Monday, July 6, 2015

Wild Baby Rescue, Week 5

 This week at Wild Baby Rescue, some interesting things happened. the groundhog that I am raising, Skittles is now in a bigger cage, since she is about 3 times bigger than when I started feeding her. We are beginning to enrich most of our animals, including Skittles. Groundhogs are notorious for destroying gardens and eating all the herbs inside, so I found a basil plant, snipped a few leaves and gave them to her. She really seemed to enjoy the taste of basil. I also found a stick that was just the right size for her cage. Groundhogs need to be able to nibble on wood so that their teeth don't grow too much. Their teeth can grow up to 1/16 of an inch every week, so it's important for Skittles to be able to whittle down her teeth.

Another enrichment activity that we introduced this week was for the raccoons. Raccoons need to be able to clean themselves in water, so we gave them bowls of water in their cages for them to wash themselves off in. Considering that they like to bathe in their food bowls every time we give them food, it's probably a good idea that we give them something that isn't food for them to bathe in. This will help them keep clean and healthy when they're out in the wild.

More baby opossums arrived this week, as well as a beautiful Eastern Red Bat pup and a new fawn named Ollie


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wild baby rescue- week 4 (June 23)

This week consisted of much of the same- hand feeding, preparing food and formula, cleaning cages, and preparing enclosures. We got in a large amount of opossums and skunks over the weekend. We began doing enrichment for the older red fox kits, which consisted of hanging pieces of meat in a paper bag, encouraging them to jump for their food, as well as providing entertainment and a mental challenge. While it did not go as we initially expected, in the end the foxes learned that the bag contained meat. Hopefully next time we get to see them jump for their treat!

On Wednesday, we cleaned out another groundhog cage for a youngster in the nursery that is scheduled to be brought out this week. Because opossums were housed in the enclosure this past winter, the top few inches of the soil had to be removed, as well as all the bedding and one of the nest boxes.

Two groups of squirrels began their release process with a “soft release”- small holes in the fencing that were previously covered with a piece of wood were uncovered, allowing them to leave the enclosures at will. This way the squirrels will venture out and explore their new surroundings, learn to forage and avoid predators, and interact with new squirrels and other animals while still being able to retreat to the safety of their enclosure. They are also still provided with food and water in the enclosures.

On Thursday night, two young rabbits that were attacked by a cat were brought in. One only had one cut on its back end (one could assume it was from the cat’s claw). Granulation cream, a substance normally used for burn victims, was applied, and the rabbit was put in its cage. The second one on the other hand, was severely injured. Shockingly, its intestines were partially protruding from its side. The intestines were placed back into the rabbit using sterile applicators, and the area was disinfected, treated with the same cream, and bandaged. Even though it was unlikely to survive, part of the job of a rehabilitator is to give every animal that comes through the doors a fighting chance. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Six

Tuesday (06/23) I chose to go into work solo, as my partner in crime was out of town. I prepared to be in the office all day working on my portfolio, as it was pouring in Campton. David, one of the bio techs, found me and asked for some help building a nest box. I looked through the construction manual at the many different types of nest boxes that could be made; small bat, regular bat, small bird, duck, bee, and butterfly. I chose to make a small bird box since the required materials were available. Over in the woodshop, we found some rough cut boards 1"x 8'x 8" and cut them using the skill saw into appropriate lengths for two sides, front, back, three interior dividers, roof, and door for the floor. Because bats need shelter that traps heat up to 80 degrees F during the daytime, sometimes bat boxes can be painted black or covered in tarpaper. However, we agreed that painting these boxes wasn't a necessary step, as the fumes or chemicals of the paint when heated could have negative effects on the animal. The floor needed to be able to open so that guano could be cleaned out every so often. We used drill and driver bits to drive in the screws where we thought necessary and used a nail to hold the floor door shut. The nail could be easily removed for cleaning. These bat boxes would be mounted onto a tree 12-15' above the ground. We also completed a large butterfly box that was unfinished. Using a router 1" in diameter we carved through the slot openings 1/4" at a time to ensure the wood wouldn't split. Butterfly boxes are mounted on PVC piping  not far from the ground where butterflies most commonly travel.

