Burrowing Owl

  A Miraculous Return to Health by Margaret Pickel It was a lucky fall day for Athene Cunicularia commonly known as the Burrowing Owl, when two young children found her in the middle of a street in Baytown. Acting quickly, they picked her up and with the help of their dad, brought her to the Wildlife Center. Our newfound patient was evaluated and was found to have a severe head injury. X-rays revealed no broken bones; however, she could not stand and had total paralysis in her legs and talons. Anti-inflammatory medication was administered. In the weeks that followed, volunteers patiently tried every trick in the book to stimulate feeding. Rehabbers provided physical therapy and slowly, first one leg and then the other began to function. Time and support at the Wildlife Center gave her the opportunity to recover. The Burrowing Owl is not as common in the Houston area as in years past. Habitat destruction, subsidence and fire ants are suspected  for the decline. The gulf coast is a favorite wintering location and it is believed that the injured owl was either in migration or wintering here. Unfortunately, being ground dwellers often they are killed by vehicles while crossing roadways. Natural enemies abound including coyotes, snakes, feral and domestic cats and dogs. The Burrowing Owl has been moved to one of the Wildlife Center’s flight cages to allow her to strengthen her wings. Once her wings are strong enough and she is feeding reliably, volunteers will relocate her to an area with a resident population.   Burrowing Owls Fast Facts and Strange Quirks The Burrowing Owl is a small, long-legged little creature standing about eight inches tall. Crouched at the mouth of its burrow or [...]

New Flight Cages

  Eagle Scout prepares flight cages Eagle Scout, Gil Poplinger organized, fundraised and provided crew to prepare three flight cages for the Wildlife Center. As part of the Eagle Scout program, each scout must select a community service project and manage it from start to finish. In addition to learning important leadership and organizational skills, the scout must fundraise to pay for the project. WR&E volunteers and their spouses constructed the framework for the cages and Gil and his workforce moved sand and gravel into the new flight cages. They also helped attach the hundreds of slats on the cages. The cages have proved invaluable. Each cage has been full of songbirds, water birds and raptors. The birds have gone to their release cages in good health and weight. Thanks to Gil, we have be able to house many birds this first year at the Wildlife Center. 2007

By |August 22nd, 2009|Categories: Projects|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Raccoon rescue

One of the greatest joys for a wildlife animal rehabilator is the successful reunion of a mother and her babies.  Lots of books have been written about living in peace with the local wildlife. Even how to foster an environment to encourage wildlife without having them wreck YOUR home and eating all of your landscaping. However, little has been written about how to get the local wildlife out of your house once they have moved in or what to do with a separated youngster. The original call came in about 8 a.m. The condensed version was: “Two raccoons, a very small one and a slightly larger one had fallen though the suspended ceiling of the “basement” and that there was at least one more still “up there”, what am I supposed to do?”  They had already called Animal Control and were now afraid that the animals would be destroyed. Luckily for them AND the raccoons, Friendswood Animal Control works closely with the Wildlife Center of Texas. I told them not to worry and to accept the live trap that was on the way. Trapping and relocating an adult raccoon is a death sentence, only 10% will survive the next 6 months. If the raccoon is a female with babies, it is often a death sentence for them as well. Needless to say, relocation was not in the cards for this coon family. The next call went like this; “We caught the smaller of the two and put it in a cat carrier, now what?” Hoping that the live trap would catch the mother, who was still thought to be in the office, I sent them off to buy the supplies necessary to close up the [...]

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 [...]

