Tag Archives: mammal

Wildlife driven into urban areas after Gorge wildfire

By Tracie Hornung

As Columbia River Gorge residents are all too aware, a 48,000 acre wildfire consumed vast amounts of wildlife habitat this fall. Because of the fire, wildlife has been driven down from the once-forested hills into urban areas such as Hood River.

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel.
Photo by Kathy Munsel, ODFW.

A Rowena Wildlife Clinic volunteer has noted that some human residents are complaining of the increase in animals, such as the Douglas squirrel, moving into urban and suburban neighborhoods.

However, with their homes destroyed, wildlife have no choice but to move on and find new habitat. RWC personnel ask city residents to have some patience for the situation and allow the animals to do what they must to survive the winter — especially since it’s getting too late in the season for them to find yet another place to call home.

Of course, if humans don’t want wildlife to get too comfortable living in an urban setting for the long term, they should not feed them. But on the other hand, to help the animals in their new, unfamiliar habitat the kind thing is to keep pets from attacking them whenever possible. That means keeping pets inside this winter as much as possible or to make sure they are supervised when outside.

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From the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

Douglas squirrel

Tamiasciurus douglasii

The Douglas squirrel is one of the smaller tree squirrels in Oregon. The color and markings of this squirrel differ individually, geographically and seasonally, appearing a dusky olive to brownish gray with an indistinct band of reddish brown with a blackish band along the flanks.

In Oregon, it occurs in coniferous forests from the Pacific coast to as far east as western Baker County.

Douglas squirrels are active during the daylight hours year-round, although they may remain in their nests or tree dens for a day or two during inclement weather.

Oregon Fish & Wildlife updates species conservation plan

By Tracie Hornung

Pygmy Rabbit

Pygmy Rabbit
Courtesy USFWS

Oregon Fish and Wildlife recently released the first update in 10 years to its Oregon Conservation Strategy.

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:

  • Common Nighthawk
  • Western Bluebird
  • Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Marbled Murrelet
  • Northern Spotted Owl
  • Greater Sage-Grouse
  • Harlequin Duck

Mammals:

  • Several species of bats
  • Wolverine
  • Western Gray Squirrel
  • Pygmy Rabbit
  • Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
  • Columbian White-tailed Deer
  • Gray Wolf
  • Harbor porpoise
  • Gray and Killer Whales

Find out more about the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

 

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.

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.

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.