Friendly visitors checking out all of the little critters in the Center’s Quiet baby ward. We are open to the public from 10-4 everyday, come explore our facillity and learn about your favorite local animals!
We’ve turned the corner into April and Baby season is beginning right on time. Each spring hundreds of species of wildlife in New England give birth to their young, and soon our hospital will be flooded with baby squirrels, raccoons, opossums, songbirds, eastern cottontails, and many other young critters. This means it’s all hands on deck for our hospital staff and interns who will be charged with administering meds, cleaning cages, and of course the round the clock feeding regiments.
“It is a lot of work, but it’s a great learning experience and working with baby animals has been very rewarding.”
says hospital Intern Sarah, who is currently perusing her Undergraduate degree from Boston University.
This spring and summer the Center will treat hundreds of sick, injured, and orphan babies, from all over New England and when they are ready we will release them back to their native environments. This is an especially exciting time of year for us and we encourage people to come tour our facility and learn about these little critters first hand. Thank you for your interest and support, and don’t forget to check our calendar for upcoming events and programs.
If You Find a Wild Animal check out this link for more information: http://wildlife-education-center.com/wildlife-care/what-to-do-if-you-find-a-wild-animal/
This a picture of Dr. Rob and the Interns caring for a Mute Swan that was admitted to our hospital after being recovered in Worcester. The Swan was doused in a hydrophobic substance, believed to be vegetable oil and was suffering from lead poisoning. Our best guess is that it came from a restaurant or food establishment in the area and was somehow discharged into a public waterway. This type of exposure is dangerous for aqutic birds because the oil breaks the natural water proofing of their feathers, and will cause them to become hypothermic this time of year. Additionally, when they preen themselves to try and get rid of the oil they end up ingesting a lot of it, which can be harmful. The lead poisoning is a separate issue and is common in many freshwater birds, but can be very serious if not treated right away.
Our staff repeatedly washed him with grease cutting soap and warm water to remove the oils and he was then given nutritional support and cage rest. He is also receiving chelation treatment to neutralize and remove the lead in his system. Today we are happy to report that he is doing well, and we will keep you updated on his progress.
Students from the South Shore Christian Academy in Weymouth explored the New England Wildlife Center today with Center science educator and legendary rock & roller, Safari Steve Martin. Here kids are handling natural objects in the nature center after learning from Steve that populations of horseshoe crabs are dwindling and the impact that may have on humans. Come on over to the Center….it’s fun here! :)
This Red-throated Loon made his way from Braintree to New England Wildlife Center this afternoon. A kind neighbor in Braintree found him by the side of the road, unable to fly. Dr. Rob says he looks OK. He found minor lacerations and abrasions on the Loon’s feet. Dr. Rob thinks that he most likely just lost his way and crash landed due to the storm. Once he hit the road, he was stuck. Loon’s need 20-30 feet of water surface runway to take-off. They aren’t designed to walk on land. You don’t see many of them around because they live off the coast. Our animal care team is treating the Loon with SQ fluids and providing nutritional support. Dr. Rob hopes that he will be released as soon as the storm is over. The Red-throated Loon is different from the Common Loon. We are so glad this guy is indoors and safe tonight!
We are in desperate need of paper towels to clean and disinfect our hospital. It takes several rolls each week to meet our cleaning, patient care, and bedding needs. All donations can be dropped off at the front desk with either Ian or Maryanne. Thank you for your support!
So as I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s getting pretty cold out there. Trees have dropped their leaves, the air has gone from crisp to bitter, grandmothers all over New England are furiously knitting warm sweaters, and of course, the birds have started their annual trip south for the winter. Well, the smart ones did anyways. So what of the many species of birds that don’t make the long trip, how do these foolhardy fowl deal with the winter cold?
In reality there are over a hundred species of birds that spend the winter in New England and thanks to a number of biological accommodations they fair just fine. As long as there is a food source, these guys can handle the harshest winter conditions without so much as a scarf.
