Saturday, May 31, 2008

the end

things got a bit hectic towards the end of my internsihp with having to head back to new jersey for grandmas's funeral, will coming for christmas, people being injured and the cold weather coming in. there are a few more things i added on to the end.

Weeks 8-the end

  • The weekend I was gone turned out to be the weekend from hell for WRR. First, three interns, including myself, were gone. Second, Destiny threw out her back the first day I was gone at WalMart picking up the produce we get donated everyday. Third, John, the guy who primarily works below the gate, was attacked by a lemur who put a huge gash in his leg. So not only were we down three interns to start with, Destiny couldn’t move and John couldn’t walk.

  • Also over the weekend Destiny had Pm phones (every night from 11pm to 6am one of the staff members or interns gets the phones forwarded to them so we have someone answering phones 24 hours a day) and at 4 am she got a call from someone who had hit a very large animal. No one knew what it was so she got everything from a water buffalo to an ox. Finally we were able to coordinate getting Suki and Jarrod out to the animal with the trailer to find that it was a kudu, an African plains animal about the size of a large cow. Unfortunately, soon after getting our trailer out there and picking the kudu up, he died. For weeks afterward he sat in the walk in freezer (he took up most of the space) until we finally got our meat guy to carve him up. Theresa and I helped to pull out all the organs for the carnivores and they were massive! The stomach itself probably would have filled two five gallon buckets and the heart was the size of a football.

  • One Wednesday the Executive Director/Founder decided to take all of the interns on a tour of the facilities, mostly below the gate where the larger permanent residents were, to tell us some of the stories on how those animals came to be at WRR. She definitely has a soft spot for the primates, as we spent most of our time talking about the macaques. She informed us that while several were ex-pets and from closing zoos, most were from research facilities, including Harvard. Two of our bears were from a local university whose mascot is a bear. They thought it would be a good idea to have a live bear at the university and then realized a bear was more work than they wanted. Twice. The third bear was one who was raised from a cub by someone who also decided having a bear wasn’t the best idea and turned the bear over to a rehab facility in the Northeast. Twice they tried to release the bear into the wild and twice she made her way back to the facility. The third time she was released she seemed to have finally gotten the idea to be a bear and stay in the wild. Or so they thought. It turns out that a family from Manhattan had gone camping and somehow managed to close the curious bear up in their camper and make it all the way back into the city. Upon opening the camper in the middle of the city and finding a bear in it, the rehab center decided she needed a permanent home.

  • As the season died down, we had fewer animals in the clinic, so we began to cut back on the shifts to only 2-3 people working all day, which meant one person would open in the morning and one would close in the evening, with the occasional shift in the middle if there were enough people that week. Since it was also getting quite cold in the evening, the closing person also had to go do heat checks around the property to make sure all of the heaters were working and all of the animals were using their heated facilities. The first night I was learning which heaters to check, I tagged along with one of the older interns. The primary concern were the primates so we went into the macaque house, which of course woke many of them up. One macaque was particularly upset about our presence and starting peeing all over my shoulder.

  • My first shift closing by myself went fairly smoothly until I got a call about a half hour before closing time from a woman who had found a yearling whitetail deer hit by a car. She was good enough to volunteer to bring it in with one of her friends, who in turn donated his flashlight to us because he witnessed the one functional flashlight we had on the entire property, which was hardly brighter than a candle.

  • In order to get the interns more involved with more of the animals on the property, like those below the gate which we rarely worked with if at all, we were trained to the ‘feed-out’ shift in the evening right before dark. This involved feeding many of the nocturnal animals as well as double-checking some of the more sensitive animals and handing out snacks. First stop was topping off the outdoor cats’ bowls, followed by feeding the fennec foxes. Next: treats for the macaques and capuchins, which included high protein things like nuts, monkey chow, dried fruit, cereal and even dog treats. After the primates we threw the juvenile bobcats’ food over the fence and if you were lucky you would catch a glimpse of them. They were experts at hiding in the tall grass tufts. Plates of cut-up mice and chicks were next for the owls, followed by all of the animals that happened to be in native mammal. Native mammal held the guys that were pretty much entirely acclimated to the outdoors and were soon to be released. These enclosures could include raccoons, squirrels, skunks, opossums, bobcats, vultures, or pretty much anyone else who needed some temporary space. Next stop: Asian lions. These girls were pretty old and skinny so we needed to feed them some extra treats, like chicken, to try to keep their weight on. After that, it was on to the guys above the gate. The sugarglider was first, then the deer were checked on. Since most of them were in somewhat critical condition, we tried to keep an eye on them often during the day. Next were the coatis, my favorite! They are crazy beggars and they were climbing all over the gate into the enclosure when we drove up. In order to keep them from climbing all over you, the best method was to throw one bowl in to distract them while you put down the rest of the bowls elsewhere. Their meals were gone pretty much instantaneously. Last up were the raccoons and the geriatric bobcats. The raccoons were pretty much always asleep, but the bobcats were pretty much always at the door and hungry. One girl was more shy and would walk away when you opened the gate to the enclosure, but the other guy would stand right next to you until you put the dish down[see picture].

