Category Archives: Blog

A Day in the Life: Bat Caretaker Pt. 4

We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Well, dear readers, the time to release the bats in my care is rapidly approaching.  Although the actual date is probably still a few weeks away (depends on a variety of factors, most especially mean daily temperatures and the adequate abundance of bugs for them to eat) I am starting to go through the worried concerns of any wildlife rehabilitator who has cared for a particular animal long-term.  I liken it to a mom (yours?) enduring the departure of her child as he/she moves out from home to start the next phase of their life.  Heart-wrenching, yet elating!  Excited for their on-going journey, yet saddened to not see them everyday anymore!

As “my” bats await their release, and my excitement builds for their imminent resumption of a free life, I can’t help but think about all the dangers that await them as well.  Apart from all the usual environmental concerns (pesticides, herbicides, predators – including humans, etc) there is at least one that might catch you by surprise.

It is a magnificent tool for harnessing sustainable clean energy, yet puts thousands upon thousands of birds and bats at risk every year.  See http://batcon.org/index.php/what-we-do/bats-and-wind-energy.html

Which species are most affected?  See http://batcon.org/index.php/what-we-do/bats-and-wind-energy/subcategory/560.html  (Did you see where the bats in my care rank?)

Wikipedia also has interesting (and, to a bat-mom, alarming) information. Scroll down to the Bats section, or read the whole page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_power

Discussion question:  What do you think the statement “Recent research shows that bats may also be killed when suddenly passing through a low air pressure region surrounding the turbine blade tips.” means?  What actually happens to the bat?  I know, but can’t bring myself to tell you.

Clean, sustainable energy is critical … but at what cost?  The good news is that the ongoing growth in awareness is encouraging the great minds behind both energy and conservation to seek solutions for this difficult issue.

With this in mind, I have to trust that “my” bats will venture forth to live a full and vibrant life with all the wonders this world has to offer while still remaining safe from its hazards.

The Silver Haired Bat has been with me since September 2013, and the Big Brown Bats since January 2014.  I confess an emotional attachment, but this will not impede my higher need to see them resume their respective lives in the wild.  Like any mom, I have to trust that I did the best I could for them to survive (and thrive) in what the world has in store for them.

Plus, it doesn’t help that I am writing this blog on the eve of Mother’s day while Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” plays in the background!!  Looks like Fate has it in for me today in that respect!   I’ll have a much happier tale to tell when my “kids” are finally released!  Promise!

** Note from staff: Sorry about the delay in posting! We have been very busy here at the WRSE!

Now, here’s Big Brown Bat #1:

big brown bat smile gloves

He ‘smiles’ … a lot!!

A Day in the Life: Bat Caretaker Pt. 3

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.
– Julia Child

I weighed the bats today to ensure they are all self-feeding properly. The Silver-Haired Bat (SHB) is at her maximum weight (14 grams) and maintaining it well. Big Brown Bat (BBB) #2 is also now at his maximum weight (24 grams) and has maintained it for the past few weeks.
Big Brown Bat (BBB) #1 however has earned a new nickname: ButterBall!   Weighing in at a hefty 30 grams, he is officially 6 grams over weight!

Now, 6 grams may not seem like much to we comparatively massive humans, but to an itty-bitty bat, it’s huge!  It officially takes him out of the heavy-weight rank, and puts him squarely into the unflattering category of obese.

My challenge now is to figure out how, with all the bats in a common flight room and with the same access to the same dish of food, to ensure BBB#1 eats less while still ensuring the others get enough to eat. It’s crucial that I get his weight down because he could, literally, become too fat to fly.  And, not to add any pressure to myself but their release date is rapidly approaching.   Oy vey!  The trials and tribulations of a bat-mom.

For now, here’s a picture of the BBBs snuggling in their bat house.

big brown bats

(BBB#1 – AKA: Butterball – is the sleepy fellow on the right.)

By the way, as a point of interest, that little hook thingy you see in the middle is BBB#2s thumb!  What you see at the end of their little arms there is their wrists.  The hook-like thing is the thumb, and the rest of the wing membrane is spread between their fingers.  (See image below)  Isn’t that cool!?!

Bat anatomy

BBB#1 and I are off to a Weight Watchers meeting now!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

A Day in the Life: Bat Caretaker Pt. 2

The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.
 
