Wildlife ER Summer 2009

Patient 09-100203. Our executive director, Sharon Schmalz was at the Wildlife Center when she received a call from a train engineer in Beaumont.  He told her a small owl had been riding on a the stairs on the engine of his train and wouldn’t (couldn’t) fly away. As Sharon talked with the gentleman it was determined he would be coming right by the Wildlife Center on tracks that ran through Houston.  He called back when he arrived in Houston and Sharon jumped over the fence behind the Houston SPCA and rescued the little Screech Owl. The train blew its whistle, as it chugged away and the Screech Owl came to the Wildlife Center for a couple of weeks of supportive care to bring it up to a healthy weight.  It was released several weeks later after time in a big flight cage to build muscle tone.   Patient 09-100533. came to us after crashing into a window at the VA Hospital.  The very large Red-tailed Hawk had some minor wing damage and was of poor body weight.  He spent many weeks at the Wildlife Center under the watchful eye of several veterinarians.  He began to put on weight and soon the soft tissue damage was healed.  After several weeks of flight therapy in an off-site flight cage to strengthen this wings, he was released to once again soar over the skies of Houston.     Patient 09-100146 was the prize trophy of a neighborhood cat.  The little Eastern Grey squirrel had several puncture marks and was scared to death.  After a complete exam the little guy’s wounds were treated and he was hand fed for several weeks. On April 14th he was released with six [...]

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 [...]

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