  • Because I was interested in working with some of the administrative aspect of WRR, I requested working on a new intern manual with Suki. One day she scheduled me to work with her and Petra so we could work on rewriting the employee and intern manuals. I spent this day working on the new manual since we were having a new intern coming in the next week. I enjoyed the work a lot, as I was able to do some research, as well as learn some additional information by working one-on-one with Suki. That evening I went with Destiny into San Antonio to drop off a sick vulture who had been in the clinic for a few days with an unknown illness to the vet to get some testing done. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, he had died. We did do the evening pickup from the animal hospital, which included a rooster who had been mauled by a dog and three red-eared slider turtles. The turtles were perfectly fine so we just slipped them into the Blanco River on our way back. The rooster was pretty badly beaten up, with puncture wounds in his rear end and missing most of the feathers on his back end.

  • Another night closing on my own proved to be busy due to incoming animals. In fact, I got 8 different animals in that evening, including a rattlesnake and a bobcat. The rattlesnake was in an aquarium and had been someone’s pet for the past five years, but that someone had to move and couldn’t keep the snake any longer. The bobcat was a juvenile who had been raised since a kitten by a guy who also felt he could no longer take care of him. The worst part about it was that the bobcat’s diet for who knows how long had been wet dog food… Luckily, he quickly caught on to eating red meat and didn’t act friendly with us one bit.

  • The bobcat was kept under observation for a few days since he had the potential for a lot of problems, including nutritional deficiencies, but he was acting well enough to move out with the other juvies. The three juvies are due to be released in a few months, once the weather starts getting warmer again. The rattlesnake actually moved into our trailer with Merande because she was the most experienced with snakes other than John. She was in charge of beginning to acclimate it to the outdoors so he too could be released once spring came. When he actually came out from under his rock, he was a very impressive diamond back who enjoyed the live mice we caught in the clinic for him. The rooster who lost most of his rear end feathers to a dog actually healed very well and got a bit of an attitude in the clinic. We eventually moved him outside with some others chickens so he could strut around without us interrupting him.

  • Way back in the end of summer, we starting getting calls from a woman in San Antonio who lived near a community who had let the artificial pond in the development dry up, despite the fact that a population of at least 30 muscovey ducks were living there. Despite us assuring her that the ducks would move on and take care of themselves, she took it upon herself to try to feed and water them all and call us every week to try to get us to do something. Some flew away and some died, but by November, there were still about 20 ducks who had moved under a truck at a cleaners across the street. Finally, they asked me if I would go out there and try to catch the ducks to bring back to WRR. I went and spent several hours with the woman and her daughter chasing after the ducks. In the end, we were only able to get about 7 of the slow ones, since the rest figured out we couldn’t fly and got away pretty easily. The worst part was that the woman had tried to contact the homeowners association for the community so that they could deal with their dried up pond, but nobody cared about it, and she was even threatened by people in the community to stay away. Right at the front of the development, however, was still a giant sign boasting ‘Eden’s Water Sanctuary’, the community’s little piece of land ‘built for the wildlife’.

  • The weather around Thanksgiving was still pretty warm, in fact, it was warm enough to have bees and they were everywhere in the nutrition center, including crawling up my pants leg and stinging me once on the shin and then once on the fingertip. I took some homeopathies for the swelling, but my leg still ended up blowing up so big it hurt to wear pants over it.

a few more memories i added in:
  • There was a freak hail storm coming in on what otherwise seemed like a bright and sunshiny day. This sent us all frantically rushing around the property to open up the shelters we usually put the animals into at night so that they had somewhere to take cover from the falling balls of ice. I had to rush out and get all of the parrots inside, which I wasn't looking forward to, since some of the parrots had major attitude. Just as I was inside one of the enclosures - which means I had two locked doors between me and freedom - the hail started. I could see the parrots looking out at me, wondering what the hell I was doing outside in their enclosure when they were snug and safe inside. Finally I made it into the aviary, after a good battering with the hail. Unfortunately, the aviary has a metal roof, which meant it was so loud inside I couldn't hear my radio going "Where is Erica? Are the birds inside??". Luckily the storm only lasted a few minutes and everything could stop panicking about losing animals (or interns) to a freak hail accident.
  • There was a particularly cold day that Destiny was on Above the gate shift and it took her long into the night to finish up. She came home for dinner before needing to go back out again to fill the shelters up with hay for the sheep and horses and goats and emus. Except by then, it was also sleeting and completely miserable, so I decided to help so she could get home at a reasonable hour and so the animals could be nice and warm, too. So we get severeal bundles of hay and head to the pastures, only to find the first shelter completely empty. We fill it up anyway and move to the next one, where only a few animals are hiding. The last pasture and the same story! Completely wet and chilled, we finish emptying the hay, grumbling because apparently the animals knew a way better place to be hiding in the cold and our hay mission was completely pointless.
  • Last, but not least, and probably one of the most memorable, was a day I worked in the clinic with Adele. I remember this clearly because she laughed at me more than she helped me. I had R4, which just so happened to have a cranky little skunk in it that needed meds. I had successfully handled the skunk before, which isn't easy to do because you have to wear big leather gloves and manage to wrap their back end up in a towel while also giving the multiple medications. Only this day, the skunk managed to jump out of the towels. He didn't escape, but jumped straight back into his cage, firmly planted his feet in the ground and sprayed. Directly into my eye. Now, I couldn't tell what was worse, the smell or the stinging. When I rushed out into the clinic, blindly fumbling for saline solution, Adele nearly fell over laughing. While I had my face under the faucet, she managed to open up a bottle of saline. After another good wash and giggle and change of clothes, it was back to work. From then on, we were all required to wear goggles when working with the skunks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

elvis the pelvis

elvis the pelvis was the first cat to come stay in our trailer - and the most energetic! you would never have known there was anything wrong with him. he is now a healthy kitty living with noelle. if i wasn't moving to new zealand after working in texas, i would have taken my favorite cat, squints, with me - i wonder where squinterson is now??

