Volume 23                                                                                               March 2006                  

A quarterly newsletter produced by the Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina (WRNC). WRNC's mission is to share information and knowledge about wildlife rehabilitation for the benefit of native wildlife. For comments or questions, write to: WRNC, 2542 Weymoth Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27103.

Brenda Hiles and Sally Davis, editors


Jennifer Gordon of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue was elected to a three-year term on the board during the general meeting at the 4th Annual Symposium on Jan. 28.
Linda Bergman, Jean Chamberlain and Bobby Schopler renewed their board memberships. Board members Mary Beth Bynum, Jennifer Burgin and Joan McMurray stepped down. Gordon, who lives near Charlotte, began rehabbing in 2001 when she found a clutch of orphaned ducks. She founded Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in 2003. Since then, she has taken in about 500 birds a year. Her specialites are waterfowl and wading birds.

Gordon  has been a volunteer at the Carolina Raptor Center since 2003, working about 200 hours in the rehabilitation and resident bird care departments.
She is also the founder of the Duck Rescue Network, still in the beginning stages, that aims to network rehabilitators with other rescuers across the county.

All officers agreed to continue in their roles for a second year. The board also solicited feedback and suggestions for next year’s symposium at its general meeting Jan. 28. Daron Barnes of the Wildlife Resource Commission has become WRNC’s first liaison with the state agency. Jean Chamberlain and Beth Knapp-Tyner will serve as liaisons from WRNC to the state. The decision was made during a teleconference meeting. Feb. 26. All members were present except Bobby


Schopler, who was excused. The goal of the liaison program is to create a better channel of communication between WRNC and the state.

Alicia Cawlfield, Class of 2009, was appointed WRNC’s first representative of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Cawlfield will serve as the liaison from CVM for the annual symposium and other activities involving WRNC and the college. She’ll help advertise the symposium among students and will be a point of contact with the college.

The veterinary school representative role will be filled on a two-year rolling cycle, eventually with a first-year and third-year student active in the spring semester every second year. WRNC is waiving the $15 membership fee for the school representatives. WRNC’s Continuing Education for Veterinary Professionals committee is also working on a plan to reach veterinarians and their clients. Plans include letters, a special section on the website and a brochure or poster geared toward the public.


Board member contact list (email)

Bergman, Linda (President)
Chamberlain, Jean
Davis, Sally (Secretary)
Engelmann, Mathias
Gordon, Jennifer
Hanrahan, Elizabeth
Johnson, Carla (Membership)
Knapp-Tyner, Beth (Treasurer)
O'Neil, Toni (Vice President)
Schopler, Bobby
Weiss, Mary


In other news:

·        The board decided not to participate in the North Carolina Veterinary Conference because of the cost and because it does not adequately benefit membership goals.

·        The board is reviewing a brochure provided by Jennifer Gordon which focuses on the dangers of feeding bread to waterfowl. The brochure could be used as an educational tool for the public.

·        WRNC adopted an advertising policy for in-kind donations, which will be used on a limited basis. The policy of the newsletter is not to sell advertising space.

·        Committee membership was reviewed:

   Emergency Disaster Fund: Linda Bergman, Beth Knapp-Tyner, Janenie Ledbetter and Mary Weiss.

   Continuing Education for Veterinary Professionals: Jean Chamberlain, Laurel Degernes, Mathias Englemann, Jennifer Gordon, Lauren Powers and Bobby Schopler.

    Federal Permit for Birds: Alicia Cawlfield, Jean Chamberlain, Jennifer Gordon, Elizabeth Hanrahan, Toni O’Neil and Niemette Soli

    Symposium: Alicia Cawlfield, Jean Chamberlain, Elizabeth Hanrahan, Carla Johnson, Beth Knapp-Tyner, Cathy Lillard and Toni O’Neil

    Cage Grant: Linda Bergman and Toni O’Neil

    Refresher and Basic Course Committee: Jean Chamberlain, Elizabeth Hanrahan and Carla Johnson

    RVS Rehab Committee: Jean Chamberlain, Carla Johnson, Beth Knapp-Tyner and Bobby Schopler.

