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

Posts tagged “The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch

Our urgent care case: Ulyses


The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch has received a very special guest that urgently needs your help. His name is Ulyses, and he is only ten weeks old. He has been separated from his mother and siblings, and the poor little guy has suffered some serious trauma in his short life.

Ulyses is a bobcat, and he already has a special place in the hearts of all of the staff members here at WCCR. You see, at this tender age, he has had a little altercation with a dog…that resulted in a compound fracture of his leg, and massive infection. This poor little wild one is terrified and alone, and he can’t even yet have a buddy to comfort him. For now, until his condition improves a bit, his stuffed animal is his closest companion.

The thought of this poor little guy terrified and hurting tugs at my heartstrings every time. Especially when all we can do is sit back, and support him on his journey 😦

Little Ulyses upon intake

Here at Crosstimbers, we do 90% of our medical treatment on site.

There are many reasons for this that I may go into in some future blog, but for right now, my main focus is to help this little one return to the wild. But in order to do that, I am going to have to solicit some help! To rehab a single (healthy) bobcat from kitten to release, costs more than $2,000 and over 12 months in feeding and maintenance alone. Any medical treatment or other operational care all comes at additional expense.

For Ulyses, the cost will probably be more than double that figure.

Our bestest heart bandages ❤

His tiny leg will be set in his heart emblazoned cast for at least the next six weeks, and he will need some heavy-duty antibiotics (as well as other medications) to battle the massive infection.

Supportive care will also include a special immune system supporting diet and eventually, physical therapy.

Little Ulyses had to be sedated for this procedure, so once his cast was secured, he was placed in isolation to recover from anaesthesia.

His ongoing care, rehabilitation, and physical therapy are going to be major hurdles for WCCR this year. The economy has put a squeeze on us all, and we are definitely feeling it. We are trying to raise $500 towards his ongoing care, and every cent helps.

If every person who read this blog donated just ten dollars, that total sum would mean a massive step towards going back to the wild for this amazing cat! Every bit helps! If you want to be a wildlife hero, click on that donate button on the right hand column! I know we can do this. Lets get Ulyses back to the wild, together!

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Theo’s New Digs <3


As you may or may not know, Theo, our little starlet, has always had a difficult time living outside. Well, to be honest, Theo has always had a hard time! He has had so many close calls and near misses in his short life thus far, that it should come as no surprise that our little guy with such a delicate constitution would have a hard time adjusting to life outdoors.

At a certain age, it just isn’t very feasible to keep a bobcat inside. For our wildlife center, we keep our baby bobs indoors till a certain age. Just as a mother bobcat would keep her kits in their den, we keep them inside the nursery. Bobkits are quite sensitive, and need close supervision to monitor health and well-being. After they pass that certain delicate age, and they begin to grow more adventurous and rambunctious, they begin their slow transition to outdoor living, usually in preparation to becoming wild again.

Theo really is no exception, other than he would never survive release. Alas, our attempts to transition him to outdoor living were exceedingly stressful to his delicate constitution, so, he was moved back indoors for his health and safety. The one problem with this scenario is that Theo is now an energetic young bobcat, and Crosstimber’s indoor enclosures are not really suitable for longterm residency…mostly, it is our nursery, and our ICU area for our invalid residents. Neither one suits Theo any longer.

So, our director came up with the idea to create an indoor/outdoor enclosure for Theo. This would give ranch staff the ability to keep a close eye on Theo, and also provide him with the space he needs. One of our awesome staff members designed and built a wonderful enclosure for Theo.

Of course, he had a little help

And of course, in true Crosstimbers Wildlife fashion, the entire thing was built out of reclaimed lumber.

It was specially selected and designed for Theo’s comfort, and has a great view overlooking the turtle garden!

Once it was complete, it was painted a lovely shade of green, and Theo was out exploring it in no time!

That is the face of one happy bobcat!

The best part is, that great window in his enclosure serves as a causeway for him to come and go into the temperature controlled building! Soon it will have a more permanent door 🙂


Willow’s Mini Adventures X-(


Do you remember little Willow? That super cute baby opossum picture from the previous post? Well, she has two roomies now, and her little enclosure was getting quite cramped. So last night I moved the three little opies to a new, bigger, airier enclosure. Complete with fresh blankies, bedding, and snazzy new water bottle so they would quit tipping the bowl! What I didn’t account for was tenacious little Willow, and the three relatively large doors at the front of the cage!

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Now, little Willow has always been quite tenacious…for an opossum…and there certainly has been no exception lately…while my two newbies cower in the corner piled on top of one another (safety in numbers and all that jazz), Willow is strollin every inch of her new digs…and noting every weakness in it’s  defenses! From 7 this morning till now 10pm, it has been a non-stop game of hide-and-seek with her! Three times she got away, and on that third trip back to the nursery, I secured those doors down with bread ties…or so I thought. I walked through to get myself a snack, looked down at my opie nursery, and realized I was an opie short again!

Sure enough, Willow had slipped away…for the fourth time. I paid it no mind…she quickly makes her whereabouts known…opossums are not renowned for their stealth mode, you know. However, hours passed, and still no sign of my little rogue.

