A glimps into the world of wildlife rehabilitation…the world through a rehabber's eyes.

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There’s a bobcat on my patio/in my yard! How do I get rid of it?!


Okay guys, fair warning, this is gonna be a long one!

I get asked this question on a regular basis. My response is always the same. I ask the concerned party why they want this animal removed from it’s home. They cite numerous fears for their reasoning. “Won’t it attack my pets? Won’t it attack my children/grand children?” The answer is no. No, a bobcat is not a blood thirsty monster waiting to pounce on the first human it sees. No, it does not want to work hard enough to try to catch your dog/cat.

Of course, common sense in good measures is always reasonable when dealing with any wildlife. Cats and dogs should always be supervised outside. Just remember, the house you chose to live in because of it’s beautiful trees, manicured grass, and great lot size (not to mention the great pond with a walking path just around the corner) are all the same reasons that the bobcat chose it to be her home too.

Here’s a little food for thought. Chances are, her and her family were there first (and have been for generations! They thank you for that beautiful hardwood deck with the open bottom, the great storage shed with a concrete floor that makes it feel soo much cooler in these hot Texas summers, that wonderful privacy fence lined with dense, low growing shrubs that offers so much security and seclusion, and the absolutely inviting koi pond with the bench swing that you love so much! They thank you for providing them with protection, security, habitat for them and their prey, and a steady water source!).

Just remember, wildlife is attracted to the same things we are. Privacy, safety, food, water, and shelter. The only way to prevent wildlife from living in “your space” is to move into a concrete bunker…and even then, I’m sure the geckos and spiders will be more than happy to hang out at your place! It is impossible and impractical to remove all wildlife from “your territory”. Instead, what I personally strive to do is encourage wildlife that are beneficial for my goals while simultaneously discouraging wildlife that does the opposite.

Here’s a fun example. How much money do you spend on watering and fertilizing your beautiful lawn and landscaping every month? A lot, huh? Have you considered inviting creatures that already specialize in landscaping? Providing native bees and butterflies with nectar plants (and food plants for caterpillars!) along side your carefully selected asthetic plants will attract these guys to your yard and keep your landscaping looking beautiful year after year. These guys will pollinate your flowers and help you cultivate your garden! Providing plants like white cabbage and passion vine will just keep them coming back as the butterflies look for food plants to lay their eggs on and nectar plants to keep their energy up!

I have an irregular awkward little spot in my yard that is hard to do anything with….it’s hard to mow due to it’s odd shape, it’s quite far away from the sprinkler system, and from the house making it hard to water, so instead of trying to make it look lush and green like the rest of my lawn, I plowed it up, and turned it into a low water butterfly/veggie garden. I surrounded my nectar plants with food plants for my caterpillars, and sprinkled them amongst my veggies and fruits. It is never touched by pesticides or fertilizers (or any other harsh chemicals) and It works beautifully!

Want another example? How many of you out there pay for pest control services? Incorporating self sustaining habits into your lifestyle could help you live more comfortably with the wildlife around you! I live on 3/4 of an acre, in a heavily wooded neighborhood (in my yard alone, there are over 100 trees). I also keep chickens, compost green materials from my kitchen, and keep cords of firewood outside for winter. This can attract some unwanted wildlife in the form of rats, mice, snakes, and roaches. My solution? provide habitat for my local opossums! I love opies! And I would love to tell you why!

Most people see a Virgina opossum, and they describe them as pointy nosed, beady eyed,naked tailed, over-grown rats. I have to say, I can’t really disagree…they aren’t the most beautiful creatures out there, but I LOVE seeing them in my yard! (and if you give them a chance, those beady eyes may just grow on ya a little!). Isn’t Willow just darling?

Remember those creepy crawlies I mentioned a minute ago? Rats, mice, snakes, and roaches? Can you guess what some of an opie’s favorite foods are? You got it. SO, by providing plenty of sheltered spots and a bowl of water on my back porch for my ugly little friends, I cut down on large numbers of the afore-mentioned! Best of all, I didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for some guy in a haz-mat suit to spray all kinds of harsh chemicals all over the yard and house where kids and animals play! WIN!

BONUS: you people that fear snakes, pay attention! the only snake venom that affects opossums is coral snake venom! Opossums are IMMUNE to snake venom! Translation: Opossums can eat almost every snake found in Texas.

