Tag Archives: fox valley wildlife center

To The Guy Who Drove Over the Injured Opossum

Unlike with people, there is no emergency system in place for injured wild animals; no expectation that help will be on the way as soon as someone notices your accident and dire need for medical care. Unfortunately, unavoidable collisions with animals happen all the time, and tragically, many animals don’t die upon impact even when the trauma is incredibly severe and injuries are fatal. There is nothing they can do when it happens.

I’m also very aware that at any given time, drivers may have only a split second to make a judgement and react – avoid an animal if possible or risk injury and potential devastation to other drivers. I totally get that, which is why I was completely shocked that the driver of a truck that could have avoided an injured opossum in the road, or even just slowed down, chose not to do so and drove right over him.

Not five minutes after leaving a restaurant to head home, I saw an opossum sitting upright in the opposite lane of a two-lane rural road. Instantly my heart skipped a beat and my stomach dropped as I saw him try to slowly raise his head. I knew he had been hit. He tried standing up but couldn’t. The movement was so slow and labored. I could see him trying to lift a leg that was extensively injured, but he couldn’t move forward.

As soon as I could, I pulled over and back around with my hazards on. As I put the car in park, a large white truck had come up the same lane. As the opossum’s head slowly turned, the truck went barreling over him. The sight was such a shock I couldn’t even scream. The truck was tall enough to pass over his head, and he remained upright despite getting rocked from the rush of air that came from the vehicle going about 50 mph.

The only thing I had in my car was my old sweatshirt I wore to the wildlife center, so I grabbed it.

Two other passers-by saw what I was about to do so they kindly slowed down and drove by in the other lane that was completely clear. The opossum was still hunched over in an upright position but not moving. I gently placed the sweatshirt over him, carried him over to my car, and placed him in my trunk. Not a flinch, not a hiss.

It was after-hours at the wildlife center where I volunteer but fortunately I was able to get ahold of someone who lived close enough and was willing to come over and help. She gently lifted him out of my car, brought him inside, and started to pull the sweatshirt back for an exam. It didn’t take long for her to say she was going to take him outside. I knew what that meant. That meant that he wouldn’t have to suffer much longer. It meant that soon he’d fall asleep; the confusion and agony of what had happened would be over.

I suppose there could have been other reasons the truck drove right over him, but since I saw the whole thing, I can only assume he didn’t give a shit. If that was the case, he’s certainly not the only one.

#SomeBadassesAreMarsupials

I never gave thought to opossums one way or the other until I met Snitch, a disabled opossum education animal at Fox Valley Wildlife Center. She was hit by a car and survived, but suffered neurological trauma, lost her vision, and also some teeth. She is why I learned just how cool, and misunderstood, these mammals are.

Arden Joel holding a disabled opossum

Joel and I keeping Snitch toasty in some blankies at a fundraising event in 2012.

Now that I know better, I’d gladly welcome them into our yard should they choose to visit and provide free cleanup services. I’d never pick up a wild one to pet and cuddle, understandably they get defensive and scared like any other animal that feels threatened, but there is no reason at all to hate.

The initial accident with the opossum may have been unavoidable, but callously driving over him was. Moments like that remind me that I live in an incredibly selfish and neglectful world. However, the kindness and compassion of a young lady who unselfishly answered the call to help end his suffering, reminds me that not everyone is so heartless.

Sometimes there are things can you do to help in these situations and sometimes there aren’t. I get that. But life in the wild is tough enough and there is no need to make it tougher. Have a heart, have some compassion, and please give a shit.

Good to keep handy, Animal Help Now is a resource for wildlife care contacts across the U.S. https://ahnow.org/#/

“Don’t be a hater. Please brake for awesome possums.” – The Awesome Opossum, Center for Biological Diversity

Love in the Time of Conjunctivitis

A slightly edited version of this post was originally published on 10,000 Birds.

