Squirrels

Spring Has Sprung

The Wildlife Center has shifted to its Spring/Summer operating hours and is now open Monday through Friday 9:00-6:00 and weekends 9:00-4:00pm.  Sunday was  the first full day of spring and it is quite appropriate that a baby Great Horned owl became the 1000th intake of the year.  Raptor babies, especially Great Horned Owls are usually one of the first babies to make their appearance each year. This year we were several weeks into baby squirrels before the Great Horned owlets began showing up at intake. This month has kept the Center staff, veterinarians, and  volunteers very busy treating and feeding hundreds of squirrels and opossums.  The squirrels seemed to fall out of nests when strong winds blew through in March. The Center is also caring for over a hundred  little baby opossums who were kept alive by the protection of a mother's pouch, when moms were run over by vehicles.  While we are sad the moms did not make it, their heritage is carried on by these resilient little ones.  Caring volunteers not only provide these orphans food and shelter, but do so in a manner that keeps them wild so they have the best chance at survival when they are returned to the wild. Baby doves are beginning to show up at the Wildlife Center. They will soon be followed by songbirds and Killdeer. Hopefully, the squirrel and opossum babies will have eased off before the birds hit their peak. A young female bobcat was brought to the Wildlife Center who was hit by a car. She has a severe head injury.  Wildlife Center veterinarians checked the bobcat out and she was found to have an eye injury as well as several check bone fractures.  She is on medications and is [...]

A Bump in the Night

Would you know what to do if you heard scratching from the wall or  thumps in the ceiling? Your quick reaction could mean the difference between the life or death of an animal(s) and whether there is damage to property from the animal’s activities or from its decomposition. If you didn’t hear animal activity until March – April – May, I can guarantee there are babies in the attic. Even if you don’t hear babies – they are there. The worst thing that can be done is to trap and haul off the mother. The first step in dealing with an animal incursion is to determine the species of animal. Many techniques are common across the board, but a faster solution can be reached if you know what you are dealing with. Rats and mice sound like a scratching that moves along the perimeter of the room or up and down walls.  Inspection of the attic will reveal droppings against a vertical surface. Rats and mice show an extremely strong preference to move along  walls.  Mice will leave dropping that are half the length of an uncooked grain of rice, rats will leave a dropping that is as large as a cooked grain of rice or larger. It is important to know what size rodent you are dealing with. Many believe that rat poison is a “no muss, no fuss” solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a gruesome death as the animal bleeds out internally. The mythology is that rats eat the bait, then leave in search of water. The problem is that they often don’t leave and if they die in an enclosed space, the stench and subsequent clean up [...]

Hurricane Ike Squirrels

  WR&E Rises to the Challenge - with a little help from our friends! The Wildlife Center was spic and span for our Annual Open House when all eyes shifted to the Gulf and Hurricane Ike. Any Gulf Coast hurricane makes rehabilitators anxious, but Ike seemed determined to follow in Rita’s footsteps. Executive Director, Sharon Schmalz evacuated to the Wildlife Center Friday (9/12) and with the help of some volunteers prepared the center and its animals for the storm. Saturday morning, Sharon reported minor damage and began shifting animals around by flashlight. By noon, people began showing up with baby squirrels.    Without power, it was difficult to care for the wildlife already in residence, much less the injured and orphaned by Ike. We are affiliated with the Houston SPCA  and they  invited us next door where a huge generator was providing power. That afternoon we received 100+  babies. All four HSPCA veterinarians and vet techs helped triage, administer fluids and feed. Sunday, additional rehabilitators and volunteers were able to make it to the Wildlife Center to help with another 100+ squirrels. Monday brought another 300+ squirrels. Power was restored Tuesday afternoon and WR&E’s volunteers poured in to help. HSPCA volunteers not needed for companion animal care were quickly trained and supervised. We began accepting volunteers from the general public and wound up training 160 emergency wildlife caretakers. Wednesday passed in a blur with over 100 more squirrels. Sixteen hour days, worrying about how to find gas to commute from a house that probably didn't have power began to wear. We were able to keep up at that point but started worrying about the next several days. Our phones finally started working on Thursday and [...]

Squirrels, Squirrels Everywhere Squirrels

By Cyndi Bohannon   Fox Squirrel Squirrelly –adjective; eccentric, cunningly unforthcoming, reticent, odd, crazy, unpredictable, jumpy, restless or nervous…….a pretty unflattering description all things considered.  However, the adjective actually describes behaviors that with respect to evolution are extremely advanced. The squirrel’s bizarre zigzag / double back flight from danger seems random and indecisive, but is brilliant  in light of millions of years of evolution against  “death from the sky”. Once a raptor has committed to a strike, there is very little that can be done to change direction, successfully dodging this threat yielded more zigzagging squirrels. Unfortunately, this strategy actually makes them more vulnerable to cars, dogs or cats. Evolution gave squirrels large eyes that are high on the skull to provide an extremely large field of view; just what a tasty morsel needs to evade being someone’s dinner. Unfortunately,  this eye placement severely limits frontal vision and depth perception. To compensate, squirrels constantly scan for threats and perform complex “bob and weave” behaviors to triangulate distance. People sweat, dogs pant and squirrels get wet feet. Locating sweat glands on their feet, between the foot pads and on their paws between the toes seems an odd manner to regulate temperature, but in combination with scent glands,  it allows the squirrel to constantly lay down a scent trail, thereby claiming all they touch. Squirrels also appear to lovingly rub nuts on their face before caching. What appears as a cute behavior actually allows scent glands on the cheeks stamp the nut as “mine!”. A large proportion of the brain is dedicated to spatial memory. Contrary to folklore, squirrels really do remember most of their cache locations (and I can’t even find my keys!) This [...]