Opossums being predominately nocturnal, I always wait till late in the evening to feed them. Fresh food makes happy tummies! :)…and keeping a schedule is a good way to get in some behavioral conditioning! Like clockwork, I went to feed my wee wards. As I reached down to grab their bowl, the third little set of beady eyes I had been searching for all day peered up at me from the corner of the room as if to say “well, it’s about time you brought me my dinner! Where have you BEEN?!”.

I snatched her up, and tossed her back in with her friends, and THIS time, I DID secure those doors! *sigh* one up-ed by an opossum…at least one of us is giggling about the whole thing *roll 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!


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!


Tornado hits the Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch


Last night, right before 2:30 am, a tornado touched down on the grounds of WCCR. The barn cats, the ranch dogs, and our intrepid leader all hunkered down in the corner of the most protected hallway in the ranch house, and waited out the storm. They would not know till light of day the status of the wild ones braving the storm outside. She has been up since then assessing the damage, removing tree limbs from the road, and repairing enclosures.

Happily, all of the wild ones, and even the chickens and peacocks are safe and accounted for. The long terms were all very frazzled and very scared. They needed plenty of reassurance that everything was okay, and that nothing bad was going to happen. We spent ample time with each bobcat, making sure they got the reassurance they needed.

We checked the structural integrity of the enclosures, ensuring that they were not in need of repairs, and assessed the grounds. Trees were broken and splintered, things were broken and strewn across the ground, fences were destroyed, and some enclosures now need repairs. The ranch house suffered too. The chimney is broken, the sky lights and some of the windows are shattered, and we were without electricity for the majority of the day. The poor pinky squirrel on a heating pad in the house was freezing…we had to use the last of the hot water to fill up a bottle for him, wrap it in a towel, and put it in the box with him and hope the power came back on before his water bottle went cold.

Luckily, the power came back on this afternoon. The damages are fairly extensive, and it is looking like it is going to be about $20,000 in repairs. In the excitement, we were unable to make the run out to Fort Worth to pick up additional diet for the bobcats. We were hoping that someone would be able to help us with that today, but unfortunately, no one could make it out. 

We are now seeking people willing to come out and volunteer to help us make repairs and clean up the grounds after this storm. Monetary donations to assist with enclosure and grounds repairs would be enormously appreciated as well in this time of need for WCCR. If you can help, please let us know. Any help is greatly appreciated.


Just one of those days


Today is another one of those days that I am obsessing about saving WCCR, and have no idea how to do it. I have tried everything I know to do. I have put in multiple grant proposals, and all of them have been turned down so far. I am not a grant writer, and from what I understand, grant writing is not an easy task. I have even tried to contact celebreties…which is amazingly hard, and any services that allow you do to so, charge for it. If you have been reading, you know how I feel about WCCR. It is an amazing organization with all the potential in the world, and it fills a niche in an area where it is sorely needed.

WCCR is the highest volume wildlife rehabilitation center in the region, and the largest bobcat rehabilitation, rescue, and sanctuary in the nation. In two years, nearly ten thousand animals have come through the doors of WCCR. Over 90% of them have returned to the wild, including some amazing success stories like Darlean the three-legged bobcat (I linked her story in a previous post) successfully returned to the wild by WCCR.

The WREN project is one of the most in-depth, hands on, cutting edge programs available on wildlife rehabilitation in the nation, and it is built on a solid plan for expansion. We focus on not only rehabilitating the wildlife, but creating a self-sustaining training program built to teach proper handling and treatment of wildlife in a rehabilitation program, as well as teaching about preserving the environment that these animals depend on upon their release, and stress responsible stewardship through teaching which species of animals can be released into what habitats, and what volumes of animals each release site can handle.

We rely heavily upon private lands and mitigation banks for the release of our animals. Mitigation banks are an invaluable tool to the wildlife of WCCR. They are wetlands that have been, or are in the process of being restored to their natural, untouched state. They are usually large tracts of land, owned by a group of people who possess a formal agreement with regulators establishing liability, performance standards, management, and monitoring requirements, and the terms of bank credit approval (http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/facts/fact16.html) . They provide the perfect habitat for native wildlife.

The preservation, rehabilitation, conservation, and education efforts of WCCR so far, have not been enough. Without the purchase price of the WCCR grounds, we cannot continue to exist. Our deadline is up. Unless we can find people who can donate in large amounts, WCCR will close. Very soon.

The five long-term bobcats, including my beloved Lenny will have to find somewhere to go, and all of the animals in our rehabilitation program will have to be transferred. The WREN project will die, and the blue prints for our state of the art facility will become evidence of the death of a phenomenal facility.

I have been trying other methods to raise the money we need, including creating a facebook cause page http://www.causes.com/causes/577450-the-wildlife-center-at-crosstimbers-ranch/about. I don’t expect facebook to save WCCR, but if we can raise awareness of the plight of one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation and environmental conservation hubs in the state, and even raise a little money to buy some of the things we need for day-to-day expenses (right now, we are looking for $1200.00 to purchase baby formula on causes. We have raised $150.00 for this project), maybe it will give us some relief to look for the big funding we need to purchase our property and keep our doors open.

