Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wild baby rescue week 11 (August 11th)

This was my final week here at Wild Baby Rescue, and it was almost as crazy as the first week! We had over 40 baby grey squirrels come in. Squirrels, in case anyone doesn’t know, have two breeding seasons, one in early summer and one in late summer. More than half of the new babies arrived as pinkies, with the oldest only being a couple weeks old. We also got in some more interesting animals- flying squirrels! There was one adult who had evidently been poisoned, as well as four pinkies. Seeing the webbing between their limbs even at this young age was very interesting. 

The fawns had their last bottles this week, and are now eating entirely on their own. Most of them have either lost their spots or are in the process of shedding them out. The foxes and skunks were planned for release in the coming week.

The baby opossums were all eating out of bowls and growing quickly; some of the older ones in their pre-release enclosures will be released in the coming weeks. Several rabbits were released, and now the nursery is filled to the brim with squirrels and opossums.

Thursday night was my last shift at the center, and it was very bittersweet. While I will not miss having to drive over an hour every day, I already miss getting to take care of all the animals. It was an outstanding experience- I learned more than I ever expected to, and had a wonderful time. I will miss the animals and my coworkers, and will never forget this internship. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Eleven

Tuesday (08/04) we were invited to go electrofishing with the Forest Fisheries Biologist on a survey section of the Wild Ammonusac River. We caught 83 fish in total, out of which I caught two! Because this was such a low sample count and also because we didn’t have enough battery power to keep a consistent voltage, we only completed two runs instead of three. Fortunately, the population estimate curve from this depletion sampling would be significant enough to provide data. Out of the many Brook Trout spawn, we also collected two Brown Bullheads, which are freshwater catfish. They have barbs along their dorsal fin and pectoral fins that they erect for defense. We were told not to handle any of the fish, mainly for the technicalities of the bullheads but, to develop better netting skills. I held the bucket that collected all the specimens and followed the shocker down a 100 meter corridor in hip waders. It wasn’t as successful a sample as expected but interesting data was still collected and I gained a lot more knowledge about fisheries surveying methods and techniques.

Wednesday (08/05) our last opportunity to do some bat work for the N. Long-eared with one of the bio techs. We travelled 1.5 hrs to one of the stands located in N. Chatham, ME. Part of the White Mountain National Forest flows into a portion of Maine just west of Fryeburg. We had to travel down a forest service access road and realized that the culverts were washed out so we decided to park the vehicle and walk in. On our trek in through high grasses and ferns, we had to be careful of the tiny toads that were everywhere. Once we entered the woodline, we used the GPS, map and compass to navigate towards the two sites (34 & 37) within stand 25. Where we mount the Pettersson detector can be anywhere within the stand but the two sites must be 200 meters away from each other. We found two suitable down sloping corridors with dense, low canopy. We recorded the orientation details, took our set-up photos and made our way out, counting 13 moose calf scat piles as we went.

Thursday (08/06) was All Employee Day held at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. The SCA, YEL crew, and interns were all acknowledge for our diligence this season. We were showed multiple videos about professional careers. During the awards ceremony, those working under the federal government (5yrs, 10yrs, 15 years etc.) received recognition, a certificate, a pin, and a sweatshirt! Then we had mini workshops for “Resume building” and “Taking your career to the next level”. Many people shared their stories about how they began their career with the Forest Service, which was a great perspective to consider in my own professional journey. Then we had a huge barbeque with lots of food. Following the cook-out we had district jeopardy that showed everybody’s competitive side and actually, how much each district depends on one another to complete similar goals.

Friday (08/07) was our last day with the White Mountain National Forest Service. In the morning, our supervisor went over our resumes with us and gave us advice about navigating through the hiring process with federal careers. We received a Forest Service mug and “Bear Poop” chocolates as a parting gift and then we had pizza for a goodbye lunch. As I was giving everybody their cards, I hit a wall of realization and gratefulness. Departing is definitely a reality check and helps with the internalizing process. With everyone’s goodbyes and sincere recognition, I realize now how important of a role I had for the forest, that I was a great outlet for not only the success of the Forest Service, but for the public and also the Black Bears. This time last year, they were trapping a bear in Hancock Campground and I had just completed my first actual hazing procedure to deter and safe a juvenile bear. I am filled with gratitude and a heavy heart for having to leave my mentors and such a beautiful place. 

Wild baby rescue week 10: (August 4th)

As the summer progresses and the animals grow up, there are less and less events to report on at Wild Baby Rescue. The fawns have had their temporary ID tags removed, and they have moved into a larger pasture. They no longer go into the barn at night, and are only getting one bottle in the morning. They also get hay and sweet feed, in addition to anything they graze in their enclosure. A few of them have already lost their spots, and the rest of the fawns’ are quickly fading.  One of the groundhogs was released, as well as one of the squirrels.

