By Jay Coles, Exec. Director
In our last E-Newsletter in December I reported our end of year intake count of rescued animals. In a side note I expressed our concern regarding the increasing number of raptors that we are receiving each year. I have been with the Center now for four years and the rescue and intake of raptors has increased from 38 in 2013 to 133 in 2017. This year we have rescued or received 22 raptors in the first 45 days of the year.
Before I go farther into expressing my concerns, analyzing the possible causes, let me explain my attachment for these birds of prey. Years back my wife and built our home in a neighborhood that had a pair of nesting Bald Eagles. They have been a very prolific couple and we have been graced with watching, from our back porch, many eaglets taught to fly. But the Eagles are only one species of raptor I can regularly encounter from my porch. The list of regulars includes Red Tail, Cooper’s, Red Shoulder and Sharp Shinned Hawks, Osprey, Great Horned Owls as well as Barred Owls and Screech Owls and the vultures overhead. I have watched them hunt, fish, fight and mate. There is seldom a day that passes that I don’t see one or more perching near or flying overhead. My interest or obsession with raptors long precedes my engagement with the wildlife center. However, the numbers I am reporting in our newsletters is heightening my concern for the health and survival of these birds.
Why are so many raptors being injured?
1) Development is once again on the rise. Thousands of acres of natural habitat are being clear-cut for housing and commercial development. In rural Lexington and Richland similar tracts of what was traditionally farmland is also going to development. These were the hunting grounds for our raptors. If their food sources aren’t their, then they must find it elsewhere. This seems to be forcing both predator and prey into developed areas where more cars and trucks exist. If your food source is in or along the side of a road, you are much more likely to get struck by a vehicle while trying to catch it.
Why don’t these birds see the oncoming vehicle?
All raptors have incredible vision and can spot prey from great distances, however, once they spot their prey they must stay locked in on it because it is likely to move or is moving. If the raptor turns its head to look for traffic it will likely loose sight of the prey. This results in not eating and we know what the outcome is of missing a meal, especially when locating food gets more difficult.
2) With loss of natural habitat many raptors are adapting to more urban environments. Many older urban and suburban residential areas offer established old tree cover and lighter traffic. However, there are other dangers they must contend with like power lines, fences, domestic pets, toxins and poisons. This issue of poisons has recently come to my attention as people have contacted me to report larger than normal numbers of dead raptors in their neighborhood. At the same time, I hear reports of rodent infestations. Rodents are a primary food source for raptors. What is the connection?
Follow me on this. If you leave food out for domestic pets or feral animals then you are going to attract rodents. If you then put out poison to kill the rodents and they eat it, they don’t die immediately. If the poisoned rodent is eaten by a raptor, you have now poisoned the raptor. Thus, rodent problem reported in the same neighborhood as high number of dead raptors.
3) Generally, raptors are high in the food chain and are not prey to other predator and we don’t often see a raptor having been injured by another raptors. But, with pressure from reduced habitats, and competition for food this could be occurring. Last summer I was called to rescue an Osprey that had a near severed wing. Based on the location where the Osprey was found and the type of injury, it appeared the injury had occurred in flight. Perhaps this had been a territory fight with an Eagle.
There are lots of other causes for the injury and death of our raptors. We have rescued several hawks in the past year with gun shot wounds. Several raptor have come it with electrical burns. And there are raptors that, for what ever reason, don’t learn to hunt well enough to sustain themselves.
I conclusion, I must admit that while there are more people, roads, houses and more traffic for these birds to navigate there are also more compassionate people willing to stop, help and report these injuries. At Carolina Wildlife Center we spend a great deal of time and effort to educate our community about the importance of caring for these and all wild animals. We may be seeing higher numbers because more people have learned that we are here to help and who are willing to do their part.
