Deer and Car Collisions on the Rise

It is the second week in November, and it is getting colder.  The deer and other wildlife are really starting to be more active at dusk and later.  There are countless deer carcasses scattering the roads everywhere.   Yet people are still driving the roads as though it is the middle of the afternoon.  It gets darker earlier and there is reduced visibility of the peripheral areas of the road and unless  deer are looking toward your car, you won’t see the reflection of their eyes.  Deer are more likely to bound out into the road suddenly during the Fall rut – they are in a more excited state.  For drivers that don’t slow down accordingly to accommodate the chance of a collision with a deer the odds are great that you will hit a deer, wound it, kill it and damage your vehicle as well.  Locally, there has already been an early morning fatality this year  of a young man speeding through a known deer crossing area.   Roads that have trees close to the road on either side are especially risky to travel at a normal rate of speed.   Slow down!

Traveling from my home to Rochester, the number of raccoons, opossums, skunks and deer that are slaughtered in the roads is staggering .  People seem to be  oblivious to the presence of wildlife  and  they aren’t watching for reflective eyes on the sides of the road, or other signs, such as movement up ahead.  A lot of people mistakenly  assume that an animal is smart enough to avoid their vehicle.  Another mistake people make is not counting on another member of the species to be following in the one that just ran safely across the road.  Deer and raccoons often travel in groups.  In the summer, youngsters often travel with their litter mates and mothers.  A good rule of thumb is, if you see one, there are probably more, so slow down and look!

Remember, most wildlife is most active between dusk and dawn- slow down, travel with caution.

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….

“We Found A Fawn”

The telephone rings and I instinctively cringe.  It is mid May and around dusk. The voice on the other end says” “We found a fawn in our yard this afternoon so we brought it in and have been feeding it”

I ask “Why did you bring it in?”

“Because it is cold out and it was all alone and we couldn’t see its mother”

“What did you feed it?”

“We got a baby bottle and gave it some milk” He says proudly

“Cows milk?”  I say as my blood pressure starts to rise

“Is there any other kind of milk?” He snaps

FawnI am getting pretty irritated but try to stay civil “Well, yes, there is mothers milk, which is what the baby needs, not cows milk. He is not a cow, he is a fawn and he needs his mothers milk. Cows milk will make a fawn very ill and could kill him.  When you found the fawn, was he injured, laying flat or was he curled up?”  I ask.

“He was curled up in the front yard. We found him about 2:00 PM and brought him in.  it is cold out there. What should we be feeding him?”

I take a deep breath, because I will once again go through the process of explaining fawn behavior and how does protect their young.  I am mildly irritated by the fact that an obviously elderly couple could not have ever heard about how not to interfere with wildlife and that it is completely normal for fawns to be lying outside by themselves – even in cold weather, even in ones front yard….

“When a doe has a fawn, the fawn is too young to travel with its mother.  It can’t run, so the best protection against predators is to lie very still, since predators hunt by movement.  The doe lays her young fawn down and tells it to stay there. She then leaves.  It may be your front yard, back yard or doorstep. They do not stay by their babies like humans do, or like many of the domestic animals that we know about, such as cows and horses do.

The does leave the area so as not to attract predators to the spot where the baby is. They are watching though. The does will come back just after dark, feed and tend the baby and move it a bit, sometimes only a few feet, then lay it down again.  How much the fawn is moved will usually depend on the age of the fawn and the ability to travel  with mom.  Once the baby is two to three weeks old, its ability to run is greater and its reaction may be to get up and run, rather than lie still.

People often expect that if they approach the fawn the doe will come charging out and try to keep them away.  Not so. The does are hoping the human will react like most other predators, not notice the baby and leave.  Unfortunately, many times if a human finds a fawn, they do not leave, they assume the baby is an orphan and take it (kidnap it). Imagine the mothers distress.   So, just because you do not see the doe, does not mean she has abandoned her fawn. Does and other wild animals do not abandon their babies! They are very good, devoted mothers.  Different wild animals protect their babies in different ways. Deer and Rabbits protect their young by NOT being there and only coming back to tend the baby when there is no one around and / or after dark.  So, if you are standing there by the baby outside, I can guarantee that the mother will not be seen as long as you are in the area. To the deer or rabbit you are a predator.

At this time, I would like to dispel a common myth that we were all told as kids…  “Don’t touch baby wild animals because their mother will smell your scent on them and will abandon them”.  Guess what?  Not True! This is nothing but a common wives tale.  They don’t care that your scent is on their babies, after all, they are familiar with human scent because it is all over the area and on everything.  They felt secure enough to have their babies nearby all that human scent.  They don’t care that human scent is on their babies – the mothers instinct is much stronger than the fear of human scent.  This goes for baby birds, baby bunnies, baby everything and of course, fawns. This is NOT permission to touch wild animal babies though.  It just means if you made a mistake and touched it, its mother will still take it back.  A doe will take her fawn back as much as 48 hours after it was kidnapped by humans.  The only reason  it might not be able to be reunited in many instances is because the humans fed it cows milk or something other than it’s own mothers milk. I have successfully reunited fawns that were kept overnight, handled, licked by dogs, etc.. Momma was there within minutes of the return.

