Posted by: Wild Instincts | January 29, 2017

Surprise Lunch Date

Wild Instincts is on-call for animal emergencies 24/7/365. This means we’re never quite sure what will happen at any given time. It means that our plans change in an instance sometimes and we are always adapting. Generally, we plan for “what if”. That means almost always if we go somewhere, we take separate vehicles. Always during Baby Season. Not always in the Off-Season.

Such was the case on January 9th, when we decided to take Sharon’s dad out for lunch. For just an hour or so, we decided to take the chance and all piled in his van to go to the restaurant.

As soon as our food was in front of us, the phone rang. While driving on the highway, a woman saw what she thought might be someone’s house cat on the side of the road. She stopped to make sure it wasn’t hurt. It wasn’t a house cat, but a bobcat kitten. And as soon as she stopped and got out to check on it, it ducked under her car!

It didn’t seem like a domestic cat. She got out her cell phone and called us. She didn’t want us to come out if was a domestic cat so she texted us photos.


This photo of a bobcat under a car was texted to us just as we had started eating.

Yes. It certainly looked like a bobcat kitten.

Oops. We lost gambling on the carpool. We would have to go back and get our van with all the rescue gear. It would take us about 30-45 minutes to get to her location. She said she would wait.

Sharon’s dad, the consummate trucker with diesel in his veins, was a good sport about inhaling his food and getting us back to our van.

And the caller did wait; standing outside of her car on the side of the highway in the cold temperatures because she didn’t want to get back in her car or start it and scare the poor thing away from getting help.

When we pulled up, she was standing near her car, cheeks bright red from the windy cold. True to feline form, the bobcat who had huddled under her car, waiting for us to get there, went into the woods near the road when we arrived. But it was in really rough shape, so it didn’t go far. A catch-pole, a net and Mark & Sharon trudging in the snow in the swamp had it rounded up and in a nice, warm vehicle within 15 minutes.


Very thin and week, but still beautiful.

Bobcats cycle into estrus throughout the year, so bobcat kits can be born at any time of year. She obviously got separated from her mom somehow. She should have weighed close to 8 lbs, but was not even 5 lbs, very thin and very weak.

She is now doing very well and making up for lost time in the dining room! In fact, she is doing so well, she will be moved outside in a few days. Where she’ll stay, growing and maturing until she’s ready to be released in the spring.


Not so weak anymore!

Posted by: Wild Instincts | January 18, 2017

Wildlife and Weather

Concerns about changing weather patterns and how they affect wildlife are not new. Canadian Inuit leaders were speaking out in 2009 and even earlier.

Sila Alangotok made a documentary in April 2012 called “Inuit Observations on Climate Change”. In it residents of Canada’s High Artic Inuit community relate generations of their observations on weather and wildlife movements. It’s easily accessible on YouTube for free. It was pointed out multiple times that the weather extremes weren’t the biggest concern. After all, Inuit are used to living in extremes and are well adapted to it. The biggest concern is the unpredictability.

We don’t need to travel to the High Arctic to see what happens when the weather doesn’t follow its normal patterns. We need only look into our nursery.


This unusually warm and unpredictable fall resulted in this toad being out a little later than he should’ve been. He was slowly walking across a road on November 14th when he was brought in. He is now set up in his own little winter environment and thriving until the spring warms up enough to release him. Whenever that might be.


This blue-spotted salamander had a similar journey to us. He was discovered while someone was shoveling the first real snowfall we had on November 23rd. Salamanders are usually tucked deep into their winter logs or leaf litter long before snow -at least in normal Wisconsin weather patterns. He, too, is now set up in his own little winter ecosystem. He was recently joined by another salamander found in a basement…the typical way we admit salamanders in winter.

Another possible “victim” of our warm fall could be the national celebrity bear we have. Just before Christmas, when most bears are deep into their winter slumber, she was approaching cars on a busy highway, putting her feet on the doors and looking in. Some think the warm “woke” her up and she got hungry and started to look for food. We’re still not sure why she was playing in traffic. Bears will occasionally arouse when temps get warm, but they don’t usually head to cars for food. She’s being overwintered to be re-evaluated in the spring.



Patients we care for over the winter, a term we call “Overwinter”, are cared for until the weather warms enough in the spring for them to be able to be released. The criteria for this vary for each species, but every one depends on weather patterns. Weather patterns that grow the plants they need or to bring the insects they need to eat.

These patterns can also be unpredictable which can cause some challenges for us when we have new admissions arriving but already have Overwinters in their enclosure spaces.

Here’s hoping for some more normal weather patterns for everyone’s sake.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | November 15, 2016

A Plea for Non-Lead Ammo

In a few days Wisconsin’s Gun Deer Season opens, bringing an estimated 600,000 hunters to the woods.