Weeks 5, 6, 7

I lost my notebook that had all of these days in it so I am just going to have to go off memory and relate the things I do remember.

  • The Open House on October 8th meant a long, hard week right beforehand, with pretty much everyone working 6 days and many hours trying to get all of the animals taken care of, as well as any extra cleaning projects to make the place look spotless. One of the least desirable projects was cleaning out the Nutrition Center where all of the permanent residents’ food is prepared. The worst part: the walk-in cooler. About 200 pounds of meat (mostly chicken and deer carcasses) go through that cooler everyday, as well as about a dozen boxes of produce. You can imagine the bloody, sticky mess that leaves. Several hours later, and many pots of boiling water, we the interns had the Nutrition Center looking about as spotless as it could get.

  • We all got trained on the food prep shift right before the open house, which was a welcome change from being in the clinic everyday doing much of the same thing. There are three main groups we have to prep: carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores (mostly primates). The carnivores include a jaguar, lions, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, hawks, owls, caracals, and vultures. And lets just say, preparing their diets involves a machete. The omnivores include the bears, raccoons, foxes and opossums. They are the most fun to prep for because it’s a nice mix of meat and veggies and no chopping of carcasses involved. The primates take the longest to prepare because we have so many. We end up preparing about 10 5-gallon buckets full of fruits and vegetables. The remaining herbivores (sugar-gliders, squirrels, and reptiles) are pretty easy.

  • We got in a kitten from the humane society that they were planning on putting down because of a broken pelvis. He was prescribed cage rest, which basically meant he meowed all day long, so we brought him to our trailer for some company. A few weeks later he is climbing up legs and furniture even though he is still super tiny. And we named him Elvis the Pelvis, Elvis for short.

  • There is something eating some of the fowl in our domestic fowl yard (called Garyland after a former resident turkey named Gary). One of the newest residents, a one-legged mallard (who had his leg amputated) was found with his head bitten off. Not two days later another duck was found the same way. We think it is a raccoon, nick-named Slasher, who did the same thing a few years ago. We installed electric fencing around three or four enclosures with slow-moving resident birds and mammals as a precaution and so far no more decapitations.

  • I finally got my last rabies shot, so I can officially work with all of the vector species. Raccoons are general antisocial and even aggressive when they are adults, but babies are needy and want to be held all the time. We have a baby in the clinic right now who makes little coon noises and cries until we socialize with her. We let her walk around the clinic yard with us a little bit so she can get some exercise and relieve some of her boredom.

  • We also had to bring several of our opossums out into the clinic yard for some exercise three to four times a day as part of their physical therapy regimen as three of our juvenile opossums weren’t fully using their back legs. They didn’t like it but we had to chase them around for a while as well as do stretches and other exercises to encourage them to use their legs to walk and run. I even ended up bathing one of them with a severe flea problem who wouldn’t use his legs to walk but just to scratch.

  • My favorite squirrel died. He was a bit of a runt when he came in, and always a character. We called him the bald squirrel because he had thin hair all over, but especially on top of his head. He walked around like a puppy, all wobbly but with his tail up and looking for somebody to pay attention to him and when he was in his cage he had his nose pressed up against the bars so he could nibble on our fingers and play. He was finally starting to grow in a nice coat and get fat from all the solids he was eating, but one day he just went down hill and the next day he was gone. It’s possible it was one of the respiratory infections that was going around, or maybe he was just a sick squirrel to begin with and his death was due to something developmental. Maybe his mother kicked him out of the nest (as it is common for squirrels to do) because she had some sixth sense knowing he wasn’t going to survive. It is just very disappointing to nurse and care for an animal for over a month, only to have him die in two days without warning. Luckily we all loved him and he will be missed by everyone who worked with him.

  • Three little coons moved from the clinic to one of the outdoor day cages, but not a few weeks later did they start to show signs of having parvovirus. We had a big outbreak of parvo at the end of the summer, and now it is back and hit our last few little coons. One was euthanized because he was in such bad condition, being severely dehydrated and having constant diarrhea. The other two are currently in the clinic getting medicine and fluids. One is worse off than the other, so she was separated from her sibling and he has been crying pitifully ever since. Hopefully we caught these two early enough to save them.

  • The lemurs in the cat yard have been giving us trouble because they are so friendly. Several are ex-pets and they just want to crawl on you every time you enter the enclosure, unfortunately, they have big claws and can hang on and scratch pretty easily, even if not intentionally. The funniest thing when you enter that enclosure, all of the cats start meowing and the lemurs join in making a sound almost identical to the meowing. So cute!

  • Nearly all of our squirrels have moved to Native Mammal, our outdoor enclosure, where they stay for a few weeks before being released on their own. We only have a few tiny squirrels left, but even those are well on their way to growing up, as it is a bit late in the season to be so small.

  • Baby, the vulture, has taken to strolling into our house when we leave the door open. He generally doesn’t go much farther than the kitchen but sometimes he will come pick at the carpet to see if it is edible. He also likes pecking at toes. We generally kick him out before he poops on the floor. Fact: vultures’ legs are really black but they always look white because they poop all over them.

