Oh, you Gnawdy beaver!

This was a long, trying winter. One would have thought Gnawedagen would want to get the heck out of his garage pen and be free. But, no, it took me almost two weeks of cajoling, enticing and herding to convince him to enter a crate so that he could be carried down to the compound by the beaver pond.

We believed that Dewy, the beaver I raised up over the previous winter, had been taken by wolves right at freeze up. There had been no early evidence this spring that a beaver had spent the winter in the pond. However, just before I had started Gnawedagen’s eviction plans, Bruce pointed out a beaver swimming around the beaver house and diving into the runway to the house. Could Dewy have just moved downstream for the winter and was back to check out his old digs…hmmmm, I wonder. But it didn’t stick around long and moved off.

But my hope was that Gnawedagen would stay in the compound until he acclimatized to outside living and got used to the smells and dangers of the outside world. He had obviously spent enough time with his real family to develop his wild side. He never warmed up to me, and never trusted me so I felt that he would adapt quickly.

In the past, beavers I had overwintered would readily seek out the dark safety of a crate and transporting them down the hill to the pond was a breeze. Ha! Not this time! I left the crate in his fencing for several days to get him used to it. He initially avoided it, cowering in a corner away from this new threat. I would put his stuffies and his yams in there and wait…and wait…and give up, only to come back a few minutes later to see he had quickly ‘rescued’ them. When he finally realized the crate wasn’t going anywhere, he started to pile his sullied straw and peeled aspen against it, pushing it far from his bed. Each morning I would have to clear it away, in hopes that I would be able to catch him inside and close the door on him.

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After a week, no more Missus Nice, I had to get the garage back to normal and the beaver moved. I set about removing all his ‘stuff’…bedding, favorite sticks, stuffies, dishes, etc. The pen now only held the crate and the beaver…an angry beaver…who didn’t like me much. I had to dodge a few toothy lunges, but managed to corral him in a manner that he had to go into the crate or get squished…hard to squish a muscular 40 lb beaver…kinda like pinning a rock…but I succeeded, unscathed.

With Bruce’s help, we carted him down to the pen. The pen he would be in has successfully held  over 8 beavers in past years, Dewy being the last one. Dewy had dug himself an entrance, and would come and go from the pen to the pond, especially when the wild pond beaver attacked him. Once Dewy had moved out completely, I filled in all the holes and reinforced the fencing. Good to hold another beaver…I thought.

Gnawedegen studied his new digs with a critical, calculating eye, it seemed.

I left him to ponder his situation and went about my work. As evening fell, I could hear a lot of gnawing…good, I thought, he’s eating the aspen logs I put in for him…

Well, as it turns out, wooden pen supports and aspen logs sound the same when being gnawed…as when I went to walk the dogs at 6 a.m., this is what I saw.

And no, it’s not the wild beaver…Gnawedegen went through that pen, a pen that held so many beavers before, at least for a few weeks, like a hot knife through butter in only a few hours.

He only comes out in late evening and morning, saw him this morning sitting on the dam. He has hauled a few of his favorite aspen limbs away from the pen to chew on, but avoids me. The regular beaver trapping season ended today. Hopefully, he can live out a normal healthy beaver life. Can’t say he showed any signs of missing me, and that’s a good thing!

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If I thought 2018 was bad…

…hold my coffee!

The year 2019 started out with even more sadness. Not from the wildlife perspective, but rather the human side of my life. In four short months, I lost five very dear friends, and my beloved mother (who promised she would make it to her 100th birthday, but no bets after that….bless her heart, she did!)

Amongst my lost friends, is Kathy Morawecki…Kathy had been a director for Iggy’s Wildlife Rehab for 15 years. She was my dear friend, neighbour, and angry critter holder when I called on her. I miss her so much.

And the entire wildlife community mourns the passing of Kay McKeever, the founder of the Owl Foundation. Long before internet, emails and instant messaging, Kay was always there for my late night calls regarding injured, orphaned, starving and kidnapped owls. She insisted that any time of day or night, she was willing to assist with her knowledge. Her owl research is known around the world.

But life goes on, just not as much spring in my step these days, it seems.

Speaking of spring, the calls are already coming in. Baby snowshoe hares, baby squirrels, ground nesting birds… all easy prey for cats and dogs. And by the look at the bellies on my local does, fawns will be here in the next few days…

Sigh…well, better catch you all up on the winter and the critters I had in care.

Stay tuned for that post…phones ringing…Please, not a wildlife call…please!

2018 – not a year I would want to revisit…

2018 is not a year I want to do over.