There are certainly circumstances that require rescue rather than reuniting. If you can see blood, open wounds, exposed bones or other injuries.  Green Flies sitting on the fawn  are an indicator of an injury too. If the fawn was hit by a car, if a leg or legs appear damaged, if it is caught in a fence or trap or has been attacked by a predator.  If the fawn has been held for days by a finder or fed the wrong foods by a finder(cows milk is a big No NO!).  If the fawn is having trouble breathing or  is unconscious. If a fawn has been walking around and bleating for more than a few hours this may indicate trouble.  If a dead doe is near the fawn.

A healthy fawn lays curled up and very still.  If disturbed, a healthy fawn may get up and walk around bleating .  The fawns bleat sounds like “mmma”.   If you have mistakenly disturbed the fawn, leave the area immediately. Let it lay back down somewhere and stay out of the area.  Keep pets and children away.  If you call around for information from a rehabilitator or other animal control person, please beware of anyone who does not ask questions and just says” we will come get it”.  Any rehabilitator or animal professional worth salt will ask a lot of questions about the fawn, how it was found, what it was doing, etc.. ” don’t  allow someone to just take the fawn unless it has been truly determined that it is necessary. Fawns do much better when raised by their mommas.  They can avoid hunters the best in the fall and really need to be raised  by their mothers, not humans.

Simply being in a populated area is NOT reason to take a fawn.  Occasionally we have taken fawns that were found by humans out of  public parks on Memorial Day Weekend. We bring them back to the center and keep them until dusk when the park closes or human activity subsides that day.  We then take the baby back around dusk to the spot where it was discovered and put it back so its mother can take it and hopefully move it to a better location.

There is a wide window of opportunity to return a kidnapped fawn.  Many people believe coyotes are the single greatest threat to fawns.  Not so.  it is humans .  It is humans who do not understand the behavior of wildlife.

Weasels, the Coolest Animals to Rehab!

WeaselLong-tailed weasel, short -tailed weasel, Least Weasel, mink, otter, fisher, martin are just a few of the members of the weasel family found in North America. The family name, Mustelidae, is based on the Latin word for “weasel”.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of raising one of these animals will quickly tell you that they are the coolest animals to raise.

Weasels are usually  born in April or May in underground dens, and it is pretty much a given that any infant of a burrowing or tunneling species found above ground is in trouble and should be taken to a rehabilitator.  The long , skinny neck  is usually a give-away to the fact that one has a weasel, but it can often be difficult to determine what species one has until at least a couple weeks old. But, determining the species of weasel really doesn’t matter when it comes to the care needed, as they are all cared for the same.

WeaselBaby weasels are interesting in many ways, and the fact that I find most interesting is that their eyes don’t open for 26 days.  I am used to fox pups whose eyes are open by two weeks of age. When their eyes open, they are eating soft solid food.  However, weasels are eating solid food WELL BEFORE their eyes open.  One of my pet peeves are rehabilitators who bottle feed animals well past the time that they should. I observed a scrapbook recently that a rehabilitator was using for public display. While flipping through the pages, I saw a nearly adult-sized fully furred, eyes open “baby” weasel” drinking formula from a bottle. EEK! I thought. Surely one must have a better feel for mammals than that?  Eyes still closed and baby fur still on, offer some canned cat food and watch the baby chow down. I always mix the formula with a product called ‘Missing Link for Cats” It comes in a gold foil pouch and is sold through catalogs and outlets, including PetSmart.  Weasels need a basic diet like a cat, not a dog.  I strongly believe that a balanced diet is more easily obtained by feeding a canned and dry cat food that has been manufactures to provide cats with a balanced diet.  The Missing Link should be added to all foods, including the formula.  Feeding just mice is not a balanced diet, as wildlife eats such a variety of things that a single source of food simply doesn’t provide .  Small, dead mice should certainly be offered to young baby weasels (and young fox pups), but only as an enrichment, a prey-identification tool, not as a diet. When raised in captivity, animals simply do not have access to the dirt, insects, minerals, and grasses that they do in the wild.  A diet of dead or live mice and chicks is simply inadequate

Since weasels have such an incredibly fast metabolism, it is advisable to feed them every hour, right around the clock until they are at least 2 weeks old.  I feed a mix of formula, canned cat food, Missing Link for Cats and Pedialyte to help with hydration. I thicken the formula as they show preference for chunks of solid food.  When they are three weeks old, I feed them every three hours. I will also give small chunks of chicken or venison.

WeaselEven before their eyes are open, I am sure to have them in natural surroundings, with leaves, clumps of grasses, rocks and logs.  Of course there is an area that provides warmth and snuggle space. By five weeks old, baby weasels are weaned in the wild – but I find that they are off the milk formula before that in my care, and on to canned cat food, dry cat food, meat, mice.