It was a cold winter day. I arrived at the Center, and the idea struck me to get Trinity, our education opossum from her enclosure to keep me company in the office. It would be a nice change for her. I brought her in and after a bit of exploring she found a cubby and curled up for a nice nap. At the end of the day, I dug Trinity out from her cozy sleeping spot. Upon picking her up, something happened. Suddenly I was wet from the waist down with a very smelly wet substance. I had no idea what had happened. I was scared to death. I called out for our Director of Rehabilitation, Julie McKenzie, who rushed to me. After cleaning up, I rushed Trinity to Millcreek Animal Hospital where they determined that she had an anal glad that ruptured. They fixed her up and put her on the meds she needed.
If that had happened out in Trinity’s enclosure, it is possible we would not have noticed. It could have gotten infected and she could have died. Divine intervention. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God put it in my head to get Trinity that day, something I had NEVER done before, in order to save her life.
Fast forward to this spring. I got a new camera lens. I took my camera to work and took pictures of a few different animals. Trinity was one of them. We spent some time together in the ivy out behind the Center, me taking pictures and petting her; her sniffing the leaves and just being her cute little cross eyed self. This is one of the photos from that day.
Later that day, Jay Coles our Executive Director went to take Trinity to a presentation and realized something was not right. He consulted with Julie and it was decided Trinity would be sent to Millcreek the next morning. Trinity passed away at the vet. Divine Intervention. The three of us: Jay, Julie and I were each very close to Trinity, having spent hours holding her and talking to people about how wonderful opossums are. We each got to spend time with her the day before her passing without knowing what was to come. Each of us was shocked and upset by her passing. Trinity was a friend, not just an opossum. We did not realize it, but we had been given a gift that day, one last moment with Trinity.
Carolina Wildlife Center is a nonprofit that runs strictly off of donations from the public. We take in over 3,700 native wild animals each year. There are times when funds are low and we wonder how are we going to get groceries to feed these animals? How are we going to pay the bills? How are we going to do laundry, when the washer has broken, again? Devine intervention. A prayer said when the bank accounts low, and then a check appears in the mailbox that will cover it. A wonderful donor repairs our AC on a hot summer day when it goes out. A patron that brings us an animal and notices a tree that is leaning dangerously close to the building and takes it upon himself to cut it down. A volunteer that notices we are down to one washer that goes out and buys us a new one. Selflessness, generosity, kindness, compassion… Divine intervention!
“Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O’ Lord.”- Psalm 36:6
By Ann Yancey
Volunteering at Carolina Wildlife Center is among the most rewarding experiences of my life. Unlike the dogs and cats in our municipal shelters, these animals don’t want to come home with me. If they could express this, they would tell us that what they want is to return to their wild lives.
The work at CWC can be hard and dirty. But over the years I have developed a great deal of respect for our wild neighbors. They manage to adapt and survive in spite of the considerable challenges they face.
Human beings achieve incredible things. No doubt about that. But the wildlife with whom we share this planet pay the price for our accomplishments. We build highways and shopping centers and housing developments where they live. We tear up their forests and roll out the sod so we can have golf-green grass in our yards. We landscape with non-native plants. We pollute their water supply with trash and chemical runoff from our roads and over-fertilized lawns.
And then when they dare to approach the cat food and water we leave out on the porch, we panic and call them nuisance animals who need to be removed immediately. I wonder who exactly is the nuisance.
Several weeks ago, I was driving along Gills Creek and I saw a beautiful Great Blue Heron wading in the water. I stopped to watch him and I thought back to another Great Blue who was brought into the Wildlife Center with his wing shattered by a gunshot. Did someone do this just because he was big and slow and made an easy target? We’ll never know.
Maybe I can do just a little to help make up for all of this. And that is why I volunteer.
On the afternoon of Thursday, June 15th, Carolina Wildlife Center’s Director of Rehabilitation, Julie McKenzie received a phone call from Jennifer Gordon of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue requesting assistance with rescuing native wildlife animals found at a homicide crime scene in Chesterfield County.
