed hind feet, a broad paddle-like tail, and membranes that cover the eyes when the animal is underwater, beavers are supreme swimmers. (But that evolutionary design makes them rather clumsy on land.) They can remain underwater for at least 15 minutes by slowing their heart rate. And their large teeth — their upper incisors can grow up to an inch long — contribute greatly to their well-known logging abilities.

Beaver tree

Results of beaver activity.
Tracie Hornung photo

But it is their thick luxurious fur, ranging from reddish brown to black, that defined their destiny after European settlers invaded North America. In fact, Oregon’s early economy was built on beaver pelts. During the 1800s, when European and U.S. East Coast demand for beaver hats and coats was at its peak, fur trappers nearly eliminated the species through unregulated trapping.

With proper management, however, beavers have become re-established and are now common throughout their range. But habitat destruction has become their most recent threat, and the improvement of wetlands and riparian areas is necessary for beavers, as well as a myriad of other species — which are helped by beavers’ aquatic activities.

Beavers build dams to create deep water that protects them from predators, helps them access their food supply and provides underwater entrances to their dens. And the ponds that beavers create expand wetlands and enhance habitat for many other fish and wildlife species, such as juvenile coho salmon.

Beaver Dam

Beaver dam
Courtesy USFWS

It’s no wonder the phrase “busy as a beaver” exists because beavers are industrious and skilled loggers and carpenters. They can fell a tree up to five-and-a-half feet in diameter. They cut down trees to construct their dens, dams, and for food. They enjoy eating the leaves, inner bark, and twigs of aspen (a favorite food), alder, birch, cottonwood, willow and other deciduous trees.

The dens they build (also known as lodges) are waterproofed with mud, and serve as a place to rest, stay warm, give birth and raise young — an average of four kits per litter. Beavers live in colonies that may contain up to 12 individuals. The colony is usually made up of the adult breeding pair and their offspring. Most kits remain with the adults until they are almost two years old. The kits then go off on their own in search of mates and suitable spots to begin colonies, which may be several miles away.

If you’re interested in learning how to help beavers and create sustainable habitat for them, read “Living with Wildlife: American Beaver” at the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife web site: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/beaver.pdf


Sadly, beavers’ logging and dam-building that sometimes results in flooding or in damaging property inspire humans to remove them. In Oregon, landowners are allowed to trap beavers. However, the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife states on its web site, “Removing beavers is often a short-term solution as other beavers will move into the area if suitable habitat is present.”

To learn about recent research at Boston University related to this issue, see “Why Monogamous Beavers Would Be Good News.”

 

Bobcat: a sight to behold!

By Tracie Hornung

Bobcat

Bobcat
Lynx rufus
Photo by Gary Kramer
Courtesy USFWS

Just as I rounded a bend riding my bike to the wildlife clinic a few years ago, a bobcat dashed across the road. It was gone in what seemed like a nanosecond, but the image of that small but powerful animal has stayed with me.

In my opinion, all cats—wild or domestic—are gorgeous, and the bobcat is no exception.

It’s the smallest wild cat in Oregon—about twice the size of a housecat—but with longer legs, a shorter tail and a more muscular body.

Bobcats are found throughout Oregon, and according to the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, bobcats in western Oregon possess more distinct markings than those in the east side of the state. Their lifespan is 12-13 years.

Bobcat territories are established with scent markings, and territory sizes are generally 25-30 square miles for males and about five square miles for females.

Although In the early to mid 1900s, bobcat populations in many Midwestern and Eastern states were decimated because of the value of the cats’ fur, their populations have rebounded with the advent of laws in the 1970s that protected wild cats. Today, populations are stable in many northern states and are reviving in many others.

However, as Defenders of Wildlife states, they are still hunted and trapped for their fur throughout most of their range, and habitat destruction and the ever-expanding human population limit their ranges.

Let’s hope that our grandchildren will have the same opportunity I did of seeing these beautiful cats in the wild.

Take a look at some of RWC’s beautiful patients

Rowena Wildlife Clinic is lucky to have volunteer Frank Rodrick of StrayShots taking photos of the clinic’s patients. Below is a small selection of his excellent photographs. Click on them to zoom in.

 

 

 

 

 

Raising chickens this spring? Read this.

by Jean Cypher, DVM

Avian influenza is an interesting ecological and cultural story: The virus has been around for millennia, apparently co-evolving with waterfowl, which carry and shed it, but exhibiting very few symptoms. Technology improved enough to detect it in the 1980s, when we suspected that it was being passed between Asian poultry, pigs and migrating birds. Then the latter passed a strain of the virus to seals off the U.S. West Coast, causing mass mortality.

Today the virus has been identified as a single-strand RNA virus (the kind that tends to mutate a lot) with 144 permutations or strains of the virus. It is found mostly found in dabbling ducks, and sometimes in other aquatic birds.

Things got interesting late last year because wild ducks brought the H5N2 and H5N8 strains of the virus south on their fall migration.

A couple of strains have shown up in poultry, causing death often in less than 48 hours. The viral strains that are deadly for poultry are called “highly pathogenic avian influenza” HPAI (as opposed to LPAI). These strains aren’t causing disease in humans.

