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.

http://wap.myfoxdfw.com/w/main/story/24366611/

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.

kari@crosstimberswildlife.org


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.


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.

http://nbrr.org/CaRo.html

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.

kari@crosstimberswildlife.org


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.


A rare glimps into the life of a release program bobcat


Normally, on this site, you will see photos of our long term bobcats in our sanctuary program. This is because bobcats must not become imprinted on humans. Our release program bobcats have as little contact with us as possible.

Trying to balance that with monitoring thier health and behavior can be a challenge. Treating a release program cat can be even more challenging! I wanted to give you a glimps into the life of a member of the most misunderstood species in our region.

This is “Larry”. I mentioned in a previous post that we name our animals alphabetically. We are already on bobcat number 12 for this year. We call this cat scarface…when he growls, it is very asymetrical. He has had some sort of damage to the right side of his face.

Larry has been in our ICU ward for about two weeks now. We have been medicating him in his daily diet. Yesterday, he showed us that he is now well enough to move outside. Here he is in his new enclosure.

His snarl is still crooked, but he should still be ready to return to the wild in a few more days. Once we are sure he is well enough to take care of himself, he will get to be wild again.

The bobcats in our release program are handled very differently from our sanctuary cats. They still get fed daily (some programs incorporate fasting days for release animals. The thinking is that once released, these animals are not guaranteed a daily meal, and therefore, fasting them occasionally will condition them). Our thinking on this subject is feeding them daily not only seems kinder, but it also gives us an opportunity at least once a day to monitor their health.

An animal’s health can deteriorate extremely rapidly if the symptoms are not caught early. One day of illness taking hold can be the difference between life or death in some cases, and we do not risk it.

I only took one photo of Larry. Like I said, we minimize the amount of contact they have with us. I just wanted to share a small glimps of the amazing things going on at WCCR. If we had not been here to take in Larry, the animal control facility that we picked him up from would very likey have had to euthanize him. WCCR gave him his second chance, and he is so close to being wild again!


An update on Sweet Abigale


Last night was all about destressing for Abigale. I offered her food, water, and a safe place to chill out. Today? Its all about breakfast, and checking out the new digs!

Yes, opossums are nocturnal, no, just because you see them active durring the day, that does not necissarily mean that there is something wrong with them. Opossums are opportunistic. If being active durring daylight hours increases their chances of securing food, there is a good chance you will see them moving around durring the day.

However, Abigale is still acting off. I am taking the wait and see approach. She will be getting some sub-q fluids, and liquid vitamins for the next few days to see if she improves.


Opossum!


At WCCR, we name our animals alphabetically in the order that they arrive. This helps us to more easily keep record of  just how many animals have come through our doors (ie-how many times has the alphabet repeated it’s self in that species?).

Tonight, I picked up an opossum. It is a female, and has no babies. Normally, I would just relocate her. However, this opossum is acting abnormal. She seems disoriented, dehydrated, and just generally off. So, I am going to hang on to her for a few days just to make sure she is okay. I have named her Abigale.

Cute, isn’t she? So many people are scared of or don’t like opossums…they are such cool creatures! Did you know that opossums have such a low body temperature that their bodies don’t really support any modern diseases? Not even rabies survives well in opossums.

If I remember correctly, the only recorded case of an opossum with rabies was actually an individual that got bitten on the head by a rabid animal, basically injecting the virus directly into the brain tissue. Their nervous systems (how the rabies virus would travel through the body of a host) are far more symplistic than that of modern mammals.

Opossums have been around for millions of years. They are a living dinosar of sorts. They are very non-agressive. They may hiss at you if you scare them, but generally, that is the most they are going to do. They love eatting snakes, roaches, rats, and mice…and yes, if you feed your cat out doors, opossums LOVE cat food! This is one wild animal I have no reservations about grabbing with my bare hands. Using the base of the tail, of course. They are actually very “handleable”.

Sweet Abigale rode home in the passenger seat of my car. In a carrier, of course! Her gums are pretty pale, so I may need to see about getting some fluids for her…and a propper cage while Im at it…No offense, Abigale, but I do not want you in my bedroom in a dog crate for however long I have you!

