Wildlife Rehabbing

 Wildlife Rehabilitation in Virginia

A rehabber, is someone who takes care of those that are recovering from a specific condition, to fix it up and make it better. Often times when someone mentions rehab, we think of drug or alcohol abuse and the process it takes to “get off the wagon”.

But a Rehabber , in wildlife terminology is the greatest asset we currently have to benefit our wildlife, and to help get them back into the wild where they belong. But it is not an easy road, nor is rehabbing wildlife the road to riches.

When Wildlife is injured or sick, and are presented to a wildlife veterinarian, they will prepare a plan to get that animal well as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our two major Wildlife centers in Virginia, the Richmond Wildlife Center and the Wildlife Center of Virginia, are both working at capacity   and are busy with wildlife needing help. Fortunately, once their patients are stable and on the road to recovery, they are able to go to a rehabber that can give them the support and the care that they need until they are releasable.

You can find a list of licenced rehabilitators for Virginia here

WHAT IS A WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR?

A wildlife rehabilitator, also known as a “rehabber,” is a professionally trained person, that works with Veterinarians to  provides medical care to injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife. The goal of the rehabber is to medically treat the animal by providing suitable diet and nutrition, and to provide safe and sanitary shelter, so that it may return back to its natural habitat and family. The goal is not to make pets out of wildlife, to display them around humans, or to release any wildlife with handicaps in which they may not be able to protect themselves, not healthy enough to thrive, unable to fit in with other wildlife, or become vulnerable to predators.  Wild animals that sustain injuries or illnesses preventing them from living successfully in the wild usually are euthanized (have their suffering ended in a humane fashion). Occasionally, individual animals that have recovered from their injuries but are not able to survive in the wild are placed in educational facilities.

Rehabbing Wildlife is  an elaborate and time consuming undertaking, and there is no pay involved. Rehabbers work each and every day, all year long taking care of the animals in their care, but there is nothing more rewarding then watching that animal rejoin its family when it is returned to the wild.

HOW TO BECOME A WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR:

To become a wildlife rehabber, you will need to locate a licensed rehabber near you that has knowledge and experience rehabbing the species of animal that you are interested in working with.

To become a rehabber, you will first need to decide what species you would like to work with. In Virginia, there is no path that will allow you to focus on a specific animal,  you will find you will need to learn how to rehab other animals as well.
Locate a rehabber in your area who has extensive experience rehabbing those animals. To find a list of rehabbers in your area, call your local Animal Shelter, Humane Society, or visit this web site: www.nwrawildlife.org
Put in lots of volunteer time with a permitted rehabber before you make your final decision. Find out all you can about the nature of the animal, medical treatments, time, commitment, and finances (rehabbers pay for the cost of everything).

Rehabbers need to obtain specific knowledge including:

  • behavior,
  • diseases,
  • diagnosis,
  • wounds and injuries,
  • anatomy of the species,
  • first aid training,
  • triage treatment,
  • drugs and drug administration

 

Once you are sure you want to be a wildlife rehabber, you are ready to  apply for your state permit. In Virginia this will require a 2-year apprenticeship program before you may legally obtain a permit to rehab. During this 2-year period, a legally permitted rehabber will supervise you. To obtain the rehab application, call Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries:(804) 367-1000.

Wildlife rehabbers are required to attend wildlife training annually to keep their Federal or State permit legal and updated, and these classes are available at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, for a nominal fee.

Birds are protected by federal law and a Special Purpose Federal permit is required to handle and rehab birds. Click to  learn more about acquiring a Federal permit.

Wildlife Centers and Hospitals receive thousands of calls from communities all over the country every year from compassionate citizens who see injured wildlife and want to help.  Most injuries to wildlife are created by man, and as we destroy more and more of our natural world, we can expect more injuries to wildlife as they struggle just to survive.

Wildlife rehabbers are needed now more then ever, So if you have a love of wildlife, they could use your help now more then ever. Please do your part to help Wildlife in your area!