    Newsletter: Sally Davis and Brenda Hiles.



·        The WRNC website maintains a training information page with contact details.  Check it out at:

·        ARC's next training class will be held March 18,19, 25 and 26th at Alexanders Childrens Home. The cost is $75 and includes the ARC training manual and 2006 membership. Register at least 14 days before the class begins.
Classes are:
Basic One, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 18
Basic Two, 1 to 5 p.m., March 19
Species Specific, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 25
Hotline Training, 1 to 5 p.m. March 26
For more information, contact Sherry Johnson at 803 548-4604 or send email to


·  Like to travel? For updated IWRC calendar, course information and registration go to:





April 8-9

1AB: Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation

Adrian, MI

April 8-9

1AB: Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation

Lawrence, KS



The opinions, techniques, and recommendations expressed in the articles of this newsletter are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by WRNC.




The Piedmont Wildlife Center is holding its Walk for Wildlife from 1 to 4 p.m. April 9 at Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville. Children from across the state raise money from sponsors to walk along the park’s trails with presenters who discuss various wildlife issues. The money is used to pay for the care and rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. To participate in the walk as a presenter or exhibitor, contact Gail Abrams at
The center also is holding a 5K run before the walk. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m. Water and fruit will be available at the beginning and end of the race.
The 5K will be run on park roads and is a fairly level surface except for a slight incline/decline along the park entrance road.

For more information, go to



On the Trail of Avian Influenza

By Brenda Hiles

On a map projected onto the wall behind them, Dr. Bobby Schopler and Dr. Peter Cowen tracked the march of avian influenza through Southeast Asia to Kazakhstan and Turkey.
Since 2003, there have been 152 reported cases of bird flu in humans with 83 deaths. So far the cases have been traced to contact with infected poultry, with no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
”It’s important to remember that we don’t have a highly efficient strain (of the flu) in North America,” Cowen said during a panel discussion of the disease at a meeting of Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina in January at the N.C. Zoo.
A case of human-to-human transmission will change the dynamics of the disease, said Cowen, an associate professor at N.C. State.
Milder strains of avian flu occur every year. But influenza A, also called H5N1, spreads rapidly among birds and is particularly deadly.
Experts are closely tracking the path of the disease and how it intersects with the flight path of migrating birds.
”The days of thinking it’s a problem in Southeast Asia and not a problem here are long gone,” Schopler said.
 The spread of H5N1 to North American birds will occur in one of two ways: through migratory birds or through accidential introduction of an infected bird or another object contaminated by the virus.
 It’s critical to look for the disease in Africa, Shopler said. From there it could easily be carried to the United States by migrating birds.
If avian flu turns up in North America, it will likely be detected by monitoring programs, Schopler and Cowen said.
In North Carolina, cases of influenza are being monitored by the NC DETECT project which began in 1999 to develop a statewide emergency department database. NC DETECT collects information from hospitals, health centers and poison control centers that would allow the detection of emerging infectious diseases such as
 SARS, avian flu and indicators of potential bioterrorism including anthrax.
NC DETECT now includes data from the Piedmont Wildlife Center, of which Shopler is the director, and the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine laboratories.
The key to containing avian flu is preparedness, Dr. Cowen said. Rehabilitators should think ahead of time what can be done, whether to shut down their facilty or whether to accept sick animals.
“It’s better to decide these things now,” he said.

UPDATE: The bird flu virus was detected for the first time in European Union nations in February. Birds with the disease were found in Italy, Greece and France. The disease also has been found in migratory birds in Nigeria, West Africa. As of Feb. 12, 160 people have been infected with the diease, mostly through close contact with sick birds.