The nursery is now home to a large amount of rabbits, pinky squirrels, and opossums. We also still have the young adult fox indoors for the time being. Once the kits in the outside enclosures are released, she will be moved to one of their enclosures until she is fully recovered from her injuries. An influx of baby squirrels is expected in the coming weeks. The youngest skunk (Esmeralda) has fully recovered from her pneumonia, and is no longer in an incubator. The opossums are growing quickly, and many of them are in their outdoor enclosures or will be moved soon.

On Monday, we attended a lecture on zoonotic diseases. We were taught how to properly sanitize and disinfect, protect ourselves for diseases, which animals carry which diseases, symptoms of each ailment, and how to treat them. Many diseases were covered, including rabies and Lyme. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wild Baby Rescue, Week 10

This week at Wild Baby Rescue, the groundhog Boomer who was here for a long time was released. I was especially proud of this moment because he was my responsibility most of the time, and I am happy to see that he's grown up and become a big healthy groundhog. Hopefully, he'll be able to find his way around in the wild and find a nice place to settle down and make a burrow. Skittles, the other groundhog that I was in charge of, is now moved to an outside cage. There, she can run around and dig whenever she wants, and it grants her much more freedom than an inside cage. She seems much happier now that she has more room to herself.

The baby opossums are growing up nicely as well. They are now all in larger cages, except for the smallest ones. Everyone still eats out of dishes, so there's no need to hand-feed them. Their food is a combination of yogurt, baby food meat, fruit, and vegetable, cat chow and formula. This combination of ingredients provides just the right amount of nutrients for these guys so that they can grow and stay healthy. Some of the opossums have grown big enough to be put into outside cages. This makes their feeding and maintenance much easier and prepares them for life in the wild.

 We have an abundance of baby cottontails at the facility. These rabbits are very common in this part of the country, and breed 3-4 times per year with an average kit size of 5 babies. This means that if the mother is ever killed or taken, there are a lot of babies that are orphaned. Since one female rabbit can have up to 35 babies every year, depending on population sizes and temperature, it's no surprise that we have this many baby cottontails to take care of. Nearly all of them are being hand-fed, and they should be large enough to release soon. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wild baby rescue week 9 (July 28)

This week was fairly uneventful- we got in a few pinky squirrels and bunnies, but that’s about it. All but the two youngest skunks have been weaned off of formula, and they are scheduled to be released next week. The younger two will be kept until this fall, when they will be released onto the property. One of the groundhogs was released, and the younger one was put in her outdoor enclosure. The foxes will also (hopefully) be released next week! The fawns are now only getting one bottle a day.

As one can imagine, there is a much lighter workload now that the animals are nearing release. Instead of hand feeding and cleaning incubators in the nursery, much of my time here is spent preparing food and enrichment, feeding the animals and cleaning enclosures. As more and more get released, we will be cleaning out the enclosures and organizing and storing all the bowls and enrichment items for next spring.

There has been a recent influx of baby rabbits, which all need to be carefully hand fed. In addition to the rabbits, we still have a large amount of opossums, one squirrel that’s almost ready to go outside, one skunk, and several pinky squirrels. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Ten

Headed back to patrol on Wednesday (07/29) we filed some incident reports to cover the specific happenings at Hancock from the previous Thursday. In office, we took inventory of hazing equipment and refilled hazing kits complete with bird banger, cartridges, blanks, eyewash bottle, bear pepper spray, safety glasses, rock bottle, whistle, and air horns.

We drove through Hancock and spoke with the Host to make certain there were no more incidents that happened while we were off. Then we headed over to follow up with Fourth Iron Tentsite. About 1/5th of a mile walk in we came in with all of our hazing gear in a backpack and began checking in with the occupied sites at 1415 hrs. As we made it to the backside sites, a young gentlemen approached us running and asked if we worked here, there was a bear in his campsite. We ran over to tentsite 8 saw a juvenile bear (~1.5 years old) pulling a garbage bag towards a tree. With intial intensity we began shouting at him "Go away bear!", arms in the air, advancing on him to push him into the woods. He immediately took defense climbing up an double-trunked Maple and ricocheted between the two trunks 'til he was about 20 feet up. We were still yelling at him throwing rock bottles at the tree to scare him down. He stayed there for a good five minutes, so we got our vests on and suited up with all of the aforementioned equipment.

We finally got a hold of the air horns and the bird banger. I sounded off the air horn, still yelling, while Emily loaded the bird banger. He descended from the tree and walked into the woodline, looking back at us every couple of feet. We followed him into the forest and shot off three rounds of the pyrotechnics. We planned to stay at the site until 1730 or until the Saco district biologist showed up. The second time a bear entered the site it appeared smaller and quickly ran away directly after I sounded off the airhorn. I approached the bear trying to pressure it deeper into the woods. Lost sight of the smaller bear but saw a larger bear following the small one towards the river, through the raspberry thickets. Emily loaded and cocked her gun and shot off two rounds. Where she was at the other corner of the campsite, she saw the juvenile. We hazed what appeared to be three individuals into the woods. The adult bear and probably this years cub headed towards the river and the juvenile went deeper into the forest. The juvenile returned another 3 times after the first deterrence, alternating his entrance at each side of campsite 8. 
He was a very stubborn and opportunistic bear, definitely triggered by the opening and closing of the bear box and the aroma of cooking food. Because this lack of fear and conditioned behavior is generational, the juvenile must have learned from his mother. Seeing this year's cub with the adult, but the juvenile on a solo mission to forage, I suspect that the mother has pushed out the juvenile from her care, as the juvenile has matured enough to fend for himself. The cubs only stay with their mother for the first year of their lives. His persistent, bold behavior communicates that he is trying to claim his dominance in the hierarchy. We will keep priority on Fourth Iron Tentsite throughout this last week of our patrol. 