Julie jumped in her car and drove to Chesterfield where she joined Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, Carolina’s Reptile Rescue & Education Center, Chesterfield County, SC Animal Services, Animal Rehabilitators of the Carolinas and found hundreds of illegally held wildlife animals. The victim was running an illegal animal trade business out of the home and as a result of inadequate care 80% of the animals found were dead from neglect or starvation. Following hours of examining the dogs, venomous and non-venomous snakes and turtles the surviving animals were divided among the various animal rescue organizations for rehabilitation.
Among many others reptiles, a large group of Spotted Turtles were found on the scene. Spotted Turtles are a threatened species in SC. It is illegal for individuals to have a spotted turtle in their possession without a permit. We were called not only because we have this permit, but also because Julie has years of experience in reptile rehab and specializes in turtles. Julie ended up traveling back with 22 turtles and would have taken more if we had the room. In total 10 spotted turtles, 10 Eastern Box turtles, 1 Diamond Back Terrain and 1 Alligator Snapping Turtle were admitted to the center for care. Some of the turtles are not doing well and in need of medical care.
This rescue would not be possible without the collaboration of all the rescues mentioned. Please consider donating to help us all continue to help these animals. As for CWC we desperately need filters to maintain good water quality for the Spotted Turtles rescued. We could also use EcoEarth to provide a comfortable substrate for the box turtles rescued. The Alligator Snapping Turtle would love some fresh caught fish! UVB lighting is also a great need. Also live insects, mealworms, wax worms and cricket provide a nice meal for our rescued shelled friends.
NOTE: We have received several other surrendered animals this year that were illegally removed from the wild. Most wildlife is protected by Federal and/or State laws and possession, harassment or destruction of these birds and animals can carry heavy fines and penalties. If you see or know of a potentially illegal situation, please contact Carolina Wildlife Center instructions on how to save these animals from harm.
There are a few things that occur every spring here at the wildlife center. The arrival of baby squirrels, opossums and birds starts it off. At first one or two a day, then 10 to 20 a day and so on until every flat surface in the building is covered with enclosures of demanding little ones wanting to be fed. Just when the staff is about to pull their hair out in frustration along comes the next arrival of spring, “The Summer Interns.” They are sunshine in tennis shoes, wide eyed with big smiles, eager to learn and help. They are more a blessing than they will ever know.
This spring we have two Communications and Marketing Interns in addition to our Animal Care Interns. This is a real treat. These two young ladies will be sharing their experiences here at CWC with you through our social media channels and newsletter. I am a strong believer that you can’t write about something until you have experienced it. So, over the course of the summer they will be exposed to every aspect of operating a wildlife rehabilitation and education facility. Here is a little example of how it’s going so far.
Meet Katie Cantrell, Winthrop University, 2016 Summer Intern
First Impressions as a Summer Intern
Day 1: Getting my Bearings
My journey as a Marketing and Communications Intern at the Carolina Wildlife Center began on Monday, May 16. My supervisor, Jay Coles, was not joking when he told me I would be thrown into the Center’s daily activities. After a brief orientation and tour of the grounds, my day started by observing the young birds being hand-fed. These particular birds must be hand-fed every 30 minutes; others must be fed every hour, and others every two hours. Between the commotion of the birds chirping away and timers signaling feedings, it was a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually the noise drowned out as I focused on learning how to properly feed the birds.
My first hands-on contact was with the Center’s resident opossum named Trinity, who I thought was beyond cute. (I never thought I would call an opossum cute.) Because she is a resident animal used for educational purposes, I was able to talk to and pet her. However, I have to restrain myself from talking to the rehabilitating wildlife, which is quite difficult for an animal lover like myself. Since ultimately the goal is to release them, talking to the animals might make them too comfortable around humans. This increases the possibility that they won’t stay away after being released.