Wednesday (06/24) Emily and I traveled around on campground patrol with Samuel, an intern from Quebec. He speaks both French and English and was actually pretty helpful when at Hancock, we ran into a family of 5 from Canada whose children did not speak English. We visited Russell Pond, Covered Bridge, Blackberry Crossing, Jigger Johnson, Passaconway, Big Rock, and Hancock. Nothing out of the ordinary happened but we made good contact with visitors as well as hosts. 

Thursday (06/25) we ventured out for more campground patrolling across the Kanc Highway. We made it through all of those previously mentioned and then decided to stop over at the Saco Ranger District for the Bear Alert sign that was accidentally printed there last week. Upon arrival, we discovered that the sign had been picked up already by a Pemi employee. Jessie, Saco Wildlife Biologist, asked us to follow up on the Champney Falls incident with AMC trail crew. My last post included the limited description of the incident report. After speaking with Jessie, we understood that the first incident resulted in a stolen pack which had hand sanitizer in it.Goes to show how severe this storage issue is and what great lengths bears will go to discover unfamiliar scents. The second incident at Champney Falls also happened in the AMC trail crew camp. This time parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a candy bar was left out in the camp.  A bear entered, ripped through a Yeti "bear-resistant" backcountry cooler (~$400), and stole a steel bear box that contained a camp stove. The bear box should have been tied up to a tree, which it wasn't and the cooler was unknowingly an attractant. The trail crew was moved to Ennis field, where we went to check up on their campsite. The campsite was clear of attractants. We then went to check on vehicles at the Champney Falls trail head. Both vehicles were locked and the windows were rolled up which was good. However, peanut butter container and granola bars could be seen on the dashboard and the back of the cab cover was only a twist latch window that could easily be opened by a bear. Because they were now without a cooler, they had cheese, yogurt, bagels and breakfast bars in a cardboard box in the back of their truck... The food was completely visible in all windows. 

Friday (06/26) I was again solo and so I tagged along with one of the bio techs, Keith, to set up and collect bat detectors on the Androscoggin district. About a 2 hr drive towards Berlin, we stopped by the roadside and had to hike in to where the GPS point was within its 360 meter zone known as a stand and approximately .5 mi from the road. We found a suitable area with a low canopy and downhill corridor towards which we direct the Petterson mic. Low canopy will encourage low flight paths from the Northern long-eared bats. The area has a stream in the distance which is a good source of insects for the bats. The second detector was set up 200 meters away from the first, closer to the river but far enough away so the mic would have low disturbance from the sound of the water current. We also set up a game camera to monitor if any person or animal messes with the equipment. Bears used to steal the battery cases because forest service would put them in garbage bags. Moose are also commonly seen in this area. After mounting each mic apparatus (2 steel staffs, 1 rebar, mallet, rope, research sign, duct tape, mic and battery in waterproof case), we drove down the road about 2 miles to the Andro Fish and Game hatchery where we collected data from the Pemi's weather station. 

Then we went back towards the first skidroad but stopped short to collect the old detectors that had been out for a while. It was about half a mile of the mile in hike and there was a large black silhouette a couple hundred yards in front of us. We realized it was a moose! A large bull, at that. We saw his dulap and it registered within us that we needed to give him space. He was browsing right around the area of our detectors so we weren't able to collect them but it was a tremendous sight and my first moose sighting ever! I returned to the office to work on my portfolio, completely satisfied. 

Saturday (06/27) was more campground patrol. We started with Wildwood, which didn't have many visitors but we spoke with about 5 campers who were keen on the proper food storage protocol. Then we headed to the Kanc Highway and stopped at the usual spots. We stopped by Hancock first and last hoping to catch people coming in the late evening. When stopping at Hancock before noon, there were only 6 sites occupied. Around 1500 hrs, Hancock was full and so was Big Rock. There were a lot of college kids at both sites for some reason, and Hancock was even preparing for some sort of wedding after party. There were some returning usuals to Hancock that had an awesome display set up. We were really grateful to have people putting effort in to spreading awareness of the bear issue. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wild Baby Rescue, Week 4

This week at Wild Baby Rescue, more and more animals continue to find their way into our facility. Baby skunks, rabbits, fawns and bats all came to us this week. Although we have many animals to take care of, we are excited to get new animals in and help them each week.