Thursday (07/30) we visited Fourth Iron again and stayed for about two hours. checking all the sites for proper food storage, speaking to a lot of occupants and visitors about the juvenile bear from the day before, and walking perimeters of the site and woodlines. The bear did not return. We drove back towards the Kanc and made contact with Passaconway, Jigger Johnson, and Hancock, leaving food storage notices at unoccupied sites that had coolers visible. 

Friday (07/31) we did the same patrol/drive-thrus around Hancock and Passaconway and then headed up to Fourth Iron. Upon entering we found a problem site with five coolers out in the open, bear box not secured, cans/trash everywhere and food left out on the table. 


The occupants were across the beach sunbathing, so we called them over to take care of the mess. They were compliant but were spoken to by us the day before and also by a Saco Forest Protection Officer that same morning. We made contact with five out of the eight sites about food storage and the bear issue. We spent about 2 hours there and didn't encounter the juvenile bear, so we started walking back to the vehicle. Along the trail we stopped to have lunch on the rocks near the river. Sure enough, as soon as we opened our lunchboxes, the juvenile was crossing the river. We threw on our gear and tried to block him off from the trail. We warned people to stay where they were on the beach so as not to get in the path of the bear. I shot off a pyrotechnic and he retreated to the other side of the ridge. We tried to pressure him back across the river so he was not near the campsites, yelling and sounding the air horn the whole time. We lost sight of him for a moment and about 50 yards away from us he crossed the trail into the woods. We followed him but ceased fire and the air horns. We wanted to get closer so we would have a good distance to pepper spray him but we never got close enough. He took off into the forest line on the other side of the campsites, so we stayed around because we knew he would be back. We made contact with Saco district station and they informed us that the camp would be closed the next morning. We let the occupants know that night was camp at your own risk and everyone must leave tomorrow. We made it back to headquarters a little later than expected and made contact with Saco biologist about the whereabouts of the bear.

Saturday (08/01) was our last day of patrol through the Kanc and we ended at the northern campgrounds, Zealand and Sugarloaf I&II, where there were only a small number of food storage violations. We went back to head quarters to clean out the vehicle, laminate signs, and get our equipment for the following Tuesday (08/04) when we will be electrofishing!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wild Baby Rescue, Week 9

This week at Wild Baby Rescue, we are beginning to see the baby animals mature and grow. They are becoming more independent, which they will need to be to survive in the wild. One of our fawns, Delta, was the first one of our fawns to lose his spots. This change, interestingly, isn't due to age or maturity, but due to genetics. It was great to see that the fawns are growing up nicely.

 Many of the animals have been moved outside, like the raccoons, some opossums, and skunks, but many others are still in the nursery. These animals still require a few feedings a day, but we are giving them food in dishes and bowls so that we do not have to hand feed them. It's always good to see baby animals start to wean off of hand feeding. This makes the job less stressful for us, and it is a very important milestone for the animals.

Skittles, the baby groundhog that I am raising, is currently eating nicely out of a bowl. She is a very neat eater and will most likely be moved to an outside cage early next week. I am still feeding her formula, but I have added some fruit to her formula so that she can get the nutrients that she needs. I also give her a small bowl with lettuce, peanuts, watermelon, apple, zucchini, and banana. All of these fruits and vegetables are going to be essential to her diet when she is out in the wild. I also give her some kale and basil, which she loves to eat.

Now that the raccoons are outside, I am in charge of cleaning and feeding them. There are two cages that have raccoons in them, and they are very spacious with lots of objects to climb on. This is very good for the raccoons because they need to be able to climb trees to escape predators. They also have big pools of water to cool down in when the weather gets hot. Each cage gets cleaned twice a day, and gets fed a big bowl of food. I give them watermelon, banana, grapes, peaches, and a handful of dog chow. This kind of diet is what is natural for raccoons, as they are omnivorous.

Even with all of these animals growing up, we are still getting lots of baby animals that we need to take care of. The most recent editions are tiny baby "pinky" squirrels that are only a few days old. These babies require special care, and don't usually survive outside the nest, but we are doing our best to keep them full, hydrated, and healthy. We are also still getting in lots of baby opossums. We try to feed them from dishes, though, and they usually take to the dishes quite nicely. Hopefully, we'll be releasing some of the older animals soon to make room for the maturing younger animals.