Last week someone brought me an adorable little crow found flapping around Main St. Danbury.
The Good Samaritan thought the bird had an injured wing and thought I could save him.
When I got him to Wildlife-Line and we started to look at him we could not find any issue with the wings. He was very small and very malnourished, partly because he was sick and partly because a human who didn’t know how to care for him was keeping him. If you find an animal in distress, you have to remember you do not know what is wrong and take precautions. Cover yourself, use gloves and get them to a rehabilitator as quickly as possible.
This cute little guy turned out to be a Fish Crow. These crows live along the coast or near wetlands.
I never knew there were different types of crows so I learned something new. He was so frail he could not even take the mealworm we offered him. He could get it into his beak but just did not have the strength to swallow it. His poor little head was so weak it just would not stay up. We got some fluids and medicine into him and got him a ride to the Sharon Audubon society. My heart was happy and hopeful.
The next day I was told there was another sick bird in the area – Could it be West Nile Virus? But not here! Not killing our birds! I mean I know I heard someone locally was diagnosed with West Nile, but could it be that bad? Well, yes it is. It turned out that both of these birds had West Nile Virus and did not make it. This is not fake news folks, this is for real.
Since the disease was discovered in the United States in 1999 there have been well over 300 infected birds identified and it is now in all 48 states. (most states don’t even check dead birds anymore as it is so prevalent) Many birds survive but the Blue Jays and Crows have died from the disease more frequently than others. Fish Crows eat carrion, so if you see dead birds or animals it is important to dispose of them. If a bird eats an infected bird, they can become infected with the disease too.
West Nile disease is typically spread when a mosquito bites an infected bird then bites another person, animal or bird. There is no way to know if the mosquito had West Nile. You just have to wait for the symptoms. Over 50 years ago author Rachel Carson warned that we had a good chance of losing our birds if we continued to use pesticides – Her book, “A Silent Spring” is definitely ringing true here. She may not have suspected that mosquitos would be hitching a ride across continents, but our birds are certainly dying.
What can we do to help the birds? Keep down the mosquito population. This has been a challenge this year with all of the rain. Empty any stagnant water to remove breeding grounds. Keeping your property free of pools of water will keep breeding areas to a minimum. Put up bat houses, bat's eat thousands of mosquitos and can use all the help we can give them too.
Have you had a chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive red fox? Many of us have. That beautiful thick coat and that cute fluffy tail. When they are healthy they are one of the most beautiful creatures we have in our area. What’s better than seeing that beautiful red coat in the snow? Or catching a family playing in your yard in the spring when the kits are just coming out?
So cute and lovable that we think of them like our family pet and would like to get out there and pet them…. not a good idea. It’s always important to remember that wildlife is wild, and we need to respect that. Handling and befriending wildlife can be dangerous to you and the animal you are trying to help.
But what happens when you see that beautiful coat missing sections and the fox walking a bit funny? Your immediate thought may be rabies and assume the animal needs to be put down. But there is another scenario, mange.
Fox are susceptible to a mite called sarcoptes scabiei. These mites will bore into the skin creating “tunnels”. They will lay eggs and leave waste that will irritate the animal’s skin and cause itching. The mite’s life span is about 2 weeks. If the infestation is not too bad the fox is likely to recover without much issue. If the infestation is severe it can cause loss of hair, showing of a thick layer of skin (from waste build-up beneath the skin) and even chewing off their tail to stop the itching.
It is not unusual to see a fox out during the day as they feed on small animals like squirrel and chipmunk which are out during the day. In the spring they are not only feeding themselves they are feeding their kits. Working overtime. Another reason you will see them during the day. A fox with mange may be out during the day as they are irritated. They are thirsty and will drink more than usual. They are likely to get conjunctivitis and have crust around their eyes. They will also walk as if they have very heavy paws. They will look for warm places because the mites like hairless areas and the fox needs their coat to survive the cold weather.
Unfortunately, wildlife rehabilitators are not permitted to rehab adult fox, only the kits. The problem is the medication only kills live mites, not the eggs. Therefore, it can take several doses over several weeks to fully cure the animal. This can only be done if the animal has not gone into organ failure.
We do have a protocol to treat adult fox in the wild. This is the only time we encourage feeding wildlife.
1)Set up a feeding station far as far away from your home as possible, but where you can still see it from a window or from a safe distance. You can use cat food or meat to lure fox to eat.
2)Once fox is comfortable eating at the station, you hollow out a ½ of hot dog. You put in a pea size of Strongid or Ivermectin paste made for horses. (Both can be purchased at Tractor Supply)
3)This needs to be repeated every 3 to 5 days for 4 to 5 wks.
We have had excellent results with this process.
Never approach an animal you see as sick. Rabies is spread through saliva, but mange can be spread through the mites. The mites can get onto your dog but there is treatment. You should never handle adult wildlife and babies only when necessary. You should always wear gloves and proper coverage using a towel or long sleeves. Put the animal in a well ventilated container and bring them to help.
The Piebald Deer