 

 

HELP ! I Found A Baby Turtle!

Baby Turtles ARE Amazing

a-hatchling-group-of-box-turtles

Baby Box Turtles

Finding such a small creature is indeed a stroke of chance and luck, but is it right to think that it needs help and that you should take it home?

Before you decide that this little dinosaur will be better off with you lets consider some facts and the circumstances.

EVERYTHING and I mean everything a turtle does is due to its connection with the earth and the weather in its habitat. Turtles have been surviving this way for more than 200 million years, yes, since the days of dinosaurs, and have evolved to have some amazing “super powers” to get them through the tough times. All turtles come from eggs, and like the Dinosaurs before them, incubation lasts for at least 60 days. In climates where turtles Brumate(Hibernate), it is not uncommon for hatchlings to stay in their underground nest for their first winter and wait for spring rains to awaken them for their first venture to the surface

digging-hole

Eastern Box Turtle digging a nest on the side of the road

of the earth.

All mother turtles will  prepare a nest by digging a hole with her back legs as deep as she can. Depending on the weather and food supply, some turtles will lay a clutch of eggs two or even three times a summer, and
although mother turtles abandon their nest after it is completed, each type of turtle will carefully find the best location to dig their nest and, to give their hatchlings the best chance of survival.  Most turtles, including water turtles will seek out land that is above flood level to place their nest, allowing temperatures in the nest to stay stable.

Why did you find a Baby Turtle?

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Baby Water Turtle

Fluctuating temperatures are the most common reason that one finds baby turtles during times of the year when you would not expect to find them. Late warm rains in October, or early warm rains in March sometimes trigger the “its spring” response in nestlings causing them to dig to the surface, only to find an inhospitable climate.

Baby Turtles are also often disturbed with construction. Finding baby turtles in newly dug piles of dirt from previously undisturbed wooded areas is becoming more and more common as we push the limits of preserved land, and encroach upon native habitat.

What Kind of Turtle Did You Find?

To the common eye, baby turtles all look alike, but can be easily differentiated by carefully looking at their feet.

Box turtles are land turtles and have small dinosaur like feet. It is very important to note that Box Turtles are NOT water turtles, and although they can swim, they will also drown if unable to get themselves out of the water.

Baby Water turtles like sliders, paints and cooters, have little webbed feet, and surprisingly the nests are often a good distance to the fresh water where their parents live.

snapping_turtle_baby_

Baby Snapping Turtle

Baby Snappers are also often found away from water and are distinguishable by their prehistoric
looking shell and extremely long tail.

Ocean turtles have flippers, are found on the beach and should NEVER be taken home. They are endangered and protected and It is nearly impossible to raise them in captivity. If you find one, you can help it get to the ocean, if it is injured, contact the local authorities for more directions.

Here are the things that all baby turtles have in common:

yoke-sack

Baby Turtle With Yolk

  • Baby Turtles rely on their dull coloration for camouflage.
  • Baby Turtles have no protection other than hiding.
  • All predators find baby turtles to be a nice snack. It is believed only one in 1,000 will survive to reproductive age.
  • Baby Turtles are prone to dehydration.
  • Baby Turtles hatch with a “Yolk” and will / can survive 7-10 days once hatched with out food.
  • Studies have shown that baby turtles are not born with the homing instinct that their parents have, but acquire it over time. (exception: ocean turtles)

 

What To Do With Your New Find?

heron

A heron enjoys a baby turtle snack.

This is where it gets tricky.
Due to habitat loss and destruction, it is not uncommon for mother turtles to locate their nests in places that are less then ideal. One recently more common place is along road ways where the earth is well packed, and with a “stream” (ditch) along side. Not an ideal place for baby turtles of any kind, and with the lack of habitat in areas that are well established by humans, baby turtles show up in the most unlikely places.