Day 2: Getting my Hands Dirty
I would call my second day at the Center a success. A little-known fact about myself is that I am actually afraid of birds—a fact not even my supervisor knows. I had to face that fear without hesitation on my second day, since half of the rehabilitating animals have feathers and beaks. A few times a day, the bird boxes must be cleaned out, and their food and water must be replenished. In order to do this, you must remove the bird (or sometimes 3-4 birds) from the bin and temporarily place them into another. This involves picking the birds up, which honestly was the last thing I voluntarily wanted to do.
When I cracked open the lid to handle my first bird, I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I had never even touched a bird before. Before I could think myself out of it, I pushed aside all hesitation and went for it. And it wasn’t so bad. Being used to furry animals, holding a bird felt strange, but I actually enjoyed it. As I worked my way around the room, I started to get more comfortable handling birds. However, I learned that woodpeckers are not the nicest. A woodpecker gifted me with my first bite on the job, and as a result I had to get help handling him. I wasn’t quite ready to face my fear THAT much.
Day 3 & 4: Getting the Hang of Things
By the end of my first week, I felt like I was finally starting to get comfortable with the work at the Center. I had experience soaking turtles, changing out opossum and bird bedding, preparing diets for opossums and birds, and in general learning how to be helpful. Before starting this internship, I knew caring for rehabilitating animals was a lot of work, but really I had no idea just how much work goes into their care. After seeing it first-hand, when I hear the bell on the front door ringing as someone enters with a box, I can’t help but feel disheartened at the thought of having to care for another injured animal. However, from what I’ve seen of the staff at the Carolina Wildlife Center, I know those injured animals are going to receive the best possible care, and I am excited to be a part of that.
Meet Jamie Walters, Slippery Rock University, 2016 Summer Intern
From The Eyes Of An Intern: an unpaid yet rewarding story.
I have been at the Carolina Wildlife Center for a week now and I would be lying if I said the experience was exactly what I thought it would be. In just a short amount of time I have already learned and gathered so much of value that I will take with me for the years to come. My official title at the Carolina Wildlife Center is the Communication and Marketing Intern, yet it encompasses so much more. I am not only given the opportunity to work on my public relations skills, by sharing with the public all of the skills I’ve learned and put to use, but also, I am receiving hands on work with the wildlife, something I never imagined doing.
I would also be caught up in a lie, if I said the work being done at the Carolina Wildlife Center is easy. It takes a crafted-team of employees, volunteers and interns to complete the work, which is never quite finished. Countless hours are spent on your feet in cramped, crowded spaces, while being bitten and scratched by the injured animals. Many might ask, why? All of the members that come together at the Carolina Wildlife Center are being paid little to nothing, which for a college student I might add, making no money is not always ideal. Up until this point I have had no experience with the non-profit world, and I never had a full understanding of how they ran everyday business. I have gathered from my short time here, that money is the last thing on the employees minds. The work being done comes from a deeper sense of passion for wanting to help others, of different sizes and species. Animals have always held a special place in my heart, so when I had the chance to work at a wildlife center I jumped at it.
Since my first day that I’ve been working in non-profit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation I have realized that it will never be easy. Combined it will be frustrating, rewarding, wonderful, exhausting, enlightening, and heartbreaking all wrapped into one. The satisfaction of helping just one is tremendous. After my first day at the Carolina Wildlife Center I came home, my feet aching, and my mind and body physically drained. Not that the work was excessively physically demanding, but I was unaware of the work that had to be put in every minute at a rescue and rehabilitation center. I was not prepared for seven hours on my feet with no break. Between the staff, the volunteers, and the interns there is someone always there from 8 a.m. to sometimes after midnight, with beepers buzzing every 15 minutes as a reminder for the animals regular feedings.
You can really feel the joy of the people working beside you. Everyone is there for the same purpose, to help those who need it, to give the injured a second chance. I can’t quite find the word to describe how I feel about the Carolina Wildlife Center. However, I am proud that I am able to be a part of it as an intern. I am excited to not only take away knowledge from the kids camps I will be assisting with, the elementary schools I will be visiting, and the writing I will do for the Carolina Wildlife Center, but also learning more about the wildlife itself that surrounds us.