The thousands of animals that are lucky enough to come through our doors make a huge impact on reducing human effect on the natural world. Every animal that enters the WCCR program is there because of something that a human has done. Be it unknowingly kidnapping a fawn, hitting a mother opossum with a car, finding orphaned/injured animals that another was careless enough to ignore, or removing baby squirrels and raccoons from their dens for various reasons. Without human meddling, the majority of these animals would not be here. Unfortunately, even if WCCR no longer exists, that will not prevent the blunders of human kind. That will leave thousands of wild animals without a second chance, a second chance that without us humans, they most likely would not have needed.

In a way, WCCR, and other facilities like it, work to off set the human effect on the natural world that we have detached ourselves from. And probably the most unfortunate part of it all, is because of the regulations pertaining to wildlife rehabilitation and the practiced, private hand required to return an animal under human care back into a wild environment make it difficult to shed light on these amazing organizations. For this reason, many wildlife rehabilitators remain small-scale, and rehabilitate these animals out of their own pockets. WCCR is trying to change that. But, we must get over this hurdle first.


Darlean The Three legged bobcat


Here is yet another story about the under dog succeeding. The odds were stacked against her. Alone, badly injured, the critical location of her amputation injury disallowed it to heal in a natural environment. Exhausted, malnourished, and battling a severe infection; yet another bobcat is saved through the networking efforts of a local animal services division and WCCR. Cutting edge therapy and conditioning helped this girl overcome the hand she had been dealt. This is Darlean’s story.

http://www.nbrr.org/DarLean.html

Darlean had an incredible wild spirit, and a steadfast determination to return to her world. WCCR nurtures and heals these broken bodies and souls.  We do not determine their timeline. They tell us when they are ready to go. When Darlean told us she was ready, we granted her the freedom she craved.

We never release an animal before we know they are ready. There is no timeline, and no formula to follow. When they are ready, they will tell you. They will reassure you that you have done everything you can possibly do to prepare them to return to a world that you can no longer share with them. It will hurt. It is so easy to get attached to these amazing souls when you work with these animals as closely as we do.

Even if we cannot show our love to these precious creatures through the same affections we lavish on our pets, even if the only possible way to show our love for them is to trust that they are right; that they, and not you, know they are ready, we as rehabilitators must learn to listen to the wild ones. The hardest part of my job as a rehabilitator of wildlife is to listen to my wards when they tell me that it’s time to go. Especially the ones like Darlean that needed that little something extra to return to the world that they belong in. They allow me to have a fleeting glimpse into their world while they healed in my care, and allow me, for a moment, the attachment that comes with sharing such an intimate and secret experience.

Darlean’s release brought with it a rush of elation. So many people worked so hard to grant her wild heart the world it desired. A world that would no longer be a battle for the stronger, energized, and healthy body that she was returning in. A world that would embrace her with open arms, and give her the life she was destined to live.

Darlean’s release also brought controversy. Many who do not understand her powerful desire to return to her world, and the intelligent and adaptable nature of these incredible predators felt it irresponsible to release an animal that they viewed as handicapped. Darlean was far from handicapped, and more than prepared to return to her position in the world. It takes a powerful and determined creature to succeed in a harsh, wild world. Darlean was ready for it. It was her world after all, and her world to return to.


The WREN project


The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch is more than a working wildlife rehabilitation center. We are also home to the most comprehensive and inclusive wildlife rehabilitation education program in the nation, and possibly the world.

The name of this curriculum is the WREN project. WREN is an acronym for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Education Network. This class is far more in-depth than any other wildlife rehabilitation class available today. I am a graduate of the project, and I learned far more about the practice of wildlife rehabilitation in this class than I ever expected to.

WREN covers not only the immediate needs of injured, orphaned, sick, and displaced wildlife, but ongoing treatment, wound care, medications and what to use them for, dietary needs, caging, and behavioral observations for a multitude of native Texas species through hands-on in class projects; including learning administration of fluids to dehydrated animals, splinting limbs, and suturing/treatment of wounds.

This season, interest in participating in this program is so intense, that we are looking for a way to house three simultaneous classes. WREN teachers are graduates of this program. WREN is aimed at acting as a starting point for students of all experience levels, and providing a network of qualified resources for everyone in the field.

It provides in-depth basics and specialized treatment approaches for various species from mammals, to reptiles, to everything in between.

This turtle was hit by a car. His damaged shell was epoxied back in shape. A similar case came in during the time that I was in class. We learned how to do this, and what to do afterwards. The information is solid, and accurate, and perpetually useful to anyone in the animal field.

We also relied on case studies that exercised our abilities to judge a situation, and react accordingly. Often, in the business, it is hard to tell exactly what happened to an animal before it came into our care. The case study exercises taught us to look at the clues, and use them to determine what happened to the animal, and then what actions to take in the treatment program for that animal to give it the best chance at success in a wild environment upon it’s release.

This is an incredible class with lots of well-developed information. I believe that anyone interested in a related field would benifit from the information covered in this class. I know I did.

kari@crosstimberswildlife.org