I may or may not have mentioned it on this blog before, but as well as being a behavioral specialist for The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch, I work as an Animal Services Officer for a major city in North Texas. I am certified by the state of Texas to carry the title of Officer. The benefit of wearing two hats is the ability to tell you what happens on both sides of the story! That, and I often get to give the wildlife that ends up at our shelter a fresh start. I don’t like seeing healthy adult wildlife come into the shelter. There is no reason for it. At best, it is frivolously exposing these animals un-necessary stress, and every disease known to animal kind. There is one upside for me though! I get to release lots of healthy adult opossums (after a period of quarantine and conditioning! Don’t try this without proper training…survival rates for animals of any species that are nothing more than relocated are abysmal, and cause a multitude of other problems in the habitat if not done properly) at my house to chow down on the excess of rats and snakes that love living in my wooded area!

Okay, okay, some of you are thinking “I don’t want that ugly disease carrying animal in my yard!”…admit it, you’re thinking it! Well, let me put a wide spread opossum myth to rest for you. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, opossums are not carriers for rabies! Let me say that again. Opossums are NOT carriers for rabies! Now, some of you may be thinking “what does she know? she’s just a dirty, tree hugging, dog catching hippy! Any nocturnal animal active during the day must be sick, probably with rabies!”

Well, I do raise chickens, I compost, I recycle, and I do love animals, but by no means am I uneducated in my profession! Remember the pesky state of Texas? they keep harping on me to know stuff for some reason! Don’t believe me? Our very good friends at the DFW Wildlife Coalition agree! http://www.dfwwildlife.org/opossum.html Arm yourself with education! ❤

Let me temper my previous statement by saying that there have been known cases of rabies in opossums, but they are exceedingly rare. I want to make sure you absorb all of what I am saying, so I will repeat. Cases of rabies in opossums are so exceedingly rare that they cannot be considered carriers for the virus. Known cases of rabies in opossums are under bizarre circumstances in which the virus has been introduced directly into the brain tissue necessary for the virus to replicate. The reason? Well, we aren’t quite sure, but our best guess is that the opossum’s primitive makeup (it’s nervous system [ the channels the virus would take to enter the brain ] is not as developed and connected as modern mammals) and oddly low body temperature actually offers it some manor of protection from the virus. Actually, for this same reason, opossums are not really carriers of any diseases…they even enjoy immunity from dog and cat ailments like distemper! Not a bad trade off for such a short lifespan!

Key points! Pay your opies in shelter and water, and they will do your clean-up for you! Their services are effective for long term use, and incorporate all natural ingredients, free of charge!

What if the wildlife you are dealing with isn’t a prey animal but a predator? Well, I have examples for that scenario too! First, ask yourself why you want that animal removed. For me, it was a fox. She was absolutely gorgeous! Stunningly beautiful coat, very large individual. She had taken up residence under my shed. Over the course of several months, she thinned down my flock of 15 chickens down to four! I couldn’t let my girls free range and forage anymore due to this very persistent predator. The most frustrating part was that she was killing three or four chickens at a time, just to kill them. She was not eating them, just playing with them. The final straw was when she swiped my tiny frizzled bantie named Karma, and then took some chickens from my neighbors…young kids that I had given some chickens to. She had to go.

Why did I wait four months to do something about this animal? It was spring time, and I feared that she had kits under my shed that would perish without their mother. Fair is fair, and I had invited her into my yard by providing her with the perfect den, and easy access to food and water for her kits. But, now it was time for her to go! I could not have her ruining my young neghbor’s experience of raising backyard chickens!

What did I do? Well, I trapped my fox, and did something I am all too familiar with…I strapped on some elbow pads, and crawled under that shed! It was not a pleasant experience, but I found that my darling fox was not providing for kits. So, I sealed off the bottom of my shed using 3/4inch hardware cloth, a staple gun, and some landscaping bricks to make it look pretty, sprung the trap, and watched that beautiful animal bound away. I have not seen her since, and have not lost any chickens since then.

