Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Brown Bat - our neighborhood night flyer

I ran across a Big Brown Bat on the street last night, right at dusk. It had apparently escaped the talons of an owl, punctured in the chest by a talon. It soon died on the street after trying valiantly to recover and fly off. I feared it could have rabies, like many residents tend to do, so I ran home and got my camera and some gloves and something to carry the animal. On my return to the site, it had already died, looking more like a glob of mud on the ground than a mammal. I did retrieve the bat, placed it in a bag and took it home. 

After calling agencies to find out the appropriate action I should take, it became apparent that no one of authority was concerned about rabies nor was there any advice except to bury the creature. Rabies is not as prevalent in bats as we might think. That is what makes the news, but the risk is not so much a reality. So after calling,  I took a few photos and buried the creature.

The Big Brown Bat does not have prominent visible teeth like some bats. It is a very common bat species. It can number 1000 in one forest group. Here, there is no telling where its family might be, only that it should be very close-by, considering the time of day that I found it. I know of one home in this neighborhood that has a bat house attached to it. Maybe that was its habitat.

Our forests are amazing. They contain a large diversity of animals and plants.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Magnificant Eagle downed by man's neglect to care

This story by Annette King Tucker touched me deeply. I hope it reaches you in the same manner as I. The next time I am trying to rid my home of tree rats,  I will be more cautious! Will you?

What an honor it was on Saturday November 7th to be called upon by State authorities to care for one of our Nation's greatest treasures. This majestic bird was not only impressive to look at, but his presence actually seemed to change the climate in our wildlife clinic. It became "sacred ground" for awhile, and I could not have been more humbled to have been handed such a trust. I have never touched an Eagle, and here I was examining his massive body, running my fingers along his wing bones checking for breaks, opening the impressive beak looking for evidence of problems. I was shaking. The pressure to save his life was tangible, and the responsibility was overwhelming.

After finding no physical injuries, I clearly felt this eagle was fighting an internal battle. His breathing was slightly labored and he was somewhat thin, but in relatively good flesh. The thought of a poisoning came to mind, and struck a familiar chord of fear in me. Animals who ingest other animals dying from rodent poison fall victim to the same fate, but a far slower death would come. It would be too late to save this eagle if that were the case. From the tattered state of his tail, he had been on the ground for a few days at least. I had hope that I was wrong and this was a lung infection and nothing more.

"Spirit" as we called him, began to recover immediately. Although he was rejecting food, we continued to treat him for an infection and for a crop that had clearly shut down and had become rancid. We gave him some medication, and the listless bird turned around for us overnight. The treatments were working, and he began standing strong with his wings tucked away properly. He began to drink water on his own and was vocalizing from time to time. We gave him privacy and avoided handling him except for necessary cage changing. He was extremely cooperative with me for all of his treatments. I kept him confined so that I could medicate him quickly and avoid undue stress. He was an ideal patient, until yesterday.

Although he had passed all inspections for progress yesterday morning, by afternoon something had gone horribly wrong. Spirit was suddenly gasping for breath, and he was distressed. We didn't hesitate. We immediately took him to our veterinarian, Doctor Lesleigh Cash of Hooves Paws and Claws in Claremore.

Life support was given to no avail. His decline was sudden and unstoppable as his body began to shut down. Spirit had been showing the tell tale signs of rodent poisoning and was treated for such, but his progress had given us hope for a miracle. This condition is always fatal for wildlife as we do not get them until the toxins are well absorbed and the animals are unable to avoid being captured. People who use poison for rodents do not realize that they do not die immediately. They are likely to wander aimlessly for hours, becoming easy prey to hungry wildlife and domestic pets. I have cared for dozens of poisoned wild animals in my 14 years as a wildlife care specialist. I've saved none of them.