– Charles Darwin

Hello again, wonderful WRSE supporters!

This week I was hoping to give you some history behind the bats in my care; how they came to need the services of WRSE, but I’m feeling far too playful for that today. Today I’d rather tell you about their little personalities, and how, even within the same species, they can be completely different.

Now, you should know that within the wildlife rehab world, we generally refrain from naming any animals in our care.  They are only with us for a relatively short while and we don’t want to encourage much attachment between staff and wildlife. Though we do care for the wildlife that we treat, it is important that they remain wild and keep a healthy aversion to people in order to avoid negative human-wildlife interactions. The only named creature we currently have at WRSE is a Great Horned Owl dubbed Cecil (I’ll blabber on about him some other time) but that’s because he is a permanent resident.

So … back to the point I was about to make:  Although the bats in my care do not have Anglo names, I sometimes refer to them by other labels – some not so flattering!  You’ll see why.

The Silverhaired (SHB for short) bat is gentle, sweet, and shy.  I often refer to her as “Sweetheart”.  Her little face is strikingly beautiful; she’s very lady-like (for a bat) and loves to crawl under my collar after she’s finished her feeding-time.   Silverhaired bats seldom self-feed while in captivity, so hand-feeding her daily is a necessity.  After she’s had her meal, topped off with a refreshing bit of water, she crawls up under my collar and purrs.  That’s right!  Bats purr!!!  Now, I do understand that she is a crevice bat (meaning they hide in crevices) and that my collar is just a reasonable substitute for her to hide in and not  what I prefer to believe is a snuggle but hey, please just allow me my delusions!

Silverhaired bat 2014
(Click to photo to make it larger)

The Big Brown bats (BBB for short) are feistier than “Sweetheart” – waaay feistier!  Both BBBs are males. (Oooh, could it be a testosterone thing??)  They are also excellent self-feeders while in captivity, so I don’t need to handle them as often.

BBB#1 – I usually refer to him as “Handsome”, but sometimes “Butthead” springs to mind!  He’s the more aggressive of the two.  The way he eats his dinner is hilarious! I’m trying to get video for you… keep checking back!
Picture this: The mealworms are all in a large, deep plate.  BBB#1 crawls into the plate, plunks his tuckus down, surveys the yummy morsels before him and then quickly darts his head forward to snatch up a worm.  The funny thing is he sometimes snaps his head back so fast that he almost flips himself over backward!  Cirque-de-sol-Batty!

Big Browm Bat (3)
(Click photo to make it larger)

There are still a few occasions in which I need to hand-feed him.  However he’s such an aggressive eater (think: shark feeding frenzy) that he sometimes mistakes my finger for a big fat juicy worm!  I feed him using tweezers, but still have to hold him in my other (gloved) hand.  The moniker “Butthead” springs to mind when his BILLION needle-teeth stick into my finger and won’t let go!  Okay, I’m exaggerating about the billion teeth … but not the ‘hurts’ part! Never pick up a bat in the wild if you don’t have adequate protection. Though it is rare, bats can carry rabies, and your safety is of utmost importance!

BBB#2 – Most of the time I refer to him as “Gorgeous” but he holds the championship on nicknames!  Depending on his behavior, he can be “Doofus”, “Squirmy-wermy”, “Mr. Wiggle-pants”, “Cheeky Monkey” and “Poopyhead”.  He’s the most troublesome (and adorable) rascal yet!  His feeding habits are daintier than BBB#1.  He does not like to eat everything in one sitting.  He’s more like the proper English ladies sitting down to tea and crumpets; a little nosh here, and a little nosh there, and a good long time to finish the whole bit!  On the rare occasions that I need to hand-feed him he is the squirmiest, most uncooperative cheeky monkey I have yet to meet!  And I mean that in a loving way!  He only wants his worms tweezered to him in a certain way.  His body position has to be just so.  His water has to be served at just the right moment.  Otherwise, he makes the whole episode into an epic drama.

Big Brown Bat (4)
(Click photo to make it larger)

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed the photos, and I hope you have seen at least one way in which they are all wonderfully unique.  More to come!

 

 

A Day in the Life: Bat Caretaker

Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.
Charles Darwin

Hello fans of WRSE!

My name is Heike (pronounced Hy-ka, in case you were wondering) and am a part-time Wildlife Rehabilitator with WRSE.

