Friday, August 27, 2010

As most of you know, CLAWS is run out of our home. This makes us different than a lot of facilities and more closely in tune with home rehabilitators. We do this because all animals that are in rehabilitation should have their sights back on being wild and free. In order to live a happy and healthy life as a wild animal, they all need a healthy fear of humans.
We have people tell us constantly that we should allow volunteers to come in and help us. Many say they’d be more than happy to clean cages, shovel poop, whatever. Don’t think these offers and concerns do not touch us, they absolutely do. But part of making the decision to open CLAWS included a decision to turn our home and lives over to the CLAWS mission, which means doing what is best for the animals, not what is more convenient or easier for us.
We know that people see other organizations that are run by either having volunteers come in and do all feedings, cleaning, and basic care, or that send most of their rehabilitating animals home with volunteers. Having done a lot of research, working with other organizations who have volunteers come in to feed, and watching the difference between wild animals raised with two humans at most seeing them, we truly believe that this gives them the best chance for survival and least risk of imprinting or habituation during rehabilitation. International wildlife organizations also say that seeing more than two people is not healthy for rehabilitating animals and our fawn permit very specifically states that our fawn cannot see more than two humans during their months in rehabilitation.
In North Carolina, it is illegal to send animals home with people who are not already permitted to rehabilitate on their own. So this is not something we could do, even with our apprenticing volunteers who we feel have the experience to do this. Also, at a federal level, it is never legal to send birds home, even for flight training, with any person who is not permitted by USF&W.
We do teach classes and apprentice new rehabilitators so that they can do this on their own. We feel that empowering others to do what we do helps animals and people more than keeping these people “under our thumb” to make sure they always do things exactly as we would. It also helps to get help into areas where they may be very few or no rehabilitators.
Having transporters this year has taken such a load off of our plate, we can’t even tell you! Our transporters have been WONDERFUL people, who have helped to give us more time to care for the animals and given us more support than many may know. And, for me personally, teaching the transporter classes has been more fun than any rehabilitation classes. We thank all of our previous, present and future transporters from the bottom of our hearts!
We are hoping, in the coming year, to help people who maybe cannot rehabilitate on the level that we do, but want to do some rehabilitating on their own, obtain permits yet have us triage their calls. This is how we intend to build a team of CLAWS rehabilitators. If this is something that may interest you, please keep up with the fan page and this blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