Last night I brought our beautiful bird back to my wildlife clinic, his empty cage standing before me, his lifeless body in my arms. Ceremoniously, I wrapped him in an American flag and lay my head on him with tremendous pain and regret. I thanked him for allowing me the hope of his recovery, and for fighting with us, as hard as we did, even though recovery was impossible. I apologized to him for the tragedy of his death, and the cruel contribution from my own species to his suffering. What an incredible animal! What Spirit! He will be picked up by a Federal wildlife agent soon and handed over to a Native American eagle feather program who will use his feathers with great respect and honor.

We at Wild Heart Ranch dedicate our lives to improve the lives of thousands of our original Americans, the wildlife with whom we share space. We feel this is part of our responsibility as the dominate species, to assist those creatures who are helpless against the infringement of people into their lives, and without care when tragedy finds them. We ask that out of respect for those who have no voice, that the use of poisons be rethought when dealing with rodents. There are other ways to cope that create no other victims. I would have rather never touched an American Eagle, than to have had one die in my arms yesterday. This could have been avoided, and I feel it is our duty to change our ways to avoid such a needless and devastating loss.

We thought of our soldiers away from home in the bold and revered Spirit of an eagle that for a few brief days, touched the honored few who shared space with him. God speed. We are forever changed. We wish we could have released him to honor you all.

As I look for ways to expand our facility to provide more suitable and substantial means to care for these animals, I will take with me each day the motivation I felt to save just one; the eagle that didn't fly. He represents all of them to me, as well as all of us. It is time for change, and it is time to do more for others and to be better Americans, even if it just means opting for mouse traps instead of bait.

A few photos were taken at the few times we handled Spirit. They are now my treasures. I wanted to share his majesty and his story. I couldn't allow him to go without leaving something behind for us to learn.

God Bless.
Annette King Tucker Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue

If you find a fawn ...

The grass is turning green, the flowers are starting to bloom and in the Montgomery County area, babies are being born to wild creatures.

Friends of Texas Wildlife is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife. It is often called upon to help what appears to be an orphaned fawn when, in actuality, it’s not orphaned at all. Fawns are often left alone for several hours while the mother is looking for food. Here are some tips to help you recognize if a fawn needs help. If a fawn is obviously ill, lying on its side, kicking, crying or is covered with fire ants, pick it up and place it in a box or animal carrier. A light cloth placed over the animal's head will sometimes calm it. Keep it away from pets and all human activity. Petting the fawn, talking to it or holding it does not comfort it. This is a wild animal. Human voices, odor and touch only add to the stress and will cause additional harm. DO NOT FEED THE FAWN ANYTHING. Call Friends of Texas Wildlife at once for help.

If an uninjured fawn is seen, leave it alone and leave the area. The fawn would not be there if the doe were not nearby. You will not see her mother. She will return for the fawn only when there are no humans near. If you have removed the fawn from its resting spot, TAKE IT BACK AT ONCE and walk away.  The doe will be searching for her fawn and will accept it even with human scent on it.

In general, it is not a good idea to make a wild animal your pet. Not only is it not fair to the animal, it is against the law. According to Chapter 63, Section 63.002 of the Parks and Wildlife Code, no person can possess a live game animal (deer are game animals) for any purpose not authorized by their code. The first offense for illegal possession of a live deer is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 plus court costs. There are similar laws for possession of other animals such as raccoons.

The picture you see was taken in someone’s yard in the Lake Windcrest subdivision off of FM 1488. Apparently, someone thought this fawn was abandoned and decided to make it their pet. After it was collared and leased, it escaped and was seen running throughout the subdivision. Its chances of survival in such incidents are extremely slim unless captured and turned over to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.

If you have questions about what to do if you find an animal in your area or even in your attic, call FRIENDS OF TEXAS WILDLIFE at 281-259-0039 or check their website at

My neighbor once found such a fawn here in The Woodlands.  He brought the animal for all to see in the cul-de-sac. It was found in a green area on the other side of his fence. It did not move when his dog kept barking at it. So my neighbor reached over the fence and [picked it up. It came alive and fought back. It was only obeying its mother to stay there until she returned. I asked him to return it, as advised by Friends of Texas Wildlife.  We never knew the final disposition of the creature, but I suspect its mother returned to fetch it.