I have had the immense pleasure of specializing in the rehabilitation of bats these past several months, and thought you might like to come along on my journey as I learn new things and witness their unique little personalities (bat-onalities?)

So many people tend to be afraid of, or even dislike, these special little creatures.  I think this is because we are so heavily influenced by the negative images and tales perpetuated by storytellers, moviemakers and the like.  Such fear! This is unfortunate.  They are absolutely vital to our ecosystem and they have absolutely no interest in getting into your hair or sucking your blood.  Not even Vampire bats really care about human blood (Plus, we don’t even have these in Alberta).  It probably tastes icky from all the junk food we humans eat (HAHA!).  Check out the fascinating details about Vampire Bats at http://www.animalplanet.com/mammals/vampire-bat-info.htm .

Okay, back to bats in Alberta.  All of our bats are ‘insectivorous’.  They only munch on bugs.  In fact, the tiniest bat, the Little Brown Bat, can eat about 600-900 mosquitoes in just one hour! And they say dogs are man’s best friend…absurd!

Over the next few weeks, I will introduce you to some of the bats I am currently rehabbing.  I have had five bats since September, two of which were released last fall, and three of which are still with me.  In order to help take the pressure off fellow staff on-site at WRSE, I am rehabbing these critters in my home. I have had great amusement (and a few panic attacks) during our time together.  I will try to share some photos and/or video clips of these critters as I get them, they are somewhat shy of paparazzi.  That being said, here’s your first look at the three bats in my care!

This is a female Silver-haired Bat.  Silver-haired Bats are so named because their dark-chocolate coloured fur is frosted with silver tips.  I’ll get a better photo for you in the future.  This little girl has been with me the longest (click photo to make it larger).Silver Haired bat 2014

This little fellow is a Big Brown Bat.  Note the lighter coloured fur on the body, while still maintaining a deep dark brown on the face, wings and ears (click photo to make it larger).  He’s very cheeky!

Big Brown Bat 2014

This fellow is also a Big Brown Bat.  He’s trying to look really ferocious while munching a mealworm, but I can’t help but think this looks more like a smile or a hearty laugh!  His “bat-onality” is quite different from the other Big Brown (click photo to make it larger).

Big Brown Bat (2) 2014

More on all of these little rascals on future blogs.

Until next time, here’s your homework (mwaah ha ha! And you thought you’d just be reading stuff!)…what are some myths about bats that you can dispel? E-mail your responses to education@wildlife-edm.ca

 

 

A Day in the Life: a Concerned Wildlife Volunteer

We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.
– Immanuel Kant

The things you never think you will do.  For me rescuing an injured porcupine probably fell into the category of “who…me?” Yet here I was, watching a porcupine limping like it had a broken leg.

At first, I was amazed that it was able to navigate in the freezing and snow, and wondered how long before it was eaten or simply died.  As he hunted for seeds around the bird feeders, I felt bad for him, but thought that “mother nature” would do her thing soon. But after a few days, I spotted him again, still hobbling on three legs, still determined to beat the deep snow and freezing cold for a few morsels of birdseed that had fallen to the ground.  As I watched him this second time, I began to feel terrible about not helping him, not really knowing how to help him. I thought if I put out some apple it would help him ward off the cold a bit more – but he limped away quickly as soon as the door handle moved.

I thought about him overnight – gaining respect for his strength and marveled at his intelligence.  He was a survivor!  At that point, I knew if I saw him again, I had to help him.  After calling the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton for advice, I planned my trap!  The next time he came to the house for some seeds, a large Rubbermaid container would be used to trap him, and then transfer him into a kennel so he would have some air and a bit more room overnight. Sounded easy enough…so I watched and waited…and hoped he would make it back to the yard again!

The next morning, after we successfully captured him, the 45 minute trip to the rehab facility was easy. Once at the WRSE, the porcupine was sedated and assessed.  By the time I got back home, he had a full work-up, and Kim happily reported that the leg injury was an infection, probably due to an embedded quill!  It was not broken so would be an easier recovery!

He was put on antibiotics, the wound drained and cleaned, and he was allowed to recuperate for almost two weeks before he was well enough to come back to his territory!  While he was gone, his little family came to the house almost every night – maybe they were looking for him…maybe they were happy there was less competition. I will never really know.