Raccoon – Too Smart by Half

Raccoons are my problem children. They are just “too” – too cute, too curious, too brave, too strong, too aggressive, too smart, too adaptable, too devious, too agile … well, you get the picture. As my Dad would say they are “too smart by half”. The problem is that God gave them too much dexterity to go with their superior brainpower and insatiable curiosity.   Northern or Common Raccoons are classified taxonomically as Procyon Lotor (family/genus). Procyon translates from Latin as “before the dog” or “the lesser dog” and refers to the evolutionary history of the animal. Originally, it was thought that the raccoon was distantly related to dogs and bears, but recent evidence suggest they may be more closely related to the red panda.  Lotor translates from Latin as “washer” or “he who washes”. The word "raccoon" is derived from the Algonquian word aroughcoune, "he who scratches with his hands." Raccoons are not strictly nocturnal. They are easily intrigued and will investigate new or interesting activities. This is especially true of babies that are old enough to get into trouble, but not old enough to be on their own. Raccoons will shift feeding patterns to when food is available frequently appearing during the day to exploit aquatic food exposed during low tides or cat food that’s only set out in the morning. Therefore, daytime sightings of otherwise healthy looking raccoons is not cause for alarm. At 5 to 6 weeks, the kits will belly crawl to explore near the den and call for mom if hungry or anxious. By 10 to 12 weeks, the kits are following mom out to forage and making lots of noise romping and stomping. Raccoons stay with their mothers for [...]

Awesome Opossum

By Cyndi Bohannon Anyone who has moved a wheelbarrow and found a hissing and spitting opossum underneath understands the jolt of adrenaline such an encounter produces. When faced with such an aggressive display, it is hard to remember that the opossum is more frightened that you. Think that opossums are disgustingly ugly? Tempted to chase them out of your flowerbeds? Don’t – they are voracious insect and grub eaters. OK - so it’s ugly. But don’t let its lack of good looks fool you, it is the single most important animal you can have in your yard. Nicknamed the living fossil by scientists, the opossum dates back to the days of the dinosaur. The name "opossum" is derived from an Algonquian Indian word "apasum", meaning white animal. The opossum’s face is usually white while the body coloration can range from almost white, through various shades of gray to black. Most of the guard hair is agouti (banded) which means that the hair starts growing one color then change color one or more times before it sheds. The only marsupial (mammal with a pouch) living in North America, the opossum is a unique and fascinating animal. The scientific name, Didelphis virginiana means “double womb” which refers to the pouch as the secondary place of fetal development. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. Opossums are born after a gestation period of only thirteen days. Blind, embryonic in appearance, and about the size of a bee, the newborn opossum crawls unaided to its mother's pouch, where it attaches to a nipple. The nipple completely fills the tiny opossum's mouth, firmly attaching it to its mother. The opossum [...]

By |August 20th, 2009|Categories: Opossum, Species Article|Tags: , , |2 Comments

9 Banded Armadillo – The Texas Tank

Nine Banded Armadillo - The Texas Tank by Cyndi Bohannon Until I became a wildlife rehabilitator, my experience with armadillos was limited to squished little bodies on country roads, one bouncing through a soccer field and my great-grandmother’s macabre but fascinating armadillo skin basket.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew they were mammals, but it was hard to imagine those armor plated little tanks reproducing, much less giving birth to live young and nursing them. Like the under-appreciated opossum, the armadillo came along very early in the evolutionary timeline and hasn’t changed significantly since. The armadillo’s most distinctive feature is its armor plating, however its sticky tongue, reproductive behaviors and methods of crossing bodies of water are strange enough to amaze. The nine banded armadillo is so named for the nine “plates” or scutes in-between the larger anterior (shoulder) and posterior (hip) scutes. The tough connective skin between the scutes makes it appear to be able to curl into a ball, however only one of the twenty species is capable of this feat. The bony plates can not grow and are not shed or molted, so young are born with soft plates that slowly harden until it is full grown at approximately a year old. Armadillos are primarily insectivores, showing preference for grubs, beetles and ants. However, when insects are not as plentiful, the armadillo shifts to a diet of berries and other vegetable material, small amphibians and carrion maggots. The armadillo is often accused preying on ground nesting birds and their eggs. While a hungry armadillo won’t turn down an egg breakfast, reports show that ground birds and their eggs constitute less than 0.04% of their overall diet. The armadillo has [...]

By |August 20th, 2009|Categories: Armadillo, Species Article|Tags: , , |1 Comment

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