While many good things happened, it seemed there were many sad events too. One close to home was the loss of our sweet Wachtelhunde, Dory. Dory had many medical crises in her 14 years, including a broken elbow on one leg and a stabilizing pin in the other, sticks in the back of her throat, abscesses, regular seizures, porcupine quills…lots of vet visits. But she was always happy. And when we brought our new pup Neva into her life, she became a pup again. She adored Neva and vice versa. But her love for anything edible led to her to her demise. A soaker pad from a pork chop tray and a soggy gravy covered dishcloth, improperly disposed of caused a major blockage which meant major surgery. Complications ensured and she left us, 10 days after her 14th birthday, at home where she died in our arms.

The rehab world was maybe slightly less hectic, thanks in part to a newly established wildlife custodian in Thunder Bay. Jenn has great insight and what appears to be a natural knack for rehabbing the raptors. So she has been able to intercept injured birds coming my way from the eastern and northern sides of our region. And my regular foster custodians have been my life savers too! And Erika, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty so many times…Thank you thank you thank you…

But there were still lots. From hummingbirds to bald eagles, chipmunks, squirrels, a sweet fox kit, a not-so-sweet beaver kit, more Broadwing hawks than ever on which West Nile took its toll. It is often the case, that by the time the injured or orphaned wildlife is found and brought into care, it is beyond help. In the wild, they would be a happy scavenger or predators next meal, but when in the human world, they are more likely to be spotted and brought into care. Success is heartening and releases are exhilarating…losses weigh heavily. Such is the life as a wildlife custodian.

I lost two of my foster eagles this year. They helped me raise many eaglets, allowing the eaglets to relate to them and not me as a food source. This made releases so much easier. The eaglets were not imprinting on humans and that was important. The fosters were elderly, likely in their mid teens…they had come in as non-releasable adults and were in my care for years. I will miss them when the spring brings me more young baldies. And I miss their ‘watch dog’ calls…I always knew if someone or something was in the yard as they would sound a warning. Its way too quiet now…well except for the two young ravens who belt out ‘oh no’ ‘oh no’ ‘oh no’ when someone new comes and then go into a cacophony of calls.

And it would seem that Dewy, the cranky kit beaver I overwintered last year and released to the pond was taken in the late fall by the omnipresent timber wolves. He had successfully fixed up the old beaver house and put in a goodly feed bed, but it seems he was caught on land just at freeze up. There is a slight chance, that he was just scared and went into the house for the winter, but the lack of a steam vent on the house makes me think that is not the case. But now, I have a new beaver being overwintered…and Gnawedagen makes Dewy seem like a saint. Gnawedagen was found being chased down a road by ravens. He (or she) too was a late born kit, but had likely been with mom for a month or more…so has no fondness for humans…at all! I catch glimpses of him/her when I change bedding and water, but that’s about all.

And if life didn’t through me enough strange curves, there is Bouncer the piglet…Bouncer apparently bounced out of a stock truck on the Trans Canada Highway. He was found by a friend of mine who brought him to me. His snout was bloodied, he had bite marks all over him and his tail had been either cut off or chewed off. He was a little mess. But Bouncer found a new home at the 10 Acre Wood in Anola, where I believe he has a girlfriend. Thanks, Tara McKean for taking him in.

So that’s 2018 in a nutshell. Really, this is just a Cole’s Note version of the year, as it seems the older I get, the more one day blurs into the next. But my vision for 2019 is much clearer! Don’t sweat the small stuff!

A bit more ‘Amik’able today, it seems…

The tiny beaver kit that my friend Amber Fecho found in the middle of a road, harassed by ravens and no nearby beaver habitat noted, finally started to overcome his fear and distrust. I have raised many beaver kits, and they usually accept me in a very short period of time. At least, recognize me as the bringer of their food. But little ‘Gnawedagen’ (as in NOT AGAIN!!!) has been hiding from me when I would come to feed and clean his bath and pen.

Note: I am calling it a he out of habit…still not sure of the kits gender.

Today, his angry wheezes were less dramatic, and as I put his rodent block in his food dish, he started his baby beaver talk with soft mumbles and whines. A good sign. And when I tried to remove his stuffie to be washed, he whapped me with his paws. Shades of Dewy! But unlike Dewy, this little one has a much more varied diet. Willing to eat apples slices, carrots, yams, potatoes, rodent block and a goodly variety of foods, including lots of trembling aspen bark.. Dewy was stuck on just rodent block and aspen bark and wouldn’t even think of touching any other fresh produce at this tender age.

