ATW Newsletter, May 2020

Paws 'N Claws

News from All Things Wild Rehabilitation, Inc. 
What's in this issue:

Oh, Dear, It's an Abandoned Fawn!
A Whistling Duck's Remarkable Journey
Wild and Free
How to Become a Release Site
Donate to Support All Things Wild Rehabilitation!
Oh, Dear, It’s an Abandoned Fawn!

The mother is giving birth to a fawn.

After giving birth, she cleans her newborn baby.
Mother deer have evolved over eons to protect their babies by staying away from them.  To stand near the baby would be to attract predators.  (The mother cottontail rabbit does the same thing—stays away from her nest of babies.)  So, it’s very common in the spring to see a tiny fawn lying in the grass by itself. The fawn has no scent and lies very still so as not to attract predators.  Mom is always nearby foraging and will respond to the baby's cries if there is danger.  She also nurses her baby several times a day.  Some moms will leave their babies in the same place for a long time, even days, but she always stops by to feed every few hours.
How can you tell if the little fawn is OK?  First, healthy fawns lie curled up.  If something is very wrong, like severe dehydration or an injury, the baby will lie straight out. 

A healthy fawn will lie curled up.
Second, there are lots of tests you can do to determine if the fawn is OK, but the surest one is to lift the tail and check the bottom.  If the bottom is nice and clean, mom is taking care of her baby.  If the bottom is dirty with feces, something has happened to mom, and the baby needs to come to rehabilitation.

Mom stimulates the babies to urinate and cleans bottoms while they nurse.
As always, it’s OK to touch the fawn.  The “touching” thing is a huge myth.  No wild animal or bird will reject an off-spring because of human scent.
  • If the baby is covered in ants, brush the ants off and move the baby to a place nearby but away from the ants.   If the ants are really bad and have gone into the baby’s orifices, the baby needs to come to rehabilitation.
  • If the baby is lying in the hot afternoon sun, move the baby into the shade.  
  • If the baby is lying unhurt in the street, move the baby onto the nearest grassy place.
  • If the baby is lying on your front porch, you can leave her there or move her onto the grass.  Mom put her baby there because she thinks it is safe.
  • If the baby is about to be attacked by your dog, control your dog.  Mom will come soon and move her baby to a safer place.  Moms often give birth to babies in fenced yards that are safer than outside where coyotes and other predators can get the baby.  If the baby can’t get out of the fenced area, and the dog can’t be controlled, move the baby outside the fence where the mom can find him.
  • If you are sure the mom has been killed, the baby has to be caught and brought to rehabilitation.  Sometimes, older fawns are difficult, if not impossible, to catch.  Herd them into a fenced area where they can be more easily caught. 
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never (get the idea?) give cow’s milk to a fawn.  The milk from a cow contains enzymes that the baby cannot digest that will cause diarrhea, dehydration, and death.  Bad.  
Do not think the fawn is cute and kidnap it to make it a pet.  First, it’s highly illegal, and the Game Warden will slap you with a big fine.  Second, grown former pet fawns are not fun to have around and are usually set free by the human kidnappers.  However, because the animal is now imprinted on humans for food and has never learned to forage, the grown deer will approach people for food or end up starving to death.  This often results in the poor innocent deer being killed as a nuisance.  Kidnapped fawns almost always come to a very sad end.  (If you have neighbors who have kidnapped a fawn, you can turn them in to the Game Warden anonymously.  Your action will save the fawn's life.  Call TWPD Game Warden Dispatch at 512-389-4848.)
If you are unsure about the status of a baby fawn, you can call All Things Wild 512-897-0806. However, chances are good that mother knows best, that the fawn is not abandoned, and you need to LEAVE IT ALONE.
 An orphaned fawn in rehabilitation.
A Whistling Duck’s Remarkable Journey
By Marcy Buffington
In June of 2019, Emergency Services in Belton, Texas, began receiving a series of frantic calls. Drivers on IH-35 were reporting that a mother duck was attempting to cross the Interstate, her 14 babies right behind her. Worried drivers slowed to a crawl, effectively stopping traffic on the freeway. Police officers arrived, and as the mother flew off, they scooped the fourteen newly hatched babies into a box, found a safe, shady spot nearby, and waited for the mother to return and resume her journey to the water with her brood. 