Congratulating myself for leaving the house on time, I got into my car and drove off to meet up with a friend for lunch. Not one minute later, I noticed a small feathery mass sitting in the middle of my lane. Giving the bird a wide berth, I veered towards the other side of the road with the assumption that it would encourage her to fly off. As I drove past her, I glanced in my rearview mirror. She hadn’t budged. I felt compelled to go back and see if the bird was just being fickle or if it was something else.

As I approached on foot, I asked the little House Finch if she was OK, completely expecting her to fly off in a flurry but once again she did not. She moved her head around a bit but that was all. Once I got close enough, I reached out and grabbed her which was too easy to do. That was definitely a bad sign; it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to just walk up to and snatch a healthy adult wild bird. Upon initial inspection, I noticed that one eye was quite squinty and the other was red and completely swollen shut. I immediately assumed it was conjunctivitis and that she’d need rehabilitation.

I was going to be late for lunch.

Since I had no way to safely contain her in the car, I made the short drive back home with her clutched in one hand. Fortunately I was able to get an assist from my husband who set up a shoebox for the poor bird’s ride to the local wildlife rehabilitation facility, Fox Valley Wildlife Center, which was conveniently located just five minutes from my dining destination.

Arden Zich with sick house finch

She’s probably thinking, “So this is how it ends…” Not so, little friend!

In less than 24 hours of receiving medication, the eye that had been swollen shut had calmed down and opened enough for her to see again. Laura Kirk, the wildlife center’s director, said that the bird couldn’t inhale her seeds fast enough once she was set up in her own private quarters. The difficulty she had seeing me come at her must have meant that she’d had a hard time finding food as well.

sick female finch 24 hrs after medication conjunctivitis

The next day.

Not long after her arrival, a male House Finch was admitted with the same malady. Together they stayed in the bird infirmary for a few weeks while being treated with medicated eye drops and an antibiotic in their drinking water. I like to think they comforted each other and passed the time from their respective cages by swapping stories about themselves, how they endured being caught by big scary humans, and their plans for the future.

Once their treatments were complete, they were transferred to a soft release outdoor cage for observation and to readjust to the weather. With no netting between them, the pair was free to frolic about as they pleased until they were cleared for release. When that time came, the couple was chauffeured to the general area where the female finch was found.

male female house finch ready for release

The finch couple anxiously await their release.

Opening the carrier door was a bit uneventful and neither bird chose to leave immediately; they wanted to make sure the coast was clear before leaving their protective confines. Once one finch finally took flight, the other immediately sprang forth in the same direction. Together they flew to a nearby tree to take in the sights and sounds of their new surroundings, hopefully to make good on their plans for the future.

released recovered male female house finches

We ride together, we fly together.

Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is a highly-contagious disease that primarily affects House Finches but can affect other birds such as Purple Finch and American Goldfinch. Birds can recover from the disease if they don’t first succumb to predation or starvation from the inability to see, which was undoubtedly imminent for “my” House Finch.

It is highly recommended that those who enjoy feeding birds ensure that feeders are spaced far enough apart to avoid crowding, clean feeders on a regular basis, and provide only enough seed for about one to two days. Feeders should be immediately removed and sanitized (10% bleach solution) and feeding area cleaned if sick birds have been observed in that area.

For more information and tips on how to help decrease spread of disease:

Reptiles Tip the Scales (A Feather-Free Post)

Earlier this month, the wildlife rehabilitation center held its 2nd annual Wild about Wildlife fundraiser. As a not-for-profit organization, the center requires support and donations from the public in order to “keep the lights on.” More than just keeping the lights on, it costs money to have extra staff on hand through the busy season, not to mention year-round supplies and medication. Money received from fundraisers, education programs, and general donations are critical to on-going wildlife care.

Arden WAW Fundraiser 2013

Yours truly sharing information at the information desk.

