If only we didn't need to sleep! This is something we often exclaim during the busy spring and summer at Fellow Mortals. People have asked if we know how many steps we take in a day, since we move and walk nearly non-stop for up to 19 hours during our longest shifts.
Fellow Mortals is one of the largest and busiest wildlife hospitals in the nation,. Open 365 days a year, including holidays, the animals brought to us for care stay on site from initial admit to release. Some patients' stays are relatively short; others can last more than a year. Our hospital covers nearly 5,000 square feet of purpose-built clinic space, with another four acres of specialized habitats outdoors. Preparing food, feeding babies, cleaning kennels or scrubbing pools, taking x-rays, mopping, doing laundry, returning phone calls and meeting new people--it's all in every day's routine.
Summer 2014 has been exceptionally and unusually busy for us. As I write at the peak of our season, we have over 400 animals in care of dozens of species, including ground squirrels, purple martins, rabbits, ducklings, hummingbirds, goslings, owlets, gulls and deer. Every species of animal has come in greater numbers than in years past, meaning that it takes many more people-hours to care for them all.
In addition to the over 2,000 animals who will find their way into our care this year--the majority of which will be successfully returned to the wild, at least that many more have been kept with their wild parents as a result of education and advice given to caring people who called for help when they found what they believed was an orphaned animal.
Why are we so busy? Many species of wildlife are thriving, even as habitat is lost to development, but the real reason we are busier than ever is because the number the wildlife rehabilitators has been decreasing steadily since the 'boom' of rehabilitators entering the field in the 1980's, when Fellow Mortals first opened its doors. Looking just within a 30-mile radius of our hospital, where there were once 15 licensed wildlife rehabiliators, only five remain.
We are concerned about the loss of professionals in our field, especially because awareness and concern for wildlife and the environment mean that the services rehabilitators provide are needed more than ever. While the internships we offer during the summer are vital to providing care for the hundreds of orphans brought to us, they are also very important in terms of providing an opportunity for interested people to gain exposure and experience in the field. Since 1992, 66 interns have amassed over 80,000 hours of hands-on experience with injured and orphaned wildlife through Fellow Mortals' internship program. Some of these alumni have become rehabilitators, some veterinarians, others work in zoos or aquariums and some are doing research. Regardless of their profession, they have all become advocates for wildlife and the environment.
If you're reading this report, it's because you've made a gift to support our mission, a mission that includes helping to train the wildlife rehabilitators of tomorrow.
Thank you for supporting our work.
"I have a gift for you!" exclaimed Mark Naniot of Wild Instincts, a wildlife hospital in northern Wisconsin, when he called. He had just received a newborn orphaned beaver kit from a member of the public, umbilical cord still attached. Mark knows that Fellow Mortals works regularly with beaver and that we have a single beaver in care we hope to put with another before eventual release back to the wild.
We decided to have Mark stabilize the baby at his hospital before having the little one transferred down to us, as it would involve a more than 6-hour travel time for the delicate orphan. Any newborn animal is fragile and we have found newborn beaver to be especially susceptible to complications due to inability to thermoregulate and stomach upset from change in formula, so it made sense not to add any additional stress to what an orphaned wild baby was already experiencing from being separated from its parents. One week later, after the baby had stabilized, volunteers from Wild Instincts met our volunteer at a half-way point to hand off the special patient for transport the rest of the way to Fellow Mortals for care.
Fellow Mortals has cared for over 40,000 wild animals in the last nearly 30 years, but only 7 infant beaver, making this little one a very special patient. As soon as (she) arrived, we began the process of getting her adjusted to her new caregivers and surroundings and getting her back on schedule for feedings and bathing (beaver go to the bathroom in the water and must have access to water after every feeding).
The baby has been with us nearly two weeks now and is doing quite well, having gained close to 200 grams from her admit weight and looking and acting like a healthy baby. Little bites of willow and yam are enjoyed inbetween formula feedings and her baths are getting bigger and deeper. (We haven't yet determined the sex, which will be done by x-ray when the little one is about a month old. Sex organs are internal in beaver.)
In the wild, beaver stay with their parents until they are two years old, when they leave to find territories and build lodges of their own. Anyone who has ever raised a baby beaver understands exactly why this is so, as the kits cannot be left unsupervised without getting into trouble if they venture alone into deep water. The yearling beaver are essentially mom and dad's babysitters during their time at home. Beaver family are very close-knit and this intelligent species spends hours every day in social grooming, as the animals are very tactile.
In July 2012, Fellow Mortals released another hand-raised baby who had been paired with a yearling. Today, they are doing well at the pond where they were released. We are still waiting to see if they might have had babies of their own this year. The link mentioned provides more information about their story.
Making the kind of commitment it takes to raise beaver from infants to release is only possible because of the support of special individuals and foundations who provide the funds to build the specialized habitats needed by these aquatic mammals, and the donations that help purchase the food consumed by these unique animals. One beaver will eat a pound of spinach, two large yams, an ear of corn and two apples every day while in care. The cost of food alone for one beaver in rehabilitation is nearly $5,000.
While we have large habitats with pools deep enough for diving, our dream is to build an even larger aquatic mammal habitat for this special species. We'll keep you updated as this project progresses.
Time to sign off for now, the baby beaver's next feeding is just two minutes away!