One of the things that was most momentous about this week is that we are starting to enrich our baby foxes in the art of jumping for their food. This is an essential skill that they must have in the wild; they must be able to catch birds. Therefore, it is our job to teach them how to catch and eat food that is not easy to obtain. The process of learning how to catch food in this way is long and hard for foxes. In order to simulate a bird, we placed some raw meat in a paper bag, and suspended it from the wall of the enclosure. This is to get the foxes used to the idea of catching and eating food that isn't presented to them in a bowl. The foxes are definitely curious as to what the bag is, and they even take a couple bites at it. Eventually, we will hang the bag from the ceiling of the enclosure and allow them to jump for their food. Hopefully, they will take nicely to the enrichment and will learn quickly.

Here's a link to a video that shows the enrichment of the foxes:

Other than the foxes, we also were able to clean up another enclosure for one of our baby groundhogs to go outside. He's not very friendly, but having him outside is a good step towards releasing him into the wild.

More to come in the following weeks!

Monday, June 22, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Five

Monday (06/15) was the monthly safety meeting. Even though Monday and Tuesday (06/16) were our days off, we attended the meeting as part of our immersed training experience. Hazmat and Blood-borne pathogens were the main topics of discussion, especially dealing with trash pick-up on the forest. Some major concerns for us recreation folks doing patrol on the forest was coming across drug/alcohol related situations and emergency situations in the backcountry. It is common at these meetings to end with a Q&A and a "round robin" to be informed of everyone's responsibilities for the week. After the 3hr morning meeting, we returned home for our two days of rest.

Wednesday (06/17) we returned to the office to get the low down from Clara, our supervisor, on the plans for the upcoming high elevation bird survey. Our radio, and everyone's on the forest, had to be reprogrammed so we hung around the tech support office for a little while. Also found out that we fried our radio battery by leaving it on the charger for too long; takes no more than an hour to charge. Learned our lesson. Had to wait for the battery order to come through, so in the meantime we had to borrow a portable loaner radio, since we don't have a mounted radio in our fleet vehicle. After that it was about target time for campground patrols so we went around the Kancmangus Highway to check on food storage violations. Sites were pretty clean. We caught wind of an incident report that just came through on the Saco district from a site at Covered Bridge Campground. The incident occurred Sunday (06/14) at a site that was supposedly clean. A very large bear came through during early hours of the morning knocking over "clean" pots and pans. The humans deterred the animal by making loud noises but the bear tolerated this common pattern and kept returning for a few hours. No food reward was claimed by the bear, which is a good thing. Upon following up on this incident, we spoke to the host who sent in the report and he mentioned that the site occupants had just left their site to go into town. Checking in on the site, we found they did not store their cooler in their vehicle upon leaving. They also had used smores sticks near their fire pit. The pots and pans that were rustled around during the incident were also still left out. We left them a notice about storing their coolers during daytime and when absent from a site.

When returning back to the office at the end of the day, another report came in about an incident at one of the trailheads, Champney Falls. A bear was not seen during the incident but there was evidence of a bear being present. Two fresh piles of scat were found as product of several food rewards (details not listed). A Saco Wildlife Biologist and the AMC trail crew member who reported it, will follow up on this later in the week.

Thursday (06/18) campground patrol was uneventful, not many people were out because this is the final week of school for most of the kids in the area. The roads and scenic areas were filled with motorcyclists, as the end of Bike Week came around. In the morning, Emily and I attended the CLE/Tripoli meeting with Law Enforcement Officers and other officials to discuss the impending renovations to Tripoli and the changes in patrolling that are now being reinforced. The area has seen criminal activity in the past, as this is the area where the "partiers" are sent so they do not cause chaos in the developed campgrounds. But none has been documented yet this season. Safety protocol was discussed for those of us patrolling this area. The road takes up three town districts, so only officials of that area can assist/ take necessary action if needed.

Friday (06/19) we prepared for overnight high elevation bird survey on Cannon Mtn. We stayed at home for the morning and packed/worked on our portfolios. We packed lightly, unfortunately we would not be tenting out. Then we met our supervisor around 1530 hrs to set up a shuttle from Lafayette Campground where we would hike out to and Cannon Aerial Tramway parking lot, where we would take the tram ride up, 4,080 ft in elevation to the concession lodge.

View of Aerial Tramway from Weather Tower, Vermont Green Mtns in the distance.

