Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wild Things

No, the "Wild Things" of the title aren't these two beautiful, smiling ladies. On the right is Mona Rutger, licensed wildlife rehabilitator and director of "Back to the Wild." This wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center is in Castalia, Ohio. On the left is Heather, one of her tireless volunteers and my tour guide for my visit on Sunday. Some of you may know that Mona was named Animal Planet's "Animal Hero of the Year" for 2006. One visit to her place showed me why.

Here is one of the many wild things that call this facility home, some temporarily, awaiting rehabilitation and release, and others permanently if their problems are too severe to allow them to go "back to the wild."

This fox is not an albino, since he has pigment on his nose and eyes. He was deliberately bred for his white coloration, because the breeder could charge more for him. Unfortunately, he is also deaf. I suspect this is due to a color-linked recessive gene, just like white Boxers or blue-eyed white cats, both of which suffer from genetic deafness.

Here is his normally colored cage mate for comparison:

Hmmm. Must have an itch. People think they want foxes for pets until they find out how stinky fox urine is, and that they spray to mark their territory. Ugh!

I forget the name of this tortoise. It is not an Ohio native, but was kept as a pet by people who didn't know how to care for it properly. They fed him dog food, not realizing that he is a vegetarian. The nutritional imbalances caused these weird projections of his shell. This is not his normal look. His shell should be smooth, not bumpy. Heather explained it to me as "arthritis caused by too much protein." I wonder if she meant gout?

One of many box turtles living in the turtle enclosure, merely a low wall around a grassy area. I guess turtles aren't particularly adept at escape. While the center often receives turtles with shell damage or suffering from malnutrition from being kept as pets, I was surprised by the number who come in as near-drownings. Apparently, some people don't know that not all turtles live in the water! Rule of thumb: If it has a domed shell, it is a land turtle, not a water turtle.

A box turtle meets another tortoise, an abandoned former pet,
(I forget this species, too) and there is chaos in the turtle enclosure. I hate traffic jams. Somebody, just signal and go.

This enclosure is for water fowl and other wetland birds. It housed several Great Blue Herons that day, and I also noticed some opportunistic native song birds, who come in through the mesh to see what goodies they can scrounge. Not only is this facility functional, there is beauty, too. Note the carved wooden heron that decorates the courtyard.

Now, that's a monarch ranch! The butterfly on the right
just began emerging from its chrysalis 15 minutes before I took this photo, and the dark one in the back left corner will open in the next 15 minutes. In the middle is a caterpillar just assuming his "J" shape, in preparation for forming his chrysalis. Scattered about are the "empties" and all stages in between. Mona tags the Monarchs she releases, and has received certificates documenting when "her" butterflies are found in Mexico.

Gratuitous bird photos:

Who is it who likes vultures - Lynne? This bird's for you.

A peregrine for Susan. Not nearly as well-mannered as Lucy,
this guy would strike the cage if you came too close.

Bald Eagles for me.
In a the mews or in the flight cage below, simply magnificent birds.

This is not an immature Bald Eagle, it is a Golden Eagle from California. This particular bird cannot be released, and so will be an education bird for the center. Not an Ohio native, Golden Eagles can occasionally be found passing through our state, particularly in winter. I know that there have been reports from The Wilds in the past. People who don't know that Bald Eagles don't get their white heads and tails until their fourth or fifth year may mistake immature Bald Eagles for Goldens.

As well as birds, butterflies, foxes, and turtles, "Back to the Wild" helps any critter that needs it. The day I was there they had a blind American Toad, salamanders, flying squirrels, bobcats, song birds, bunnies, snakes - a veritable Noah's Ark of wildlife. They do educational programs, both on site or at your location. Like many non-profits, they receive no government money and need all the help you can give. Check them out - you will be glad you did!


KGMom said...

I am really fascinated by the tortoise with the over-grown shell. How interesting that the wrong diet has such an impact on an animal's growth.
Hmmmm--is there a lesson in that for us humans?

Lynne said...

Thanks for the turkey vulture fix. Susan thinks I'm nuts but I really do find them to be beautiful birds!
I'm grateful there are dedicated rehabbers to help our wild ones.

Susan Gets Native said...

NOBODY does it like Mona. Isn't she just a little package of awesome?
I met that PF on his first day of public viewing. He is a crazy bird.
Man, how happy would I be with a Golden as a program bird? Of course, I wouldn't be able to pick the dern thing up.

holly said...

Vultures serve a purpose and I'm glad they're around but BOY do they STINK!

I was reading today's post outloud to Robbie and gf Lindsey and we all wondered....how do you tag a butterfly? We're really curious.

Kathy said...

What a wonderful assortment of creatures! I think wildlife rehabilitators are really special people. I also was curious about how to tag a butterfly.

KatDoc said...

I didn't see them actually tagging, but I believe they use tiny little stick-ons with a unique number code attached to a wing. When I did a Google search on "monarch tag" I got a link to monarchwatch.org where you can get answers to all your Monarch Butterfly questions.


holly said...

Well I told Rob and Linds that they just tag the butterfly with their finger..'Tag! You're #1756!' and then the Monarch reports that number into headquarters when they get to Mexico...'#1756 reporting, Sir!'.....

Nobody appreciates my humor.