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Heroes All!

A little more than half of the year is over.  So we decided to take stock of where we are. As of the end of July, the number of animals that have been brought to the Wildlife Center is 6715. We knew that it had been a busy baby season, but *whew*. We at the Wildlife Center cannot thank the thousands of warm hearted rescuers enough for caring  enough to go above and beyond to bring the ill, injured and orphaned to the Wildlife Center.  All of you are heroes.  Many of you have had to re-arrange schedules, bribe your teenagers to drive to us, come from over two hours away, brave weather, traffic etc. We are grateful for you. This past month several heroes really stick out in our mind.  The first was a policeman on night duty who every time we went by a certain block, he found baby ducks in the street.  He would shoo them into the grass.  Finally, very late at night when he was off duty he went back and sure enough there they were huddled in the street again.  He gently scooped them up and brought them to the Wildlife Center the next morning. Another story involved some residents of Tiki Island and   an injured pelican.  A brown pelican crashed into a picnic table and fell into the water. Attempts were made to rescue the pelican but it kept getting away.  Even though it had an injured wing and could not fly off, it sure could swim.  A couple on Tiki Island, with the aid of their neighbor were finally able to catch the bird and bring it to the Wildlife Center.  The neighbor sustained some cuts to his feet during [...]

Bunnies Hop to the Wildlife Center

Baby bunnies come to the Wildlife Center for many reasons. When the rains are plentiful and the grass is lush, most of the babies are kidnapped from mother rabbits by well meaning homeowners. For more information, two articles have already been written on this subject.  http://WildlifeCenterofTexas.org/2011/03/bunnies-bunnies-everywhere/ and  http://WildlifeCenterofTexas.org/2010/06/two-for-tea/ When drought occurs, more care must be taken, because it cannot be assumed that unattended young are well cared for. Call the Wildlife Center at 713-861-9453 for assistance. Baby bunnies are one of the more difficult mammals to rehabilitate since they do not nurse per se. They also nurse very slowly and take four to five times longer to feed than a squirrel or raccoon of the same age.  Very young bunnies must be placed with our permitted rehabilitators and cared for at their homes since they require feeding into the night. Once the bunny can go from six p.m. until seven a.m. without feeding, it can come back to the Wildlife Center for care.  Our off-site rehabilitators are our unsung heroes since they accept animals that are too sick, injured or young to thrive at the Wildlife Center. Lagomorphs superficially resemble rodents, but differ in several ways. The most obvious is the unusual arrangement of the front teeth, behind each prominent incisor is a small peg-like tooth. Like rodents, lagomorphs must constantly wear down the front teeth, otherwise they can grow to the point that the animal cannot eat. The order Lagomorpha includes the family Leporidae which include rabbits and hares and the family Ochotonidae which include pikas. Texas is home to two genera and five species of rabbits and hares. Three species can be found in the greater Houston area. Two species are limited to [...]

Otters?

Otters?  In Houston? Really? That is the universal reaction we get at the Wildlife Center when visitors to our facility or website discover that we are caring for three juvenile North American River Otters.  The next statement is invariably, “Why, I’ve never even seen an otter here!”  They are in good company.  Researchers specializing in otters can go years without seeing a wild otter in the flesh.  They have to conduct their research using scat, tracks and images caught on camera traps.  The rarity in sightings should not, however, be equated with a lack of individuals. There are a number of reasons why otters are not often seen.  Even in healthy river environments, the abundance of otters is never high.  The best estimates of researchers, and estimates they are, put a natural population density at one individual to every 2 to 10 miles of river.  By their very nature, river otters are shy and elusive.  Also as river creatures, not much of them can be seen when they are in their favored habitat.  While in the water, only a small portion of their heads can be seen.  Trying to differentiate them from a beaver or nutria is very difficult.  River otters, as a rule, are active on land only at night and remain in the water or in a den during the day. Otters belong to the weasel family, the Mustelidae.  Other members include ferrets, mink, badgers and wolverines.  These creatures are all noted for their boundless energy and voracious appetites.  Their body plans are equally similar:  long thin flexible bodies, a small head equipped with powerful jaws and short strong limbs.  Also in common to all of the species is a set of large [...]

Long-eared Owl

The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) (previously known as: Strix otus) is a species of owl which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America. Texas lies firmly in its non-breeding or wintering grounds, but sightings are rare. In the twenty plus years that the rehabilitators of the Wildlife Center have been caring for raptors, they have only cared for two or three. Reminiscent of a Great Horned Owl, the Long-eared Owl is much smaller and is considered a medium sized owl. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, family Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. Barn Owls form the other family of owls called Tytonidae. While adult and sub-adult Screech Owls are sometimes confused as baby Great Horned Owls, the coloration and eye color is wrong. If the public had greater access to Long-eared Owls, the confusion of a grown Long-eared Owl as a baby Great Horned Owl would make more sense. Should you have the honor of seeing a Long-eared Owl in the wild, note that it is significantly smaller than the Great Horned Owl, the facial disks are orange and the ear tufts are much closer together. In parts of its range, the Long-eared Owl is considered a species at risk, or at some level of being endangered. Habitat destruction is the primary explanation for the decline of this raptor. Boreal forests are being cut down for development, land use is changing from timber to agriculture and tree farms are shifting from soft woods like pine to hard woods. Tree farm management has even impacted the Long-eared Owl’s habitat by thinning the underbrush and undesired trees. The Long-eared Owl nests usually in coniferous forests, but [...]