August is gunshot month

It looks like I will remember August 2006 as the gun shot month.   It is certainly not hunting season in August here in New York, but people are grabbing their guns to solve problems.  The number of people shot and killed  in the City of Buffalo this year is shattering records.  A fellow called me to ask advice on how to stop bats from coming into his cabin.  I was  mildly amused when he told me that he shot the last one as it was flying inside his home…. Wow.  What a scene that must have been, aiming at the ceiling shooting away- I never asked him how many shots he took at the bat before hitting it.    I would imagine he might discover some leaks in his roof during the rains this weekend.

NoahI am caring for a beautiful, intelligent dog named “Noah” who is recovering after being  shot twice, in the head and neck, by his owners husband.   The dog was apparently shot because it liked to chase deer. I don’t think I have ever had a dog that wouldn’t like to give chase to a deer, a rabbit or even a fast moving cat.   I have always assumed that it was my responsibility to be sure that my dog was kept in one of many situations where giving free chase was not an option for the dog. I use an invisible fence, fenced areas, leashes and tie-outs here , whatever works best for a particular individual .  Certainly this particular victim, an older docile chap couldn’t have brought a deer down anyway, or even chased for long.  By the way, it is no longer legal to shoot a domestic dog that is chasing deer.  The law enabling people to do that  was used as a crutch when people just wanted to shoot the neighbors dog,  so fortunately, that excuse no longer holds water.   The dog who was Noah’s companion was also shot that same day, but did not survive.  Noah survived because he ran away into the woods before the man could finish the job. Our wonderful vet was able to save Noah, and is still providing care for him during his long road to recovery.  Noah’s feeding tube was removed yesterday and he can eat soft food on his own now.  He is very thin, but very resilient and we know he will make it.  Noah will be placed in a loving quiet home with a fenced yard when we feel he is ready.

A woman from Niagara county called about a fox that went into her barn.  She was able to enclose it in, so I called upon a fellow rehabber closer to her to please retrieve the fox.  Upon examination, it was revealed that the fox was filled with lead pellets from a gun.  The injuries were devastating to this fox and she could not be saved. The suffering this animal must have endured saddened us all.  However, on a much lighter note, another fox that we received a call on the same day that had also been shot, is hopefully on the road to recovery.    This story involves a young couple  from Wayne County in New York who had found my internet site while seeking help for a fox they had been familiar with for  a year or more.  This fox was lucky in the sense that they actually heard the gun fire and saw the injured fox run through their back yard  shortly after.  They sought help immediately and did what they had to do to save the fox.  Through the years, I have found that most people that contact me really want someone else to come out and solve the problem, but Dawn Bedard and he fiance’ Tom took action and put their money where their mouths were.  They… well, I’ll let you read their story in their words:

Hi Elise,

Spunky’s Story

Thought you might like to know more detail about Spunky’s background and what landed him in your care.  First I need to make a correction.  In my initial email to you I said that we live in Monroe County.  What was I thinking?  We live in Wayne County.  However, we do live on the border of Wayne and Monroe counties.  We live about a mile south of Lake Ontario on a one acre lot in the country, which is becoming less and less country.  As I mentioned before, part of Spunky’s habitat was our backyard.  Our neighbor two doors down has placed his house far from the road and has a nice size pond.  There is a wooded area behind and around us along with some fields not that far away.  As you can tell, Spunky and other wildlife have a nice home as long as the humans behave.  There is plenty of water, food and shelter for them.