The kit has almost doubled in size since I received it in early September. Like Dewy, it was obviously a late born baby. Likely even later than July, as by this time last year, Dewy was big enough to be moved outside for the day. This one is still too tiny for that move. So my basement rehab room is beaver habitat for a while longer.

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And Dewy is happy his pond has stayed open…well, actually it froze over once, but the nice warm weather this past week has opened it again. I worry that there are no aspen near the ponds edge, as if he wanders in too far, the wolves are always near waiting for the opportunity for a snack.

So each day when we walk our dog, I bring aspen branches from our cutover which is growing up nicely again. And Dewy knows I will be coming and waits mid pond for me to toss the branches into the water…Once he is sure Neva isn’t going to chase him, he starts hauling them to his feed bed by the lodge.

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There are many of my friends and readers, who at this very moment, questioning my sanity…as do I…

It was a crazy summer…crazy like a …

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Kit Fox

I seem to receive the oddest, but maybe the cutest, birthday presents…

This May it was in the form of a tiny fox kit that the Fortier family from Vermillion Bay had found. It was in terrible shape when they picked it up, little or no use of its back legs, a huge swelling on its head, and it drifted in and out of consciousness. They were able to stabilize it and delivered it to me to see if I could help it. I was pretty sure I would be calling my vet to book an appointment to euthanize it, but family circumstances delayed this move. And I am glad it did.

For a week or more, the little thing would wake up, eat, pee, poo, stretch and go back into a deep sleep. When it was awake, I would gently manipulate, massage and stretch its back legs. The swelling on its head was slowly disappearing and as it did, he was starting to be awake and more aware each day.

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As the swelling on his head decreased, he gained more and more use of his legs. His eye would remain weepy all summer, but it didn’t affect his eyesight.

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He did escape from his pen…foxes climb really well…and gave the chickens a run for their scratch. I was live trapping mice (which were so very plentiful this year!) and putting in a box of dry leaves. He had the foxy pounce down perfectly by release day. He also knew snakes and grasshoppers were tasty snacks too.

So one beautiful sunny day in September, we crated him up and delivered him to a pre-scouted release site. Lots of food, water and no people for miles and miles…

I hid several dozen hen and quail eggs, kibble and other snacks in the area for him to find when he realized his four squares a day were no longer being served. He waited for me to tuck his favourite stuffie into the brushpile and then trotted off into the heavy cover.

We waited around for a half hour or so, but he was still exploring his world so we left. He was such a success story for me, after having way too many cases that I couldn’t help. And such a kind couple who made the effort to save and deliver him to me. Thank you so much!

 

Did I say I was looking forward to retirement????

When I retired from Natural Resources, I had visions of coffees on the deck, lounging, lots of fishing, swimming, boating, visiting, photography, art….you know, fun stuff.

Instead this was one of my most busiest years, not only personally but in the rehab world as well. Thank heavens for my foster custodians, who have taken on the extra workload that I have had to turn down. And in particular, Erika, who has been run ragged with rescues that I couldn’t do.

There has been a influx of young broadwing and sharp-shinned hawks with a mysterious ailment. We have sent one in for testing when it passed away. Some were able to recover and get released, and two are still in care. They seem stunned and disoriented, and seem to have issues with their vision. I couldn’t release them until I was certain they could see to hunt and pounce again. It seemed after a few weeks, they were back to normal. Strange…and I believe similar cases were seen in Manitoba rehab centers as well.

Speaking of strange, yes, that is a piglet…a friend who works for MTO found ‘Bouncer’ along side the Trans Canada Highway near town. We assume that the poor little guy fell out of a hog transport traveling the highway. He had terrible road rash and bites on his ears and sides. Bouncer is now happily living out his life at the 10 Acres Woods in Anola, Manitoba.

On average, I have 10-20 calls a day on my answering machine…many of which I am unable to respond to for various reasons. And so many folks who call assume that I have call display and will say call (or text) me back…but do not leave a number for me to do so. Or calls come in and the person in on a cell phone walking and talking and I may get every second or third word of what they are saying…or will leave a very quickly rattled off number at the end of their call that gets cut off. To these folks, I do apologize that I did not get back to you, but these may be the reasons…

gotta run….critters need care….

Sandy – the Sandy Lake Eagle

IMG_7124This beautiful young eagle was brought to me in September of 2017. It took a coordinated effort from the wonderful Ella and Darlene of the Northern Dog Rescue, a generous airline, MNRF staff and Jen from Kenora to get it to me. It had been found at the dump in Sandy Lake, unable to fly and starving.

