Interesting Cases

by Jessica Andersen

RED FOX  (Vulpes vulpes)

Upon receiving a call about an injured fox, staff member Jessica Andersen captured and transported the fox back to the Center. During the physical exam, Dr. Riley noted that this fox was emaciated and suffered from two infected puncture wounds on its foreleg, another large wound on its hind leg, and a serious joint infection at the ankle.

 


COYOTE  (Canis latrans)

Recently, the Center took in an injured coyote after it was found on the side of the road, likely hit by a vehicle. Though its injuries resulted in humane euthanasia, the state of Virginia describes coyotes as a “non-native, nuisance” species and prohibits their rehabilitation and release.

As wolves and other carnivores were wiped out by humans, coyotes have pushed east and established territories in Virginia. A coyote “pack” consists of multiple animals.

Many of these are related to the alpha pair, which is the only breeding pair in the pack. The size of a coyote pack’s home range varies greatly by the food and resources available and by the number of coyotes in that area. The coyote is strictly monogamous and all females will help raise the young.

A coyote’s diet includes rodents, insects, fruits, and vegetables and it also scavenges. Coyotes usually hunt alone unless they need to bring down larger prey such as deer. With the overpopulation of deer in Virginia and no natural predators to control their numbers, such as wolves and mountain lions, coyotes have become an integral part of the landscape.

Unfortunately, because coyotes are so well adapted to the landscape, they may also prey on livestock.  The best way to protect livestock from coyote predation is with a guard animal such as a guard dog, llama or donkey. Coyotes may also become habituated to an easy food source so refrain from mass feeding of animals such as feral cats and always secure trash.

Coyotes are a very adaptable species and studies have shown that if either member of the breeding pair is killed, it will increase reproduction in other females who will try to establish new families and territories. Coyotes are here to stay and having respect and understanding for these animals is the best way to co-exist with them.


EASTERN  SCREECH OWLS  (Megascops asio)

                                                                    

From January through March, over 30% of our patients had been Eastern Screech Owls (shown here are just a few), all but one of which were found by a roadway and presumably struck by a vehicle. Injuries ranged from mild head trauma to broken wings to damaged eyes and skull fractures. These small owls rely in part on rodents as prey, many of which may be found by roadways attracted to litter and discarded food items. Lights along roadways also draw insects, another food staple, which may entice more screech owls to the streets. Keep your eyes peeled while driving, and hold onto food and other waste until you get home!


GREAT HORNED OWL  (Bubo virginianus)

Barbed wire can be an effective fencing material for livestock, but it can also pose a threat to wildlife. Raptors often fly through branches and other natural obstacles with ease and do not understand the dangers of human-made boundaries. Their skin is strong considering it is only a few cell layers thick, but it is not strong enough to withstand the thrashing from attempts to become unbarbed. Many fences must be cut around the raptor and then have the barbed wire surgically removed to prevent damage to the patagium, the skin and tendon that stretches between a bird’s wrist and shoulder and allows full range of motion. If this area is too severely damaged, the bird may never be able to fly successfully again.

This Great Horned Owl was lucky enough to be contained after being cut out of a barbed wire fence and transported to the Center. Surgery was performed the Saturday afternoon of admittance. Due to agitation and annoyance with his bandage, a second surgery was needed to repair the self-inflicted damage. Once the wound was completely healed, the owl was moved into outdoor caging to rebuild its flight muscles prior to release in early April.

If you ever find an animal caught in barbed wire, call the Center first to discuss the situation and the next steps needed to get the animal medical attention.

 

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

106 Island Farm Lane
Boyce, VA 22620

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