Along the tree line in the back, there is an area of wood chips that Tom (my fiancee) put back there after having some dead trees removed and chipped.  Spunky liked laying in the wood chips, and on one occasion last year, we saw three foxes laying on the chips and wrestling around (possibly Spunky, mother and sibling?)  They were loving life.  Earlier this year we saw only two foxes around.  There is a small area between us and Toms mother’s house next door that has grown up and is field like.  The two foxes were hanging around that area, being a bit playful and hunting field mice.  For about the past month we started seeing only one fox (Spunky).  As I told you on the phone, there was one beautiful moment that comes to mind.  One day, earlier last week I believe, Spunky was sunning himself in the back.  He’d get up and stretch, take a couple steps, then circle around and lay back down.  Not a worry in the world.  Along came a good size orange butterfly.  It was like the butterfly was teasing him.  It swooped down and got his attention.  Spunky got to his feet and was kinda playing tag with the butterfly.  The butterfly lingered around his nose while Spunky was half chasing it.  It was if the butterfly was saying, “What’s the matter, can’t you catch me?”  And so it’s because of his playful, lively behavior that I named him Spunky.  Another day I saw him getting up from laying in the sun in a small plant bed we have in front of our house.  There’s wood chips there too.  He likes his wood chips.

Then came that sad evening last Friday when he was shot.  Tom was at the kitchen window which looks out to the backyard.  He yelled to me, “The fox is out”.  Then he said, “Oh no, he’s hurt”.  I quickly went to the window and saw him loping along on three legs.  He was headed toward the opening where he goes into the trees.  I knew his injury was fresh because we observed him nearly everyday in fine health.  It was about 5:00 and I immediately started trying to find help for him.  When I got no satisfaction in my area, I emailed you.  In hindsight, I should have called instead.  It wasn’t long after that Tom realized the shots he heard while at the window were coming from the direction Spunky had just came from.  That is how we came to believe he may have been shot.   Unfortunately, we now know we were right.  That evening Tom put some chicken scraps out hoping he would find them.  They were gone the next morning.

We didn’t see him again until Sunday.  We decided to have a ham and cheese omelette for lunch.  Tom again was at the kitchen window washing the lunch dishes when he called to me and said, “The fox is back”.  We had the binoculars handy and were able to get a look at him and see that he was shot.  I came into the office to check the email to see if there was something from you and that is when I received your first response.  While I was in the office, Tom said the fox came right up to the family room window (which also looks onto the backyard).  The smell of the food drew him in.  We knew he was hungry. Tom said he had such a sad look on his face, like he was in serious pain.  We immediately started calling around to find a trap.  As you know, we couldn’t find the appropriate size in our area so we bought what others told us would work.  We called Dick’s, Gandor Mtn. and Country Max.  No one had anything larger than for a large raccoon.

Late Sunday afternoon Tom set the trap and put it near the corner of the woods where Spunky liked to come in and out.  He aligned it parallel with the tree line, which was Spunky’s path.  He dug up some of the wood chips that Spunky liked and put them on the floor of the trap trying to hide the metal and thinking he would recognize the smell and texture consequently hoping he would feel safe entering the trap.  Tom also cut down some prickers and took some weeds from the small area between the houses.  He put the prickers behind the trap so Spunky wouldn’t try digging at the food there thus forcing him to the opening.  He put the weeds on top of the trap, again trying to camo it a bit.  That evening we put some ham, eggs and dry cat food out.  The cat food served as the goodie trail to the trap.

Monday came and no Spunky in the trap.  The food leading up to the trap was gone and the ham was picked at without setting off the trap.  We didn’t see him at all on Monday.  Tom noticed crows gathering in the trees behind the house and knew that wasn’t a good sign.  Per your suggestion, we tried finding road kill but to no avail. We put the dead mouse out there Monday morning that we trapped in the shed.  Tom said it was starting to decay and had a strong smell.  We hoped that would lure him.  We also used the dry cat food as a goodie trail again.