  • Only about three of my acquaintances outside of Texas know what it means to ‘dress a deer’. For the rest of you, it basically means cutting up a deer carcass into carnivore-edible-sized pieces. That is legs, ribs, neck and head. And organs, of course. We learned on a deer that was killed by a car.

  • Opossums generally are not confrontational animals, they just like to open up their mouths and look scary. Occasionally there is a grumpy opossum that lunges or growls but they usually give plenty of warning before they bite. Tonight a new opossum came in from one of our drop-off points and when I was in the process of moving him from one tiny to cage to a larger carrier, he turned around and bit my wrist. Hard. Adult opossums have the strongest jaw muscles of pretty much everything we work with. They can easily bite through turtle shells and he easily put a large puncture in my wrist. Luckily for me, opossums don’t have very sharp teeth. Although they do eat meat, they don’t have the sharp teeth of a carnivore because they are scavengers so most of what they eat is not difficult to tear apart.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

who let the pigs out

it's not written in my journals, but this may have been the week i left a latch to the piglet cage open and they all escaped. in the process, i got a horrible case of poison ivy and theresa tranquillized herself... in retrospect, this was possibly one of the funniest days of my life, but i guess you had to be there.

Week 4


  • Most of the squirrels are growing up enough that they are eating solids, and some refuse to eat formula altogether. I gave one such ornery squirrel, who squealed and fought every time a nipple came near him, a big piece of strawberry and before I even put him back down in his cage he was going to town on it. I put in three more pieces of melon and apple and he ate them up too. If only I could get the rest of the squirrels to catch on to this.

  • Castle West brought in a big animal delivery today, the coolest being an African Spur thigh tortoise, even bigger than the last one we got in. He must have been an ex-pet because he was in such good shape.

  • Also brought in was a newborn rodent of some sort. Petra and I spent nearly a half an hour looking it over and trying to figure out what it was. We think it might be a rat because it’s too small and dark to be a squirrel.

  • An adult opossum also came in, who was severely emaciated and nearly naked because her hair had thinned out or fallen off so badly. Petra and I brought her into the clinic to check her out and saw that she had a horrible flea infestation as well as cataracts. We inspected her pouch to see if there were any babies, but all we found were maggots. Then we worked on cleaning out her ears (also a common place to find maggots) as one of them was severely swollen. It was infected and we spent a good long time flushing out puss and more maggots. To make it even worse she had bloody prolapsed intestines which we couldn’t get to stay in. That will probably require stitches if she makes it through the night.

  • Tonight, or rather early this morning (3am), was my night to give the late squirrel feeding. I went in a bit early to go work on cleaning the refrigerator (my project) and then got to feeding the few guys that needed a late feeding, which were just the smallest guys and the sick ones. The only thing about the late feeding is that the clinic is actually kind of creepy at night with all of the mice running around and other nocturnal animals all stirring, so it is actually kind of noisy in a dark night time creepy way.


  • One of the three little skunks is a little fatty and is not using his back legs, mostly because he can be pretty lazy and just eat all day. So we have to do some physical therapy to get him moving his legs more, which mostly consists of stretching and exercising his legs like little skunk aerobics.

  • The emaciated adult opossum that came in last night is actually doing much better now that she has fresh food and she got all washed up. We think she is a pretty old lady so hopefully we can get her healthy enough to live a little while here.

  • We decided the mystery rodent was a field mouse.


  • The six little opossums that came in a while back are doing very well, in fact, we offered them a dish with their formula in it to see if they would start lapping. A few of them figured it out while the others just walked through the dish and ended up licking it off of each other.

  • The little skunks were finally starting to eat their way through their net cage so we had to put them in one of the outdoor cages. They looked so tiny in such a huge cage!

  • In our effort to fix all of the (not so little) pigs that were born this summer, I helped one of the other interns Ankur catch some pigs in one of the day cages. They are rough and mean so I really just helped corner the pigs while he grabbed them.

  • Tonight was my night to wash dishes in the nutrition center and one of the cats that wanders around the property sat and watched me the entire time. He was probably upset that I still had the lights on in one of the best mouse-catching buildings on the property.


  • Fourteen new squirrels came in from Houston from a rehabilitator who was hit by Hurricane Rita. They are different type of squirrels than around here, fox squirrels, who are much more active as opposed to our squirrels who are much more docile and friendly.

  • Because of the extreme heat the past few days, we decided to bring a few of the large snakes inside. There were three huge ones all about 5 feet long in one of the IC rooms so they could be in the air conditioning.

  • Also brought in from an outside cage was a sugar glider with an injured eye. I had never seen one up close before and it looks like a fuzzy E.T.


  • As I went to feed the R1 squirrels, I realized that one of the little squirrels was missing. I looked all over the room and in every cage but nowhere to be found. I told Noelle and she suggested looking in the laundry basket, apparently a lot of escapees find their way there and just end up going to sleep. And there he was, curled up and loving the freedom.

  • The sugar glider died :(

  • A few cats were dropped off earlier in the week by someone who was evacuating from the hurricane and all of them were in pretty rough shape. In addition, we suspect that they all have FIV.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

baby, baby

unfortunately, not long after i left, baby died. there were a few vultures dying off, possibly from aspergilllosis, but i'm not sure if they ever found out for sure.