We humans seem to have this rather deep rooted fear of anything predator. Most of the predators we deal with here in Texas are going to be no bigger than a bobcat or a fox. At the largest, they are around twenty pounds…that’s about the size of a cocker spaniel if you need a size reference. The chances of an animal that small being tenacious enough to take on a kid or a dog are extremely minimal. Bobcats (and foxes) are not terribly brave, especially not the ones we deal with here in urban settings. They would not waste the energy on something so large. Bunnies and squirrels (and the occasional chicken! grumble grumble!) are more their speed.

So just sit back, relax, and enjoy your urban wildlife! If it isn’t being a nuisance, get it to work to your advantage (or just enjoy the eye candy!), if it IS, talk to us! We can help you find practical ways to resolve the problem! Not every wild animal needs to be “fixed” by a rehabber!

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Plant sale continues!


Thanks to everyone who has participated in our charity plant sale and helped to raise desperately needed funding to support all of the wonderful animals in our care! Each and every one of the animals that come into our facility have been granted a second chance by wonderful people like you who support our cause. Without you, none of these animals would even have the dream of becoming wild and free again one day. Many of them are in critical condition, and in need of a lot of very expensive treatment. Every penny counts!

We still have a huge selection of fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers to choose from! Come on out, support our native wildlife, and beautify your garden! Don’t need any plants for your garden, but want a way to help out? Of course, donations are always graciously accepted and more appreciated than you know! We are also in need of great volunteers that can help clean up and organize our special events, and make sure our animals are provided with the best quality care while they are with us. Ask us about volunteer opportunities!

charity plant sale!


Charity plant sale benefiting Texas wildlife! 11605 County Road 2312, Terrell Tx Saturday and Sunday! April 21st – 22nd, and April 28th – 29th, 10am to dusk. Plants, herbs, tomatos, custom raised beds, green houses, and more! Come check out our wildlife!

WREN classes starting again!


Okay, I can admit it, our experimental expedited WREN class did not go over as we had planned! So, after some re-planning, we are again preparing to hold new full length WREN classes! Interested in becoming a permitted rehabber? Curious about wild animal care? Or do you just want some really good knowledge? Well, come join us for a brand new session of WREN classes hosted by The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch!

We have not offered classes for a while, and the demand has not slowed. Space is extremely limited, and we already have quite a few students on our roster, so if you are interested, please contact us immediately! Classes will be held from February 11 to March 31st, 10am-4pm. Tuition cost will be $350 per student.

You can contact us at kari@crosstimberswildlife.org OR getwild@crosstimberswildlife.org

Register for WREN here! http://crosstimberswildlife.org/wren_class_registration Remember, registration is on a first come, first served basis, and space is limited! Once this class has been filled, no further registrations will be accepted!

Long time no see


Well guys, I know it’s been a while since you have heard from me here on the WCCR official blog. My little car died, and my old classic can’t make that journey often meaning I have had no means of getting out to the ranch as of late, so updates on goings on has been a little tough to say the least! Crosstimbers has managed to hang on through the new year. We are still in desperate need of donations and volunteers, and still in danger of having to close our doors, but we have so much work left to do! We aren’t ready for this ride to end yet!

Theo has gotten big, and so has his buddy Valentine. Theo has given is some very exciting insight into his world, and taught us some really cool new things. He has also been hard at work teaching others really cool things! What a wonderful little ambassador he is turning out to be!

Most of last year’s babies are now out in the pre-release pens, playing hard, and teaching each other to be wild! Little Valentine is not releasable due to some balance issues, and will fill his role as Theo’s companion very well. We are looking forward to a wonderful new year for WCCR, and are attempting to offer our wildlife rehabilitation class in the near future. As always, if you are interested, drop me a line! I would love to hear from you! kari@crosstimberswildlife.org

BOBCAT SEEN IN YARD!


As part of our efforts to assist in dispelling the myth that bobcats are evil aggressive creatures, we have been holding live animal presentations on urban and rural bobcats. We participated at a Master Naturalist presentation recently, and mused on the odd grip media has on our psyche. What do you feel when you hear the word bobcat? Does it instill fear? Do you think of aggressive, dangerous wild animals?

What about the word raccoon? Impish, playful? Cute? The media has a lot to do with this perception. When was the last time you saw a headline that screamed “Squirrel seen in yard!” or “Raccoon seen in yard!”? Probably never. However, the minute a bobcat is seen, it is splashed all over the headlines.