Cage grant awarded

The WRNC Board awarded the 2006 Cage Grant of $250 to Marti Brinson of Grifton. Brinson has been a wildlife rehabilitator for more than 35 years and is involved with many agencies in Pitt County, including the Greenville Animal Control Department and the Pitt County Humane Society.  She serves as the first contact for the Greenville Police Department whenever they come across wounded wildlife. She also is a member of the Pitt County Wildlife Advisory Board.  Her rehab work with beavers is approved by Beavers, Wetlands, and Wildlife. She has a non-releasable beaver that she uses in school programs.

Brinson is using the grant to purchase a water tank and panels to create a beaver pen.

Brinson was the only applicant for the grant this year.


Frantic Feeders and Fussy Eaters

By Jean Chamerlain


Feeding problems: the squirrel nurses frantically, the cottontail not at all.

Squirrels tend to nurse frantically. When feeding a squirrel, use a feeding syringe with a nipple. Do not use bottles. Syringes allow you to control the flow of the formula so that frantic eaters don’t aspirate. Rather than depressing, you may have to hold the plunger to limit the flow. If a baby squirrel nurses frantically, try increasing the number of feedings per day.

Cottontails don’t suckle. Patience is needed when feeding them. It sometimes helps to place small drops on their lips. Use a feeding syringe alone or with a Catac nipple that has a fairly large hole. 

For both squirrels and cottontails the temperature of the formula is very important.  If the baby is not taking formula, the first thing to check is the temperature.  It must be warm. 



Photos by Jim Isaacs
If a baby is not taking formula, the first thing to check is the temperature. They like it warm. When feeding squirrels, use a syringe because it allows you to control the flow of formula.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

By Toni ONeil

This is the perfect time to restock supplies and look at what you have on hand for the coming baby season.
 One of the common mistakes beginning rehabilitators make is to assume that all supplies are the same and can be used interchangeably by all animals and birds. Through experience rehabbers realize this is not the case. Supplies must be tailored to meet the needs of individuals.
Age-appropriate dishes are necessary and must take into account the actual height of the animal or bird. Babies need low dishes close to the ground; dishes and bowls that are too tall prevent an animal from being able to reach the food inside. Water dishes that are too tall can become death traps if the animal falls in.
 As the animal or bird grows, the size and height of the bowl need to change too. Larger bowls are needed to hold the increased volume of food for a growing animal. Heavier dishes and flat-bottom bowls prevent tipping as the growing bird begins perching on the sides. An assortment of spice bottle caps, peanut butter jar lids, glass ash trays, and china bowls are inexpensive feeding dishes. Check the local thrift shops and flea markets for these and other items.
Consider, too, the feeding behavior of different species. Turtles can be fed from very flat plates, but long-billed birds need something very deep. Will the animal chew on the feeding dish? Plastic bowls may not be a good choice for a squirrel that needs to gnaw. How messy a feeder is the animal? Keep the mealworm bowl as far away as possible from the water dish for robins - they love to bathe and make a splashy mess, which will drown the mealworms. Ducks can use the side-by-side one-piece cat bowls because they prefer to mix water with their food.
Perches are very important and definitely an item that must match the individual bird's needs and species requirements. A branch suitable for a mocking bird is inappropriate for a tiny warbler.... look at the size of their feet and the circumference of their grip. To be effective, perches must not be too narrow or too wide or serious problems such as bumblefoot may develop. Knowing the natural history of the bird is important - a mourning dove or pigeon likes flatter surfaces; a small rounded log will serve them as a perch. Woodpeckers like to cling vertically, and the same small log can be used but must now be placed in an upright position. The texture of perches is also important, especially if the bird has any type of leg or foot injury.
 Kennel cabs and crab boxes – small plastic containers -- of different sizes must be used depending on the type of injury. "Keep it small" works well to restrict the movement of an injured animal. Move the animal into a larger carrier and you can allow more movement -- still controlling how much, and allowing some passive physical therapy. Placing the animal into a large carrier allows non-restricted movements, aiding muscle development, with no chance for re-injury.

Developing a Disaster Plan



Part 2


By Elizabeth Hanrahan

After the possible disasters that could occur have been determined, the risks to the rehabilitation center, caging and storage areas need to be identified. 