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We got him back to the property just after a huge snowfall.  We took him to a treed area near the back of the property to release him.

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For the next week I watched for his return to the house – peering out three or four times during the night. I was delighted to see him back at the house about a week later – he had rejoined his little family and our prickle were back at the arguments over who would get to eat the seeds first!

Since then, we have startled each other on several occasions, and each time I am thrilled to him back in my yard!

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Many thanks to Kim and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton staff for caring enough to help our wild friends.

 – WRSE Supporter

A Day in the Life: a Hotline Volunteer

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
– Sir Winston Churchill

I have been a hotline volunteer for some time now. I like it for many reasons. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton is an amazing organization and they treat their volunteers so well. I have always felt completely supported by so many knowledgeable people. I love animals and nature and want to do what I can to help out.

Answering questions on the hotline gives me the opportunity to both interact with the public and feel like I am contributing to helping out animals in need. People are so thankful for the WRSE. Often they are relieved just to be able to talk to someone in person, or at times when other places are closed. If I am ever unsure of how to respond, the team is always there for support.

On the hotline, I have talked to people about all kinds of animals. From birds in chimneys to orphaned fawns to injured coyotes. No two questions are the same and no two callers are the same. The variety of situations and people keeps the hotline interesting and knowing that I have provided some kind of assistance is rewarding.

The WRSE team is so kind and appreciative of their volunteers and I feel privileged to be a small part of the services they provide. We are fortunate, in the city of Edmonton, to have the WRSE in place.

– Hotline Volunteer

Note from Staff:

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Hotline volunteers are a crucial part of our organization. They answer all incoming calls on the Wildlife Hotline — assisting members of the public to problem solve their wildlife related concerns.

Through our Wildlife Hotline, we field over 5000 calls each year. We are in the middle of our slow season right now, so we may only receive 5 calls in a day. This changes drastically in the spring and summer months; we may get as many as 45 calls in a day! When we have Hotline Volunteers on shift — staff can concentrate on intakes and wildlife care, and we are extremely thankful for them!

If you find a wild animal in need, please call our Wildlife Hotline at 780-914-4118

25th Anniversary Founder's Message

And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
― Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

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Founder’s message:

On January 23, 1989, I took the plunge and registered the Alberta Bird Rescue Association as a non-profit with Alberta Registries.  Careful consideration had gone into whether it was time to start a rescue for injured wild birds.  I really had no idea what I was getting myself and my husband, David into.  But the fact remained that these wild creatures needed a place to recuperate safely and with veterinary support from Delton Veterinary Hospital, my background in animal health technology and love for wild animals and nature and a handy husband who could build pens on our 40 acre property, we thought we were up for the challenge.    A month later, we discovered we were also expecting our first child!  Timing has never been my strong point!

Now, 25 years later, I look back in amazement at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton (WRSE) and am so proud to see what is has become!

The years have been filled with challenges.  The progression from a small, completely volunteer, seasonal, bird-only shelter on a rural property in Strathcona County to a busy Wildlife Hospital in the city and 16 acre Rehabilitation Centre in Parkland County with year-round staffed assisting not only birds but small mammals 365 days a year has been the tireless work of many people.  We can now say that the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton is a well-established presence in Edmonton and as the former mayor, his Worship Stephen Mandel declared “an essential service”.

There have been many instrumental people who have helped shape and guide the growth of WRSE – “one gesture, one person, and one moment at a time”.  In our early formative years, we quickly saw the need to involve more people with special skills and that has been our strength.  Craig Chanin, former executive director of the Edmonton SPCA (now Edmonton Humane Society) gave valuable instruction on governance and creating a mission and vision; Dr. Marianne Yelle, our board Chair who orchestrated the move from our garage in the country to the University of Alberta, Ellerslie Research Station;  Cheryl Feldstein, our very first Executive Director who raised the bar on management, strategy and fund-raising and worked tirelessly on moving us to our current site at Parkland County and the City of Edmonton.  These are just a few.  We have always been so fortunate to have skilled, dedicated and compassionate staff and volunteers that have allowed us to increase our capacity and our knowledge and skill in treating injured wildlife. There have  been so many people that deserve to be recognized for their contribution to the growth of WRSE and I am honored to have been part of the process!

― Kim Blomme, Founder, Wildlife Services Director, Acting Executive Director