Money does not always make the experience worthwhile, taking pride in the overall work, and feeling like you are making a difference does. I have a newfound respect for the non-profit world.
Admission Date: March 19, 2016
Species: North American Beaver
Cause of Admission: Possible Orphan
Intake number: Beaver 01
On March 19, 2016, the staff of Carolina Wildlife Center admitted a rather unique animal, a North American Beaver (Castor Canadensis.) The beaver was found by a family on the side of the road. They attempt to re-nest it but unfortunately the beaver kept following them, which is a sign that it might have been orphaned. Upon initial examination, it was discovered the beaver, who is a female, weighed approximately 2.145 kilograms (about 4.73 pounds) and appears to be 8 weeks of age. After further examination, we saw that she had wounds on her lower back and tail, as well as a small part of her tail missing. She appeared to be bright, alert, and reactive but was emaciated. Also, her right femur may have been damaged. The beaver was given supported care via Subcutaneous Fluids, about a 5-10 minute swim in the sink and some leafy greens for a snack.
Natural History and Conservation
The North American Beaver is a nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent (the second-largest rodent in world behind the capybara.) Adults weigh anywhere from 24 to 71 pounds and can be as tall as 4 feet. They use their large webbed feet and paddle-shaped tails to help swim at speeds up to five miles an hour and remain underwater for up to 15 minutes at a time. Beavers are considered a keystone species. A keystone species is defined as organism that plays a crucial role in the environment they live. Without the keystone species, the environment would be extremely different or cease to exist all together. The dams that beavers build help create wetlands which almost half of endangered and threatened species of North America depend on to survive. They also help purify and control water.
• Beavers are very social creatures. They live in colonies and the kit would live with parents for two years. Older siblings would help raise younger siblings.
• Beavers do not hibernate. They will continue working during the winter.
• There are two species of beaver. The European or Eurasian beaver (Castor Fiber) and the North American beaver (Castor Canadensis).
• Beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate their environment – the largest dam in existence is located in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada. It stretches for 850m, and is visible from space.
Please consider making a donation to help care for this little girl and all of the animals Carolina Wildlife Center will take this year. Carolina Wildlife Care is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife to reintroduce back into its natural environment. CWC receives no state or federal funding. Donations can be made at http://carolinawildlife.org/donate/
Sunday, October 4th around 8:30 a.m. my wife woke me and announced that the water in the pond behind the house had reached the top of the dam and was beginning to breach over the road. She said our neighbors were moving cars out to higher ground, in case the dam failed. I moved my truck to the adjoining neighborhood and walked back to the house through ankle deep water.
Sunday, October 4th around 10:00 a.m. I sat down in front of the TV to watch the news and discovered that flooding was occurring throughout the Columbia area. They also reported that SCE&G had opened the floodgates at Lake Murray dam to relieve the pressure from upstate flooding. This was the first time a water release of this magnitude had occurred since the 1960s. All of that water was released into the Saluda River, which is less than a half mile from Carolina Wildlife Center.
I got in my truck and headed toward the center. As I crossed the Lake Murray dam I could see the release of water through the floodgates. What I saw caused me to call the center to make sure it was still there. Julie McKenzie, our Director of Rehabilitation, answered and said that she had not been outside in a while but every thing seemed okay.
Sunday, October 4th around 11:15 a.m. As I turned into the parking lot, I could see the property was already beginning to flood in the wooded area where we have our summer camp. I drove a stick in the ground at the edge of the water and walked inside to check on the staff and animals. After inspecting the outside aviaries and clearing some ground cover to allow the streams of water to flow around the backside of the building, Julie and I walked out to the parking lot. The stick I had put in the ground as a marker was covered by water. A quick calculation indicated that the water was rising at a rate of 6 to 8 inches per hour. If this continued, the building would be taking on water within five hours. It was time to make a decision. We had never done this before and would have to make up the plan as we went along.