Lafayette Mountain, View from Weather Tower

Concessionaire Building View from Weather Tower; Maine in the distance

 We stayed overnight inside the lodge, not as great as tenting out but it was a cool experience and less weight for our packs. We got up at 0415 hrs on Saturday morning and headed out to the first of 20 waypoints beginning exactly at 0500 hrs. This second survey was a bit more demanding than the Greenleaf survey and required a lot more rock climbing. The Cannonballs are known for their PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) and their rocky trails which lead to Kinsman Ridge where we completed the survey points in record timing at 1020 hrs.

We hiked out along Fishin' Jimmy trail which was full of steep rock slab pitches, beautiful moss covered bog bridges (the french call them "pungeons"), and awesome running water scenery.

From the top of Cannon Mtn Rim trail, along Kinsman Ridge, down Fishin' Jimmy and out Lonesome Lake trail, a 12 mile journey! Muscles were well worked and after finishing and getting to the van I felt exhilarated. The pavement feels really odd on your feet after a long trek down rocky mountain side. Really grateful for getting a better hiking pack and for being given this chance to go out on another survey with Clara. Some new bird songs we heard were that of the Purple Finch and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two powerful little birds with a mouthful of notes.

Wild baby rescue week 3- June 16th

This week was certainly less hectic as last week, but busy none the less. On Tuesday we got in a fawn that was abandoned and infested in maggots. Despite my boss and I working on her, attempting to comb out all the eggs and maggots and give her subcutaneous fluids, she did not make it. The person that brought her in was hysterical- which was something I haven’t encountered yet. This was also my first time handling an admission. While it is easy to get emotional when animals are involved, it is also important to understand that we cannot save each and every one of them. Despite knowing this, I reassured her that we would try our best and that bringing her in is her best chance of survival. Sometimes, it is best to let people down easy. On a lighter note, a large amount of cottontails were released in the early afternoon.

On Wednesday, there was much of the usual- feeding skunks and raccoons first, and then preparing the fox food, helping finish feeding the squirrels, preparing food dishes for the inside and outside animals, and cleaning the outside enclosures. One of the groundhogs was released into a larger outdoor enclosure, which we had cleaned and prepared for him last week. We also began  doing enrichment with the foxes, which will aid in teaching them how to hunt by hiding mealworms in their enclosure. The female (daisy) caught on to this quickly, finding and eating two mealworms before I left. By the next morning all 30 worms were gone.  An extremely young fawn and a fawn that had been hit by a car were strong enough to join the rest of the fawns down at the barn, where they were able to have proper social interactions with other fawns as well as room to run and play. After they were moved, we collapsed their indoor pens and gave everything a thorough cleaning.

While giving him his afternoon feeding, I found a hard mass at the base of our baby skunk’s tail. We found that it was his fur matted with feces and formula, and it had caused a sore on his tail. After we untangled the fur, antibiotic ointment was applied to the wound. After checking on him Thursday, the sore appeared to be healing well, with no signs of inflammation or infection. In a skunk, it is easy to miss injuries on their tails due to the way they are handled- when we take them out to feed, we wrap them in a towel to prevent them from being able to spray us, meaning his tail is normally buried in a towel the entire time he is being handled. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wild Baby Rescue, Week 3

This week at Wild Baby Rescue, many new animals came to the rescue center in need of our help. These new animals included skunks, bats, a couple new groundhogs and fawns, and many more rabbits. They were all welcomed and taken care of as soon as they arrived at the facility.

I am still in charge of taking care of the groundhogs, and the new groundhogs that just arrived are quite the temperamental ones. So much so that they can't be hand fed. They're also older than the baby groundhog I have been feeding for the past two weeks. A big event happened this week in that we were able to move one of our orphaned groundhogs, Boomer, into an outdoor enclosure. Here, he will be able to snack on vegetables growing in the enclosure and learn how to bury himself for protection. He demonstrated his skill in this area one day when it rained hard. When I went to bring his food out to him, he was nestled in one of the wooden boxes that were set up for him. He seems to have taken to his new home quite nicely, and he'll stay there until it's time to release him into the wild.

The raccoon that was rescued near my home in New Jersey is really quite adorable. We came up with the name "squish monster" for him, because for the first few days he was at the facility, he was vicious. However, he's calmed down a lot and has taken nicely to hand feeding. Soon, he will be ready to join his fellow baby raccoons, and eventually be released into the wild.

We were also tasked with releasing more baby rabbits. We have a lot more rabbits to raise, so releasing these rabbits at the right time will allow us more room to work with more animals