Now is the time they are making their last minute preparations and packing for the trip to the Hunting Camp. The lists are long: food, beverages, long underwear, extra socks, playing cards, etc. The top of everyone’s list should read: LEAD ALTERNATIVE AMMUNITION.

Every fall after upland game hunting season starts, but especially after gun deer season begins, Wisconsin wildlife rehabilitators see an increase of bald eagles suffering from lead poisoning.

It’s not from eagles being shot, accidentally or otherwise, but rather from lead bullet fragments being ingested from gut piles and carcasses that succumbed to hunters using lead ammunition but are not found or retrieved.

We recently said as much on TV and received some heated challenges indicating we made that up. We wish we had because that would be easy to fix, but alas, we did not. A simple Internet search will lead you to many scientific studies on the subject, but we know you are busy getting ready for Saturday, so we’ve brought some of the important findings to you here.

Lead is a naturally occurring highly toxic mineral. The earliest known lead mine dates to 6500 BC. Lead toxicity was known and recorded as early as 2000 BC. Our modern society has removed it from gasoline and paint. It’s been outlawed from ammunition used for waterfowl since 1991 because of the incidental deaths of over 2 million waterfowl annually by their eating of spent lead shot in sediments while feeding and developing lead poisoning from it. Lead shot and rifle bullets, however, are still widely used for hunting mammals and upland game birds. Lead sinkers and lures are still in use by anglers. These uses expose bald eagles, loons, swans, vultures, ravens and other birds to the hazards of lead poisoning by adding lead to your hunting grounds.

Hunting guns today come in a huge variety. They shoot a projectile that expands on impact to help inflict a humane kill. How that projectile expands and what happens to it after it enters the target’s body depends on what it is made from. There have been many studies in recent years to show how far the projectile expands and where the fragments end up. The results may amaze you:

  • No matter the type of animal or type of lead-based bullet, lead bullets fragment when fired into an animal.
  • The fragment size and number varies but can number in the 100’s in just ONE carcass.
  • Fragments sprayed out from the wound channel a great distance, up to 18”
  • Monolithic copper bullets produce few, if any, fragments within carcasses.

Interesting and scary, huh?


Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group, 35365 800th  Ave, Madelia, MN 56062


This is scary, too. An x-ray of a domestic sheep shot with lead ammo. Bullet fragments are within the red circles and throughout the body cavity and pelvic cavity, even though it was shot behind the shoulder blade.

Think about that. Your use of lead creates a firestorm of small lead fragments that significantly increases the chance eagles or other wildlife will scavenge these fragments in the gut pile or carcass you leave behind. It also means more than one animal can be poisoned by a single carcass. Bald eagles are great scavengers. Gut piles and un-retrieved carcasses are easy buffets. Especially in hunting seasons with no snow to cover them. This is HOW eagles get lead in their systems this time of year. Really. We aren’t making this up and there are many scientific studies out there to prove it.


Eagle admitted to Wild Instincts with lead shot fragments in its stomach.

In years when there is a lot of snow for hunting season and throughout the winter, we have a delay in admissions with a second surge of patients. When snow starts to melt and uncover lead-tainted carcasses from hunting season that had been snow covered for the winter, we see another uptick in lead poisoned eagle admissions.


What happens after an eagle accidentally ingests lead fragments from the ammunition you used on your 30 Pointer?

The lead fragment(s) are broken down by the stomach acid to form toxic lead salts which are absorbed into the blood stream. Lead interferes with calcium and causes neurological effects –think seizures here. It affects kidney and liver function. It affects growth, feeding behavior, locomotion, balance, depth perception. It affects every aspect of that bird’s life and its ability to survive in the wild.

We draw blood on each eagle we admit to test for lead. There are guidelines that divide the results into different levels. Background level (<.2 ppm (20 µ/dl)) is a very low elevation. Subclinical level (.2 to .5 ppm (20-50 µ/dl)) means they have elevated levels, but they aren’t high enough to cause visible symptoms and finally clinical lead toxicity (>greater than .5 (50 µ/dl)). Our years of experience, however, have shown us these guidelines are often misleading. We have admitted quite a number of birds that should fit into the Background Level of less than .2ppm (20 µ/dl) that are showing clinical symptoms!

Our protocol is now not to release a bird until its blood level is too low to read. Birds that have lead levels supposedly too low to cause death, still have effects on their health and life. There have been reports of birds with low blood lead levels being more susceptible to predations, hunting, collisions with vehicles or powerlines, etc.

Birds that have elevated levels of lead in their blood are started on treatment immediately. Chelation binds the lead from soft tissue and bone for excretion. It depletes good minerals along with the lead. The treatment for lead poisoning is grueling on the bird. Lots of supportive care is given and rehabbers invest their hearts and souls into every bird. Still, some make it and many do not.

This happens not only in Wisconsin, but across the U.S.