Sunday, October 4th at 12:45 p.m. I posted on Facebook that we needed to evacuate the wildlife center. The water was rising across our property and we had no idea how high it might get.
There were 400 animals in the center including our Education Ambassador animals and we needed a place to retreat to quickly. Within minutes of that post we received the first calls and Facebook posts from individuals offering to take animals into their dining rooms, spare bedrooms and garages. Over 40 offers of safe, dry, high ground poured in over the next two hours.
When we learned that the fellowship hall at Providence Presbyterian Church was available, it was an all-out push to load every vehicle available and get them on the road. The church was the one place large enough to house all the animals in one location and offered a commercial kitchen for meal preparation. We franticly packed everything we thought we would need to care for the animals: food, bedding, medicine and spare equipment for the animals we might receive while we were away from the center.
Sunday, October 4th at 2:45 p.m. Volunteers began lining up in the parking lot to help transport animals. As the first load of animals and supplies from the center left for the church in West Columbia, we began to hear that law enforcement was closing roads due to the rising water.
Sunday, October 4th around 4:30 p.m. We returned to the center for another load and the water was at the edge of the parking lot. I was receiving texts of road closures and then a text that they were opening another floodgate at the dam. This would be our last trip. The cities and counties had announced an early curfew that evening for the entire area. We had only two hours to get back to the church, feed the animals for the night and get everyone safely home.
Sunday, October 4th about 5:30 p.m. As I locked the church doors behind us, it was time to figure out safe routes for everyone to get home. The usual roads home, for most of us, were not an option. Downed power lines, barricades, flooded roads, washed out roads and failed dams blocked the normal routes. The idea that if you can’t go forward, you can always go back ended when I crossed a small bridge over a stream and the Sheriff barricaded the road behind me. This raised questions as to whether we would be able to get back to the church in the morning, as well as fears that the rising water might have reached the wildlife center.
Sunday, October 4th at 8:07 p.m. I posted on Facebook that thanks to staff, volunteers and church members, all the animals were safe and dry. Now we would wait and see if the center would stay dry as well.
Monday, October 5th at 10:04 a.m. We were finally able to make our way around the road closures to check on the center. Floodwaters had made it to the door and stopped. There was one to three feet of standing water on three sides of the building, and the rear of the property was inaccessible. With electrical power outages and power lines down in the area, we were advised not to wade into any standing water. The water level in the camp area had reached seven feet deep. We also understood that that floodgates were still open and that opening additional gates might be required that night. So again, we waited.
Tuesday, October 6th at 10:30 a.m. We arrived at the center to find that the water was receding back to the tree line and it was safe to enter the building. The power was back on, and while the entire building smelled damp, there were only a few places where water had gotten in under walls and up through the floor drains. The biggest problem was bugs. Every spider, silverfish and palmetto bug for miles had moved in while we were out. The next few hours were spent moping floors and spraying insecticide.
Wednesday, October 7th and Thursday, October 8th Back at the temporary “nest” or “ark”, as some had named it, things were getting organized and flood rescued animals were beginning to arrive. Word of our evacuation had spread across the country and shipments of donated supplies were coming in from as far away as California, Washington state and New York. Locally, people were volunteering to take enclosure laundry home or to the Laundromat, and showing up at the center to help clean.
Friday, October 9th at 8:00 a.m. Volunteers began arriving at the center to help prepare for the animals to return on Saturday. Everything was removed from the building and washed. Every surface, inside and out was disinfected. Every cabinet was emptied and the contents washed. We were under a boil water advisory, and hundreds of gallons of water were donated to clean and fill turtle tanks. Over the course of the day, over 50 volunteers of all ages joined in the cleanup. A local Girl Scout troop accepted the task of putting our summer camp area back in order. We had over seven feet of water flood the camp area and the picnic tables had floated up against the fence. These young ladies raked, cleaned and got everything back into place. Other volunteers cleaned aviaries and outside enclosures as the work continued until dark.