Baby Turtles are great to visit with, take some photos and show your kids, but unless we can let these turtles remain in the wild, they will soon be extinct in areas that they called home for millions of years.

That being said, to release a baby turtle in suburbia and expect it to survive to adult hood is far-fetched indeed.

Baby Turtles need shelter. They need food and water.  If the seasons are appropriate your little turtle should be taken to an area that will supply him with what he needs to survive and grow and be released. If it is late fall through early spring, you should contact a local wildlife rehabber or a wildlife veterinarian that can give you names of qualified people that can help direct you.

Turtles as pets are a Hugh responsibility. Turtles can live 50-100 years and require a habitat that simulates as close as possible  the habitat that they would have in the wild, including natural sunshine, and a varied diet.

The two baby box turtles that were brought to me this winter with severe dehydration, perished shortly after their arrival. Both of them were initially kept by well meaning  people that wanted to share them with their children. I was contacted once the adults realized the turtles were fading.  If these two little ones had been released / relocated when found, it is possible they would be alive today. IMG_1555

The best way to help turtles is to educate!

I offer educational programs for groups of any age and am currently  accepting dates for Summer 2017. My programs include hands on Adult box turtles, along with water turtles and babies.

I am happy to help our shelled friends in any way I can. If  you have questions, Please leave me a message.

Turtles all the way down!

The Trouble with Turtles; Dinosaurs in a Mechanized World

I just spent a good part of the last two weeks with dinosuars.

old turtle new turtle

260 million yr old “Pre-Turtle” next to a modern day relative.

No I’m not talking about the scary ones with lots of teeth. I’m talking about our little native dinosaurs that live right here in Central Virginia.

I am talking about “The Amazing Turtles of Virginia”

This year, my educational program, that I share with the local county Parks and Rec summer camp program, included a photo of the newly found fossil that helps explain how digging in, helped turned the turtles ribs into his shell.

IMG_1554

Summer Parks and Rec Program “The Amazing Turtles of Virginia”

You see, 260 million years ago, the only animals that could survive were able to get out of the hot sun by digging into the earth, flying away or finding some other place to hide.

Our Turtles of today, well they evolved from those animals that learned to dig in.. and with the amazing super power of being ectothermic, they were forced to wait out the in-hospitable climate for possibly very long periods of time.

Weather was un-predictable. Finding food and mates nearly impossible. Survival depended upon adaptations. Other super powers began to emerged, and the turtles’ shell became more then a shield offering protection during digging, and became a tool to protect turtles from preditors.

Turtles evolved with the planet they live on and brumation, a period of winter dormancy in reptiles that occurs when temperatures fall below a level at which they can sustain normal metabolic

female box turtle

A female Box turtle needs lots of calcium for egg production and shell growth.

function, became a super power of survival. It is amazing to think just how much turtles depend on the climate of their specific geographical area,  facing each day as the weather permits.

Female turtles began storing sperm for future use, and turtles of today can store it for up to 5 years, producing viable eggs years after being with a male, a super power that almost guaranteed survival. By the time 10 million years passed, turtles became the recognizeable scavengers we know today.

Scavengers?

Well, yes. Although some turtles, mostly isolated populations, evolved to eat purely vegetarian diets, most turtles are Omnivors and will consider eating any organic material they happen upon, including dead things.

ghost crab

A ghost crab will eat baby sea turtles as they head to the ocean after leaving their nest.

Our beautiful Eastern Box Turtle, once very common up and down the eastern seaboard, was considered the crab of the woods. No, they don’t walk sideways, but like crabs who scavage on the beach, Box turtles patrol their home territories always on the look out for a slug, mushroom or an easy meal, bones and all.

Box Turtles, like their name implies, are able to close themselves up totally inside their shells. No, they’e not making calls with their shell-phone or taking shell-fies, They close up their shells in the presence of danger. Not many native preditors can get a tightly closed box turtle shell open, and this techinique has served the Box turtle well for millions of years.