Anyone who has spent time reading this blog has heard this before 🙂 and really, it isn’t the point of this post. I wanted to share a video with you, sent to me from one of the people to attended our urban/rural bobcat presentation and got to meet little Theo in person for his very first live animal presentation.

She keeps a wildlife camera set up on her property, and what she saw was a bobcat coming to eat! WordPress won’t let me upload a video without an annual fee, and we are currently locked out of our youtube account! So, you will have to go to Facebook to see it. Check it out! It’s pretty cool to see a wild bobcat doing what wild bobcats do!

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Wildlife-Center-at-Crosstimbers-Ranch/359268634605

 

Theo’s really big day!!!


Today, we made bobcat history! For the first time ever, we did an educational presentation, with a live bobcat! Two to be precise. Including our dear Theo. He did WONDERFUL! We are all so proud of him!

NBRR has put together a fantastic presentation on rural vs. urban bobcats, and we are working on integrating an element that anchors the presentation in reality by having a live education bobcat. The Master Naturalists Group asked us to present.

Theo was very good through the whole presentation, and was a real show stopper afterwards. He really helped bring the North American Bobcat to the forefront of people’s minds. The information that Valeri presented is stuff that has never been studied before. Just like the Murphy, Tx meeting. We had some wonderful questions.

Theo kept the energy flowing through tactile and visual experiences that reinforced the information in the presentation. Our little education hopeful is well on his way to becoming a fantastic presentation animal.

Theo may be on his way to changing how we as a society handles and associated with our native wildlife. What an amazing little guy! We hope that he and our other educational hopefuls will continue to be an ambasador for his species, and help to change people’s perceptions.

Baby season: The conclusion?


Apparently not! After a long bout of silence, we are again getting calls on baby bobs! Two from Plano, and a confiscation from Houston. His name is Peter, he is 4 months, and severely imprinted. At this age, the chances of reversing the imprint is not very good. Crosstimbers sees lots of bobcats every year. Many of them come in imprinted. This means they are accustom to, and even enjoy human interactions. If you have been following this blog, you know how dangerous that is for a predator which the public perceives as dangerous or aggressive.

It is all about public perceptions, and has precious little to do with the actual animal. Every year, a few imprinted bobcats end up at Crosstimbers. often, they are young; young enough to still have a chance at becoming wild again. Bobcats are wild animals, and they are wired to stay that way.  However, they are also social.  A wild animal hard wired to be a wild animal in a captive environment is not a good combination. The most dangerous animals we work with are the ones raised by people.

That is not to say that Peter is dangerous per se, but he has been played with in a very rough manner. He is accustomed to scratching and biting in play like a house cat…the difference is, Peter is going to be around 20+ pounds. That means we are going to have to do some major work with him. At Crosstimbers, we allow the cat to tell us when it is ready to be wild again. Some day, Peter may surprise us, and show us that he is ready. We shall see 🙂

Critical Times


Since the beginning of the year, WCCR has been struggling to keep it’s doors open, and struggling to continue accepting animals that need us. We have held on for what seems like a very long time. We vainly attempted to raise significant amounts of money to purchase our current location, or to help us move, and build cages without success.

I have tried to buy multiple properties to house us, and so far have been unsuccessful in that venture as well. It seems like every offer we make falls through for one reason or another. I fear that we may not be able to hold on much longer. The economy is still slumping, and donors have become exceedingly scarce. Running the largest wildlife center in the region out of our own pockets, and with a completely volunteer staff is nearly impossible. We have been watching other wildlife organizations close their doors left and right this season, and we are trying not to follow suit. Our cries for help and support have fallen on deaf ears, and we are at the mercy of time. Time is not on our side anymore.

The animal we have chosen to continue accepting is the North American Bobcat. We are one of a very small handful of supporters available for this amazing predator, and if we close our doors, they lose a significant player in their protection and advocacy. Not only will they suffer, but our education program will be brought to it’s knees. I have been saying for months that we are struggling, and always by some small miracle, we are able to hang on a while longer, but we cannot keep this up. I need more time. I am sure I can find the right property, but I need time. And time costs money. Lots of it. Lots of money that we do not have.