Week 3


  • The squirrel room is finally getting a bit more manageable now that many of the little ones are growing up enough to be upgraded so that they don’t have to be fed every 2 hours. Also having a volunteer there to help with feedings is a blessing.

  • Having more time away from the squirrels, I was able to do all of the piglet’s meds and treatments, one of which included taking his temperature (rectally), the duration of which he squealed like... well, a pig. He doesn’t really like people touching him unless it involves food.

  • I got to tube feed the baby opossums, too, for once. They are so cute when they are little, but they have such strong jaw muscles, even when they are tiny, that it isn’t too easy to pry open their mouths and put a tube down their throat. Once the tube is there, though, the rest is easy.


  • After our crash course on phones yesterday, I had my first shift answering phones today. The man who used to do all of our phone work left this week so it is all up to us now. Most of the calls were people who had injured wildlife, unfortunately not many are willing to travel to deliver the injured animals to us, nor do we have very many volunteers who are able to pick the animals up for us either. Several people actually got very angry at me when I explained there isn’t anything we can do for the animal if it isn’t brought to the facility because we do not have the funds to run a fleet of rescuers all around Texas. One woman actually said we should get better volunteers because it doesn’t seem like they are very dedicated to saving wildlife. As if that isn’t ridiculous enough, there were dozens more who wouldn’t believe me that they wouldn’t get the plague if they picked up an injured bird with a towel. Some people think that because we work at this facility we have some special super powers that make us immune to every disease, because obviously all wildlife is diseased and contagious… And yet we all work here everyday. Some people just don’t make any sense.

  • When I wasn’t answering phones, I was sifting through mealworms, as three new boxes arrived today (via FedEx, in case you were wondering how to ship live insects).

  • As I sat out on the porch talking on the phone, something big came flapping down behind me, which pretty much scared me half to death until I turned around to see it was one of the resident vultures, Baby. He came to sit by me and see if I would play. I pet and scratched him for about a half an hour while I was on the phone and when I finally went inside, he stayed perched on the railing and then hopped down to tap on the glass sliding door to get my attention. I’m sure he would have come in and hung out if I had let him, because he wasn’t done socializing.

  • Later on in the evening one of the staff members, Petra, showed up to see if anyone could help vaccinate some of the outdoor raccoons. They needed their last series of distemper shots and some homeopaths. We picked a cage of five first. Since I have only had my first round of rabies shots I couldn’t really help capturing them so basically it was up to Petra to tackle them and hold them while I gave the distemper shots (subcue) and some other meds (PO).


  • It was a quiet night shift working with the squirrels, except for getting six new little ones in. Most were pretty healthy, but one took a bad enough fall that her face was pretty bloody as well as bleeding from the nose. Luckily she doesn’t seem to have any neurological trauma even if she did have some severe head trauma.

  • Since I have had a rabies shot I can start working with the vector species so Petra took me into the coon room and I helped her bottle-feed some of the babies. They are super cute, but some of the juveniles are already starting to get cranky. We have one adult who had a back leg amputated and he is the crankiest of all.


  • Squirrels again on the night shift, but they are going by a bit more quickly since many are only QID (fed four times a day as opposed to the little ones at six times a day).

  • I also was in charge of the IC rooms. Nobody in them is under intensive care, they are just being used since they are smaller spaces to keep some of the guys who don’t fit into the other rooms. Right now there are two juvenile coons, one baby/juvie coon, and three little skunks. Everyone was all on solids, but I did have to weigh and give meds to the skunks. They are very fat, friendly little guys, but one has an attitude and likes to spray. He didn’t spray until I had to poke him with a needle to give him his meds and it didn’t get on me. Luckily they don’t spray much when they are little and the other two are very nice.


  • Today was a day of getting rid of animals. Forty-six fawns to be exact. One of the organization’s friends owns a thousand acres of protected land somewhere out here in the hill country and it is on his land where we do most of our releases. He drove a big cattle trailer over here and the fawn-herding began. I was asleep for most of it because it happened early in the morning and I was on the evening shift, but I heard it was an adventure and kind of sad to have to capture these guys and hear them bleating the entire time. However, we emptied the fawn yard so these guys have a new home and a new life. I think I will miss the axis deer, though.

  • A little screech owl came in the other day with a head injury that is causing him to twist his head way around to the side. I got to feed him today, which was a challenge because he is so disoriented and defensive. This little guy definitely was packing more of a punch than the great horned owls that are three times his size as he was attacking my glove every time I got near him. He is on physical therapy and some homeos right now to try to get his neck back the right way before the muscles start to atrophy.

  • We work with an animal hospital in San Antonio where people can drop off the wildlife they find and then a volunteer brings everything up to us every evening. Tonight Castle West (the hospital) brought us several of the usual (squirrels and pigeons) but also an adult porcupine and a baby bat. I have never seen a porcupine up so close and even then I didn’t get a very good look since I didn’t help check him in. All I got to see was the box he came in – very small – and then how huge he was. With quills he was about the size of a small dog. I am not sure what was wrong with him, however. The bat died soon after he came in.

  • Second rabies shot!


  • The piglet finally moved to the day cages, or the outside cages. He was making too much noise inside because he was squealing about being hungry for the better part of the day.

