Animal Rescue Tales

Equally dreaded and exciting, the 24/7 rescue service run by WRR interns makes for a score of Emmy Award worthy stories.  The tales (pardon the homophone) could produce either roof-roaring, knee-slappin’ laughter or knotted stomachs and wrenched hearts.  Ninety-nine point seven percent of people would rather hear the funny material, so I’ll get right to it.

My first rescue was double-teamed with intern Laura.  I was bubbling with anticipation as we wound our way through the streets of San Antonio.  We were responding to a call about a goose in woman’s kitchen.

Yes, that’s right, a goose in someone’s kitchen.  Instinctively, I questioned the caller’s sanity but unlike the woman with the “bear,” two people got on the other end to corroborate this story.  On the drive over, Laura also mentioned a similar case she responded to the day prior.  The caller in that instance was a man, but a man with a goose in his kitchen nonetheless.  When asked how the goose got inside the house, the man said through the open back door.  Laura told the man to shoo the goose out but evidently the avian had taken up refuge in the house, napping in the corner of the man’s living room.  The animal was brought in for “rehabilitation” the next day.

Avians of all shapes, sizes and species could find a safe haven at WRR.  Many parts of the sanctuary, in fact, gave the feeling of being on a farm.  Those birds with injuries stayed in the clinic--with some lucky ones getting aquatic therapy like this duck pictured here.
Avians of all shapes, sizes and species could find a safe haven at WRR. Many parts of the sanctuary, in fact, gave the feeling of being on a farm. Those birds with injuries stayed in the clinic–with some lucky ones getting aquatic therapy like this duck pictured here.

Arriving at the goose house, we were greeted by three young children, excitedly asking questions: “What is that for?  Why are you wearing gloves?  Can we keep him?”  The capturing process entailed a bit of do-si-do between human and goose but nothing exaggerated like mud wrestling to the ground or falling into a pool.  At least not with this rescue.

Seeing as this was the second call about geese in kitchens, Laura and I toured the neighborhood, asking residents if they had noticed any out-of-place feathered friends or if anyone in the area had a domestic goose farm.  We received no helpful information.  Both geese were released onto WRR’s nearly two hundred acre property, instantly fitting in.

Unfortunately, an abundance of the rescue cases dealt with wild animal abuse.  I once cradled in my arms a Muscovy duck with a broken neck, the vertebrae damaged by a BB pellet.  There was a report of animals seen with darts by a nearby pond, including a big fat bullfrog and a red-eared slider turtle.  These scenarios point a finger at intentional abuse.  However, negligence played a pivotal role in our need to rescue as well.  Twenty-two Muscovy ducks were reported seizing on a neighborhood road after ingesting anti-freeze, probably mistaking a chemical spill for a puddle.  By the time the ducks were transported back to WRR, only nine were still alive.  I worked in the bird room that day, and all twelve hours were spent rushing seizing ducks to the vet room for a liquid charcoal remedy that worked to lessen the intensity of the seizures.  When dusk rolled around, all of the Muscovy ducks were dead.

An infrared heat lamp helped to keep these orphaned ducklings alive.  We often enriched their enclosure with leaves and dried grass from the outside.
An infrared heat lamp helped to keep these orphaned ducklings alive. We often enriched their enclosure with leaves and dried grass from the outside.

For my first skunk rescue, I donned protective goggles, a pair that looked exactly the same as those I wore during my days in the chemistry lab.  Because the animals we were dispatched to rescue were incapacitated in some way–either too young or in poor health–capturing a skunk was surprisingly simple.  That is, as long as the animal was roaming through an open area.

Fellow intern Trae and I had to remove a probable distempered skunk from under a shed.  His burrow was conveniently sized for only a six-inch shoulder width–not that I had any intentions of climbing in after the skunk anyway.  Certainly he was disoriented from distemper, but that only meant he wasn’t in the condition to flee from us.  His scent gland was still intact.

Trae and I arrive an hour before dusk.  We shined our flashlight in and tried to block the skunk from moving any deeper under the shed.  That was moderately successful, but we still needed the animal to exit the burrow.  Take home this random fact of the day: skunks go loony tunes for salmon.  Prepared, Trae and I had a bit of food that we placed just outside the entrance to the burrow.  It was dark outside by the time the skunk emerged.  I threw a sheet over top of the rascal, tucked his tail under as a preventative measure in case he sprayed and placed him in the crate.  We felt accomplished on the drive home, but feelings aside, we looked accomplished.  Nothing beats digging in the dirt for two hours trying to lure out an animal with a highly-developed scent gland.

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