Tuesday morning arrived and once again no trapped Spunky .  Tom said most of the food was eaten without setting off the trap again.  Realizing the trap wasn’t going to work, Tom brought it into the garage and left on the ground what food was leftover.  A few minutes later Spunky came out of the woods and was eating the scraps.  Tom got on the phone to the Tractor Supply in Brockport.  They said they had the larger trap we were looking for.  Ironically, he found out when we was there that they are in the process of building a new store in Ontario.  About 10 AM he got home with the trap and had picked up two cans of dog food.  While he was gone, I skinned and deboned some chicken we were having for dinner.  He put the trap back the way he had the original one (chips, weeds and all).  I warmed up half a can of dog food to get the aroma going.  He put the raw chicken scraps and warmed-up dog food in the trap.  Tom barely got back to the house when Spunky appeared again.  He checked the trap out really good and when he realized there was no other way to get at the food he went in.  Once again, he avoided setting it off and grabbed a chicken bone, took it out and ate it on the lawn.  You can imagine how frustrated we were getting.   This time we were watching him and waited for him to go back in the woods so we could make some modifications to the trap.  It took him awhile.  He gimped around the back a little bit.  It was obvious he didn’t have long.  He was moving very slow and didn’t take many steps before sitting down to rest.  When he finally went back in, Tom went out with a stick and pushed the food right up against the back of the trap as far as he could and covered the metal plate with chips.  We hoped Spunky would not be afraid to step on it this time.  Sure enough, he came right back out after Tom walked away.  He again studied all sides of the trap before risking going in.  He even got on top of it.  We thought we was going to set it off then because it was set so sensitively.  Lo and behold, he went in and set it off.  We were elated and relieved.  I immediately called you and you know the rest.

I realize this was a long-winded story, but I wanted to give you a time line and fill you in on the details in case you can use any of this information for future educational purposes.  We will miss looking out our windows and seeing Spunky.  However, we are relieved and grateful that he is in good hands now and will receive the best care possible.  Like you said, many people had to come together to make this rescue.  I don’t think we will have done everything in vain; I believe he will pull through.  He’s a tough little guy.

I will keep in touch with the SPCA while he’s with them and will get back in touch with you once you receive him.  Thanks again for all your help.  And from one animal lover to another, I appreciate all that you’re doing for our wildlife.

Dawn

Spunky, the Red fox  is still at the Erie County SPCA in the Wildlife Department where he received his initial emergency care.  Thank goodness for this wonderful organization and their veterinarians who saved this fox.  You might be wondering why Dan and Tom didn’t bring him to me so I could take him to my vet.  This is because I was travelling to New Hampshire for a business meeting at the time.  Yes folks, I am not independently wealthy… I have to work a full time job to fund all of this animal rescue, and of course to fund my living expenses :0)

The SPCA Wildlife Department informed me that the hole in the Red fox, Spunky, is about three inches around and went from one shoulder bald through to the other.  One shoulder blade is broken, but it is an injury that could heal well.  The biggest problem at this point is the size of the hole in the fox- it couldn’t be stitched because there simply wasn’t enough skin left.  I will be posting pictures as soon as I can get them for you all.  I am praying that I will be able to post pictures of the fox recovering – but he still needs our prayers as of yet.  I will keep you all posted.  Hopefully the fox will improve to the point where he is out of intensive care and can come “home” to Fox Wood and continue his recovery  and then one day be released back to the wild.

While it is a sad when one person aims their gun at an animal and pulls the trigger, look at the number of compassionate people that come together  and care enough to make a difference.  No, we can’t save them all, but we can save this one, and that one, and make a difference to them.

I have always been of the opinion that it takes much more character, stealth and skill to shoot an animal with a camera than a gun. Please folks.  Put the guns down. Grab your camera instead.

Bats in Homes in August…

As the busy “baby season” of rehab finally slows and a lot of the babies are now wild and free, the season changes to “Bat Season” which is the end of July into Mid-august when people call frantically in the middle of the night to ask for help getting a bat out of their homes.  Of course, these often 2 AM calls rarely start off with a polite “Gee, I am really sorry to be calling you at 2 AM in the morning and wake you, but…”  No, I usually get a caller that somehow assumes that I am wide awake sitting by the phone at 2 AM on a week night waiting for these calls.  Anyhow, I do my best to stay polite and try to help.  I often have thoughts if having a “900” number for such calls, as the caller never realizes that my advice,  time and sleep are valuable…

Anyhow, why are there bats in homes this time of year? Well, because the young bats are just learning to fly.  Those roosting in homes are confused by light streaming in from the living space.  That light could be a TV, kitchen light, night light, hallway light….  Bats often follow light (YES… follow light!!!) to find their way outside.  Light from inside homes streaming into areas where these babies are getting ready to take their first flight into the great outdoors fools them and they end up inside the home.

