Phyllis and Larry Hale, who provide terrific volunteer help for Rowena Wildlife Clinic, report on their experiences last winter.
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by Tracie Hornung
Rowena Wildlife Clinic recently got some good news: An injured bald eagle found this week in Hood River, Oregon, is not suffering from lead shot poisoning! See the story of its rescue in the Hood River News, written before tests showed the bird is free of lead.
However, bald eagles and other raptors are still not safe, especially since the new head of the Interior Department, Ryan Zinke, on his first day on the job signed an order to roll back a policy that would have kept lead out of wildlife refuges.
The policy Zinke reversed would have phased out lead ammunition and fishing tackle from national wildlife refuges by 2022. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that persists in water and soil for years.
Birds are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Birds of prey eat animal carcasses that contain lead shot fragments — making lead poisoning an enormous threat for iconic species like bald eagles and California condors. And ducks and waterfowl rooting around the bottom of wetlands accidentally eat discarded lead.
Rowena Wildlife Clinic has often seen the effects of lead poisoning in raptors. In fact, just last winter, despite her best efforts Dr. Cypher lost a bald eagle to lead poisoning. Although no one could say with certainty how the eagle came to ingest the lead, it was a stark reminder that lead poisoning is an ever-present threat to wildlife.
Many hunters and fishers appreciate the necessity of protecting wildlife from lead. But others who complain that ammunition made of other metals cost too much compared to lead shot have won over politicians currently in office.
However, it isn’t just wildlife that suffer from lead poisoning. Humans who eat animals killed with lead shot are vulnerable, too, especially since it has a propensity to shatter into minute fragments. See this video from the Tulsa World.
A recent study found that children are even more susceptible to lifelong problems related to lead poisoning, including lower IQ, poor muscle coordination and damage to the nervous system, including kidneys, and/or hearing. See Kids’ Health for more information.
If we can’t convince politicians that wildlife are worth saving from the effects of lead, perhaps they will be more sympathetic to the human threat.
Oregon Zoo’s Non-Lead Hunting Education director, Leland Brown, will present a program from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. April 22 at the Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon, titled “Non-lead Hunting: Continuing a Tradition of Conservation.” Get more info here.
As employees of Mt. Hood Meadows were on the ski slopes doing their jobs earlier this month, one of them spotted a nearly frozen Barn Owl in the snow. Meadows staffer Carrie Sidwell picked up the poor bird and skied down the slope with it in her arms!
The owl was transferred to Rowena Wildlife Clinic where rehabilitator Carol Rodrick began first response protocols, including putting it in an incubator to warm up. Although the bird did not appear injured, it was so cold and thin she was afraid it wouldn’t survive the night. But by morning it was standing up in the incubator and looking at her!
The ski staff understandably wanted to know why the owl was at such a high elevation, especially at this time of year: It’s probably because of Hood River County’s recent weather. It has been an exceptionally long, cold and snowy winter. And in its quest for food and warmth, the owl may have caught a warm updraft that swept it to the ski slope. Fortunately, the ski crew was in the right place at the right time!
The crew named the bird Cutty and it continues to be cared for at the clinic. Carol says she is “guardedly hopeful” that Cutty will recover.
“Thanks to Carrie, Wes and Nick,” Carol said in a Facebook posting, “for picking up the Barn Owl and transporting it to the clinic. We depend upon people like you to look out for our injured wild friends.”
Visit Cornell University’s All About Birds website to learn more about Barn Owls.
At first blush, feeding songbirds in winter sounds like nothing but a positive activity.
But I’ve heard the concern that if you start feeding songbirds in winter on a regular basis, you’re dooming them if you suddenly leave on vacation for a few weeks – after they’ve been “spoiled” by their human-supplied meals.
Another worry is that regular feeding of songbirds in winter may ultimately weaken them. Two studies in Europe and the U.K. have found that songbirds fed all winter produce fewer eggs, have fewer chicks fledge – and those that do have lower survival rates. This article in Cool Green Science explores some possible reasons. But because these findings were the result of only two studies, more research obviously needs to be done.
Regarding leaving your birds for a frolic in the tropics, you can go guilt-free if you can coax a neighbor or friend to feed while you’re gone. Or if that’s not possible, gradually taper off the amount of food you’re putting out before you go. And according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, birds have adapted to changes in food sources and usually quickly revert to foraging in the wild.
If you want to know more about feeding birds in winter view Cornell’s “Bird Notes” publication on Winter Bird Feeding.
If you’re reading this, you must care about non-game wildlife. But with a long history of relying on fishing and hunting fees to fund only Oregon’s game animals, non-game species have been left in the dust.
The series below, which appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting, explains the problems and possible solutions to helping Oregon’s non-game wildlife before it’s too late.
The update identifies which habitats and non-game species have the greatest need for conservation, how they should be managed and how such management can be funded.
It lists nearly 300 species thought to be in decline in the state, including 58 bird and 29 mammalian species. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and plant species are also included.
Bird species include:
Find out more about the Oregon Conservation Strategy.
This is the time of year when Rowena Wildlife Clinic and other wildlife rehabilitators get lots of calls from concerned people who believe a baby animal has been abandoned by its mother.
However, in many — if not most — cases mom is simply nearby foraging. If you take the baby away from where mom left it you may be creating a crisis that would not have existed.
Here’s a recent example: A woman’s well-meaning son found a young fawn. He picked it up, took it home, and his mother called the wildlife clinic. The clinic volunteer told them to search the area for a dead doe (presumably the mom) and if there was no sight of a dead deer in the area, to put the fawn back where he found it — and to watch and wait. If the mom did not come back after a certain period of time, she was either dead, or had abandoned the fawn for some reason, or the baby had already been away too long and its mom had given up on it.
The last scenario is the one you don’t want to create.
Unfortunately, a myth still persists about wildlife: that the scent of a human on a wild animal baby will drive off the mom. That is incorrect. (See this article by the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game.) So don’t let that myth influence your behavior.
Another thing to keep in mind: Removing or “capturing” an animal from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is against Oregon state law (OAR 635-044-0015), as is transporting many animals. Most other states have similar laws. Last year, seven people in Oregon were cited for such offenses.
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:
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.
By Tracie Hornung
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.
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.
By Tracie Hornung
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.
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.
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.”