Things got interesting late last year because wild ducks brought the H5N2 and H5N8 strains of the virus south on their fall migration. This January, chickens and guinea fowl in backyard flocks in southern British Columbia started dying – and then in Winston, Oregon, then on the Oregon/Idaho border, and then at a commercial poultry operation in California. Those outbreaks had to be controlled by killing all the poultry (144,000 at one commercial poultry facility). In the meantime, several Idaho gyrfalcons fed duck meat from an Oregon hunter caused the falconer’s gyrfalcons, as well as a wildlife rehabilitator’s great horned owl, to die.

The strains causing problems here were traced to Southeast Asia. Wild ducks took them north and mixed with birds in the Siberian and Pacific flyways. The strains were also carried 10,000 miles west to northern Europe in the summer of 2014. There is a lot of mixing of birds between all the flyways.

Oregon Dept. of Agriculture's new brochure on Avian Influenza.

Oregon Dept. of Agriculture’s new brochure on Avian Influenza.

AI brochure-Pg2The virus dies quickly when exposed to sun and air. But it can live for weeks in cool, moist habitat. So muddy shores of northern ponds are good sources of infection. Waterfowl shed it in the feces, although it is also in the meat and organs, causing predatory birds to get sick. Poultry usually catch it by exposure to duck droppings. Poultry pass it to one another by coughing and sneezing.

Thirty countries have instituted some kind of embargo, regional or nationwide, of U.S. poultry. Those countries won’t lift their trade embargoes unless we follow international protocol for containing and eradicating the disease in domestic flocks. So if a backyard flock gets infected, all the poultry and domestic ducks are killed, even though the latter would probably survive. The birds most at risk are free-range poultry that have access to water where wild ducks congregate or where wild ducks are flying into chicken yards to panhandle some free food.

When birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway, some move far north-to-south, and many move just a bit: Arctic to Canada, or Canada to Oregon. Most of the sampling information comes from swabs of hunter-killed wild ducks. Since hunting season occurs only during the fall migration, we don’t know if the birds overwintering to the south of Oregon, which will return to us this spring, may also be carrying the disease. So there may or may not be outbreaks among poultry this spring. The virus may spread east across the U.S. or these variants could just peter out in the wild population.

Unfortunately, this development is a game-changer for how people live with free-range chickens and other poultry and wild waterfowl on the West Coast. Until further notice, it’s not safe for anyone who raises chickens to let their birds be exposed to wild duck feces and it’s not safe for falconers to hunt their birds on ducks.

 

Reindeer antlers — did you know . . . ?

By Tracie Hornung

This is the time of year when reindeer antlers might bring to mind those silly fabric antlers humans wear to holiday parties or attach to their dog’s heads. (Why they think a dog might enjoy this, I can’t answer.)

Caribou, also known as reindeer

Caribou, also known as reindeer. Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

But some facts show that real reindeer antlers are pretty amazing.

But before we discuss antlers, let’s get our terminology cleared up. Reindeer and caribou are essentially the same. Here in the Western Hemisphere  they’re commonly known as caribou; in Europe, reindeer. But even though we’re in the West, in light of the holiday season, let’s refer to them as reindeer.

Reindeer are members of the family Cervidae, including deer, elk and moose, and they are widely distributed across the Arctic and Subarctic. A small, endangered population in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington is the southernmost group in North America.

Reindeer are the only cervid in which the females also have antlers. And male reindeer have the largest antlers relative to body size among deer. In some subspecies the bull reindeers’ antlers are the second largest of any deer, after the moose, and can range up to 39 inches in width and 53 inches in length.

Antlers grow from bony supporting structures called pedicels. Secretions from the pituitary gland initiate the growth of antlers, and growth is rapid — up to almost an inch per day.  As they grow, they’re covered with skin and soft hair called velvet, which carries blood vessels and nerves.

As antlers reach the end of their growth, the centers become filled with coarse, spongy bone and marrow spaces. The velvet dies and wears off, helped along by the reindeer’s rubbing and thrashing its antlers against trees and other vegetation.

In winter, hormone stimulation to the male reindeer’s antlers wanes as daylight shortens.  (Female reindeer don’t lose their antlers until calving time; spring or summer.) Without hormone stimulation the pedicel loses calcium, weakening the point of connection between it and the antler, and eventually the antler breaks off.

But Mother Nature sees to it that nothing goes to waste: Fallen antlers are eaten by rodents and other animals — a rich source of calcium and minerals for them.


For the difference between antlers and horns see the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web site.


Here’s a unique way to save reindeer lives:
Glowing reindeer antlers deter car wrecks

 

Dog saves flying squirrel

By Tracie Hornung

Northern Flying Squirrel

Northern Flying Squirrel. Photo by Larry Master, courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

It’s not every day that Rowena Wildlife Clinic treats a flying squirrel—fortunately!

The little guy, dubbed Rocky during his rehabilitation, was fetched off the ground by the landowners’ dog and carried to the porch. The  squirrel was cold and so young his eyes had not yet opened. The landowners assume he fell from the nest.