As usual, the morning started with mixing Tocho’s food (hoping for the right amount of medication every time), feeding all babies their first round and off to answering phone messages.
All the fawn are growing, spots are disappearing and man o man can they eat! LOTS of fawn kisses! Now time to wash the earlobes…yet again. LOL
Unfortunately, somebody had started calling at 1:30am last night, not giving us time to answer and hanging up without leaving a message. So I had turned off the ringer, just to stop hearing it. By the time I checked messages, I had three from the vet’s office where the new rescue is being neutered and given shots today. We will be taking him in on Monday. According to the vet, he may have some long term issues, but we are aware of them, so we know what to prepare for in the future.
Lady Di began her daily petition for indoor bird life. She truly does not believe that a kestrel of her standing should be forced to live outside, while her human subjects are inside, where she can see them!
As I was trying to explain to her that living inside with the mammals is probably not the safest way to live, I received a call from a man who picked up a fawn that was hit by a car last night and cannot use his/her back legs. Thankfully this man was very reasonable; we’ve had calls like this end with me being called “cold hearted” and many words I won’t publish here. Having seen this injury many, many times before and having tried our level best to save them, only to watch them suffer and eventually die, we no longer fight the inevitable, but do what we feel is truly best for the animal. As sad as it is, we have learned that the most humane thing to do is to end their suffering. It would be lovely to think, or say, that we can save them all, but the reality is, we cannot. And we have to be strong enough to know our limits and save their suffering. Thankfully, a vet in Greensboro agreed with our assessment and helped in this situation.
Meantime, Damien went off to spend time with the Drazzles. I’m really not sure who is training who in there, but all are getting along REALLY well! I think Razzle and Damien have some kind of strange redheaded bond, while Dazzle seems to think he and Kasha should take over the world, but is perfectly happy to allow Damien to fill in when Kasha’s not around.
And now, before it got too hot, it was time to start working again on the new falcon enclosure. This project would have been done two weeks ago, if emergencies didn’t keep popping up. And, as usual, no project goes without a hitch…the ground is strangely not level (is it ever?)! So, a bit of adjusting was worked out to ensure that the predator barrier is truly a barrier and not an open invitation. I still think this project will be done before the weekend. We’ll see how that goes, right?
Kasha called..oh yay, she’s off today, so let me send her out on errands. Darn, she doesn’t have the key, so much for those errands. Oh well, she will come over and play with Tocho for a while instead.
Back to the computer to talk to Tocho’s angel about her meds dosage. We are still working on it, but hopefully have more of a plan again. Tocho isn’t acting sick or anything, she just needs to digest her food better.
And now it’s time to work on release scheduling! We have quite a few birds to release and quite a few people waiting to release them, but we have to work out when and where for each bird. I’m hoping the next one (after this coming Sunday) is worked out now.
Tocho has decided that counters hold great treasures. She climbed up and found a rope, GREAT toy! Down she brought it to the floor and was rolling around having a wonderful time with it when Garby, the bobdog decided to join her. At first she wasn’t too sure she wanted to share, after all, she did do all the work to find this new toy. But eventually, playing with her buddy won out over being a selfish kitty and hogging the rope. After a vigorous game of tug-o-war, both tucked themselves away in their bed and fell asleep spooning.
Vinny has to go run errands, so before he leaves, we are going to discuss the next dump run and exactly when that HUGE pile of boxes can be taken to the recycling center. No resolution was found before he left.
While he was out he picked up a BEAUTIFUL mockingbird that had been caught by a cat. Unfortunately, the cat had not been kind. While the bird looked to be in perfect condition, her back was actually broken.
Another call from the rehabber in Arizona that we are helping to raise an elk. He’s almost ready to release, should be just a month or so now. Wow, fawn all over the world are all going to be released about the same time. How cool is that?
Oh yay, that loud noise was the Drazzles dumping their water across that room that used to be known as our dining room. If they keep this up, our floors will never be dirty! More towels to wash now…didn’t we just finish with fawn laundry? They really have to create more?
We received a call from a very panicked woman who had an injured fawn behind a chair on her deck. Knowing that, by this time of year, fawn are too dangerous for others to safely transport, very few questions were asked, we just went out to get the poor darling. I won’t be too graphic here. The smell alone let everybody know what a dire situation this was. Suffice it to say that the things a dog can do to a deer are quite disturbing. And for the third time in one day, we had to make that very difficult decision to end the suffering of an animal in pain.
And the feeding starts all over again

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our Rescued Cavy Herd

Part of our mission here at CLAWS is providing refuge for animals that there are no established rescues for. The exotic pet trade in this country is booming. The internet has made it very easy for anybody to end up purchasing species from all over the world. Some can live comfortably and happily in the right homes, others are extremely difficult to properly feed and have habits that are unacceptable to live with for many people. Many become unwanted very quickly with no place to go.

Breeders and sellers will often tell people that these animals are easy to feed, train very easily, can be litter box trained, anything to make the easy sale. Often times none of this is true. We have sat and listened to sellers tell people that foxes or even sugar gliders are litter box trainable, neither are. Many of these animals are anything but easy to feed, requiring such specialized diets that it is almost impossible for most people to provide a healthy diet.

Most of these species have no place to go. You can’t drop them at a shelter, or they will most likely be euthanized simply because shelters do not have the means to care for them. There are few rescues that can handle such a variety of animals. For this reason, these are the animals that CLAWS is dedicated to helping.

When we take in a new species, we spend hours and hours researching on zoological and science sites, speaking to zoo nutritionists and exclusively exotic animal veterinarians to determine how best to feed and care for them. And once they are here, comfortable and settled, we research some more.