Now to get her some dinner, and some water (by the way, what do you think of my new camera?).


We moved the babies today


We have five babies, well I call them that, but they really are quite big now…they were so little when they came in that I still see them as that…tiny little babies; anyway, they have been with us for quite a while now. Today, we moved them to another location.

They all went together, and they are not old enough to be released yet, they just aren’t on the Crosstimbers property at the moment. We caught them, wormed them, and crated them up. The adrenaline rush from catching, HOLDING and vaccinating these wild cats is really quite something. The power in their little bodies is unbelievable! 

It was a half hour drive to the new location, and three humans crammed in the front seat of a truck. The bobcats cannot go in the bed of the truck without some serious prep work. We are talking like wrapping each crate in six blankets to make sure they don’t stress from all the wind noise. Strapping down the crates, checking on the cats, etc. It is safer, and less stressful for them to be inside the vehicle. What does that mean? Five angry bobcats in the back seat.

We actually had a really good time. We all get along really well, and we all had a lot to talk about…mainly our immenent goal…getting funding for WCCR.

We have such a good set up, and so much potential. A cutting edge wildlife rehabilitation and education school, a fabulous sanctuary, and a rockin rehabilitation center. We pump out more wildlife than any other location in the region. More than 7000 animals came through our doors last year. More than 90% of them became wild again. Those are some killer stats.

We settled the kittens (When I say kittens, I am talking kittens that are now three times bigger than my four pound chihuahua) into their new “home”, and headed back to the ranch.

Once there, we had just enough time for a little enrichment for the cats (one of our team members brought some giant tennis balls for the long terms. They LOVED them! :3 ). Lenny and Hoover immediately deflated theirs, and Gigi and Bridget demolished theirs as well…Supprisingly enough, Quincy’s was still intact when we left.

Then, dinner time. Today’s entries feature chicken leg quarters, ground beef, and of course, the ever important diet supplements that all of our bobcats need. Gigi and Bridget were STARVING! The bobcats get fed every day, but they go through phases where they are just ravious, and consume ALL of the diet we bring them. Other days, they don’t touch any of it. A full carnivore is a happy carnivore though. So, even if they aren’ t particularly thrilled by food for a couple of days, they still get the same amount every day. Quincy couldn’t have cared less about food today. He just wanted us to kick the ball around for him to chase…very cute. The ball is almost as big as he is right now.

It’s so odd preparing diet for so few cats…we are down to 11 at the moment. Of course, new ones keep coming in though. One new one only stayed for a day before being relocated, another new one just came in, and we are in the process of assessing him. The parade never stops. There are just too many bobcats that need help, and not enough rehabilitators with the expierience, know how, desire, or capacity to handle them. That’s just fine with us. As long as we can stay here, they will always have a safe place to go.


watching bobcats grow


I didn’t get to go out to the ranch today because my family is here from out of state, and I hardly ever get to see them.

I heard that one of our new longterm bobcats discovered something about his enclosure today though. HANGING BARRELS ARE AWESOME!!!

We currently have three longterm enclosures in a row on one side of the property. Each one of them is designed differently. The first one has ramps up to the cat walks because one of the cats in it has balance issues, and cannot jump accurately. The second, has a fully enclosed ramp up to a fully enclosed sky box because both bobcats in it have moderate balance issues and fall easily. The third has no ramps, except a ladder up to a den. There is also a den created from a barrel hanging about a foot from the catwalk and a satelite chair in the corner.

These items were all employed with enrichment in mind. The bobcat is an extremely intellegent animal. We are talking like dog smart. Like at least as intelegent as your family pooch. Any enrichment we do is ONLY through trained staff that specifically handle the bobcats with very limited contact from any other people who come out to the ranch. All enrichment is aimed at preventing these guys from getting bored, and keeping their minds and bodies active.

The previous two cats in this enclosure tried the barrel once when it was first placed in there, but never really understood or liked it. We have cut one end out, and cut a “window” out of the side of it, and have it free hanging in the enclosure.