Evaluate the structural integrity of the wildlife rehabilitation center, clinic, storage areas and the caging. What are they constructed of? Are they strong enough to withstand hurricane-force winds, flooding, or heavy snow? Are there hazardous building materials such as asbestos? Is the wiring exposed or overloaded? Sliding glass doors or large windows could shatter in high winds allowing the loss of heat in cold weather.

The design of the facility is an important consideration.For example, where flooding is a threat, a two-story building allows for movement of animals, and for the storage of records and materials.  Every facility should have an interior area that provides safety in a hurricane or tornado.
Once you have determined the types of potential disasters and the structure’s vulnerabilities, you can develop plans.
When developing the disaster plan or making preparations for an impending disaster (hurricanes can be “planned for”) establish priorities.The animals in wildlife rehabilitation are the top priority.Create plans to evacuate or to protect them. Purchase medication, such as amoxicillin, in advance. 

Have enough carriers for animals in rehabilitation as well as for those you expect to receive afterward.


Identify the most expensive or irreplaceable items, or those that are most necessary, such as records and equipment, to get the facility operating again.
Plan for inventory that can be taken if you are evacuated. Protect your car or truck from falling trees, debris, or flooding.Vehicles may need to be moved to high ground.

Identify safe areas of the wildlife rehabilitation facility. Move important equipment to a safe location or off-site.
If flooding is a possibility, move supplies and equipment to a higher location or off-site. 

f supplies or equipment will be needed in a disaster, purchase them or make arrangements to borrow them ahead of time. 

Most wildlife rehabilitation facilities have hazardous or flammable materials. 

Turn off valves to hazardous material tanks. Label all tanks, CO2 for example, so emergency responders will know what chemicals they are dealing with. If small quantities of hazardous materials, such as bleach or cleaning supplies, are stored on shelves, move them or store them in locked cabinets with safety latches. Separate all incompatible chemicals; bleach and ammonia create toxic fumes; diesel fuel and fertilizer are explosive when mixed. Label even small quantities of hazardous materials. Identify flammable materials, which may need to be disposed of in advance. Keep updated inventories of all hazardous materials. 

Check local floodplain or storm surge maps to see if the facility is in danger of flooding.These maps are available through the local emergency management office in each county.  Many of these maps were revised after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Be sure that you and your family, volunteers or staff are up to date on immunizations, including for tetanus and hepatitis. Vaccinations are often available through the local health department.

Know local weather terms, such as the difference between “watch” and “warning,” and take alerts seriously.  Monitor the radio during alerts.

Assign everyone at the facility to be responsible for particular tasks before the disaster and afterward. If the rehabilitator expects to receive a large number of wildlife following the disaster, make the appropriate arrangements. Will volunteers be needed? Can some wildlife be transferred to other facilities? Make arrangements in advance. 

Include a method for securing records and backing up computer records. Perhaps, they will need to be moved to a safe location off-site.  Valuable computer files and records can be electronically transferred. 

Devise an evacuation plan. If the facility is in danger, the evacuation plan should be implemented.  Devise a system to ensure that all people and animals are accounted for before leaving so that no one is left behind.

Finally, include plans of action if the facility is cut off from the rest of the community, when getting assistance, supplies, or receiving animals may be impossible. You may want to write press releases in advance to let the public know what they should do if they find an orphaned or injured wild animal. 



Case Study –Hurricane Plan


In late July storms were brewing in the Atlantic. One had just been classed as a major hurricane. The projected path was to hit coastal South Carolina. One hundred miles inland in central North Carolina, three “in-home” wildlife rehabilitators followed the projected progress of the storm. 

They had worked together frequently. Each January they got together, ordered supplies in bulk and divided up what they each needed. If one had too many animals to care for or was an expert in a species, they would transfer animals among themselves. They lived in different towns within the same county. 

On Monday weather forecasts projected the Category 3 hurricane to hit the coast and track inland through their county.