One such species is the Patagonian Cavy; a 25 pound rodent, from the South American grasslands in Patagonia. The word rodent means “the chew” or “to gnaw”, and these cavies are no different than any other rodent, only they have two inch long teeth with which to chew, which means the destruction to a home can incredible. They can also jump six feet into the air, and dig very long tunnels, so keeping them enclosed outside is expensive, to say the least. Yet these animals are sold on the pet market every day, for less than most mixed breeds of dogs are sold.
The first Patagonian Cavy we rescued was one named Mischief. Mischief was raised by a “road side zoo”, kept in a medium sized cat carrier except when he was taken out to have his picture taken with paying customers. He was purchased by one of these customers, when they could not bear watching him live in such conditions. They knew enough to know that he would not be a “good housepet”, and contacted us to see if we could provide him a home. He wound up loving going out to do educational program, made friends with many of the other animals here and generally turned into a very happy, healthy boy.

Next came Sam. His owner actually owned many exotic animals. But, when she moved, Sam’s sibling, and lifetime companion died and she had no place to safely house Sam. So, she asked us to keep him for four months. During that time, she planned to get her USDA permit and build an enclosure appropriate for Sam. She told us that Sam had been kept with a kinkajous and they ate the same food, even though their dietary needs are extremely different. Sam was very thin and his fur very brittle. After four months here, on a good diet, his began putting on weight and his fur grew in much healthier. Four months came and went, then six, then eight, etc., we tried many times to reach Sam’s previous owner, but their number was disconnected and they stopped answering email. Over a year after agreeing to “babysit” Sam, we were notified that the previous owner had left the state and did not want Sam back. Sam isn’t very people friendly, but is now healthy and very much enjoys living with our small herd of cavies.

Last came Miss Pris. Miss Pris was purchased by a young adult in New York, who lived in a small apartment. A 25 pound rodent doesn’t do well in a house, much less an apartment. As time went on, Miss Pris spent more and more time in her crate. Finally the young woman’s mother contacted us about putting her with our herd. It was a tough decision for this girl, she really did love Miss Pris, but she also realized that Miss Pris would be much happier living with her own kind, outside, in an enclosure where she can run, jump and play. Miss Pris loves living in our herd, and also loves humans! She is leash trained and goes to programs to help educate people quite happily. She has also been known to follow any small child who shows interest in her.

If you are considering getting an exotic pet, please do your research. Talk to more than just the person selling the animal, talk to a few people who have rescued some and find out why they are most often sent into rescue. Often you will find that they are not nearly as easy as sellers tell you they are to care for, or their personality changes so much as adults that living with them becomes unbearable for most households. We recommend working with a rescue who cares for the species and going at different times of the day. An animal who appears friendly and docile at 2pm can be aggressive and very fast at 10pm. Know exactly what you are getting into before getting a "pet", for your happiness and theirs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Favorite Perches

There is no greater honor than to be chosen as a “Favorite Perch” by a CLAWS raptor. The birds definitely have preferences. Whenever possible, those preferences are accommodated so the birds have as enjoyable a time at an event or program as possible.

Anyone who has been to an event and witnessed the total adoration Styx exhibits when Vinny is holding her knows who her preference is! She doesn’t take her eyes off him the entire time and looks at him like he is the greatest thing since freshly killed mice! She’s OK if someone else holds her, but if Vinny is there she watches him the entire time. But if she sees her man holding another bird, she pouts. Yes, owls pout. They squat like a chicken and droop their wings.

Then there is Odo who doesn’t care who you are as long as you have red hair. He’s a bit on the shallow side. If you have red hair, you’re in. When he first came to CLAWS, Kindra’s hair was red, he loved her. Now that she has changed hair color, he doesn’t care for her so much. He is uncooperative about loading and unloading from his crate for her. However, for Gina (who is a redhead) he will step off the glove and walk right into his crate when he is done. The last time he waited until he was sure Kindra was watching before putting himself away.