So, how can one “bat proof” the inside of the home? With a good cheap caulk, weather stripping and good old duct tape.  Attic doors can be taped around the edges – why?  Have you ever been in an attic during the day? Well, it is real dark up there!  But if you turn on the light outside of your attic door, go into the attic and  close that  door and look at it from different angles, you will see light streaming in from  the other side of the door. That is what the bats see!    If you continue to roam the attic  and look toward the eaves of the house, you will also very likely see light streaming in from outside.  This is how the bats find their way outside.

Look at your fireplace.  Rarely does brick or stone match up perfectly to your drywall.  Bats will climb up and down the outside of a chimney  (not usually the inside as often thought) .  If there is a small space between the stone where it meets your inside wall, caulk it, as this is another place that the bat could see light streaming in and get confused.  TV’s are usually the light source here.  Look for cracks where walls meet ceilings, where ceiling drywall was cut around light fixtures, where windows meet walls.  Look where beams meet ceilings and caulk, caulk caulk!   How about where the  exhaust pipe from your stove goes up and out of the house through the kitchen?  Look at the space between that and the drywall.  Do you have Pocket doors?  You might just as well tape them right up.  Do you have unfinished remodeling projects in the house? Well, better get them done once and for all, open walls and ceilings are major culprits for bats finding their way into your living space.

Always be sure your pets are vaccinated for rabies, even though less than 1% of all bats have rabies, why take a chance and have to deal with the hassle of worrying?   Never handle a bat with your bare hands.  Use gloves and a towel.  Never, EVER swat at a bat with a tennis racket, or any other object!  What’s up with that???

Always be sure the inside of the home is sealed and caulked.  After all, if bats can get in, so can bees, flies, mice, etc.. and of course during the winter, you are also losing heat.

There is only one humane way to get bats to stop roosting in the eaves, attic, walls, etc… That is through exclusion. Never hire a bat control person who will exclude bats during the season when they have their babies – this is June, July and the first two weeks of August.  That is baby season and the mothers will be frantic to get back to their babies which will be  sealed in.  Not only is it very cruel to make babies starve to death, and cruel for their mothers to hear their babies cries and not be able to get to them, but all those dead baby bats will stink and attract bugs- plus you will have to live with the thought of all of those dead baby skeletons in there….  Also, if bats are sealed in, they may find exits into your living room that you never dreamed existed and you could have bats all over the inside of your home.

Never use a bat control person who claims to “relocate bats” – Bats are like homing pigeons and will come back unless taken over 100 miles.   That control person is not being truthful.

Don’t use a bat control person who uses a cage or box to “catch the bats” so they can be released.  The bats will suffocate, melt to death in the heat or be drowned or gassed by the technician.

Never, ever hire someone who will use glue boards to catch the bats .  Despite what the glue board companies tell you, the glue doesn’t come off, and the animals are never “carefully freed with oil”.   Glue boards are disgusting, cruel instruments of torture and should be outlawed.  Warm Canola Oil has been recommended – been there, done that, it doesn’t work and the animals will die from the stress if you try anyway.

Never allow someone to use a repellent or spray to kill the bats.  That is not legal, and again, it is cruel.  There is no known “bat repellent”.

Good luck with the high pitched  plug in noise makers – they are more likely to attract and entertain the bats than repel them.

So, only good old fashioned one way doors, known as check valves,  used properly  before or after the baby season will work.  Of course if your house has a dozen other entrance ways through the roof, eaves, chimney line, etc… you will need to seal these up as well. This is why a good excluder is often very expensive.  It is not as much a “bat problem” you may have as a construction problem.  It is the sealing, patching and fixing of all areas that the bats can get back in that becomes expensive.  So if you have an old rickety home, the best thing you can do might be to just be sure the inside of the home is caulked and sealed to prevent the bats from finding their way into your living space.

Stay tuned – In the next blog I will tell you how to remove a bat from your living space….