Sunday, November 02, 2008

And Then There Were Two

Yep, we have released almost all the baby seals! WOOHOO! Our first release was back on September 2nd and quite a few of the seasonal interns got to participate.

We started out going through the usual steps:

First, someone nets the seals one by one out of the big seal pool and hands the seal off to a few people:

Jessica, who is a friend of head rehabber Penny, came up and was our seasonal rehabber. She also got to be the netter woman during this release. Hi Jessica!!

Then the seal gets placed on the scale for one last weigh in.

It's kind of like that show The Biggest Loser, but with the seals it's more like The Biggest Gainer. And with them, the prize for gaining enough weight is to be set free!

Our biggest gainer? This guy!

This is O'o. Look at him! He doesn't even have a neck! He looks like one of those weeble wobbles from when I was a kid. He weighed in at a massive 74.5lbs, just shy of the release record of 76lbs. Usually we would have released him WAY before he got this big, but we never release seal pups by themselves, so we had to wait for others to get to an appropriate weight.

After they get weighed, then comes the not so fun part of placing a tag in their flippers.

Shona is our official seal-sitter-on-er person and Penny does the dirty work. Here Penny is icing the flipper to numb it up a bit and to try and minimize the bleeding. Just because of their position on top of the seal and what they need to do, things can look weird and suspect if you are facing behind them.

"Whatcha lookin' at Penny?" I asked her. It was at this point that a: they both knew that I had taken a picture that looked...well....awkward, for lack of a better word and b: that, for better or for worse, it would be posted on my blog.

Good thing everyone has a great sense of humor about these types of situations!

Then comes the actual punching of the hole for the flipper tag.

Penny has this down to a science and usually can do this with very minimal bleeding. Yep, she's a SUPAHSTAR!

They are then crated up and taken to our Secret Squirrel (or is that Secret Seal?) release site. We let the interns do the honors of opening their crates.

And predictably, with more than 2 seals being released, some bolt out right away, and others...well....

..not so much. Here is O'o on the beach.

Can you see the "slight" difference in his size in comparison to the other seal? And yes, that was a sarcastic and rhetorical question!

But eventually they all got out into the water and started exploring their natural environment and new home.

Yesterday's seal release went smoothly and I think everyone knew that Shrike would bolt for the water once her crate was opened, which she did.

Isn't she a beauty? Eskimo was a bit slower on the uptake, but when they both spotted something that was completely alien and foreign to them, then there was no stopping them. What was it?

A kelp bed! Once this was discovered, much fun ensued and they would NOT stray far from it.

We said goodbye and left them frolicking in it.

I know in my last post I told you about the ending part of that interesting Saturday and eluded to the fact that it began on an interesting note as well. Well, allow me now to elaborate on that!

We got a call from a local woman who had a buck on her property that had gotten his antlers tangled in a rope fence, a rope fence she was using to keep the deer away from some trees on her property! This was the 2nd call of this nature that we had received within 2 weeks and thank goodness that Jessica, who was the rehabber working that Saturday, had been on the previous call, as neither I nor Kate, one of our seasonal interns, had. So we loaded up some sheets and some clippers and headed out to see what was what.

This is what we saw when we were walking around the path that led to the deer:

Saying that his antlers were "tangled" in the fence was a complete understatement. He was completely snarled in this thing. When we walked around to where he was, he completely freaked out, jumping this way...

...and that way...

..and all we did for a few seconds was watch to see how he moved and try to assess the best way to get him free from this mess. Jessica took charge and said that we needed to immobilize his head, as deer use their front feet as weapons, not their back like horses do, and this guy could have easily shattered any of our bones if he connected with us. So Kate went and grabbed the section on the left while I went and stood on the other side of the deer on that rope section. His jumping ended up landing him on his side, where we immediately covered his head with a sheet.

Jessica moved in to cut the ropes and the second she got one piece cut free...

...he jumped to his feet, we scattered, and he started the whole "freaking out" process all over again. At this point, we knew we had to do something and fast. Why? Because deer build up stress toxins. And if they build up enough, it can kill them. So we had Kate pull hard on her end, with me telling her to use the tree as a "fulcrum" (I'm not even sure I used that term correctly, but that's what I told her) and to pull the rope hard and down around the tree. I went over and literally STOMPED on my side of the rope fence and the second I did that, using his head as a pivot point, he flipped completely over on his back, pointing in the complete opposite direction that he had been facing, with his antlers buried in the ground. Jessica and I looked at each other with shocked faces and I said "He's down!", so we hurriedly threw a sheet and a blanket over him and got down to business. We had the homeowner come take my place standing on my section of the rope fence and Jessica had me come over and put pressure on the buck's body as a deterrent, so that he hopefully wouldn't get up again.

Jessica started frantically cutting away the rope as quickly as she could, asking me at intervals if he was still breathing, to which I thankfully could say "Yes" each time she asked. I, wracked with guilt, at one point asked her if he might have broken his neck during the last flip, as he was so still. She said that she didn't know. When she finally got all of the roping cut off his antlers, we grabbed off the sheet and blanket and scurried back a ways to see what he would do.

It didn't look good. He just laid there, breathing very shallowly, and at times his front leg would twitch. Jessica gave him a minute or two and then walked forward and clapped her hands to try and get him on his feet. She got no reaction except for a slight widening of the eyes. At this point we all thought he wasn't going to make it. The nice homeowner put her arm around Jessica and told her that we did our best and that she understood if we needed to call someone to come and put him out of his misery. We decided to pack up and do just that. Jessica went to grab our clippers, which were still in the grass by him, and happened to move that branch by his head, at which point he EXPLODED onto his feet and took off! I can not begin to tell you how elated we all were. It was a "high" that lasted for several hours afterward. WOOHOO!

