Monday, October 23, 2006

The broken window allowed access into the small shack. People rarely entered the small well house. A perfect place. No one knows how long she had known about the broken pane of glass, but, she knew her babies would be safe; at least until they were able to leave through the window themselves.

Five days after they were born, someone thought to look in the shack. Goats on the ranch were turning up dead and the rancher was looking for the killer. There in a darker corner beside the well pump, were 4 very tiny, what looked to be, kittens. The rancher immediately thought to kill them but his daughter intervened and took them to her home. The following day, after the rancher lay in wait, the mother bobcat was shot as she exited the shack through the broken window, obviously distressed over her missing family. Can you imagine what she felt coming back to nurse her 5 day old kits and finding them gone? Can you imagine her panic?

Unfortunately, the rancher's glory was short-lived. The day after the mother bobcat's slaughter, another goat turned up dead and one of the ranch horses was attacked from behind. Long gashes were left on both haunches. Obviously not the mother bobcat's doings as he thought.

The 4 kits were kept together until another rancher wanted a 'ranch bobcat' to keep the vermin out of the barn. Then there were 3. For 4 weeks these wild animals were treated as domestic. They were kept in the house, fed goat's milk, allowed the family dog to 'play' with, and young children were allowed to roust them about and eventually injure one of the kits.

I drove 200 miles to meet the daughter that rescued the kits from imminent death. She and her husband had finally realized that while the kits were cute, they were getting to the point of needing live food in order to grow properly. After all, goat's milk is really only good for baby goats.

The daughter and her husband handed over the kits in a large plastic storage tub. While two of the three looked healthy enough, the smallest looked very weak. I took her quickly and wrapped her in a towel and held her in my lap for warmth as I drove 200 miles back to the sanctuary.

How unfortunate for these tiny souls that their lives were reduced to being shuttled around Texas because of one man's desire to kill needlessly. What a tragedy that the man had no clue that bobcats do not kill goats or livestock--the cats are too small. The largest prey bobcats hunt are rabbits. If the rancher had thought for 5 minutes he could have rationalized this information with little effort. But, like most ranchers, he held fast to the MYTH that bobcats kill goats and other livestock and therefor the killing was justified.

The smallest bobcat died, despite the sanctuary's vet's best efforts. Most likely due to the stress of losing her mother and being force fed inadequate nutrition. The other two, one male and one female, are well. The larger female came in with a stress fracture on a rear leg due to being mishandled by a pre-schooler and is still limping but otherwise is doing well. They are both on a native mammal diet close to what they would have in the wild and have lost their bloated bellies, grown sleek fur and now have appropriate coordination for their age.

These babies have a great chance of being able to released as they mature. Hopefully, their adult lives will be less tragic.

UPDATE 12/06
The kits have grown into healthy active teenagers. They still retain kitten purrs when you approach their enclosure but the second you drop their food, they are aggressive, snarling dervishes--EXACTLY how they are supposed to be.
Not long ago, two more bobkits were brought to the sanctuary. I am not sure of their story, but the 4 have formed an incredible family. They soon will be moved to a larger enclosure with other adult bobcats so they can learn how to be adults. They will have rare contact with humans ensuring their release back into the wild.
Their future is so bright now.

The kits are 6 months old now and are now old enough to be moved to a larger enclosure. After the move, they won't have the human contact they've had up to this point and will be near adult bobcats. The purpose is so they can learn to be wild and fear people. Hopefully they will be able to be released by summer time.

UPDATE 10/07
3 of the bobkits were released on the 11th. They were transported to property that contains everything they will need to be free wild bobcats. The others will be released as soon as they learn not to come up to people!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Small Victory

The only thing I knew about the duckling was that he 'wobbled'. Obviously, he had some neural deficit, possibly from an injury to his neck, head or back. Whatever the case, it didn't slow him down. While he couldn't stand well, he never slowed in trying to get where he wanted to go.
I fed him a mix of nutritious granules with water so he wouldn't, in his zeal, eat so much or so fast as to impact his crop (he'd done it before), holding his busy little body with both hands so he wouldn't fall over. He seemed to eat the water but as I watched, he would suck the granules up and continue snapping at the water, all the time emitting the small whistles of a baby duck.
As the food disappeared, I left him to wander his net cage. He wasn't doing well at all, crying and wandering the cage.
I realized as a tiny duckling, he'd be with his mother and after a meal, he would then snuggle under her wings next to her body to take a nap and feel safe.
After wandering the huge laundry room, I came up with a teddy bear with a knitted sweater, hoping it would at least be big enough to prop Wobble up in the cage.
As soon as I laid the teddy on the floor of the cage, Wobble began 'feeling' the teddy's fur with his beak. I put a sheet over the front of the cage so Wobble couldn't see me and could focus on calming himself.
After feeding other tiny nestlings, I realized I didn't hear Wobble crying or fretting. I wondered what had happened. Cautiously lifting the sheet, I could hear tiny whistles coming from the teddy (Wobble talking in his sleep), but I couldn't locate him right away. As my eyes searched for a tiny black and yellow form, I found him--he had made his way under the teddy and under the knitted sweater, curled up and fallen asleep.
What joy! He had done exactly what he need to--taken a nap and relaxed. This with all of the other supportive care he was receiving would certainly make his quality of life better. We can only hope he heals enough to be able to wander the grounds of the sanctuary when he's older.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Change in the air

He startled me as much as I startled him. Opening the back door, I flip on the back porch light and see this brown wiggly thing trying to find shelter from the light. Not that the light is bright but he probably sensed something going on.