Saturday, October 10th at about 9:00 a.m. It started raining and looked like we would return home in the same weather in which we had evacuated. By 10:00 a.m. the first volunteers showed up at the church and began running a caravan of animals and supplies that would last all day. Cars, minivans and pickups made trip after trip until the last load was delivered. By 6:00 that evening everything was in its place. Except for a box of files and the power cord for Barkley’s (our barking tree frog) mister, everything was accounted for and things seemed to be back to normal.
The effect of this storm and flood will linger for a long time in this community. Many families and businesses lost everything. As for Carolina Wildlife Center, our losses were small: a freezer, some food stocks and educational materials. All of these are things that can be replaced. On the other hand, it is not what we lost, but what we found that has had the greatest impact on us.
We found old friends and new friends who share our concern and compassion for wildlife. Friends who will give their time, energy and resources to ensure the care of our injured and orphaned wild animals. We found a church full of people willing to open their hearts and doors to take care of God’s creatures in need. We found that we can do whatever it takes to care for the animals entrusted to us, under whatever circumstances we face. To our staff, partner rehabilitators, volunteers and supporters, we thank you and we know that we could have not gotten through this without you.
Jay Coles, Executive Director
Like so many others, I remember going out into the backyard with my grandmother to feed the birds. She would take table scraps and day old bread and cast it around the base of the birdbath, and then we would sit on the back steps and watch as the birds gathered around to dine. She could name off every species of bird that came into the yard. When she went to the grocery store she would buy an extra loaf of bread, just for feeding the birds. Some days we would go to the city park and feed the ducks and geese and she would always take along a bag of crumbled white bread for me to through out to them. She loved her birds and never knew that her acts of kindness was harming, if not killing them.
As it turns out, bread is bad for birds and has little to no nutritional value. It’s an easy meal and when birds become accustom to being fed bread they don’t learn to forage for natural foods. This has several bad side effects that create real problems for birds and waterfowl in particular. The first is portion control. Ducks and geese will eat as long as someone feeds them. You offer up a couple slices of bread and then your neighbor puts out a pan of bread. Then the couple across the cove sends out their grandchildren to feed the birds. Now these birds are full and don’t want to eat the nutritional food they need to survive. If this pattern repeats for a long period of time it can actually lead to the birds being over weight, malnourished and can lead to death.
A high carbohydrate-based or unhealthy-high protein diet can cause a condition in geese, ducks and swans called “angle wing”. This deformity occurs when the last joint of the wings permanently twists outward and prevents the bird from flight. As winter approaches these birds are unable to migrate and can freeze to death. Birds that can’t fly are also more susceptible to predators.
There is another condition that an improper diet can cause in birds, all birds, called metabolic bone disease or MBD. This can occur in birds at any stage of life, but is especially frequent in young birds. MBD is like savior osteoporosis in humans. It causes extreme pain and a deforming of the bird’s entire skeletal system. Birds with MBD will often suffer from multiple bone breaks and fractures.
Another problem that occurs when feeding large groups of waterfowl is that they defecate in the same place that they feed. This can lead to the transmission of diseases from one bird to another. When birds feed naturally, they are less likely to forage in large groups and in areas of heavy deposits of excrement.
This is not to say that you should never feed the bird and waterfowl. Occasional feeding is a great way to enjoy these beautiful animals. Just remember portion control and don’t feed at the same location all the time. Don’t ever feed them bread, popcorn, crackers, cat food or dog food. Feed them healthy foods, such as cracked corn, wheat, barley or similar grains and oats. Duck pellets or birdseed of any type or mix is a good choice. You can also give them grapes that are cut in half or even fresh diced vegetables or defrosted frozen peas or corn. These are all good options, readily available and will keep the birds healthy and happy.