 

Things have changed for turtles world wide.

Some cultures have eaten some species to the brink of extinction, others we have wiped out with invasive species. Most turtles however, are suffering from habitat loss due to human encroachment, pollution, and illegal poaching for both the pet trade and human consumption.

And so it seems even with super powers in place,

dead turtles

In November 2014, authorities in Vietnam confiscated 10 tons of dead sea turtles, the single largest seizure of marine turtles ever.

turtles have met their match in the Human race. The Box turtle that closes inside his shell for on-coming traffic, has a slim chance for long term survival.

I Loved my short two week stint sharing  “The AmazingTurtles of Virginia”  with summer camp participants. I love introducing these children to some turtles that they have never seen, answering  questions, telling them about life cycles and super powers, and helping a couple turtles gain better habitats along the way. It gives me hope that turtles have a future living among us

Turtles have inhabitated this space for millions of years. A committment from the human race is needed to preserve habitat, not only for the turtles but for future generations, who may never have the experience of finding a turtle in their own back yard.

Turtles are truly amazing. There is still so much unknown about them and their life and so much more to learn from them.

turtles all the way downTurtles,  are so deeply intune with the ebb and flow of the earth, that they have become one of the first indicators of the health of our planet. As we pollute the oceans and destroy woodland habitats, we kill turtles daily, while tens of thousands are killed on our roadways yearly. It is time to take action for the health of our planet,  our future, and the future of all the earths inhabitants.

Please do your part… after all… it is:

Turtles all the way down.

The Eastern Box Turtle’s Spring Arrival

 

Eastern Box Turtles are waiting for the sun.

photo 1

soaking up rays!

Some times I wonder if I am the only one that sees them. They march silently from the woods along the road.. recently awakened from a long winter sleep by the warm spring rains… slow in coming this year, but the sun is calling, daylight has increased making the sun warm enough to raise body temperatures enough for the digging to start. Hatchlings, often after staying in their nest all winter are beginning to see sunshine for the first time in their life. The Eastern Box turtle begins a new year in its unique and ancient way of life.

Last spring, as I traveled along a busy road in Western Hanover County, Virginia, I straddled a newly hatched turtle scurrying as fast as he could across the road. By the time I got turned around and back to where the turtle was, the wet spot on the roadway was indistinguishable.There was a lot of traffic that day.. Did anyone else even see the little guy? Did the person who flattened him even know what they had done? Did they care?

 Watching the Roads…

One eyed Sam

One Eyed Sam survived a lawn mower accident.

Often I will see them on the back roads, drive 100 yards, while my inner dialogue tells me it wasn’t a turtle at all.. not being one to get it out of my head, ..I eventually turn back to see the leaf, pine cone or scrap of wood that I was sure was a turtle.. They will be out soon .. the temperature of the days and the rising humidity will bring them out, so be prepared.

I see less and less of them every year. as the community gets developed around me, and the traffic continues to rise, the ones that I had helped crossed the road every year have been lucky to survive. Very few of these survivors are seen now, hopefully they have found more interesting things elsewhere in their habitat of 2-10 football field size areas that are etched in our resident turtles brain. They know every water hole, every berry patch,where the best place to find worms is and where the best place to hibernate is. Like a bird flying south, the uncanny homing instincts in box turtles often puts them in great peril when they are taken away from their territory or their territory is destroyed, and they try to find it. The Eastern Box turtle needs our help now. Land in central Virginia is at a premium, and due to the extensive sprawl and ease of travel, most of the land from DC to Raleigh, NC  is easily accessible  and prime for development. This rare and unique land, which follows the fall line of the Eastern United States, offers a lot to its residents, both four legged and two, and

IMG_5838

What will you do to help?

should be carefully evaluated and preserved for future generations. Humans it seems, have forgotten that these ancient reptiles are dinosaurs and their ancestors lived here 250 million years ago, and  If there is one thing that turtles know how to do, it is being a turtle and surviving. But, if we continue to destroy habitat at the alarming rate that we currently  do, these small relatives of the dinosaurs, will disappear totally from our planet.

