Posted by: Wild Instincts | October 29, 2017

Wild Instincts receives Green Gift from Cellcom

Rhinelander, WI (October 26, 2017) –  Wild Instincts has been selected as a 2017 Cellcom Green Gift recipient. The organization received a $1500 Green Gift from Cellcom to build a wildlife rehabilitation enclosure specifically for aquatic animals.

“Wild Instincts is the only wildlife hospital in Wisconsin licensed to treat all wildlife allowed to be rehabbed by law. As such, we get admissions and transfers from across the state. We have approximately 90 trained volunteer drivers that transport wildlife in need to our facility. Last year our drivers drove 19,214 miles enabling us to admit patients from 31 different counties across Wisconsin,” said Mark Naniot, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation. “In the last five years our admissions have increased steadily. We need appropriate enclosures to fulfill our mission of returning each animal to the wild.”

The Green Gift from Cellcom will help build a new Versatube structure for a wildlife rehabilitation for aquatic animals such as small wading birds like bitterns and small herons, also for kingfisher, ducks, and even mammals such as mink. In Wisconsin, there are laws prohibiting un-permitted people from trying to care for wildlife in need. This protects the safety of both people and wild animals. The good news is that 70% of the animals brought to Wild Instincts are released back into the wild, well above the national average of 50%. Beyond their successful work rehabbing animals, Wild Instincts takes as many opportunities as possible to provide education.

“Every interaction with a person is an opportunity to educate that person on environmental stewardship and living in harmony with wildlife. Many times the connection they have to the particular animal they are reaching out to us about may be their first up-close and personal encounter with nature, whether it be a mouse or a bear, a hummingbird or an eagle,” said Naniot. “Wild Instincts has three wildlife ambassadors and presents programs to schools, camps and civic groups to reach an even broader audience as well. In the last three years we’ve presented to almost 7000 people. Our programs educate individuals what they can do to lessen injuries to wildlife and how to be good environmental stewards.”

Wild Instincts was among 30 green organizations that received a share of the $40,000 in Green Gifts from Cellcom this year. The Green Gifts program launched in 2010 and uses funds generated from Cellcom’s cell phone recycling program to fund green nonprofit initiatives. Customers and community members can bring in their old or unwanted phones to be reused and recycled. Cellcom sends the phones to recyclers who in return send money to Cellcom for the materials that were saved from the phones. Cellcom’s Green Gift program completes the green cycle that starts with consumers being environmentally-conscious and donating their devices.


“Our service area is fortunate to be teeming with non-profits that are creatively using their resources to help the environment though education and activism. Donating your phone allows us to contribute to their efforts through our Green Gifts program and ultimately work toward a greener tomorrow,” said Brighid Riordan, director of public affairs and customer experience initiatives at Cellcom.

Visit Cellcom’s website for the full list of award recipients. Cellcom is proud to support organizations of all sizes, whose work is impacting the community and building a greener tomorrow. The company’s recycling program has generated $306,975 for local charities over the past 13 years

Cellcom is an innovative wireless company that provides nationwide service for its customer base throughout Wisconsin and Michigan, with more than 50 retail and agent locations. Cellcom is respected for its long-standing reputation of delivering extraordinary customer care, being a strong community partner, and for its renowned network, which is customized to its rural markets. As a subsidiary of Nsight, Cellcom is part of a family of companies offering complete telecommunications services.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | October 24, 2017

Wild Instincts on Nature Oct 25

THIRTEEN’s Nature Reveals Some Survival Secrets in Charlie and the Curious Otters Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 8 p.m. on PBS

Wildlife filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James presents this first-person account

The elusive, playful, and adaptable otter has the distinction of having mastered both the aquatic and terrestrial worlds. They are equally adept at hunting underwater as they are foraging and chasing prey in a forest. But they are not easy to spot, despite the fact there are 13 different species on earth. Although they’ve been hunted for sport and fur and their numbers are down, not one species has become extinct. How otters are able to operate so successfully on both land and in water has fascinated wildlife filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James for years, so he decided to see what he could learn from studying several species around the world to discover their survival secrets.

The program focuses on efforts to rehabilitate three orphaned river otters in Wisconsin, shows some ground breaking experiments using cool cameras and anatomical CGI, and captures other wild encounters. Charlie and the Curious Otters premieres nationwide Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film will be available to stream the following day for four weeks via and PBS OTT apps.

At the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Charlie is introduced to three orphan river otter pups and films their progress and training:  from needing around the clock care and feeding, to being taught the crucial skills they will need in order to return to the wild. Despite the fact otters can swim nearly a quarter mile without coming up for air, baby otters do not start out as natural swimmers and they don’t really like water. So the center’s manager Mark Naniot assumes the roles of surrogate mother and teacher. Charlie films him coaxing the pups into a small pool for swimming lessons and later adding minnows which the orphans instinctively chase and catch.

The filmmakers also go to Florida Springs, Florida where a clear spring fed river provides Charlie with great conditions to capture rare shots of otters hunting underwater. At the Oakland Zoo, he films otters hunting fish in slow motion to determine how they detect and capture their prey so quickly. He also visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s head vet Dr. Mike Murray who explains that sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom which is a key survival asset both on land and in the water.

In a film studio, high-speed, thermal and other cameras are on hand to shed light on some of the otter’s survival secrets by examining its physiology and anatomy. A thermal camera shows which parts of a sea otter retain heat and which give off heat. Its thick fur is so good at insulating itself that the camera shows little heat escaping. In another experiment, Charlie puts his theory to the test as to whether otters blow bubbles onto an item, like fish, and re-inhale it to determine if it is food or something else.

No matter which species they belong to, these inquisitive and intelligent animals all have long, highly flexible bodies, a powerful tail, and webbed feet which allow otters to live a successful semi-aquatic life.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Charlie and the Curious Otters is a co-production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC and BBC Studios in association with WNET. Mark Wheeler is the film’s producer/director.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 17 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media. is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.



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

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