Today, Val let me know that the most recent resident now LOVES that barrel! She has been trying to get a picture of him in it all day, but every time he sees her, he comes running out to greet her, and never stays long enough for a photo op!

As adorable as he is, this is a highly unfortunate side-effect of inexperienced (though well meaning) people attempting their hand at rehabilitation. I must always stress that this is NOT the outcome that we wanted for this cat. His job was to wild up, and return to where he belongs. It is a shame that this cat now has to spend his life as a captive “wild” animal. Not safe as(nor should he be) a pet, not wild enough to thrive.

PLEASE do not attempt to rehabilitate or keep a bobcat as a pet. They need very specialized care to return to the wild. If you or someone you know has or knows of a bobcat that needs to be rescued (from a captive situation), or rehabilitated, please let us know. I check my e-mail daily. kari@crosstimberswildlife.org

I should be watching him learn to trust himself and pull away from the humans who raised him. I should be watching him walk away from me when I come near, instead of running full speed to meet me. Though it would tear me up watching him grow away from me, It is bittersweet watching him, and knowing the life he should be living is not the one he and I are experiencing. It shouldn’t be our experience…it should be his, and his alone.


Spring is comming…that means baby season!


So, for the past several days, the weather has been really really pleasant. I have been enjoying my daily drive to work, and starting to bring my short sleeved shirts out of the closet.

I just realized that this means the beginning of baby season at WCCR! That means all the baby opossums, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, beavers, minks, bobcats, and skunks are going to start showing up. This is my first baby season with WCCR, and this is also the first year that we will not have any other species (excluding bobcats) on the property…

I can only handle a few animals at a time. I can only afford to rehabilitate a few at a time…I am kindof nervous. I have recieved my certification, but I have also not really worked with any species extensively…except for the bobcats.

I have rehabbed several squirrels, and they seem pretty easy. I am ready to try other animals…maybe I will try some opossums….maybe I won’t get the choice! I am really nervous, mainly because last year, WCCR took in more than three thousand animals. This year, all of the sub-permitees (myself included) are expected to take up the slack. Bobcats are the only species that will be admitted to the property this year, and that leaves a LOT of animals from other species that are going to need help.

Looking at the growth in number of animals that the center has helped in just two years, we can expect well over three thousand this comming year. Hopefully, we can accomodate them all!

kari@crosstimberswildlife.org


A Sucessful Release story!


a video clip of today’s release

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evv5tRHE0Hs

Today was  back to the wild day for four of our release program bobcats. The cats that were released have varying stories. Two in particular make my heart heavy when I think of them.

Some weeks ago, we recieved two bobcats from a cockfight raid. They had been held captive, and tortured by their captors…as entertainment for the people who brought their roosters there to fight. We believe they are brother and sister. The brother is obviously psychologically scared from his ordeal. A wild bobcat thrown into a captive environment is understandably going to experience some level of stress, but for the most part, stress levels can be controlled. In extreme stress situations, a bobcat may even begin to drool, and maybe even foam at the mouth, but this is usually with cats that are extremely over stimulated.

This poor bobcat would start trembling the instant he laid eyes on us. He would start drooling, and foaming at the mouth just from the sheer terror of nothing more than the presence of a person.

Both were extremely reactive to the presence of a human near their enclosure. This only lengthened their captivity. It was imperative that they calmed back down enough to handle being transported even the very short distance to our release site.

It took them weeks to even calm down enough for us to feed them without extreme stress to both of them.

These two bobcats had the hardest time with the release today. These were the last two cats to leave. The male was the last one to exit his crate. He took some encoragement to come out, but once his feet hit that grass, he was gone. None of them stopped, none of them looked back. They just ran for freedom as fast as their legs would take them.

It was bitter sweet, and beautiful to watch. It’s hard to know that they have no idea that you aren’t the same person that held them captive and tormented them for so long…and as far as they are concerned, you are every bit as evil and every bit as responsible for their state of mind as their tormentors.