Surprisingly, Rocky had no injuries, and after several weeks of basic care and lots of pampering at Rowena WIldlife Clinic he was ready for release. Some volunteers attached a nest box to a tree so that he could acclimate to the wild on his own terms. Since then he has been coming and going, and is now a fully independent and healthy adult flying squirrel!

 

Flying Squirrel Box

Flying Squirrel nest box. Photo by Tom Keffer.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, flying squirrels might more appropriately be called “gliding squirrels,” because they aren’t capable of true powered flight such as a bird or a bat. Flying squirrels glide. They have a special membrane between their front and back legs that allows them to glide through the air between trees. When a flying squirrel wants to travel to another tree without touching the ground, it launches itself from a high branch and spreads out its limbs so that the gliding membrane is exposed. It uses slight movements of the legs to steer, and the tail acts as a brake upon reaching its destination. Flying squirrels can cover more than 150 feet in a single glide!

To learn more about flying squirrels, visit the National Wildlife Federation.

Sharing buttons

From your humble webmaster–still trying to find a nice, simple way to share these posts to Facebook and other social media.  Unfortunately. . .the buttons don’t show up when I “preview” the post, so I’m going to see if they show when I actually post something.  Sorry to spam your inbox!  Someday, though, when I have this working right, we’ll be able to increase the visibility of the blog and hence the Clinic.  Be patient with me–no way to test except to test.  And yayy, it’s working!  So share all these great posts by Tracie, and maybe we’ll get a few more people signed up for the blog.  Let me know if you have any trouble with the share buttons–or anything else on the blog.

Thanks,

Frank

Fawn hit by car can expect normal adulthood

By Tracie Hornung

Bruno  after he was rescued

Dr. Cypher and Bruno shortly after he was rescued. Jane Keeler photo.

Bruno the fawn got lucky when a caring woman named Jane rescued him moments after he’d had the worst luck of his young life: he’d been hit by a car.

Jane saw the baby deer lying in the middle of the road, unable to move. As she ran over to pick him up and move him into the grass, she saw what she assumed to be his mother and sibling watching her.

Jane called Rowena Wildlife Clinic and explained the situation with the injured fawn, including the fact that she was driving alone. But Dr. Jean Cypher told her if the fawn had a broken leg, which seemed probable, it would be fairly easy to transport him in her car.

Jane swaddled the fawn in a towel to keep him calm, put him on her lap and hoped for the best as she drove the nearly 30 miles to the clinic.  They arrived safely at the clinic but, said Jane, “It was quite challenging driving with a baby deer in my lap!”

When Dr. Cypher saw the fawn she could tell he was in shock and that he had not one, but two, broken legs. He had a left tibial fracture and a right heel fracture, rendering the Achilles tendon useless. And he’d also lost the tip of his tail.

“The surgery was a long one,” said Dr. Cypher, “done in two stages over the next few days. Initially we pinned the left leg and also tunneled some wire under the muscle and tendon of the right heel, looping it around some pins driven into the right prominence of the heel. It was a four-handed repair − my assistant Elijah had to help, and his mechanical experience was pretty useful.”

Bruno was able to stand the evening after surgery, but the right leg was painful and he tried to put his weight on the left leg.

“However, that leg made an awful grinding noise when he used it,” said Dr. Cypher, adding that he needed additional pins to keep the lower bones from rotating around the internal and medial pins.

“So I anesthetized him again a few days later, and drove pins from the outside and the front of the leg, attaching the frame to the previous pins. Once the left leg was stable, it was painful, as is usually the case if you have to drive pins through the large muscles on the outside of the leg. Luckily by then, the right leg was increasingly useful to him. He started to do short three-legged walks outside over the next three weeks.”

Halfway through Bruno's healing

This photo of Bruno and another fawn patient was taken halfway through Bruno’s healing. Dr. Jean Cypher photo.

About a month later, said Dr. Cypher, he started to act as if he was in pain again and was reluctant to walk.

“This was a sign that some of the hardware needed to be removed. An x-ray sort of indicated that all was healing − although my antiquated machine leaves many caveats! It was a terrible ordeal for me to remove the pins and wires from his right ankle. Bets, who was volunteering that day, agreed with me that it looked as if I was completely dissecting his leg to find and cut out the hardware. But amazingly, he felt better and was completely weight-bearing on that leg again within a couple of days.”

Bruno today

Bruno (foreground) today. You can see the scars on his legs but he is growing into a healthy adolescent! Dr. Cypher puts reflective collars on the fawns so that they can be found in the dark if they don’t go back to the fawn pen at night by themselves. Tracie Hornung photo.

Dr. Cypher removed the pins from the left leg over the next couple of weeks and then Bruno began his final recovery. Now he spends his days outside with other recovering fawn patients and his evenings in the fawn pen. He stands three-legged, but will use his left leg when climbing hills or running (slowly).

“I think he’ll have a normal gait in a year or so,” said Dr. Cypher.

And with Bruno’s luck, you can just bet he will.