I realize the first breaths of a cool autumn breeze are weeks if not months away here in southwest Florida, but the seasons are changing already at Peace River Wildlife Center. Baby bird season runs from April through August. During that time we receive up to 20 baby birds every day, each of which has to be fed every 10-20 minutes from sunup to sundown. It is an exhausting time of year, but the energy of the long, sunny days keeps us going. Now, just when the baby bird admissions have started to slow down to a trickle, squirrel season is starting to ramp up. No, not squirrel hunting season! Squirrel season for rehabbers means we will start to see nest after nest of baby squirrels coming in for medical care for various reasons. Sometimes an entire nest has been blown out of a tree by a wind storm or cut out off of a limb by a tree trimmer. (Those nests can usually be left in a safe place for mom and she will move her babies to another site.) Often, it is just a single injured baby that has been discovered by a predator like a cat, dog, hawk, or chainsaw. (Yes, chainsaws happen. And sometimes the squirrels even win. We don’t argue with those squirrels. We name them Buffy and give them whatever they want.) The good news is that mammal babies only have to be fed every few hours instead of minutes. The bad news is they need to be fed around the clock. So these tykes go home with staff and trained volunteers at night for home care.
We welcome any insomniac animal lovers to come in and join us for home care training. You will learn such skills as formula juggling—2 parts FV 42:25 to 1 part KMR to 8 parts water, unless the stools are too soft then it’s 1.5 parts FV 33:40 plus ESB, unless you have MM which is the same as FV 30:55, but shouldn’t be used in conjunction with…well, you get the point. It is actually rather complex, so we don’t advise people to visit one site on the internet and try to raise a baby animal by yourself, but if you are seriously interested in helping, we do hold home care training sessions periodically and will teach the proper way to feed, house, and handle wild baby mammals. But please remember, folks, it’s not just an adventure; it’s a job—a job with very real responsibilities and time commitments and an obligation to help us keep these wild babies wild so they can successfully be released back into their natural habitats. On the other hand, the rewards are like nothing you have ever experienced, especially if you consider being tickled by a wiggling whiskered nose more rewarding than a paycheck.
While we wait for the temperatures to plummet and hope that the squirrels don’t, we reflect on the busy summer we are having here at PRWC. We have had record numbers of animal intakes so far this year and have seen a steady stream of visitors during a historically slow time of year for tourists. Our volunteer numbers, which usually drop off when the seasonal residents go back up north in the spring, are way up this summer. We are especially grateful for those hardy souls that brave the scorching heat and sudden downpours to keep PRWC working so efficiently all summer. For those of you looking for an opportunity to help with a little less hands-on type involvement, we are looking for volunteers to help with habitat cleaning each morning, tour guides, and hospital helpers.
If you would like to volunteer, please stop by PRWC or call 941-637-3830 for more information. In addition to on-site volunteers, we have small projects that people can do in their own homes like building wooden squirrel nest boxes or knitting or crocheting makeshift nests for baby birds and mammals. We are privileged to serve Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota, and Desoto counties to assist with wildlife issues. But without the support of the community we could not accomplish anything. We are eternally grateful for our supporters’ generosity and invite everyone else to join us in helping people and wildlife peacefully coexist.
by– Robin Jenkins, DVM