They don’t see us as saviors, they just see us as yet another captor. At least one can take some solace in the idea that they will never again be forced to interact with a human in any way.

If you are interested in helping our current cats, or maybe being involved as a new release site, drop me an e-mail. Currently, we are in despirate need of funding. If you think you can help, please contact us!

kari@crosstimberwildlife.org


Wild Cats


The North American Bobcat is quite the elusive animal. These wildcats are wide spread across the entire state of Texas, and most of the USA, southern parts of Canada, and a good portion of Mexico, but most people have never seen one outside of the internet or their local zoo.

They are adapting well to urban life. Everything they need is easily accessible in the human world, and with their ever shrinking natural habitat, I suppose at some point, I was bound to see one in “the wild”. Though I am extremely fortunate to be able to work so closely with the bobcat on a regular basis, I have never, to this point, seen one in it’s natural element.

Today was the day. Driving down the acess road of Loop 12 in Dallas (where I work), I saw a cat sitting at the very top point of a small hill near the road. Behind the clearing was plenty of dense shrubbery. As we got closer, I realized that what I was looking at was WAY too big to be your run of the mill house cat…and as I passed, I recognized a figure that I am all too familiar with…Those big, ruffed cheeks and tufted ears that I spend time with every week at WCCR.

It was an exceedingly well marked cat, well defined rosette patterning all over it’s body, a creamy white chest with bold black spots, and huge, fluffy cheeks. This bobcat appeared a bit smaller than the cats we currently have on property at WCCR, but definately healthy, and in good shape. Just sitting at the crest of the hill, watching the cars go by…bright eyed, enjoying the freezing cold weather I guess.

At least in this modern world of the viral, out of control, all consuming, species distroying population explosion that is homo sapien sapien, some other life forms are doing okay…


Cleaning enclosures


The other day, I spent hours stripping out one of our raccoon enclosures…that houses two adult raccoons. The enclosure is small, and since the residents are nocturnal, cleaning was fairly easy….except that these guys are HUGE. I had to move their den in order to clean under and behind it. They helped me out by coming out for a little while, but once they went back in, I couldn’t move the den back where it came from.



I was able to strip it to the wire floor, and add fresh shavings. I tried to move the den back where it goes, but I was met with growling, upset raccoons. Raccoons are scarier than bobcats…they are extremely smart, and far more dexterous than the bobcats…I mean, they have opposable thumbs!…and they climb like spiderman! They are like three year olds. When they don’t get their way, they throw a fit, and won’t think twice about hurting you.

So, I left the den where it was, and I just realized that I left the ramp to their platform outside their enclosure!

I had every intention of going back out ther Monday after having come to my side of town to get some stuff taken care of, but everything took longer than I intended, and by Tuesday, there was so much ice and snow that I didn’t even feel safe driving to Dallas, much less Terrell…hopefully someone finished what I started.

I should be out there in the next couple of days…It seems like there is so much to do durring the slow season…I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be like durring the busy season.


Cross Timbers on Auto Pilot


For the past several days, our fearless leader has been out of state. That has left the dedicated volunteers and supporters of WCCR to hold the fort while she is gone. With 20 bobcats, two raccoons, three wood turtles, a terarium full of water dragons, a ring tailed cat, a cuban night anole, two sulcatas, and a russian gopher tortoise, not forgetting the domestic animals (ten or so barn cats that have ended up here as dumps, new baby chicks, three dogs, and scores of chickens and peacocks, it makes for a lot of things that need to be done every day while she is gone. I mean, all of these animals have to eat!  I have been staying at the ranch for the durration of her absence (thank goodness she didn’t have to leave us durring the high season!).

I have been taking advantage of the amount of time I have been able to spend out here, and spending as much time as I can with the bobcats, observing their behavior and interactions. Lenny (one of our long terms-long terms end up with us through confiscations or special circumstances that require an extended stay) has been in a fabulous mood lately. He just got a new room mate (Hoover), and really seems to adore him. They spend most of their time playing like kittens. It is awesome to see two 30 pound cats rolling around on the ground and boxing eachother’s ears…

along with some enrichment activities on my part, it has made for some amazing photo opps. Anise extract and peacock feathers were decidedly favorite enrichment items.

