The week in one word: BUSY. As the animals we’re raising are getting older, larger, more mature and closer to being released, they need more mental stimulation as well as “training” in skills they will need in order to survive in the wild. I mentioned all the enrichment we’ve done in my last post, but I will give a short summary: The raccoons are still getting bowls of water, and our singleton raccoon got some extra entertainment by having to figure out how to unscrew the top of a baby bottle to get to a tasty treat. The foxes get their bag of meat, live and dead fish, and this week something new! The skunks get bowls of earthworms, and the squirrels get antler chews and branches. The opossums get hammocks to play on, and finally, the outdoor woodchucks get a digging box, while the indoor ones get gnarly branches and tasty herbs as snacks. The fox’s new enrichment item this week was a “meatsickle”- chunks of meat and/or fish frozen into blocks of ice, then tossed into their ponds. These were a huge success, with the foxes having to fish them out of the water, wrestle each other for the prize, and chew on it for quite a while to get to their treat. It also helps keep them cool in the balmy 90 degree weather we’ve been having.
The diets of the animals are also changing as they are getting older, evolving from formula to soft solids to diets similar to what they would be eating in the wild. The foxes are getting a mixture of chicken gizzards (or boiled thighs), soft-boiled eggs, peaches, cherries, and fish. Squirrels went from being hand fed specially made formula to eating peanuts, sunflower seeds, apples, cucumbers, and watermelon out of dishes. The groundhogs are eating almost the same thing as the squirrels, however, they do not get sunflower seeds, they get a large amount of lettuce, and in order to help them pack on the pounds for hibernation, they still get a bowl of formula in the morning. The baby opossums are getting a mixture of formula, soaked cat chow, baby food (meat, veggies and fruit) and yogurt. The fawns are still getting their bottles, but they are also beginning to forage, as well as eat pellets and hay. Because the raccoons are still extremely young, they are still getting formula mixed with yogurt and baby food.
This week we got in a few new animals, including two very young opossums, a chipmunk, a fawn with a head injury due to a car accident, and an adult groundhog who had also apparently been hit by a car. They opossums are doing well, as is the groundhog who should be ready to release very shortly. The fawn was being kept in the nursery, and as a result of his head injury, continuously walks in circles. A young adult female fox was also admitted with severe wounds on her hind end, fleas, ticks, and mange. Her wounds were cleansed and treated with antibiotics, and the parasites were removed. She has made remarkable progress! Her wounds are healing extremely well, she is eating and drinking by herself, and she has gained a little weight. She should be ready for release in the coming weeks.