Think about all the needless deaths from just ONE lead fragment contaminated animal and multiply it across the U.S.

Deer hunting is the most popular type of hunting in the U.S. with over 10 million people participating in 2006. It’s common practice to field dress deer by removing the internal organs to leave a lighter, easier-to-drag-out-to-the-car carcass. The entrails are left in place in a gut pile for wild animals to scavenge. There are also deer that are wounded, but not recovered that die in the woods, again for wild animals to scavenge. Small game hunters number around 7.5 million. The above deer scenario is repeated for these rabbits, squirrels, grouse, etc.

By now you shouldn’t be surprised that doesn’t just happen in the U.S., but all over the world.

It’s heartbreaking.


It’s totally and easily preventable.

Replace your lead ammunition and fishing tackle with non-lead alternatives. Get your friends and family to do the same thing.


They can’t wait.




Posted by: Wild Instincts | July 23, 2016

Baby Kingfisher Mealtime

Posted by: Wild Instincts | July 20, 2016

Clean Times 13

Posted by: Wild Instincts | June 6, 2016

Hatched Duckling Release

Posted by: Wild Instincts | May 21, 2016

Random Baby Otter Clips

Posted by: Wild Instincts | April 19, 2016

Cubs at Play

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 2, 2016

Foster Attempt #2

On Monday, Feb 29, we attempted Foster Den #2.

This den was reported to us by U.S. Forest Service personnel via WDNR. A forester was out marking a timber sale and came across the den. She could hear cubs so we knew this den contained a nursing mom and a potential foster den. However, because this den is not part of any research study, we had no history whatsoever on the sow. If she was a small, first time mom, we would not place cubs with her.

If you read the previous blog regarding fostering bear cubs, you know that how many cubs the potential mom has is the most important information we need. You also read the only way to know for sure is to physically be in the den.

Because this den contained a bear not part of a research study, she would not already be being tranquilized to take measurements or do collar maintenance. We didn’t want to have to tranquilize her only to find out she had too many cubs and we wouldn’t be able to place ours with her.

We put our heads together to figure out a possible way to be able to see how many cubs she may have without having to tranquilize her. If she had too many cubs, we would just go on our merry way. If she only had a couple cubs, then we would tranquilize her, verify cub numbers and place the foster cubs if appropriate.

One of our volunteers, Tim, volunteered the use of his underwater camera he uses for fishing.

Wildlife rehabbers are a MacGyver-type lot so we jumped at the chance to give it a try.

The camera unit consists of a small camera on a 60’ wire cord and a monitor screen.  We taped the camera on a telescoping pole like one may use for painting. Tim was cautioned the bear might crush the camera, but he was looking for an excuse to upgrade cameras anyway so the plan was made.

We took care of animals in care, made extra formula, got hot packs and the back-up inverter to keep it warm, loaded up cubs and our team and made the 1.5 hour trip to meet the USFS-WDNR team.

After a short briefing, Mark, Tim and Michelle, the forester who found the den, quietly headed to the den to check out the possibility of sliding a camera inside.


Heading out to the den.

It was a perfect set-up.


The Den Entrance

Tim prepared the camera to safely go where it has never gone before. Duct tape is a necessary ingredient in any MacGyver tool kit.


Securing the camera to the pole.

Tim operated the camera monitor while Mark carefully slid the camera inside.


Mark about to slide the camera in the den.

They were greeted with a big, black blob. It took five or so minutes to decipher what end of her was what.


Trying to determine the details.

Then we waited to see some activity. And waited a little more.

Much as we hated to do it, we had to brush her with the camera to get her to move enough to hope to see cub activity.

And move she did- swatting the annoying camera! Fortunately, she did not break it.

Shortly after the first cub activity was seen from behind her.


Cub face in upper right of monitor as its curled up with mom. Orange in the monitor is reflection on monitor of fingers shading sun and holding monitor.

Then another come up from under her. For sure three cubs, probably four, but the last one was hard to decipher on the camera monitor.

We had seen enough to not need to pester her any more. Our cubs were making the hour and half ride back with us. Even though the foster attempt was a “failure”, all involved were jubilant we could get this information being minimally invasive to the potential foster mom. No unnecessary tranquilization. No risk to mom or cubs. Definitely risk to camera equipment and some risk to humans, but certainly considered a success from a den investigation standpoint.

Don’t be surprised if this equipment appears on our Amazon Wishlist!

Which brings up a valid point. This type of equipment is becoming more popular and prevalent as electronics improve and prices decrease. We’ve heard of people using their “fish cameras” for many things besides finding fish. Trappers use them to find entrances to beaver lodges to better place their traps, etc.

Going out on your own and doing what we did with this den would be considered harassing wildlife. You would be issued a ticket by the warden. The fine would range from $303.00 – $2152.50.


Posted by: Wild Instincts | February 28, 2016

Cubs Wrestling

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