The first thing that our feathered friends have going for them is their internal thermometer. Birds tend to have a very high normothermia, meaning that their average body temperature is much higher than us humans, in some species it’s been recorded as being as warm as 110 F. This gives them a bit of a buffer against the cold being as they are that much further from the hypothermic tipping point. Interestingly, this process is why it is so important to fill your bird feeders with suit and seeds during the winter. Maintaining such a high internal temperature is very energy-intensive and because birds have such a high metabolic rate they burn through their energy stores very quickly and need to constantly eat to maintain themselves.
Their second line of winter defense comes in their ability to trap heat in their feathers. As anyone who has ever put on a down jacket knows feathers have a way of keeping you nice and toasty. Many species will actually go through a late autumn molt and grow a set of even denser winter feathers that give them a little extra heat capacity. The way that their feathers are structured allows them to trap small pockets of heat directly against the their body and when it’s really cold they will even hunker down and tuck their heads and feet in for maximum heat retention.
Thirdly, Bird feet. Have you ever looked closely at a bird from the legs down? It’s like staring at a dinosaur, but these scaly trotters play an important role in keeping birds warm. Birds don’t have the benefit of wearing wool socks so they are left to perch all winter on icy snow covered surfaces in their bare feet, but thankfully they have a few adaptations to keep them comfortable. Unlike humans, their feet release very little of their internal heat to the outside world. Their lack of sweat glands means that they secrete no moisture, which means no evaporative cooling. Additionally, their legs are very simple in structure; there are not a lot of mussels, nerves, and arteries present, it is mostly bone and ligaments, which don’t release a lot of heat. Some birds, such as ducks, actually have a heat return mechanism built right into their legs. It’s known as a counter-current heat exchange, and essentially it means that the arteries that are present in the legs are right next to each other. This allows the cold blood returning from the feet to be warmed by the hot blood exiting the torso, which cuts down on energy that would be expended to re-heat the incoming blood flow.
So, these birds that wait out the winter here aren’t in as bad a shape as one might think. Evolution has provided them with a number biological defenses against the cold and they have a few behavioral tricks up their sleeves as well. Many birds will huddle together for warmth or find unfrozen bodies of water to swim in, guaranteeing them an environment above the freezing mark. Whatever individual techniques they employ the hundreds of birds that wait out the winter survive just fine and are left to scoff at all the fair weather species that fly the coop every time it gets cold.
Rock Salt is the most commonly used method for melting that pesky winter ice that builds up on our roads, driveways, and front stoops. It’s cheap n’ easy to apply and frankly it does a darn good job, but before you go out and douse your driveway to keep Santa from taking a nasty spill this year, there’s a few things you should know. Rock salt is a very corrosive and concentrated substance, which can cause problems for your local plants, animals, and waterways. Not to mention it can do pretty serious number on your paintjob.
What’s that you say? It’s just salt which exist in nature anyways, so what’s the big deal?? well….you’re right. Rock salt is essentially just large chunks of sodium chloride minerals, the same stuff you used to salt those holiday cookies, but the danger comes in the amount not from the chemical makeup. In nature it’s all over the place. It’s in the soil, the air, the ocean, heck humans are made of about 1% salt, but it always subscribes to a natural balance. When you dump a large input of salt into a system that is not equipped to deal with it, it can upset the balance and cause real problems for plants and animals.
So here’s where it becomes your problem. Salt is water soluble, meaning that it dissolves into water and becomes a component of the fluid. It then can flow with the water wherever it is headed and ends up wherever the topography flattens out. When you use it to melt ice in your driveway it does just that, and flows off of your impermeable driveway until it gets absorbed or pools somewhere flat. Now this is troublesome because most often driveways are designed on a down slope to allow excess water to runoff of them. This means that the salty water will either runoff onto your lawn, or into the street where it will continue flowing into a storm drain, culvert, or water feature.
