And Now for Something Completely Different.........
One of the many things I love about my work is the unpredictability of it all. You never know what the day will bring. And, even after 16 years of working in wildlife rehabilitation and seeing thousands of ‘patients’, I still am always surprised by the new species we see each year. This year was no exception and saw 7 ‘new’ species admitted.
We had not one, but two long-tailed weasels admitted and a 13-lined ground squirrel arrived from the Marion area. Sadly, all had sustained irreparable spinal trauma. The experience caused such a mix of emotions…...the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals up close, the tragedy of knowing that their lives were over now and that there was nothing I could do except to ease them out of their pain, fear and confusion. Sometimes, unfortunately, that is the only way I can help certain animals who arrive at our clinic door.
Our new avian species fared much better and had interesting stories behind their admission. The first were 5 little chickadees whose home was in a neighbor’s nest box. Something happened to both their parents (they share nest duties) and before we could be sure no one was caring for them, one of them had died. The 4 remaining babies were beginning to get feathers and were the size of large bumblebees. What delightful, active little things they were! They were very easy to care for and so very quick at learning to self-feed! We went through hundreds and hundreds of waxworms with these little ones and even after release they would return to the side of the aviary to get worms from a dish we fastened there. This gave them back-up food while they learned to forage on their own.
The second new bird species was a nestling purple martin. This little guy came all the way from Lake Pymatuning on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. Some people from this area were there for the weekend and saw him fall out of a martin house that was out over the water. They rescued him, but having no way to return him to the nest they brought him home with them and contacted us for help.
Not as easy to raise as the chickadees, he had to be force fed at first. He grew quickly and was a very demanding little guy….. as are most little birds. When he was ready for release we had a problem because purple martins need to be released into purple martin colonies and we didn’t know of any in our area. We called other rehabilitators, networking in an attempt to find an easy solution, but could find nowhere for his release. So, the people who had rescued and brought him to us came back, picked him up, and drove to Pymatuning where they released him back into his very own family group!
Our next avian ‘newcomer’ was a beautiful female short-eared owl. A species that nests in the Arctic and northern Canada, they move south during the winter and sometimes show up in our area. She had been hit by a truck in Bucyrus, taken to the State Patrol post and then delivered to us. Amazingly, she was not seriously injured….. only stunned. We held her for a few days, feeding her well as she was a bit thin after her long trip to Ohio. On a sunny but cold day I took her down to Killdeer Plains, one of the few areas where they spend the winter in our state, and released her. What a joy to watch her fly off!
The other new raptor species was a red-shouldered hawk. No happy ending for this male who was suffering the effects of West Nile Virus and already near death upon admittance.
Our last new species was neither avian, mammal, or reptile. It was an arachnid…..a spider. An extremely LARGE spider of a type called a Wolf spider. The female (the females are larger) spider was found in a swimming pool and brought to us for identification. Horrific looking, but fascinating, she was easily 4 inches across. I discovered in a book that the females carry their babies around with them until they are old enough to fend for themselves. After a good look we released her in our garden.
I wonder what interesting new creatures 2003 will bring to Wildlife Haven? Whatever they may be, hopefully we will be able to assist them and give them that wonderful second chance.