  • Each one of the interns and staff members was assigned to a particular area in the clinic or one of the nearby buildings to clean up and create a system of organization for that area. By tomorrow at 10 am, we have to have a proposal for the area’s maintenance typed up and given to Suki so she can approve them all by next week. However, very few computers and printers that we all can use exist on the premises. And so it was like being back in college on the night before a final paper is due for one course because we were all in the clinic cramming in our cleaning and organizing and then trying to find a free computer into all hours of the night. You would think that we (every one of us college graduates) would have learned not to procrastinate, but alas, we are just keeping in touch with our youth and using adrenaline to get things done.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

texas, continued...

i'm posting a few pictures that i took when i was at wrr, but unfortunately i didn't take as many as i should have because there was so much amazing wildlife, most of which was living right next door to me!

Week 2


  • On squirrel duty again because I felt bad for Destiny (one of my roommates and fellow intern), who had been stuck on squirrels for the past two days. From now on we’re paper-rock-scissoring for who gets the squirrels. For once, however, I finished the Group A squirrels (the smallest ones that need to be fed every two hours) before the morning meeting at 10:00.

  • When I walked into R1 this morning to check everyone out I noticed an empty opossum cage. And a big hole in the side. They chewed through the mesh, as they like to do once they get older. I found one just slipping out of the hole, another had fallen into a cardboard box below the shelf where his cage was and the third triumphantly standing on top of an incubator a few cages down. They moved into a carrier and several were due for release.

  • The best part of being in R1 today was the piglet! He arrived a few days ago, being taken straight out of one of our resident sows. He is all black and snorts and squeals but doesn’t really like to eat, mostly because he doesn’t know how. Finally today he started to get the hang of the bottle and eats, well, like a pig. He even started to wander around a little since he was being fed on the floor. He wandered right up to an opossum cage where one feisty little opossum was pressed up against the bars watching the whole feeding process and when the piglet went to sniff the opossum snapped and sent the piglet squealing back for ‘mom’ a.k.a. Carly who had the bottle.

  • I was kept company by one of the resident vultures while cleaning cages outside today. He is very friendly and likes to burrow his beak in your hand (probably looking for food) and have his head and chin scratched. He was a bit too friendly though, as he kept trying to drink all of the water I was using to clean, including the bleach water. After I shooed him off a few times, he finally got insulted and pouted by the door to the clinic until I was done.


  • Songbirds and R4 today. R4 is smaller and quieter than the other recovery rooms and filled with some pretty random animals, including a tortoise, seagull, ducks, ducklings, juvenile squirrels, and a gerbil.

  • Ducks and squirrels were rather uneventful, but the seagull was a character. He has a droopy wing that needs to get cleaned off everyday so I had to pull him out of the cage and dip part of him in warm water. Well, adult seagulls bite! I taped his mouth shut but in the process he scraped up a few of my fingers.


  • Squirrels again and I am still no faster. We had to euthanize one little squirrel who had a severe breathing problem and was basically slowly suffocating to death.

  • Six new baby opossums were dropped off, and they were tiny babies so we have to tube feed them. Luckily they are much more cooperative than squirrels. And also a lot cuter at this age.

  • I got to feed the piglet for the first time, now that he has gotten the hang of bottle-feeding. In fact, he is limited to 20cc per feeding every 2 hours so he lets us know when he’s hungry (which is pretty often) by squealing at the top of his lungs. You wouldn’t think a few day old pig would be so loud, but he is. He even spooks some of the squirrels into not wanting to eat.

  • One of the big rabbits that hang outside our trailers was taken into the clinic to get his teeth trimmed. Rabbits’ and squirrels’ (and rodents in general) teeth are continuously growing so sometimes they grow too long if they are getting worn down quickly enough by their diet. The vet tech anesthetized him and dremmeled them down. One of the few uses for power tools in our job.


  • Fawns and birds today! A lot of the fawns are getting too big to be eating formula, but many are still begging so we have to get all the little ones into one of the sheds to feed them so they don’t have to compete with the others. The big ones bump noses, kick, and are generally big bullies with the tiny ones. The cute axis deer followed me everywhere as usual.

  • The two great horned owls were part of my rounds today as well. Upstairs in the clinic we have a large flight room for the raptors with two small rooms off the sides for each. One of the owls is suffering from some sort of head trauma because one eye is huge and dilated compared to the other. It’s surprising how intimidating their huge yellow eyes are. The other owl came in recently with a broken wing. He had to be force-fed, not something that is very easy to do when you are wearing big thick leather gloves, in case he gets his talons on you. Luckily the head trauma owl would take the food (chick pieces) out of the tweezers if you dangle it near his mouth.

  • This evening, I saw my first armadillo since I got here. Live one, that is. They are the most popular road-kill, it seems. This one wandered up by the back of our house so I went around the side to get a good look at him. I thought I would scare him away but I walked up within a few feet of him and he just looked at me and turned away to keep looking for food.


  • This morning Destiny and I went to get our first shot for our rabies vaccine series. Not too bad, just a little sore. Luckily there are only three shots for the pre-exposure. If you get bitten, however, there is a series of five shots.

  • This was my first closing shift and I must say it is much more relaxed than the opening shift. For one thing, closers don’t have to do as much cleaning since the openers are responsible for all the cage-cleaning. However, there are more animal drop-offs in the evenings because volunteers from some vet clinics we work with bring animals that people have brought into the vet that day. I checked in 3 baby cottontails with small puncture wounds (probably cat-caught), one adult cottontail with multiple severe puncture wounds who was euthanized, a juvenile squirrel who didn’t have anything wrong with him so was completely freaked out that he was in a cage, an adult white wing dove who also had nothing wrong with him except being hungry, and a 5 year old African Spur Thigh tortoise which was surrendered by it’s owner who no longer had the space for him.