We have had some amazing successes this year, breaking our record in the numbers of babies we work with, pulling little Theo back from the brink over and over again, and some really great release stories. Do you remember the two siblings trapped by cock fighters? Tormented and traumatized, until they were awarded to us? They tasted freedom again; they were delivered from the evils of people through the compassion of better people. Wonderful people. People just like you who made their freedom possible again. The release of these lucky souls can be seen through the link on the upper right hand corner of your screen. It is entitled “Crosstimbers Bobcat Release”.

All of these stories exist because this organization exists. But we cannot keep existing without a little help. Rehabbing a baby bobcat costs an average of $2,000 or more. Right now, we have more than 20 in our release program alone. That is not including the non-release program cats. WCCR wants to continue saving and protecting these wonderful cats, but we need your help. As little as $20 makes a huge impact for a 501(c)3 like ours.

I know people hate being asked for money, but my mother always told me that all you can do is ask. And so, I am asking. I have been trying to raise $5,000 for Crosstimbers, and so far have been pitifully unsuccessful. So, my dear readers, I am asking. Can you contribute $20 dollars to my cause? I want nothing more in the world than to see Crosstimbers spread it’s wings. I believe in this organization, it’s goals, and it’s values. The only way to ensure the success of our planet is through supporting organizations that put environment, conservation, biodiversity, and education at the forefront of every aspect of their organization. If you can find it in your heart and your wallet to part with $20 dollars, it would mean the world to one of the most amazing grassroots organizations in Texas.

http://www.causes.com/causes/577450-the-wildlife-center-at-crosstimbers-ranch

Familial structures and other research projects


The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch is in a unique position to conduct research on a species that very little is known about. Yes, you can find out all kinds of information about bobcats. Just take a look on the internet. Use any browser you fancy. There will be plenty of web pages on the bobcat, but they will all basically be the same one or two page information sheet on “felis rufus” or “lynx rufus”.

The difference is, WCCR sees 60-70 bobcats annually. Many of them come in very young, often their eyes are not even opened. They also come in as litters, singles, and older cubs as well as adults. It gives us a wonderful perspective and insight into their personalities, habits, and social structures.  The best way to learn more about a species is to observe large numbers of individuals of the species. WCCR is using our unique position as an opportunity to do exactly that.

One of the things we are supremely interested in is the social structure of bobcats. So far, we have found that rural bobcats act extremely different from urban bobcats. Not only this, but that these cats express far different behavior than one might expect. For example, Pixie and Quincey. Both of these cats are hopefuls for an education program. Pixie, a young female kit and Quincey a nearly two year old male entering into sexual maturity.

I caught Pix and Quinc in one of their regular grooming sessions. Pixie and Quincey spend their time cuddling and playing. Quincey mothers and loves on Pixie as if he was her daddy. He grooms her, removes fleas, and makes sure she is squeaky clean.

You can’t tell from this series of pictures, but Pixie is currently about half Quincey’s size. One might expect a young male coming into sexual maturity to be unkind or even aggressive to a young kit like Pixie, but years of observing and recording activities just like this one has shown the staff here at WCCR that this just isn’t the case. There is still so much that we do not know about these amazing and elusive animals. Who would have guessed that an adult male would be so nurturing with a cub that isn’t even his? The bobcat is not an aggressive animal, and certainly not one to be vilified or feared.

Durring this photo session, Pixie actually laid her head down, and closed her eyes. You can see the bond these two share just from these pictures. These guys are so emotional, and form such strong bonds with one another, and with us. It is pretty incredible that an animal considered fairly solitary by most common knowledge is so emotionally connected to other members of its species.

These cats fill a wonderful nitch in our urban and rural ecosystems, controlling populations of pest animals like rats, mice, and snakes. Yes, they will go after a cute bunny or a squirrel or quail, but rarely will they ever go after anything larger than that. When they do go after larger prey, it is out of desperation. Usually caused by being relocated, and therefore starvation due to lack of familiarity with the area. Bobcats stay within their home range their entire lives, and so relocating them causes them to struggle until they can become familiar with their new surroundings. Of course, there are other factors that would come into play in these and other scenarios.

The point is, there is little protection for an animal that we know incredibly little about. When is it time to take action? When humanity creates a rarity out of such a wide-spread animal that we do not know if we can bring it back from the brink? How are we to learn more about this animal if we don’t protect them?