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

Posts tagged “wildlife rehabilitation

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!


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 🙂

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!

Dangers of inexperienced wildlife rehabilitation

So…some of my friends brought this story to my attention, and of course, I was horrified. Apparently, an officer at a local school maced the poor thing, claiming defense of students and himself.


The video can be seen on youtube if you wish to look it up. Here is a rehabilitator’s take on a possible scenario. It’s a possibility that this animal was taken in and raised by a person who is not a licensed rehabilitator. This person may have gotten lucky enough to keep the squirrel alive, and healthy enough to reach an age where they thought it was old enough for release. They probably didn’t consider the ramifications of imprinting that animal, or take the time to think of an appropriate release site, or bothered to teach the squirrel how to identify the kinds of foods it will be eating in the wild.

What does all of that add up to? A wild animal that does not know how to find food on its own, and one who looks to people for reassurance, comfort, and shelter. Toss in thoughtlessly releasing the poor animal in the most convenient location for the humans and not the squirrel, and you end up with a four-ounce squirrel with a face full of police grade pepper spray, and a group of screaming school children.

Oh, how this could have been handled so much more eloquently…for those of you who ever find yourselves in a situation where you are considering macing a squirrel, a tea towel, a shirt, or a blanket tossed over the critter will most likely allow you to pick it up without getting bitten, and most importantly, without harming the squirrel. In this situation, if you are truly worried about the kids, send them inside the building until the professional that you have called arrives.

Back to my main topic of conversation for today. Assuming the scenario I presented was a true one, sadly enough, this was one lucky squirrel. Rehabilitating squirrels (and most other species) without a license is illegal. It used to drive me nuts not being able to find enough information on how to care for a found animal. There is good reason for it. But, I didn’t know that then. All I could ever find, was take it to a licensed rehabilitator, but I never found a justification for that statement. So, here is an in-depth reason why that is such perfect advice. The good Samaritan law states that you have 72 hours to get these animals to a rehabber.

Rehabbers usually ask that if you find orphaned wildlife, not to feed them. As humans, we find great comfort in eating, and we use provision of food to loved ones as a means of healing and forming bonds. Naturally, that is also our first reaction when we find sick, injured, or simply orphaned wildlife. Please listen to the rehabber when they ask you not to feed the baby.

Cow’s milk, and puppy/kitten milk replacers (and the little bottles that come with them) you can find at petsmart and petco are usually people’s first choice when they find orphaned wildlife. All three of these choices, as well as the bottles and nipples available in these places are completely inappropriate to feed any orphan wildlife. They are barren in necessary nutrients, and very harsh on the little wild one’s GI tract. It leads to major, painful bloating that can take days to get over.

 On top of that, there is a huge risk of aspiration (inhalation of formula) with inappropriate bottles and nipples. Even with the proper tools, aspiration is a huge risk, and can lead to aspiration pneumonia and a long painful death for the little one without immediate action.

The rehabber’s first task after ensuring the baby is warm and undamaged, is assessing its hydration level. The majority of the time, babies come in too cold, and dehydrated. Feeding a cold or dehydrated baby can also spell disaster. Baby squirrels cannot regulate their own body temperature, cold squirrels cannot assimilate any food into their systems. Feeding a cold squirrel can kill it, as well as feeding it the wrong strength of formula too soon.

Even if one not licensed to rehab clears these hurdles, and the baby lives, there is a whole new set of risks and intentioned injuries that may be suffered upon a baby in inexperienced care. One of the biggest problems with raising baby animals is metabolic bone disease. This is an extreme lack of calcium that their growing bodies need. This is caused by inappropriate diet. It leads to paralysis, deformity, and brittle bones that break easily. It is a very painful condition. If caught early, and in a young animal, it is sometimes reversible with intensive treatment. Adults with metabolic bone disease cannot be cured, and the kindest thing for these animals is euthanasia. An option that would have been completely unnecessary if they had been getting proper care from the beginning.

Getting to the pre-release point not enduring even these most common place maladies (or any other conditions) with no knowledge or game plan is amazing to say the least. But, for the sake of discussion, lets say that our average joe citizen has gotten this far, and now has a healthy, happy juvenile squirrel. A squirrel that he has played with at every opportunity, and who has bonded to him during every feeding, riding around on his shoulder. Our little adorable squirrel has graduated from formula to Cheerios and shelled, salted sunflower seeds! At this point, our little squirrel is eating solid foods, and playing with the family cat who loves everybody, and chasing the kids around the room in a lively game of tag. Oh how cute! We should film it, and put it on youtube!

Now it is time for joe citizen’s little squirrel to return back into the big world where he came from. The family decides to release him in a green park in the middle of the neighborhood. There are plenty of trees there, squirrels eat trees, right? And the kids have a place to play, and everyone is always walking their dogs, there are lots of other squirrels there, and the neighbor’s cats are always roaming the park, chasing butterflies, and eating crickets.