If it ends up in your lawn, its pretty much game over for your grass. The salty water is absorbed into the soil which lowers the PH making the soil more acidic, which inhibits nutrient and water transfer to the plants that grow there. It’s just like if you eat too much salty popcorn and have to drink more fluids to balance yourself out. When excess salt is present plants need more water to compensate which they may not be able to get. Additionally, the animals that depend on eating your lawn to survive also get the short end of the stick. They are left either with no food, or the food they do get is very high in salt which can cause health problems, namely salt poisoning. Salt is also an irritant, especially in high concentrations, which means pets and wildlife with pads on the bottoms may get superficial burns.
So now lets say that your property is safe from salt damage and you’re one of those households whose excess water drains directly into the street, you’re off the hook right? Sorry, no such luck. When salient water flows onto an impermeable surface like the street it just keeps on trucking until it either gets absorbed and ruins some other poor saps lawn, or it makes its way into some sort of storm water drainage infrastructure, be it a drain, culvert, drainage ditch, river, stream or something of the like. Now as we know many of these outlets feed directly into freshwater systems like the local river or stream in an effort to prevent flooding and dilute pollution inputs. The funny thing about salt and freshwater is that a very small concentration of sodium chloride can have an un-proportionally large effect on water quality. It only takes a pinch, no pun intended, to degrade water past the point where it is no longer safe for consumption. So when you get a whole community salting their driveways and the runoff is coagulating in the same drainage systems it can really cause some serious damage. So come springtime when everything starts flowing again, plants and wildlife that use streams as drinking and food sources are heavily impacted.
So now you’re probably thinking, “great now I feel bad, but I still don’t have a solution to my ice problem”… Well have no fear; there are a number of environmentally friendly ice melters that will do the trick. As this issue has gained more notoriety in recent years, people have developed all sorts of new commercial solutions to take care of the problem without angering the local Raccoon population. Here at the Wildlife Center we came up with our own home-brew to melt ice using things we found in our freezer, and it works pretty well if I do say so myself. Check out the video link for our recipe, and have a good winter.
This little guy just came in. This is a Dovekie that was found by a merchant marine who was manning a tug boat. Dovekies are the smallest member of the Alcid family in the North Atlanctic. The tug was pulling a vessel through Boston Harbor from Philadelphia. He and his crew found this Dovekie on the boat, unable to fly. In initial triage there does not appear to be an injury. Dr. Rob suspects an illness of some kind. First, we will leave the Dovekie alone for a while. Many wild animals can die from stress when vets or rehabbers try too aggressively to provide immediate help. Fast and aggressive treatment can be as damaging as not helping at all. It’s a delicate balance. This guy will receive fluids, nutritional support and cage rest as we work to find out what is wrong with him. He eats small crustaceans and fish. We will keep you updated.
On Wednesday December 5, 2012 at 6:30 Dr. Rob Will be hosting an informative Bat lecture at the Norwell Public Library. He will be discussing how important bats are to our ecosystem, and how Whitenose Syndrome is effecting their survival. There will also be a workshop on building your own Bat Boxes and what you can do to help the local bat populations.
To Register: contact the Norwell Public Library at 781-659-2015
or online @ norwellpubliclibrary.org
Bling the Tortise is ready for his picture with Santa this Saturday, Dec 1 from 12-4 at New England Wildlife Center, 500 Columbian Street, South Weymouth, MA 02190. 781 682 4878 x124!
It’s always a good time at New England Wildlife Center.
In this video Dr. Mertz discusses the changes that take place in a decidous forest in late autumn and what that means for the plants and animals that live there. He also takes a look at our Vernal pond and describes the process by which the local biota get ready to deal with the oncoming cold.
In case you missed it, here is the link to watch the New England Wildlife Center’s ‘Odd Pet Vet’, which was part of a segment about exotic pets appearing last week on Chronicle WCVB Channel 5.
I wanted to let you all know that the adolescent Coyote we’ve been treating in the hospital was successfully released yesterday! After a two month recovery at the Center he was given a clean bill of health and was discharged back into the wild. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife issued the Coyote an eartag to help them track and better understand the biology and behavior of these amazing animals. Thanks to all the hardwork and support from the New England Wildlife Center community this guy is back at home tonight happy and healthy, Thank you all so much!