Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Do Turtles Cross the Road? To Get to the Other Side (Honestly)!

Three midland painted turtles are in the care of the Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center after sustaining shell injuries from getting hit by cars while crossing the road.

The repair on a turtle’s shell can take as long as a few years depending on the placement and depth of the crack. The Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation staff nursed a snapping turtle back to health for two years after it suffered a shell injury. We expect to keep the currently injured turtles in rehabilitation until at least next year.

This is a very dangerous time of year for these turtles because it is their peak nesting season. From May-July, painted turtles will leave the safety of their pond, river or lake and travel to their nesting grounds to lay eggs. Turtles return to the same place to nest every year, even if it is miles away from their home or over dangerous terrain.

Nothing will stop a turtle when trying to reach its nesting grounds. These determined little fellows will fearlessly cross a busy street. If you feel interference is necessary (and it can be done without compromising your own safety!) then it's best to help the turtle across the street in the direction that it is headed. If you move it to a “safer” location, you may have inadvertently done it a disadvantage by placing it farther away from its nesting grounds. Painted turtles will not harm you, but if you see a snapping turtle crossing the road, it is best to let them cross unaided as their bite can be quite powerful.

Painted turtles can lay anywhere from 4-15 eggs when they nest. After burying the eggs, they return to the water, providing no parental care for the eggs or the babies that hatch. The gender of the eggs depends upon the temperature of the nesting grounds at the time they hatch. Warmer temperatures tend to produce females, whereas cooler temperatures tend to produce males.

In the United States there are many subspecies of painted turtles, but only the Midland painted turtle is found in Ohio. They have a red and black coloration along the underside of their plates that gives the appearance of being painted on by hand.

Painted turtles prefer to live in quiet and shallow freshwater areas. During warm summer days they can be seen basking in the sun on rocks and logs. During the winter, painted turtles will seek deeper water and burrow into the mud at the bottom. They slow their heart rate and absorb oxygen through their skin.

If you see a turtle that you think is in need of help, please call Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900 prior to attempting a rescue. Again, though, please do NOT jeopardize your safety by attempting to rescue any animal.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fear Not for Fledglings!

Have you seen a baby bird on the ground, unable to fly, and wondered if it was injured? Fortunately, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is here to answer your question!

Throughout the month of June especially, the Center receives an abundance of calls asking whether or not young birds that appear to be “stuck” on the ground need human assistance. In most cases, the answer is no.

During a baby bird’s fledgling period, it jumps out of the nest and lives on the ground for a few days. This part of a young bird’s life can be very dangerous, but it is a necessary part of development. Fledglings learn to fly, feed themselves and respond to danger during this time and cannot learn these things well in captivity. Humans should NOT intervene unless they are certain that the bird is injured because any young animal’s best chance for survival is in the wild.

Please call Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900 with any wildlife questions before attempting a rescue. For additional information on what to do if you see a fledgling on the ground that you are concerned about, please see our Wildlife FAQ on fledglings.

One of Nature's Greatest Hunters is in for Recovery After a Smelly Defeat

One of rehab’s newest patients is in our care after losing a foul-smelling encounter with its prey. The great horned owl is one of the Striped Skunk’s only natural predators, but this particular owl that was brought in to us was not successful in his attempt to make a skunk his meal.

Although great horned owls are incredibly strong and have no natural predators in this area, they are not invincible. Our patient came in with puncture wounds to his foot and skunk spray covering his body, including his eyes. Our rehabilitation staff was able to clean out his wound and rinse the skunk spray out of his irritated eyes. We are hopeful for a successful recovery for this majestic bird of prey.

Great horned owls are the largest owls that breed in Ohio. Male and female great horned owls are identical in appearance; however the female tends to be larger than the male. They are one of the three common Ohio owls found in all three major habitats, rural, suburban and even urban. Because they prefer some open area for hunting, great horned owls tend to avoid extremely forested terrain. They can best be found by hearing their traditional hoo-hoo-hooo call.

Male and female great horned owls are identical in appearance, but the females are larger than the males although this can be hard to detect without actually weighing them. They have an almost “tiger-like” striping on their chest and belly which is one reason for their nickname “Tiger of the Woods.” Great horned owls also have a patch of white feathers under their chin, giving them an even more unique appearance.

Great horned owls are the earliest birds to nest, but instead of building their own nests, they use the abandoned nests of hawks, eagles, squirrels and other nesting animals. They prefer nests in large, old trees, but if those are unavailable, they will use old buildings, cliffs and if absolutely necessary, the ground. Great horned owls are monogamous mates and the male will remain with the female, even helping to bring food for her and the owlets once they have hatched.