There were a number of generous sponsors of the event as well as several vendors and organizations that contributed to a fun-filled and informative afternoon. Our wildlife rehabilitation center was joined by:

Aside from turtles, I’m not much of a reptile gal, so I asked our center’s director Ashley about the Jim Nesci show. She told me she had been to one of his shows several years ago and found it really fun and exciting.

Fun? Exciting?? Reptiles??? Hmph.

A man with an alligator walks in to a room…

Once Jim arrived, he started to bring his creatures around the side of the building. He got some assistance moving many yet-to-be-identified guests into the presentation room in addition to his alligator “Bubba ” (the sequel). Joel, who loved alligators as a tot, was one of the guys who helped grab a handle to carry the gator. Now if anyone ever compares the weight of something to an adult alligator, he’ll know exactly what they’re talking about! This is just one of the super-cool benefits of being a volunteer – or even the spouse of a volunteer! You NEVER know what you might closely encounter!

Jim quickly gained the attention of everyone in the room and built our anticipation for the show. The kids immediately became so excited they could barely stay in their seats. After general introductions about Jim and his Cold Blooded Creatures club (90% of club members are rescues), Jim brought out the first guest, a big beautiful African Spurred tortoise named Tank. Tank, which was bred in captivity, crawled around the carpet while the kids crawled around him. A few lucky little ones even got to go for a tortoise ride. A few of us big kids couldn’t help but reach out to touch his shell and legs, too. Tank didn’t mind any of the attention one bit.

African Spurred tortoise_Tank_Jim Nesci

Next up on the reptile runway show was Godzilla, a black throat monitor lizard.  A very enthusiastic young lady in the front row was picked to pose with the native Tanzanian reptile.

black throat monitor lizard_Godzilla_Jim Nesci

Here is Lucky, a North American Alligator, that was acquired after having been discovered in a water sewage treatment plant. A few lucky audience members got to hold the “little” gator.

North American Alligator_Lucky_Jim Nesci

I don’t know if blondes have more fun, but I know that Blondie, an Albino Burmese Python, had no issues with being lifted up by three strong men and stretched out to be held by about 20 eager little arms.

Albino Burmese Python_Blondie_Jim Nesci

Much more than just show and tell, Jim consistently enforced messages of education and responsibility with these creatures – for both of our sakes.

I DARE You to Make Me Like You, Gator

I’ve never been particularly fond of alligators. During nature shows, I grimace and huff in disapproval when I see them snatch poor, unsuspecting animals that are just trying to get a drink of water. Alligators just seem so unfeeling and brutish.

Jim and Bubba taught me a thing or two and have given me a new perspective.

Jim opened up the bag that contained Bubba and instructed him to back out. Just like that, Bubba backed out. So there we all were: big humans, little humans, a regulation-sized alligator, and a smattering of raptors looking on like “Oh this is gonna be good…”

Alligator in Reverse_Bubba_Jim Nesci

Jim told us all about the original Bubba and his successor that lay before us. Through facts and tales we learned about a mother gator’s nurturing qualities and more about a gator’s respectable IQ. Among a few stories, Jim told us about how his own Bubba would first determine his gator-lady’s mood and then approach her accordingly. (That’s an intelligent species in my book!) We also learned that alligators have remarkable immune systems that can be used for study to help humans.

Unbelievably, Bubba operated like he was being remote controlled when Jim asked him to stand, walk, and lay down. It broke my heart to hear Jim tell stories about how people at his shows have hit, poked, and kicked Bubba. These were not life-saving measures, just humans taking an opportunity to be cruel to a living creature that was doing no harm. What did Bubba do in response to the abuse? Nothing.

Alligator_Bubba_Jim Nesci

You got me, gator. Forget about just liking you, I respect you.

Please be a champion of responsible animal care and support your local animal rehabbers, rescuers and shelters. Keep them in mind during the holidays when you consider donations to charitable organizations. These people work HARD at giving animals, that are often impacted by humans, a second chance.