Of course I am sure you, my dear reader, can see the folly in his plan. This squirrel loves to chase children, likes shoulder rides, thinks cats are playmates, and has no idea what food looks like! The park has no cheerio tree. Our poor little squirrel wouldn’t even know how to go about finding it if there was one! Who is going to tell him that he is a big boy now, and that big boy, wild squirrels don’t get shelled salted sunflower seeds? Who is going to tell him that now that he is wild, he needs to stop eating unbalanced meals, because out here in the wild world, there is no one to take care of him if he gets sick? There is no one to bring him bowls of water, and now he doesn’t know how to shell his own seeds. That orange tabby eyeing him from the picnic table doesn’t want to play, and the children run, screaming in fear when he approaches. There are these huge, shiny metal boxes on four wheels that make loud noises at him when he runs onto that huge slab of stone with yellow lines drawn on it.

Our dear squirrel is lonely, confused, hungry, and homeless, and none of these humans in this park are anything like his humans. They don’t like it when he climbs on their shoulders. They try to hit him and kick him. No one has given him a warm safe place to sleep. No one has played chase with him, and they don’t like it when he sits at their table for them to feed him. They shoo him away, and the cats chase him and swat at him. He sees other squirrels in the park, but he doesn’t know how to talk to them. They chase and bite him. Now what is left for our dear squirrel to do?

Please don’t try to rehabilitate a wild animal alone and illegally. Do what’s right for the animal. Contact a rehabber. If you want to be involved with wildlife rehabilitation, there are plenty of rehabbers that would be glad to let you be a part of it. WCCR included. Students who go through the WREN project get a chance to become a WCCR sub-permitee, and are allowed to rehabilitate wildlife under the guidance of WCCR. There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities at the ranch.


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.


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.

Crosstimbers in the media!

Okay, so we haven’t had any articles done on Crosstimbers recently, but I wanted to share some of the great stuff that we do. So, I present one of the many articles written by or about Crosstimbers to share more about what this incredible and unique organization does for the wild ones.


This link is a bio on a bobcat named CaRo that came into WCCR very very sick, and on the verge of death. Quick thinking, and networking with a phenominal group in Hutchins Texas called Rogers Wildlife (Who’s focus is protected birds), saved this little bobkitten’s life. CaRo became a media darling with many fans following his story. Due to his extreme condition when he came in, and immense amount of handling required to save his life, CaRo became deeply imprinted on hunans, who replaced the mother that he had lost, and non-releaseable. I told you, bobcats are capable of forming deep bonds. CaRo’s story is still one of the biggest sucesses in WCCR’s history. 

This was CaRo when he first came to us from Rogers Wildlife. Notice the glazed look in his eyes, the wide eyed, baffled facial expression, the hunched over posture, and the mucus build up around his mouth. This is the face of a very sick baby.

This is CaRo at WCCR after some extreme tlc. Bright eyed, mischevious, and alert. Sometimes, this job is seriously awesome.

CaRo now lives his life with another WCCR bobcat named Frankie at CuriOdyssey (formerly the Coyote Point Museum http://www.curiodyssey.org/ ). In captivity, bobcats can live upwards of 30 years! That is 30 years of amazing, enriched, and fulfilled living that CaRo would never have exerienced if his little life had been cut short without the help of a network of caring and wonderful people.

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.


Sweet Abigale feels better tonight

Abigale is much more active tonight. This is the first time that she has really reacted to having sub-q fluids. I will probably give her one last dose tomorrow depending on how she is.

I cover her head with a blanket while I am doing this just to help her feel more secure and calm. Most of the time she just sits and lets me do my thing. Tonight, she actually reacted to the fluids being administered for the first time. This is a good sign. It means she is feeling much better.

After, she poked her head out of the blanket to inspect my work. Her body condition has improved dramatically over the past few days. The points of her hips and spine are far less defined than they were three days ago, and her ribs now have an almost normal pad of flesh over them. Her apetite is really good. She eats every scrap of food I put infront of her, and I have been filling the bowl.

Tonight is more soaked dog food, fresh greens, a raw egg, some grapes, and carrot pieces. I expect the bowl will be empty by morning. I am glad she is eatting so well. She needs all the nutrition she can get. 

I still plan on worming her this weekend and then maybe it will be time for her to be wild again. She is almost ready!

First Babies of the Year!

Raccoon twins! These guys were found inside a wall at an appartment complex, the mother no where to be found according to management. Their eyes have JUST opened.

There is a boy and a girl. As soon as they arrived at the shelter, sub-q fluids were administered. These two have been picked up by a WCCR certified rehabilitator, and are in good hands. Raccoons are difficult to rehabilitate as singles, so these guys are very fortunate that they are together. Generally, if we get a single orphan in, we transfer it to someone who has one or more near the same age.

Raccoons are very social, and NEED siblings to thrive. I may not be able to get any more pictures of these guys to update you on their progress, but what an adorable way to kick off baby season!…I told you it was coming!

Baby raccoons can be expensive to rehabilitate. They stay on formula for a long time, and need lots of things to keep their minds entertained, and a raccoon rehabilitator must be very careful not to imprint these incredibly adorable animals.