That peacock feather was decimated when I removed it from the enclosure. Notice the cut on Hoover’s armpit? I would have had no idea that was there if I hadn’t been doing enrichment work with them (and trying to get some great photos!). It was a more interactive enrichment than the anise extract, which I placed in interesting areas in their enclosure with a cotton swab. The pictures from that are pretty neat too…this is one of my favorite photos.

The anise extract had both cats rubbing their heads on everything I put that scent on. It was a really neat thing to watch. This photo is now one of the background photos on my phone 🙂 I know…Im a dork. But who gets the opportunity to work in any sort of proximity to such a cool and amazing animal?

I mean, who couldn’t love this face…er, tummy?


Assisting the Bobcats


Through a persistant and lifelong interest in nature and in animals, I have happened uppon the opportunity to not only work in close proximity with one of Texas’ most amazing predators, but to actually touch, hold, and interact with some of these awesome cats through work with the Wildlife Center at Cross Timbers Ranch in Terrell Texas.

Don’t get me wrong. Our ultimate goal is to re-introduce these cats back into nature. We take them in, we protect and heal them, and then we release them in a location where it is ideal for them to thrive. Unfortunately, not all of our cats make it to the point where they are ready for release. Some of them will never know what it means to be truely wild. These are the ones that make me pause in awe, and draw my breath before I enter their enclosure. Many of these animals find homes at educational facilities but some of them stay with us.

At WCCR, we don’t believe in barrier policies for our cats. With no barriers, these cats who thrive on social interaction and personal bonds gleen what they need from their relationships with us in a frustration free environment. These animals are never forced to behave in a manor in which they choose not to. They completely guide their interactions with us.

If a purring Quincy chooses to climb on my shoulder, and rub his face in my hair and steal my ponytail holder, I let him. If he chooses to completely ignore me, I let him. If he doesn’t want to interact with me, I don’t force him. Though he may end up remaining in a captive environment, we strive to never take the wild out of the cat, and to never make him do anything against his nature.

Each day, diet is hauled from the freezer to thaw in the food prep area. Each enclosure is cleaned, old food removed and thrown away. Fresh diet is prepared and fortified for each cat.

Currently, we have 19 cats on the property. The releasable ones that are left from 2010 are overwintering at the ranch. when they are ready later this year, they too will be released like the many bobcats before them.

WCCR intakes and releases the greatest number of cats in Texas, and possibly in the nation.

What does it take to care for so many? Well, an awful lot of food, and of course, what we all need to keep running. Money. We go through pounds of food every day. Unfortuately, feeding bobcats isn’t cheap. they eat the expensive stuff. Meat. Much of our diet comes from donations. We always need donations. As a not for profit organization, we can not only accept donations, but offer receipts for tax deductions, but sometimes that isn’t helpful if people don’t know you are out there.

Hopefully in the near future, more and more people will know we are out there, and they will see the amazing things that happen in this place. There are many amazing projects in the works at WCCR, and I, and others like me are glad for the opportunity to be a part of it. Many of us have graduated from a pioneer program named the WREN project. The goal of this project is to make steps toward the standardization of wildlife rehabilitation.

The amount of knowleged that we don’t have is amazing when you are faced with the amount of information that isn’t out there. Especially when it comes to predators. People love to see little bunnies, squirrels, and deer. They love to hear their stories, and tales of how people have saved them. The nitch that predators fill instills fear in people. It causes us to avoid them, and we become oblivious to the role they play in our world, and make up wild, fear filled stories of what they may do to us if we come face to face with them. Through programs like the WREN project, not only do we learn how to help attempt to counteract the completely un-natural environment in which many animals find injury, but we finds in us the ability to pass on REAL knowlege. Knowledge that seems to become lost in our ever shrinking, ever more technology fueled world.

If anybody out there is reading this, and feels the desire to help, or would just like to know more about what we do, drop us an email at kari@crosstimberswildlife.org. That is my e-mail address through this phenominal organization.