The dogs barely took notice of the brown snake, being more interested in if I had anything to give them. I stepped over him and began to corral him with my hands. I knew he wasn't hurtful as his head was tiny and oval, though I wasn't taking any chances with false bravado. I yelled for Niles to grab a jar and continued to corral the snake. He had faint darker brown marking that ran lengthwise on his back and sides and he never lunged at me; quite the opposite--he would hide underneath my palm when he could. I tried several times to pick him up near his tail end but feared I might squeeze too hard and harm him--something I didn't want to do. He didn't feel harmful and actually felt scared. Exactly what a tiny being is supposed to feel when encountering a billion time larger being.

Niles arrived with a jar and I corralled the snake to go in. Inside under the kitchen lights we all looked and took visual notes for identification. After everyone looked at the snake, I took him out to the garden and released him under the leafed out salvia. He hugged that plant and didn't move while I was there.

He turned out to be a Texas Brown Snake. They are supposed to pretend to be aggressive by coiling up and striking their assailant but this one never did. Perhaps he sensed I was as scared of him as he was of me. Stories have it that they will repeatedly strike but do so with their mouths closed. They also eat small bugs--slugs, tiny crickets, etc... and I am so happy that I have someone in the garden that will take care of any if they show up---if he decided to stay.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Time Passages

Some people mark passing time by calendar, work or school schedules. I mark time passing and season change by what animals I see/hear and what plants I find. Take Spring--we've had some wonderful days of heat and clear skies, but from what the animals say, spring is still on the way.

Cedar Waxwings are a dead give away for the end of winter--for me. I know they come in sometime early winter time but I usually don't spot them until quite late in their stay. I first hear their high pitched 'weeeeee weeeee' before I see them. Finally I spot their mini flocks and am satisfied that we are now better off than before because the waxwings are patrolling the area. You rarely see one alone; usually they travel in 10s or 15s, sometimes double that. I call their recon groups 'pods' as they remind me of the Jetson's and how they travelled in their little pod ships.

Robins used to come through fairly often before the neighborhood was developed. There would be 50 drinking from the pool next door and then they would fly across the street to forage in the neighbor's pristine golf course grass. Long ago Juncos even visited but haven't returned since.

Driving towards Wildlife Rescue, I marked off a mile so that I could run and know how far I'd gone. I came upon the most wondrous sight--a huge flock of wild turkey!!! They all began to move away from the road when I approached (I honestly thought it was a vulture reunion!) and as I slowed, I roughly counted about 60. They all walked then gathered speed and flew over the pasture fence away from me. There is nothing like the sight of 60 large birds taking flight (however short). They landed beyond the fence and scooted down into a dry creek bed ravine. I paused and remembered to breathe--grace.

Parking under the oak tree at the sanctuary, I ventured into the rock building and heard the waxwings above in the sleeping hackberry tree---ahhh, there they are. I have been wondering where they've been here at the house and thought since the winter has been so mild, maybe they decided to stay home in the north. But no, a nice sized flock of 40 or so were in the branches above.

Only last week I had the front door open and heard robins in the neighborhood. They've also been obviously absent, even in the treeline behind the house. But alas, a few scattered through letting me know that yes, it does feel spring like but winter's not giving up quite yet.

It is February, the time of wild anemones and lavendar violets. Of sprouting sunflower seedlings and others I can just guess at. Of awakening day lilies and iris. And migrating skunks looking to continue the lineage no matter the travel or sacrifice.

I noted on my 45 minute drive to the sanctuary there were an uncommon number of dead skunks on the side of the roadway. Unusual as these critters somehow avoid the ultimate result of living near a highway. Come to find out, February and early March are the mating seasons for these little jewels and it's the males that are killed looking to procreate. I am saddened for them--if people knew more about what a skunk's job is in the lifetime, I believe they would be more empathetic. Same goes for possums, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Ahh, but I digress.

The brown rabbit was given to the sanctuary because whomever owned him could no long keep him. His story is vague as are many of the stories of the animals that pass through the clinic. His hind end is paralyzed and he gets around rather well by his front legs. He has superior upper body strength.

I reached down to him on his pallet and my hands touched a softness that surprised--some described his fur as silk, maybe satin, but I thought both were far too rough compared to what I felt. Like water running over fingertips; like a newborn's skin; like a lover's eyelid.... ever so wonderful... addictive....

I massaged him from neck to frozen back legs--no one had even thought to do this. He laid so very still and was so very muscular. After the massage, I scratched from whiskers to tail--I can't imagine going through life with no back scratch!!! I asked if I could visit the others in the clinic and take him with me and I was told sure. So we went on our own field trip outside. As soon as we walked out the back door, his nose went on overdrive and his ears perked. We visited the little orphaned lamb and her new friend Axis fawn. Neither of them knew what to do with Brown Rabbit as he cruised their home. From their point of view, we had nothing of nutritional value to offer so we were in fact, invisible to them. That didn't stop me from stealing nose kisses from them both before Brown Rabbit and I departed.

I set him down near the small white rabbit grazing on the lawn. At first, neither outwardly acknowledged one another, then the white bunny came over to Brown Rabbit and they greeted each other. Then the little white one hopped straight up in the air, circled Brown Rabbit, then paused. Brown Rabbit lifted himself on his front legs and turned in a circle following the white one. Oh it was quite the moment. White bunny hopped away and Brown Rabbit began to explore in earnest. At one point we both heard the 'skree' of a hawk far away and he froze. Ahh--instinct.

We toured the outside area fairly well for almost an hour and when it was time to go in, Brown Rabbit was visibly unexcited. I put him back on his pallet where fresh alfalfa waited. He quickly lost interest in me and began to eat.

I was able to greet some of the newest residents of the clinic--tiny squirrels and possums, eyes not even open yet. Baby season has begun. I must make the time to help out--prioritize.