  • Three large opossums were released! These guys mostly came in as juveniles/adults with injuries but they were all healed up and ready to go.

in the beginning...

the beginning of my texas adventure started about 2 weeks after i found out i got the internship position, which wasn't much time to pack up my life in nj/nyc. but i left bloch and the big city and drove the 1000+ miles to kendalia, narrowly avoiding hurricane katrina. unfortunately i never got to see new orleans in its old glory.

Week 1


  • First day mostly involved paperwork, but we also got a tour of the whole place, including ‘below the gate’ where all of the exotics are and some herds of sheep and such. LOTS of monkeys of different varieties, many of them from local research facilities, including one university doing neural research. Most of the big cats were asleep (and thus hiding) because it was already midday, but we could spot at least one of each. These guys included bobcats, mountain lions, leopards and lions. One lion was castrated at a young age so he didn’t have a mane but he was still huge. Normally we aren’t allowed below the gate and if we go we have to stay at least 10 feet away from the cages. Things down there get loose every once in a while.

  • Some things also wander into the property, like a wild (male) pig who broke through the fence and impregnated all of our female pigs. There are about 40 piglets now that are slowly being caught and fixed and sent out to live on another nearby (friendly) neighbor. Pigs are the pests of Texas and most ranches shoot them but we have one set of people with something like 2,000 acres of land where we get to release a good deal of our animals.

  • My favorite thing about the tour was seeing the animals that were paired up, mostly voluntarily. There was one cage with about five ring-tailed lemurs and two domestic cats. They were both lounging in the heat – apparently they get along so well because they have very similar demeanors. Another (apparently inseparable) pair was the black goat and a whitetail deer. They both chased after our golf-cart, as did one of the goats. In fact, they wouldn’t move after we stopped to pet them.

  • Emus! And lots of vultures who hang out by the water with the turkeys and ducks and pelicans.

  • In the clinic we learned how to feed squirrels. There were a million of them and most need to be fed every 2 hours. They pretty much didn’t like me and either refused to eat or aspirated half of their formula.


  • Bright and early was our safety training, which included the usual things like put out fires and don’t eat bleach, but also what to do if you get bit by a macaque monkey (who carry Herpes B – very bad). I will just say, you better hope you don’t get any serious wounds because the emergency treatment involves scrubbing for 15 minutes with bleach and iodine. Unless one gets loose, the interns really don’t have much exposure to the macaques since we don’t deal with below the gate species.

  • We moved on to train in the songbird room. Luckily I knew most of the stuff already, I really just had to learn the things particular to this place. Also lucky that its pretty much end of baby bird season so there were only about a half a dozen cages.

  • There was a fuzzy yellow chick, with an amazing story: There is a place nearby that raises chickens, but they only want the females for egg-laying, so all of the males are picked out and gassed and we get them since they can be fed out to guys like the big cats. Well, unknown to us until this point, they fill up barrels with the chicks, but only gas half of the chicks and fill them on top of the other live chicks then seal up the barrels. Basically they are saving on gas by smothering the other half of the chicks. Horrible. Anyhow, when one of our guys went to unload the barrels there was one lonely chick sitting on top of one of the barrels who had apparently made his way out of the bottom of the barrel and through the other half of dead guys. He is set up in an incubator chirping away and doing very well now. We told the place we won’t be taking anymore chicks unless they gas them all.

  • We have three bears, two of which came from a nearby university whose mascot is a bear who thought it would be a good idea to have live ones. When they realized a live bear would be too much to handle, they gave him to us. But, they thought it was a good idea again and got another and then ended up giving her to us as well. Stupid people.

  • We were supposed to get a lot more training but Suki was called off to an emergency below the gate, something about a bobcat that came from some unknown location. Also Billy, the goat, came up to the clinic with the tip of his tail missing. They think he wandered too close to a mountain lion cage.

  • My favorite patient today was a little hummingbird that needs to be fed about every 20 minutes with dextrose (glucose) from a syringe. I tried setting up a syringe disguised as a flower (made with red and yellow vet wrap – the colorful almost sticky stuff they wrap you up in after you give blood), but I don’t think he fell for it.

  • Went down to the fawn enclosure, armed with 20 baby bottles of formula and some fish for the baby heron in one of the sheds next door. The heron was very small but snatched up all the fish we set out for him before we even closed the door. Then into the fawn yard where there was a huge herd of little ones, many who rushed us to get to the bottles first. We set up the bottles in the rack and in seconds there was a chorus of suckling.


  • Today we were finally trained to tube the doves and pigeons. They are not very intelligent birds, but they are easier to feed than squirrels, thankfully. Other than that it was pretty much helping out in the rooms we learned yesterday.

  • Helped out with the fawns again. This time we didn’t have the rack because a fawn broke her legs getting stuck in it. So we had to hand feed the twenty bottles, which was pretty much chaos. One of the axis deer (looks just like a whitetail but larger and with a darker stripe along their backbone) was jumping all over me, nudging me and eventually started chewing on my pants when I didn’t give him a bottle fast enough.