From: Jay Coles, ED, Carolina Wildlife Center
For just over two years I have been part of one of the most interesting organizations I have ever encountered. The world of non-profit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation has got to be one of the most fascinating, frustrating, enlightening, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting and heartbreaking environments to work in that one can imagine. Just as unique as the environment are the people who choose to work and volunteer in it. This is for them.
They work long hours on their feet in cramped spaces for little to no pay and no benefits. They are pooped on, peed on, pecked, clawed, bitten and scratched. They get squawked at, hissed at, growled at from the hungry, frightened, hurting animals in their care and respond with smiles and words of comfort.
At our rescue and rehabilitation facility we have three semi-full time staff and a part-time staff of up to 15, adjusted seasonally based on what wildlife is birthing at any point in nature. Then there are our volunteers. This group of 120 or so heroes shows up purely out of their love for helping wildlife. The other group that is so essential to our ability to operate the center is our student interns. College students from the area, and this year from halfway across the country, join the staff and volunteers during their summer break from school.
Let’s start with our Volunteers
They show up at the door with a smile on their face and are willing to do the worst jobs in the center. They tackle the never-ending piles of soiled laundry, clean out cages and scrub kennels on the wash pad. They take out the trash, sweep and mop floors or sort acorns. Some stand at the ready to transport animals to and from our rescue partners. Some like to help with feeding animals and soaking the turtles, but most seem content knowing that whatever they have done made a difference that day by giving the staff a bit of a break and caring for the amazing wild creatures with which we are entrusted. They bring treats and joy and will never be told often enough how much they truly mean to us. It’s funny that so many of our volunteers say, “thank you” to us, when they leave for the day.
Our Amazing College Interns
First, let me say that these are young college students who could have spent their summer hanging out with friends at the lake, but instead volunteered to work here with us, learning about wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation.
Upon their arrival in June, they bring to us a feeling of relief and a breath of fresh spring air. They show up just as songbird season is getting into full swing. They are full of curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. Their first day is filled with “every 15 minute feeding“ timers beeping constantly for very demanding nestling birds, and working in a space half the size it needs to be prepping opossum diets and turtle salads. I am always amazed when they return the next day still smiling. They are a joy to have around and such a blessing. We all dread mid-August as they begin to leave to return to school.
The backbone of Carolina Wildlife Center is the staff, a handful of gifted and talented people whose love of nature drives them to give far more of themselves than we can ever fully repay.
Every time the cow bell on the front door rings the entire staff freezes, part in anticipation of what amazing bird or animal they’re about meet and part in dread of what poor injured or orphaned wild animal has required rescue. This is where, so often, the frustration and heartbreak mentioned earlier comes in. There are some animals that just cannot be saved. Every time an animal dies or has to be euthanized to end its suffering, another heart is broken. These are animal lovers. It takes a very special type of person to do what they do every day. Thankfully, we keep finding them.
Case in point: Just the other day the cowbell on the door rang and soon after a loud squeal came from the front desk. As I approached to investigate I found Julie, our Director of Rehabilitation, looking into a cardboard box, half full of dirt with a big grin on her face. She looked at me and said “soft-shell turtles” and her grin got bigger. “We never get soft-shell turtles.” By that point the entire group of staff, interns and volunteers had gathered around the box as Julie dove into an immediate wildlife lesson on soft-shell turtles, their nesting habits and all that makes them so distinctive. The fact that her passion for these animals continues to shine through in the midst of all the daily challenges the Center faces is nothing short of amazing. Then it’s back to work until the cowbell rings and something fascinating, frustrating, enlightening, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting or heartbreaking comes through the door.
If you have a heart for wildlife and would like to join the ranks of this dedicated team, contact me at your convenience. If you value the work of Carolina Wildlife Center and would like to see it continue, please make a donation ASAP. Summer donations are critically low, yet animals continue to come to us in record numbers. We need your help now.