Til next time...

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yesterday has to have been, in the four years I have been volunteering at Wolf Hollow, THE most interesting day I have ever had. And while I will regale with you with tales about the rest of my day in a future posting, I want this post to be strictly about the one activity I ended my day with, and that is the bathing of a Barn owl. And why did we have to bath a Barn owl, one might ask? Well, because it was found on Friday afternoon like this:

*Thanks for the use of the photo, Wolf Hollow gals!

You are looking at a Barn owl that has fallen.....somehow.....into one of the public pit toilets at South Beach (Be thankful....VERY thankful...that I cropped this photo). Of course there has been quite a bit of speculation about how he ended up in such a predicament. One theory was that he flew/dropped down the ventilation tube. Problem is, the ventilation tube runs down the outside of the building...

...and he would have had to have flopped around a bit to end up where he did and therefore would probably have been a lot....well...messier than he was. The only other explanation is that, even though the public is supposed to close the door when done, someone didn't, and he saw a rodent of some shape or form on the edge of the toilet, went to grab it, and missed, falling into it in the process.

So they waited a day to let him destress a bit and then decided to bath him on Saturday. Now, having had to give Barn owls foot baths before, I knew this could be QUITE the interesting endeavor, as just the slightest movement during the foot bath would set off minutes of hissing and moaning. So, because we had the Saturday super trio already dressed out in their most fashionable cleaning wear...

From left to right: Shona, Kate, and Jessica

...i.e. garbage bags, I stood back to capture this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime procedure. First, we need to set up the baths.

The two tubs on the right are bathing tubs and the empty one will be the rinse tub when filled. And yes, we did use Dawn as our cleaning agent.

Next, we need the star of our show. Yes, he was more than a bit reluctant to come out of his carrier, as you can hear, but pull him out Jessica did. Then, a worm bag was placed over his head and he was unceremoniously placed in cleaning tub #1.

And then the fun part begins; cleaning of his feathers.

Trust me, if you smelled him as he was being washed, you would understand the faces some of the gals are making. He REEKED! But, one must persevere, so the wings got washed...

...and then his body was washed and.....stuff....was carefully picked from his feathers.

Then he was moved to the next wash tub.....

..and the whole process was started over again. We even broke out a toothbrush to help with the de-gunking of his feathers, especially those around his upper body and neck.

Ugh! You can see the....stuff.....all over the worm bag that we used to cover his head during most of the procedure. After they were sure that he was stuff-free, he was given a few, thorough rinsings....

..carefully towel-dried....

...and then placed in a crate, with a heat lamp nearby, to dry off.

The amazing part of this whole process is that, after his initial hissy-fit, he didn't make one peep. Not one! I guess being doused in warm water must have been either too overwhelming or very relaxing for him. I hope it was the latter.

On Sunday he was placed in the Slatted flight cage to make sure all flight systems were good to go.

*Thanks....again... for the use of the photo, Wolf Hollow gals!

He seems to be doing just fine and will be released back at South Beach sometime this week. My guess is, however, that he will be giving the pit toilet building a VERY wide berth! Til next time...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Attention Span of a 3-Year Old

While I have always known that I can be distracted by anything out of the ordinary, but especially by things of a "crawly" type nature, it was never more apparent to me just HOW easily distracted I can be than when I was at Wolf Hollow this past Saturday. Here I am, making the second to last of five 1/4 mile round trips to the compost heap with straw I had mucked out of the fawn pen stalls, and I am thinking "Just one more trip...just one more tr...oooooohhhhh....WHAT'S THAT?!" I squatted down to get a closer look at this tiny distraction and yelped something along the lines of "COOL!" as I bolted inside to get my camera. I then raced back outside, flopped down on my stomach (one of the many reasons I constantly wear jeans and t-shirts...I am VERY hard on my clothes), and got up close and personal with this big girl:

She is about 1 1/2 inches long and by far the biggest beetle I have seen out in the wild, here in the US, that is.

I know it's hard to see, but she actually has hair/fur right behind her front legs! I have never thought of beetles as fuzzy. I looked her up, and I say "her" because all the websites say males have bigger antennae....big surprise...and I believe her to be a Lined June Beetle, mayhaps even a Ten-lined June Beetle. After taking a few photos I moved her off the foot path to a somewhat safer location. But unlike a 3-year old, I did remember what I was doing pre-distraction and finished the mucking job.

Okay, so this isn't one of the many animals we have in rehab right now, but it's still interesting, right? Hello? Anyone there?! Well shoot!

Look, I promise I'll post more animal pics later in the week, after I "woman" the Wolf Hollow booth at the San Juan County Fair this Wednesday night. I will also be entering two of my WH photos in the Fair for all and sundry to see and judge. Which two?

This one.....

and this one.

I feel that they both have major "awwww" and "woobies!" factors going on, so it will be interesting to see what the public's take is on these. I am also curious as to which "category" these will be placed in, as they aren't "pets", yet technically they aren't "wildlife" either, in the sense that they weren't in the "wild" when photographed. I'll let y'all know what they decide. Til next time...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words….

..then here's a novella for you. Oh, and there's a spider pic at the end of this posting. Consider yourself forewarned!

Til next time...