When I received it, there were no noticeable breaks, but the wing drooped. A bit more manipulation confirmed its ‘wishbone’ was fractured. As would happen if a humans collarbone was broken, it was painful for the bird to pull up its wing. So, as with humans, I knew the wing had to be supported until it healed. The poor thing had to be confined for the winter in a small area, as to not allow it to reinjure itself.

It was obviously relieved when I was able to move it out to a larger pen this spring. While the wing still had a slight droop, the young bird had no problem flying the full length of the flight cage or flying straight up to the high perch.

Sandy was ready to go… I thought…

Michelle at the MNRF arranged for a pickup, (I was pleasantly surprised to see it was one of the Ontario Rangers who had come to help me a few years back) and arranged a release in Sioux Lookout, as Sandy Lake was not an option.

According to Michelle, the release was less than spectacular. As it often seems to happen, the long distance transfers in a dark box and release into a strange area disorients the bird. It wasn’t willing to take off and chose to stay grounded. I knew the eagle could fly and since this has happened in the past with transported birds, I suggested that they let it take its time and get its bearings.

I would normally do the releases in an area where I am able, if necessary, to recapture the bird if it fails to launch. Fingers crossed that Sandy can live out an eagles life and readjusts to life in the wild.

Ah, Migizi, Go Girl!

Back in October of 2017, I was contacted by folks up in Red Lake about an adult bald eagle that had been hit by a vehicle. It was gathered up and taken to a lady in Red Lake who was willing to help. Helen contacted me and arrangements were made to get the injured bird to me.

My veterinarian gave the big bird a thorough exam, and x-rays proved our worst fears. A wing was fractured and the right leg was broken. This prognosis was not good. In many severe cases like this, euthanizing is the only option. But the ulna was a closed fracture and the radius would form a natural splint as long as the bird was kept in close quarters. The leg had a spiral fracture, not good…

Celia and I discussed what could be done for the eagle. I was willing to take on the rehab part, so my wonderful vet and staff set about setting Migizi’s leg. And so the healing began.

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Migizi with my temporary cast…prior to leg being set.

It was a long, long cold winter, but she toughed it out…She was one of the most demanding eagles I’ve rehabilitated when it came to feeding time. She would start screaming her food call as soon as she heard me open the door in the morning, continued the screaming as I chopped up fish, chicken, road kill or whatever to feed her and the other eagles in care.  She was not shy about eating and the two pounds of fresh food disappeared quickly.

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I had hoped to release her in early spring, but the winter held on… a quick test flight proved she had the lift she needed but because of her compromised leg, I did not want to use jesses on her. After I knew she had the necessary strength, I put her in the flight cage. Unfortunately, winter damage to sections of the pen reduced the space she could practice in.

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As August rolled around, I knew she had to get back out into the wild. She had become too used to being fed on a daily basis, and had to get back to being a free bird again. Once I was sure she was over her feather molt, and her quills had hardened off, I contacted Helen. She and her amazing family and friends arranged to pick up Migizi and release her in a location Helen knew of that seemed suitable.

Migizi was, as Helen put it, being a brat. Her initial release was less than spectacular. She hopped out and down the beach and just sat there that night. I wasn’t concerned as released birds who are unsure of their surroundings will often sit until they get their bearings. She was there the next morning too, and unfortunately, campers had arrived.  We discussed recapture, but as it turned out, she finally decided to leave.

The next week or so will be touch and go as to whether she is able to fend for herself with other eagles and to rebuild all her flight muscles that can only strengthen with full open flight.

Her fate is in her own talons now…we humans can only do so much….

 

The Crew from the Sioux (Lookout) made it here too!

It was a pleasant surprise when Dylan called from the Sioux Lookout Youth Rangers to say they could make the trip to Kenora. And as an added bonus, Connor messaged me early morning of their intended arrival to let me know his crew could come now too!. Wow, I hadn’t planned enough projects for the added manpower but I scurried to put together a plan.

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There are always crates and water bowls to be cleaned…and they did so.

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Tarps to be cleaned and replaced as flooring… nasty, nasty job…but they were right in there, scrubbing and sweeping.

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And then the eagle pens…lots of work to clean and repair and many loads of sand to cover the floor.

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There had been so much winter damage done to my eagle enclosures that I had to refuse several eagles this spring. It broke my heart to, but as it was, I had 6 in care already, snow damaged enclosures, and no funds to rebuild. The fact that the Rangers repaired this one to the point of being useable again, at least for the time being, was a Godsend.

Once again, so many heartfelt THANK YOU’s to the Crews from Kenora and Sioux Lookout for coming to my aid again. And thanks so much for their supervisors for allowing this to happen. It takes a community to help the injured wildlife and our communities seem to always step up to the plate.

Thank you, Migwitch, and merci!