As always, if you see an animal that you believe to be injured or if you have backyard wildlife questions, please contact Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Foster Families in Nature

Cheaper By the Dozen - The addition of a
twelfth gosling doesn't phase this family.
 Lake Erie Nature & Science Center successfully released two young goslings into new "foster families" at Westlake’s Clague Park, following treatment by our rehabilitation staff for leg injuries.

One of the goslings was injured by jumping or falling off the roof of Westlake High School where his parents had made a nest. Groundskeepers at the school found him dragging his leg and brought him to the Center's where he was given a ‘boot’ to help his leg heal and the opportunity to recover peacefully.

Although the releases were completed successfully, it can be very difficult to return young animals back into the wild once they are separated from their families. As shown in the video below, our rehabilitation staff had to exercise caution and keep their distance during the release because parent geese are very protective and will charge at anyone who approaches their young too closely.

Geese will accept other baby geese into their family only if they are the same size or smaller than their own young. The same cannot be said of mallard ducks. Rehabilitation staff must find the original family to return the baby to when releasing injured ducklings because any attempt to place the baby with a foster family ends in rejection.

Our rehab staffers emphasize that they only take in baby animals that are seriously injured because human care should be a last resort. We strongly urge you to call Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900 prior to attempting to rescue any wildlife, especially babies. Oftentimes baby animals are mistaken for being orphaned or injured when they are simply exhibiting normal wildlife behavior. Their best chance for survival is in the wild where their family can care for them.

You'll find more information in the June 14 issue of the Westlake | Bay Village Observer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Please Pick Up Your Fishing Lines and Lures!

Our Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Program has taken in many patients due to injuries caused by fishing lines and lures left on beaches.
During the spring season, we treated a young ring-billed gull for a wing injury caused by fishing line. A concerned citizen brought him in, and we were able to cut the barbs and remove the fishing line from his wing. Fortunately, his wing was only left with minor lacerations.

Our patient was a lucky one. Injuries from fishing line tend to be serious because the line can act as a tourniquet, cutting off blood flow and nerve supply to the affected area. If the animal is not treated quickly, muscles and tendons may be damaged. The worst cases result in an amputation of the animal’s arm, leg, wing or other affected body part.

Other injuries can result from leftover fishing lines and lures. Animals may swallow lines and hooks and become poisoned or starve to death. Their feet may become tangled or their bodies can become wrapped up in the line, often resulting in immobility and death.

Birds are not the only animals affected by fishing line. Almost any animal living in or around a body of water, including fish, otters and turtles, can be hurt by fishing debris. Many of the injured animals are never found.

Fishing is an enjoyable pastime for many but we would ask everyone who participates in the sport to be mindful of the wildlife around you. Please be certain to take all of your supplies back with you to avoid potentially fatal injuries to wild animals.

If you see a wild animal that has been injured or want backyard wildlife advice, please contact Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Get Wrapped Up in Book for Our Boa!

Our big, beautiful boa is one of many reasons to get wrapped up in a good book this summer! This weekend, the Bay Village Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library is launching its “Read Around the World” summer reading game for children, teens and adults with a variety of great prizes and incentives.

Readers can earn both individual prizes as well as the collective, long-term “adoption” of the boa constrictor living at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center. The Friends of the Bay Village Branch have pledged to pay the snake’s adoption fees for an entire year if reading logs reach the goal of 20,000 hours.

Beginning June 4, readers of all ages can go to the library to receive a prize and a game board. From then on, all you have to do is read! Each reader can earn entry forms to win Grand prizes such as Zoo memberships and Indians, Browns and Cavaliers game tickets. There's a kickoff event at the Bay Branch on June 13 with Wildlife Wendy, origami demonstrations and pizza.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s Adopt An Animal program allows wildlife lovers to help pay for the care and feeding of the dozens of animals on exhibit and used in teaching and outreach. Adopt An Animal sponsorships are available for as little as $5 per month, with the Boa Constrictor fee set at $25 per month. Of course, “adopted” animals stay at the Center where anyone can visit them during regular Center hours, daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Opossums- an Exception to the Rule

Our Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Program at Lake Erie Nature & Science is currently treating six baby opossums who were found orphaned in the road without Mom and were too young to live without her milk.
Lake Erie Nature & Science Center typically does not take in orphaned babies because they usually have a better chance for survival in the wild.

Opossums, however, are different. They are North America’s only marsupials, meaning Mom carries her babies around in her pouch, just like a kangaroo. Opossum mothers do not nest and are often on the go. In this particular case, Mom was likely killed by a car, leaving her babies helpless.

Baby opossums are carried in Mom’s pouch until they are 2-3 months old and are then carried on her back for another 1-2 months. Opossums have a short life span of only 2-4 years and while young, they rely on Mom for the protection of her pouch and her milk for food.

If you see any animal that appears to be orphaned or injured, please contact Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900 for more information before attempting a rescue.