  • The little hummer started to fly some more today, but still can’t quite hover, he’s still my favorite. Other than the opossums, of course.

  • We have a caiman in one of the outdoor cages who apparently got loose last week and made its way to the water hole and was discovered because he was eating all the baby ducks.

  • Today starts open hunting season for doves. There goes all of our work!


  • I woke up this morning at 5am for my 6am shift, only to realize we had no water. Apparently this happens more often than most would like to admit. Luckily I don’t need to shower or anything before this job.

  • Walking outside at about 5:58am (its great living 50ft from your workplace sometimes) I finally got a good look at the sky and it was gorgeous. Since sunrise was still about an hour away, it was still pitch black and the biggest bright stars were visible, even their colors!

  • My first real day of work where the interns were entrusted with their own rooms! I was hoping not to get R1 (Rehabilitation [Room] 1), but I did. R1 has the baby squirrels, opossums, and cottontails. I love opossums, but squirrels HATE me. They refused to eat more than about 1cc and it took about 6 hours just to feed them all their first round. Thankfully a volunteer came in so I could go to lunch without a guilty conscience about missing two feedings for the babiest of the baby squirrels because I was so slow.

  • Theresa, the vet tech who runs the clinic along with Suki, was in today and taught me a little bit about the homeopaths they use. We use mostly natural remedies to avoid having to use lots of expensive meds, unless we need to use some antibiotics but we try to use those sparingly. Using the homeos also allows us to recycle animals that do die by feeding them out to the carnivores, which we wouldn’t be able to do if they were on lots of medications.

  • Theresa also taught me how to give subcutaneous fluids to the baby squirrels since they get dehydrated pretty easily being on heating pads all day. It’s a lot harder to give fluids to something the size of a mouse than it is a dog, so it took a few times before I got that one down.


  • I was stuck with the squirrels again. Things went a bit more smoothly but no faster, thus the day was rather uneventful. Luckily, a few cages were upgraded so that they should be ready to go outside within a week or so. However, just as I was leaving three more little squirrels were dropped off, two with head injuries. But these were the first animals I got to check in all by myself.

  • My favorite hummingbird died .


  • I got the bird rooms and the fawn yard today (yay for no squirrels!). Just about sunrise I headed down to feed the fawns (armed with 15 bottles of formula) and the heron. As I started feeding the herd I heard a loud bleating and found the smallest fawn lying down in the grass twitching and crying. I carried her up to the clinic (a long walk carrying a deer, even if she was little) but I was told she died shortly after. I continued feeding the fawns, which is a challenge being swarmed by hoofed animals who head butt you until they get a bottle. It’s nearly impossible to keep the big greedy ones out so the smaller ones can eat. The axis deer is particularly funny because he rubs his head all over me, licks me and butts me until he practically knocks me over and even follows me around when I’m getting the pellets and alfalfa. All of the fawns like to lick your skin because its salty and many of them think that your elbow is also a nipple, so you get jerked around a bit in the fawn yard at feeding time.

  • Some of the songbirds are nearly ready to go outside, in fact they spend most of their day outside under some trees next to the clinic in their cages since they haven’t all gotten the eating for themselves and flying thing down yet.

  • I got to check in a roadrunner that was dropped off today. He was caught by a dog and lost nearly all of his feathers, only a tiny portion of his wings was left. If he doesn’t die of shock or infection, he’s going to be a very naked bird and probably a permanent resident since he won’t be able to fly. I was surprised at how big he was and this clacking noise he made was actually kind of scary.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

the chesapeake and cheeseburgers

after having a car to use for a few days, i've realized how ridiculously expensive petrol/gas is! i mean, i see the prices go up, but it's not until i have to actually shell out the money for a fill up that it becomes obvious that this whole situation is out of control... is bioethanol feuls made from a chesapeake bay bacterium the solution?

(i love food, hence loving the blog a hamburger today, which led me to this flickr album and the photo seen here)

back in the day

it doesn't seem like that long ago that i was living in a trailer (#2!) in the middle of nowhere in texas... and now the adventure that was wrr is going to be on tv! why couldn't i have been an intern just a little bit later??

oh right... i came to new zealand :)

i had such an awesome (as well as difficult!) time at wrr, but being there definitely made me sure that i wanted to work with wildlife in some capacity... and also that i am not an outdoorsy kinda gal, but it might have been that i came directly from a city of about 8 million (nyc baby!) to a town of about 80 (kendalia... yeah...).

might spend the next couple of blogs posting my 'animal journals' that i kept while i was there. if i were internet savvy at that point, i would have just blogged them, but hey, i'm just catching up.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

beautiful distractions

i could have been catching up on sleep, or working on my lit review, but instead i was enjoying a bird's eye view of manawatu and the 'naki! daryl and slim took aaron and i up for their morning and afternoon flights: the first over wanganui and foxton and back to palmy, the second to new plymouth and back. we stopped in new plymouth briefly for a cup of coffee and watched heaps of other planes who were also out and about on a perfectly sunny day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the buzz on bees

help the honey bees, make a cute little bee of your own, and - of course! - eat lots of haagen dazs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


the best thing i have heard on tv in a long time: "there is someone heading out to clear the kangaroos off the track." gotta love australia.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

climate change is scary!

generally, global warming is ruining ecosystems everywhere. but in some cases, it's creating new habitats for less than desirable inhabitants.