The extinction of the Dinosaurs

 

Reptiles and Amphibians are amazing indicators of our planets health, and they are currently suffering from diseases that are thought to be caused by pollutants in their environments. Recent findings are showing that viable populations are being wiped out in the wild from viruses that are not fully understood or treatable.

Recently, I read a post from a friend that listed all the stress factors in her life. The list began with her work, followed by family, pets, and lastly her turtles, whom she commented, actually were responsible for reducing her stress, and the time she spent with them was the happiest and most peaceful of her day. I know we can’t all be turtle caretakers, but I do believe that we all should take time to appreciate the world around us, get out into the woods, notice the harmony of the trees, the rivers, the wind and the earth, and do what we can to protect and preserve this amazing planet for our grandchildren before it is too late, and PLEASE, try to notice the turtles walking along the road, trying to cross, and maybe stop and give them a hand… for these little dinosaurs have seen and survived a lot, I am sure if we take the time, there is so much to be learned from them.

Box Turtles are coming out of Hibernation

Virginia is known for its crazy unpredictable weather

Especially in the spring and fall.. seasons tend to blend together. This fall, winter, spring season certainly has been no exception. It amazes me that any of our native turtles survive these crazy changing temperatures, but hey, they have been around for more than 250 million years, so I guess our weather patterns are mild compared to some that they have endured over the centuries. Interestingly enough, the weather here in Central Virginia, is not the turtles biggest concern.

photo 3Survival of the fittest

Turtles do what they have to do just to survive. A couple of extremely warm days and The Eastern Box turtles begin to poke up out of the dirt. There is no mass exodus from the ground, rather it is about the sun and the heat. Slowly they work their way to the surface after being buried in up to a foot of soil, eyes still shut, seeking out the warmth of the sun and hoping for a warm spring rain to rinse of the caked on mud and to re-hydrate. The middle of March is extremely early for this awakening, and turtle watchers, although excited about the reappearance of their shelled friends, worry about the inconsistent changing of the weather and the turtles ability to dig back into the earth when the weather turns cold again.photo 2The Eastern Box turtle has many threats to its survival in this day and age, one would hope that they have a good grasp on dealing with the weather in a place where they have live for generations, but if an individual turtle goes into hibernation without being in optimum health, being caught in a cold snap can mean the ultimate demise for that turtle.

So many box turtles are relocated by good doers who find them crossing the road in places where there is no longer habitat enough for them to survive. Choices are slim, and often dictate that the best option for these turtles is to relocate them to a nearby park. Box Turtles have an uncanny instinct to return to their native hatching place as they know that territory… if this has been destroyed then survival is dependent solely on luck to find food and water. A Box Turtle can go a long time without food and many of these transient turtles can survive their first lost summer, but when winter approaches if they have not stored up the necessary reserves for hibernation, it may be their last.

photo 1
Soon, Turtles will begin marching about, looking for other turtles, food and water. Remember to look out for these amazing reptiles crossing the roads, especially after a warm spring rain, in the early morning hours, and help them across if you can. With all the threats that turtles now have to their very existence, it is so very important that we leave them in the wild whenever possible. Viable populations of turtles are becoming more and more rare in their native habitat so it is up to us to try to save, create and preserve habitat where ever we can.

Have Questions on a found Box Turtle? Leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.. Thanks for helping these amazing gems of the forest!

Shelley.[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”” ]

High Speed Rails are Anti-turtle

Box turtles are in trouble. . .