With the warmth of spring, the door literally opens to a new beginning for dozens of wild creatures who spent the winter healing. In the last couple of weeks, we have returned red-tailed hawks back to their homes, set migrating songbirds and ducks on their way to their breeding grounds and moved more animals along the path back to eventual freedom. Give yourself a pat on the back for helping to make this possible!
The first babies of the year came to Fellow Mortals as a large nest of eight 'pinkie' squirrels weighing just 2/3 of an ounce. These little ones are helpless if something happens to their nest or mom and are some of the most critical patients we see, requiring frequent and late-night feedings and strict hygiene to keep them healthy. We're happy to say that 10 days later they are all gaining weight and doing well.
After the first squirrels came our first orphaned owls, with two nestling who were injured after their nest was blown out of a tall pine tree. The babies were alone for awhile before they were found and were very hungry, as well as injured. One baby had a sprained 'ankle;' the other sustained fractures to both ulnas (a bone in the wing). Wild creatures are incredibly resilent and both little ones responded well to treatment and are healing while eating up to 12 mice each per day. They are nearly ready to join our foster owl, Alberta, who adopts the young owls who need us, providing an important role model for them as they learn to act like an owl, talk like an owl, and hunt so that they can survive when they have matured for release.
After the long harsh winter, the first babies of the year are a welcome sign of the awakening earth, filling us with anticipation for all that is to come. Every year we make a new promise to the wild ones who will need us--to provide the best nutrition, care, facilities and medical care possible, in order to give each individual a real chance to heal and grow and return to the wild where it belongs. Thanks to you, we know this is a promise we can keep.
The last few days we've been busy providing extra shelter, extra bedding, extra food. to the animals in our care outdoors. This means putting up tarps and heavy plastic over exposed areas of outside caging, giving the deer and rabbits mounds of timothy hay to curl up into (and munch if they like), providing the squirrels extra bedding to make their nest boxes cozy and putting heat pads in with the hawks and owls so that food and water stay thawed and accessible to them. It's sweet to visit the deer barn in the morning and see all the little impressions of resident wildlife who shared the warmth during the night. We know we have opossum and a stray cat who visit with the deer.
New patients arrive every day, including two screech owl siblings who were found tangled in the snow squabbling over a morsel of food, and a starving red-breasted merganser, who quickly adapted to fishing minnows out of his bowl when finally able to feed himself. Two beautiful cottontail rabbits, a male and female, were injured when they were hit by cars and suffered head trauma. They and we are fortunate that kind people took the time to rescue them when they were found injured and all are doing well at this writing.
Although we haven't yet tabulated patient information for 2013, we know there was an increase in the amount of animals we had in care, including increased numbers of both birds of prey (hawks, owls and others) and rabbits and squirrels.
Going through the individual admit records gives us a chance to remember every individual life that passed through our hands, including those who are pictured below. The little rabbit in the snow? He was raised from just one day old, after he was orphaned when his mother was killed. He was born late in the year, so is overwintering with two others. The sandhill crane was admitted starving after he accidentally stabbed a rubber grommet while feeding and his bill was rendered useless. The squirrel is one of many late babies who enjoyed Christmas morning with special treats, including dried apple on a stick, while the red-tailed hawk was released during one of our 'warm' spells, along with two great-horned owls, recovered from their injuries. The posse of common nighthawks shown at feeding time include some permanent birds and others who will be released in the spring, and the deer kissing--they live at Fellow Mortals permanently.
We can't begin to find the words to say 'thank you' for helping to make so many happy endings possible, and for helping us to continue our work--even during the harshest days of winter. May your kindness to the innocent creatures who need you warm your heart in the coldest times. Happy New Year from your Fellow Mortals, wild and human.
All you have to do is look at the faces of the interns right before releasing the hawks to freedom to see how 'success' is most easily measured in wildlife rehabilitation. We are excited when the day comes that an animal who came to us starving or injured can go home again, and know that it is 'good bye,' but once in awhile, we get to say 'hello' again...
Buddy came into our lives over three years ago, after she was found injured and starving with an injury to her mouth and jaw. At the hospital on her arrival on 3/22/09, x-rays revealed that a b.b. had lodged in the little squirrel's jaw and caused her teeth to become misaligned and maloccluded, making it impossible for her to eat. Another had just missed her spine.
Buddy spent nearly two years in rehabilitation. The pellet’s proximity to one eye made it impossible to remove, but regular teeth clipping gradually brought Buddy's teeth into alignment and she grew plump and beautiful once she was able to feed herself. In the fall of 2011, we opened the door to her cage and Buddy left captivity to find her place in the wild. Since Fellow Mortals has fox squirrels on site and we hoped to monitor her condition, we gave her a nest box near to the hospital in a lone oak.
We didn’t see Buddy for several weeks after release and of course we worried—then one day in November of 2011 we were excited to see Buddy in the courtyard helping herself to the treats we put out daily for the birds, squirrels and rabbits.
Buddy lived in the 'wilds' of Fellow Mortals for over two years, until the injury that initially brought her to us brought her back into care. We will always be grateful that she had the opportunity to live a life of her own choosing, and feel so privileged that—when she was given the chance to leave, she chose to spend the rest of her life with us. She was never tame, never allowed us to approach too closely, yet we shared our lives.
The rare experience of being able to follow our patients after release occurs every so often, and gives us hope that many of the animals we never see again are also living long, happy lives in the wild.
Thank you for your gifts which provide the place that makes these stories possible.
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