The mother never returned, and the officers began calling wildlife rehabilitators. One call led them to All Things Wild, and thus some four hours after their harrowing experience began, the little ducks arrived at my home. They were exhausted, weak, and bedraggled, but after each had a tiny drop of electrolytes placed on its tongue, they began to revive, and thrive.

The entire brood of baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks on the day they were rescued.

The brood is growing up.
By September, they were ready to leave their sanctuary, literally stretching their wings and becoming strong flyers. One small female, though, injured herself on one of her first few flights. The injury was minor—perhaps a muscle strain near her breast bone.  Whatever the injury, when her siblings all left on a Fall morning, she stayed behind. She bonded with some other members of my small flock, the lone Black-Bellied Whistling Duck among them. She seemed happy, but I had wanted her to be a wild duck among her own species. Instead, she had become a farm duck, pottering about during the day, and caged at night.

Left behind when her siblings flew away, Whistle Girl (right) hung out in the barnyard with a couple of Muscovy hens.
Her sadly limited future seemed certain until one late March morning. I heard her distinctive call and glanced out the window. She had a mate! They spent the day together, she showed him the full feed tray, they swam in the pond, and as dusk fell, they took off together, an apparently happy ending, literally flying off into the sunset. 

With her new mate, Whistle Girl (right) shows him around the barnyard.
Except, she came back. The next morning, there she was, sans her new husband. He arrived shortly after, and off they went again. For several days, she would leave with her mate during the day, returning alone at dusk. It’s easy and probably wrong to anthropomorphize the animals in our care. But after a week of the on-again-off-again courtship, it seemed the drake had called in reinforcements. One morning I awoke to not just my Whistle Girl and her new mate, but an entire flock of scolding, chattering Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks in my yard. They were irresistible: my girl took off again, this time I thought, for good.

The flock arrived to convince Whistle Girl that it was time to leave.

They must have been persuasive because Whistle Girl left with them.
But she came back. For weeks, she returned at night, sometimes with her mate, sometimes with her flock, sometimes alone. As I write, though, she hasn’t been back, except very briefly, for three days. I assume she is finally sitting on a nest somewhere, is part of a flock, and is only returning for a snack and a hello.

Raising her, and being part of her remarkable story from freeway refugee to someone’s sweetheart, has been one of my favorite experiences in a lifetime of caring for ducks. I only hope that she continues to visit, years into the future.

For more information on Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, click here. 

About the author:  Marcy, who takes care of many ducks and geese, lives with her family out in the country east of Round Rock.  She and her family have helped All Things Wild in many ways over the years including rehabilitating ducks and geese and allowing us to release rehabilitated animals on their land.  We are always happy when Marcy has a special story to share with us.
Wild and Free
The orphaned opossums, squirrels, and cottontails who came into All Things Wild earlier this year are now big and healthy and ready to return to the wild.  At All Things Wild, we love releasing wild animals in habitats where they will live out their lives as Nature intended. Following are some pictures of recent releases.  

Volunteers make their way across a field carrying opossums to the release site.

At first, the opossums are somewhat cautious about coming out of the carrier.

It doesn't take long for the opossums to figure out that the wild is where they belong.

This opossum, once a tiny orphan, will live out her life as Nature intended.

Squirrels are released in specially made boxes where they have shelter and safety.

When they emerge from the box, the squirrels realize they are up in a tree.

Newly released squirrels are very curious about their new environment.

Lately, we have been releasing cottontail rabbits near our center where there is a prime environment for them.

Since cottontails feed on mostly grass and weeds, the world is now a giant food bowl.

Our thanks to Sue Puetz and Amber Ringwood for the photographs.
How to Become a Release Site
The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to return the bird or the animal to the wild.  We release the rehabilitated animals on private property with permission from the owner.  All Things Wild is always looking for good release sites.  Here are our dream criteria for releasing most small mammals and raptors:
  • Acreage, preferably 10 acres or more, with woods,
  • No high fences,
  • Water year-round,
  • Away from busy highways, communities, houses, and lots of people,
  • Accessible by vehicle or hiking,
  • Willingness to do a soft release* if necessary, and
  • An appreciation of wild animals.
If you would like to offer your land as a release site for ATW, please email  Thank you!
*A soft release is when food is left out for released animals until they become accustomed to foraging in the wild.
Donate now to support our efforts!
Copyright © 2020 All Things Wild Rehabilitation, Inc., All rights reserved.

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