Here is an interesting fact… Females can conceived while they are still in the nest and their eyes and ears are still closed.  By the time they leave their nest, many females are already pregnant. Weasels generally mate in July or August, but the young are not born until the following April or May. The total gestation is roughly 279 days. The young are not actually developing during this period though.  The embryos undergo an initial development of about two weeks, then remain free in the uterus, dormant  until April or May when they are implanted 23 to 24 days before birth.  There are usually 5-8 blind, toothless, pink and naked young.

WeaselThe most common predators of weasels are man, cats, dogs, owls, foxes, hawks and snakes.  Weasels are very susceptible to distemper and it is advisable to vaccinate them with a safe vaccine, such as PUREVAX, a canary vector vaccine made by Merial.  Any other distemper vaccines give to animals especially prone to distemper can actually cause them to come down with the disease.  PUREVAX is a new vaccine that has proved safe in wild animals.

Wood Thrushes are back!

Ahh.  The ethereal sound of the Wood Thrush.  Hylocichla mustelina. Ee-o-lay!  My favorite bird song,  and this morning, May 2, 2006,  they are back. This is the first morning that I have heard this plain brown bird with the flute-like voice and the rusty head in 2006. Wood thrushes prefer mainly deciduous woodlands and I am fortunate to live in such surroundings.  I can hear their liquid call echo gently from the woods surrounding my home.

The arrival of the wood thrush means that the Veery, catharus fuscescens,  another thrush will be back soon too.  This small plain bird also rivals the most beautiful calls in the world with a breezy, flute like downward spiral made with dual voice boxes that harmonize with each other.

Another one of my favorite songs is the song of the Eastern Wood Pewee, a small sparrow-sized flycatcher with a sweet and slow plaintive whistle. Pee-o-wee that slurrs down and then up the follows it with pee-ow. We often connect songs that play on the radio with places and times in our lives. I make mental connections with favorite times and settings and the bird songs I heard.  The Pewee I connect with deep woodlands, warm still mornings,  many of these coupled with the gentle sound of hooves on the forest floor as I ride my horse through the deep woods.  It is times like these that make me glad to be alive, as well as glad to be an early riser.

Cougars in New York- Truth or Fiction?

Another winter has passed and no cougar tracks in the snow, yet some people claim to have seen them and believe that they are living among us.  There are many legends of local Western New York cougars.  I first heard about them when a neighbor had a rifle by his door.  Curious, I asked  “why the rifle?”  He responded “Well, didn’t you hear?  A farmer down the road shot a cougar.  It killed one of his cows, so he staked it out the next night and two came back.  He shot one and the other one got away. It had a DEC tag in its ear.  The DEC was going to fine him, but then they realized that it had been killing the farmers cows, so they just told him not to say anything.  The DEC guy told him that they released several breeding pairs in the area”.

“Now why would they do that?  I asked, curious.

“To control the deer population”  He responded.

Since then I have many variations on that theme, varying from  “50 pairs of cougars released”  and “to control the coyote population” being the reason they were released.

Sightings of the cougars always come in the summer- never the winter.  No hunters ever report seeing the cougars while out hunting deer, and certainly none have shot one.  No tracks in the snow either.  Wouldn’t there be tracks? Do cougars migrate south with the birds or  Is there another reason they don’t leave tracks in the snow?

Why aren’t typical “cougar kills” ever found?  They must be eating something .

Where do all of these cougar sightings originate?  What are people really seeing?  Any ideas?  I think they are seeing deer, domestic cats, and coyotes.  One lady thought she had one in her barn laying in her hay. She is a pretty astute animal person and she insisted she had seen it up close and it hissed at her and then ran in big bounds.  Intrigued, I checked it out and found it to be a coyote with Sarcoptic mange.

Could cougars control coyotes?  Nope.

Would they control deer?


Could it be just another folklore story that is fun to tell?


Most likely.

I don’t believe a State  can just re-introduce a species like this, there are way too many hoops to jump through.  Look at all they are going through just trying to reintroduce wolves into other areas of the country. There are lots of public meetings, etc.  Cougars aren’t free either  and one would think a “cougar stocking ” program would be quite expensive.  What would New York want to do something like this for?  There is an Internet hoax that shows a fellow with a huge dead cougar in his garage.  The text in the e-mail says it was a “friend of a friend” who shot the cougar locally- it describes the cougar stalking a neighbors cows, etc..  This is a real photo, but the story is fabricated.  The cougar was actually taken out west.  Another photo that has been circulated shows a cougar on someones deck.  The the photo is real, but it was taken out west, not in Steuben county as described in the e-mail.  That particular photo has actually circulated for years and was seen in several other states before it circulated in New York.    They even go on to say that the sighting was confirmed by a “DEC guy”   Yet, no legitimate names ever surface.

Lets see how many cougar stories crop up this summer.  It will most likely be the same story that involves a cow farmer and a cougar that was shot with a tag in its ear,  just a  different county.

Cougar Cougar