Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance

by Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc.
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance
Give Orphaned and Injured Wildlife a Second Chance

Project Report | May 1, 2024
Wildlife Baby Restaurant: Open for Business

By Jeff wilbur | Administrator

Groundhog w/carrot
Groundhog w/carrot

Sayings are sayings for a reason. They express a perceived truth based on common experience. For example: "April showers bring May flowers." In the world of wildlife rehabilitation, our seasonal saying can best be expressed as "Springtime mating fills our waiting (room)." True to form, this year has started with a bang, and our nursery is already a cacophony of baby animal noises!

Each year is different in terms of which species seem to predominate in our nursery. Last season it was foxes, and this year it is eastern grey squirrels. Yet each year, the Sanctuary is admitting more and more animals earlier and earlier in the season. Last week alone, we admitted almost 100 new orphaned or injured animals, representing 18 unique species and 10% of our yearly total. We're roughly 30% ahead of last year's patient intakes at this time - and last year was a record year. Welcome, spring! 

Each species we care for requires a unique diet, one where we try to replicate the types of foods they would be getting in the wild. For orphaned baby mammals we use formula milk replacers that are species-specific and play a unique role in feeding young animals. These formulas are designed to closely match the unique composition of mother’s milk, to assure proper nutrition. This benefits the babies as they are easily digestible and have a higher protein efficiency ratio than over-the-counter cow milk (that can kill baby animals! Don't try rehab at home, folks). For baby birds, we use a "bird batter," which is a blended mixture of specialized formula, water, egg whites, canola oil, vitamins, calcium, and yogurt for most species. For some, we use meal worms which can be gut-loaded by feeding them specific foods tailored to the species we have in care at any given time. 

As all the babies grow, so do their diets. We transition them as much as possible to the foods that they will be finding upon their release. In the wild, different species eat a wide variety of insects and other foods. As a result, different baby birds may also digest things like earthworms or crickets more easily than mealworms because they are more similar to foods the parents may be eating. Offering multiple types of insects is a great way to diversify their diet and get all kinds of trace elements and minerals supplied to them naturally! This helps with bone growth and upkeep, feather quality, and overall robustness of health for our baby birds. The bone growth and upkeep is of particular concern because many species (Robins, Grackles, Crows, and Bluejays) that eat insects with a higher calcium amount in the wild are prone to growing crooked or weak bones that are prone to breakage in rehabilitation when fed low variance diets. 

For mammals, once the babies are weaned off of species-specific formula, we begin giving them "mush bowls:" plates consisting of soaked dog or rodent pellets, and then adding species-specific fruits, foliage, nuts, eggs, mice, rats, and vitamins. These help encourage orphaned mammal patients to begin eating on their own and practice foraging for food - behaviors we love to see as animals prepare for release!

 The bottom line? There is a lot of time and energy (and money) that goes into just the feeding aspect of animal rehabilitation. We receive no state or federal funding. Your support helps us provide these diets and the best possible care to hundreds of native animals each year. 

Hungry Wrens
Hungry Wrens
Formula feeding a squirrel
Formula feeding a squirrel
Formula feeding a mouse
Formula feeding a mouse


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Jan 2, 2024
Overwintering at the Sanctuary

By Jeff Wilbur | Administrator

Sep 5, 2023
School's in Session at the Sanctuary

By Jeff Wilbur | Administrator

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Organization Information

Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc.

Location: Shipman, VA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Jeff Wilbur
Shipman , VA United States
$17,253 raised of $50,000 goal
329 donations
$32,747 to go
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