Specifically, the Eastern Box Turtle that is found in Central Virginia.  75 years ago, local children playing  in Hanover County could spend a summer collecting and marveling at these gems of the forest. In the woods around their homes, they could collect more than 100 in one summer, and then let them go back to the woods to be turtles. The genetic diversity in colors and shell patterns was like gathering snowflakes under a microscope, No two were alike.box turtle train tracks

50 years ago, as communities sprang up among the woods, and more and more trees were logged to fuel the need for building materials, habitats disappeared.  An occasional lone turtle was found wandering around the new developments, looking for the habitat, the food sources, and the water holes he used to know. A curious child would pick him up and marvel at the way he closes himself up in a box, how the colors of his shell blend perfectly with the light and shadows under the old remaining oak tree, and at the way he carefully  peeked out of his shell as he slowly opens the hinged flap on the bottom, almost like a door, to see if the new intruder is friend or foe.  The Child leaves him to run to the house to get the others, and returns minutes later, to find the turtle has disappeared and is nowhere to be seen.

25 years ago, in neighborhoods where fields are farmed, trees are logged, dogs run loose and the automobile is a necessity, the Eastern Box turtle is a rare site. Fortunately, Central Virginia is a land of rivers and along rivers habitat survives. Private lands, kept by those who grew up finding turtles still offer hope of surviving habitat for small populations of turtles, but this too is quickly disappearing as generations change and land is sold off. The Eastern Box Turtle has all but been forgotten.

vulnmod-statewide

Red is already developed, yellow and orange highly vulnerable to develpoment due to ease of travel. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/vaconvisvulnerable

Indiscriminate  building, logging, farming and clearing has damaged our planet to the point of global distress. Land is a resource that we cannot replace and our continued abuse of it will affect the lives of generations to come.  What will it take for us to see that with every project that we undertake we destroy more natural habitat which puts us deeper and deeper into the destruction phase of our planet?

Virginia is certainly not immune to the destruction of habitat.  From the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the shores of the Atlantic, the center of our incredible diverse state is one of the most exploited and developed areas in this country. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the counties that run north and south along the 95 corridor are highly vulnerable to development. Yet, this area of Virginia is one of the most unique areas in this country, the  Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line.

The Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line

Runs parallel with Interstate 95 through Virginia. This Fall Line is a zone rather than a narrow line and the rapids and waterfalls

The Fall line runs through the center of Hanover, Henrico and Richmond.

The Fall line runs through the center of Hanover, Henrico and Richmond. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/natural-communities/ncoverview

created by the change from hard bedrock to the soft sediments of the Coastal Plains provides a large diverse environment for many inhabitants. These irreplaceable lands, and the rivers that run through them, provide benefits in terms of open space, recreation, cultural and historic relevance along with natural resource protection, water quality control, and economic benefits associated with these functions.

In the last 15 years, more development has taken place in Virginia then in the previous 400 years. As the pressure of a growing population increases, land conservation must become a prominent consideration in all future  planning at the local, regional and commonwealth levels if we are to preserve land for future generations.

Long term or short term fix?

recmodel-state

Green areas represent Virginia Recreation Lands needs assessment, 2015, Notice the lack of green space in Hanover, Louise, Henrico and surrounding counties. http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/vaconvisrec

I ask you,  As our now antiquated infrastructure corrodes into disrepair, is it in our best interest to even consider the necessity of building new rail lines that bypass the real issue of our decaying  network?   Who will benefit from a High Speed Rail  anyway?

Any Project that is worth building, is worth considerable thought and planning, not just for us,  but for all future generations to come. There is so much more to be gained by preserving what land we can  for all the inhabitants in the center of this beautiful state. Please, before we go forward with  destruction in the name of progress, consider the legacy we could leave by initiating a program where we rebuild our great country by updating our infrastructure with new and modern technology, that is ecologically  and environmentally friendly, and  preserve land and waterways for generations of all inhabitants,  especially those that have been here for more than 250 million years, the turtle. It is time for the healing to begin.

[sgmb id=”1″ customimageurl=”https://boxturtlesanctuaryofcentralva.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/turtle-train.jpg” ]