Admissions at Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center slow down at this time of year; the only new resident I saw today was a gray squirrel, which had been hit by a car several days ago. No external injuries were seen, and Don said it was eating and drinking normally, so hopefully it has suffered only bruising. Although seemingly on the road to recovery, the weather is too cold now for release, so he’ll be moved from his carrier in the living room to a larger cage in the basement until springtime. The little red squirrel rescued from the glue trap is doing very well, but his tail reminds me of a poodle that has been groomed, with the tuft of fur on the end. He and Chippy will also be overwintering with Don and enjoy the peanuts I’ve left as a treat.
As most of us are looking forward to Christmas and time off from work or school, Don and the volunteers at Duck Pond get no vacation or reprieve. The daily chores still have to be done, no matter the weather, chilly temperatures, or dark hours. Preparations for winter were well documented by Carleen in previous columns:
From 2008: “The babies that arrived in the spring and summer have been released. There is much to do before the first snowstorm. All the dishes, cages, empty pens, and dog houses used to shelter animals need to be cleaned, repaired, and painted. The power washer is a tremendous help…dirt and mud just melt away and soon they are clean and white, ready to be stored for the winter. Nothing is put away dirty. The mobile pens are moved to one area where they will be covered with tarps to protect them from the snow and ice.
The young deer need to be moved to their winter pen. Barriers are set up to walk them from one pen to the next. The concern is that they not get spooked, jump over the barrier, and run off, probably never to be caught and too young to be on their own in the wild. The geese and ducks need to be rounded up off the ponds. This can be a challenge as they always want to go in the wrong direction.”
From 2009: “After the animals ready for release are gone, reality sets in again. Pens need to have tarps replaced as the raccoons really enjoy shredding them. Buildings and shelters in need of paint will be spiffed up.
Living in Maine, the inevitable happens – the first snowfall. We sit in the warm house, watching the accumulation, knowing that we will soon have to remove snow from the pens that hold the wildlife that were not big or fat enough to be released in the fall. Pens will need to be shoveled, along with plowing and using the snow blower to clear paths to all the enclosures. Ice will be pounded from every water container several times a day as fresh water freezes almost instantly. Whatever hasn’t frozen to the bottom of the pen (food and other debris) will be raked up, carried away and disposed of. Everyone needs to be fed – hay is carried to the deer pen and grain to where the birds are housed.
The howling winds, bitter cold, and blowing snow do not end calls about wildlife in need. Homeowners want unwelcome skunks removed from under their houses. Raccoons, deer, and other animals that are victims of vehicle hits will need to be picked up and taken to the vet to determine if injuries are life threatening. If not, they will recover at the Care Center [or transferred to another rehabber] until spring release. The work really never ends, it just slows down for a few months. In spite of all the work and heartache over animals we are unable to save, we always look forward to the first spring baby!”
Don and his volunteers greatly appreciate other rehabbers who continue to generously provide assistance to help keep critter care at Duck Pond manageable. Please check the following web sites to see if there is one near you: www.mainevetmed.org/wildlife-rehabilitation or www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/orphaned-injured-wildlife/index.html
Donald Cote operates Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center on Rte. 3 in Vassalboro. It is a nonprofit, State-permitted rehab facility, which is supported by his own resources and outside donations. Mailing address: 1787 North Belfast Avenue, Vassalboro ME 04989 Phone: (207) 445-4326. Please note that the prior wildlifecarecenter email address is no longer monitored.
—by Jayne Winters, Natural Resources Council of Maine member from South China, Maine
Critter Chatter also appears monthly in the Town Line newspaper.