Which brings us to my all time favorite…Alf. The last fundraising event we had there was a special young girl who wanted to have her picture taken with him. I got her a small raptor glove and transferred him to her hand. If looks could kill, I would have burst into flame on the spot! Being the consummate showman, he looked his normal regal self for the picture. However, when I took him back, the tantrum began! I happened to be wearing the fingerless leather gloves I always wore when holding him. He knew EXACTLY where those gloves ended. In addition to the “look of death” and overachieving owl pout, he sidestepped until he had one foot on my bare finger, then turned it into a vise and clamped down. While not immediately all that painful, after about 15 minutes when your finger is bright red and throbbing and has also been impaled by a couple of talons, with no end in sight, it does become quite uncomfortable. People thought the tears in my eyes were due to the pain, and I had to explain that they were actually caused by the effort it was taking not to burst out laughing at his tantrum. I finally had to put him up for a while so he could get over himself, and so he would let go of my finger!

After his “time-out”, he decided that I had been sufficiently punished, and he was back to his normal worship-worthy self.

Each animal has their own unique personality and quirks. We are very privileged to be able to share in their lives and educate other people about their special place in this world. We thank you for reading our blog and hope you are inspired by the work CLAWS does with the wildlife of North Carolina and the special animals with no other place to go who now call CLAWS their home.

Screech Owl Fanatic

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Buhzzerd with Rabies (NOT)

As most rehabbers do, we get calls of all kinds of people. Some sad, some that make us angry, others that make us laugh. Some may make you laugh. We thought we might share a few with you, here and there, on this blog, as long as they are not hurtful to the person who called.
This story, of one of our calls, is meant to make you laugh. Understand, it truly is not meant to put anybody down (note we do not use names ever), just to give you a laugh.
The caller’s voice should be heard in a very heavy southern accent. Not like an antebellum accent, but a very backwoods southern accent. Without this accent, the story really isn’t so funny.

Me, “CLAWS, may I help you?”

Caller, “yeah, I got a buhzzerd in ma backyawrd and its haid is all red and it’s got thet thar raybies”

Me, “sir, birds do not get rabies” (ok, technically they apparently can, but they do not pass it to humans, and it’s not certain that they do)

Caller, “but this is a buhzzerd”

Me, “yes, I know sir, and birds do not get rabies”

Caller, “but it’s a buhzzerd” (getting more insistent)

Me, “ok sir, does this buzzard have feathers?”

Caller, “well a course it duz, it’s a buhzzerd”

Me, “sir, if it has feathers, then it is a bird and it does not have rabies”

Caller, “well then it’s got thet thar west nahle virus”

Me, “sir, west Nile virus comes from mosquitoes, not birds”
Caller, “then it’s got thet thar burd flu”

Me, “sir, we do not have bird flu in this country yet”

Caller, “well, its gunna gimme sumpin”

Me, “sir, what is the bird doing, so far, all you have told me is that a turkey vulture, they all have red heads, is in your back yard”

Caller, “it’s got a red head, it has raybies! We caught it in a nyet, you need to come git it”
At this point I realized the best thing for the bird was to just get it out of there.
Me, “sir, can you tell me where you live please?”

Caller, “in across from the nursary”

I’m thinking a place that grows plants and that there is probably more than one in this city? AND that I’m not going to get these directions easily, so it’s best to pass the phone to Vinny, he’s better with directions.

After several minutes of trying to get directions to his street, “Mill Crake”, Vinny just asked for an address so that we could GPS it, getting directions from a man who had obviously lived in this town for his whole life and thought that everybody knew were every business was, wasn’t going to work. Especially since this isn’t the city we live in and we aren’t from here.

So, off all four of us went, because it typically takes more than a couple of people to capture a vulture.

After passing 4 plant nurseries in this small city, I realized it was a REALLY good thing we GPSed this address AND that the “nursary” was a daycare.

When we got there, we found a perfectly healthy turkey vulture, tangled to pieces in a huge piece of net, rolling all over the yard, getting more and more tangled. We got the bird out, put it in a carrier and left, the man still insisting it had “raybies”

Usually the most interesting part of rehabbing is the humans and the misconceptions of animals that they have.

We hope you took this blog in good humor, as it was meant. The vulture is now living wild, healthy with a new vulture family!