They developed a plan for if the storm should strike them. Baby bird season was winding down; baby squirrel season was just beginning. 

What they learned:
What they did:  
üYou can never have too many deli     cups and toilet paper for baby     birds.
üCall volunteer foster rehabilitators     twice daily to monitor progress    and answer questions.
üSeveral people who had found     wild babies were not able to get     them to a rehabilitator.
üThey developed "fact sheets" on     the emergency care of wild     babies to send to the people who     were not able to bring the animals     to them.
They contacted these people     daily.
üEach bought extra bottles of amoxicillin to treat infant     squirrels with upper respiratory infections.
üThough they had some formula for baby squirrels,     they each ordered more.
üThey each got in supplies of baby bird foods.     Experience had taught them that they could expect a     lot of mourning doves.
üThey bought supplies: soap, extra bleach, more     plastic containers.
üThey each called trusted friends, family and     volunteers and arranged a quick training session for     those willing to foster baby squirrels.
üThey made advance arrangements to transfer     animals among themselves; bunnies to the bunny     expert and birds to the rehabilitator with the federal     permit.
üThey traded supplies and equipment they thought     the others might need.


Q. I would like to find out more about where to purchase homeopathic meds. I have just started dabbling in homeopathy, and some of the natural food stores in this area have some of the meds, but not nearly all that I think I would need to stock the basics.

Is there somewhere online we can purchase these meds?

Vicki Comer, Alexander County


A: A good place to order from is Washington Homeopathic Products at  They even have the kits for animals (same as for people) in the 30c and 200c potency, which is what you would be using for wildlife to treat trauma rather than chronic conditions.
You can read more about homeopathy from the following sites . Click on integrative treatments. For a remedy finder, try


Answer provided by WRNC member Pat Isaacs, Fort Mill, S.C.

One Rabbit’s Amazing Recovery

By Jeanette Schmitt


Anyone who has cared for injured rabbits knows how sensitive they are and how difficult it can be for them to survive.  In the past 25 years of doing rehabilitation work, this was by far the most difficult and challenging case. I want to share with you one rabbit’s incredible recovery despite all odds.

I received a phone call on July 20 from a woman who had returned from work to find a baby rabbit behind her refrigerator. Her cat had attacked it that morning, but I didn’t receive the rabbit till early evening.

The rabbit weighed 184 grams and was so battered I couldn’t believe he was still alive.  From just behind the shoulder blades to above the base of the tail was raw meat with a couple of tiny patches of fur hanging on to loose flesh.  Some of the underlying tissue had been slightly damaged as well, but no internal organs were exposed.  The rabbit was basically degloved.  The injuries also extended down the left side to where the hind leg meets the body.  The left hind foot was bent in an upward frozen position with a bone protruding from the bottom of the foot, giving the impression of a break in the bone.

For obvious reasons, I named the rabbit Scalper.

Due to the severity of the wounds, I doubted he would live, but decided to work as quickly as possible in case he had a chance.  I began with a heavy dose of Baytril to ward off infection, used Dexamethasone for shock and injected a large dose of lactated ringers under the skin.  I flushed the wounds as best I could and applied 1% Silver Sulfadiazine, an excellent prescription antibiotic ointment usually used on burn victims to promote healing. I tried gently bending the frozen foot to a normal position and realized that there was a partial dislocation. After this manipulation I was able to flex the foot pretty well.  However, there was nothing that could be done with the protruding bone. I placed Scalper in an indoor cage (48” x 20” x 17”) with a soft steri-pad material over the entire bottom to allow liquid waste to drain and to prevent bacterial growth.  I thought he would probably be dead by the next morning or would have to be euthanized.

When I checked on him the following day, to my amazement he had eaten quite well.  If he was willing to try, so was I.

I took Scalper to Brevard Animal Hospital for advice on how to deal with the severity of such a wound.  Dr. Christine Weaver treated the rabbit and advised debriding the tissue with gentle Nolvasan soaks and scrubs every other day. She told me to apply my antibiotic ointment as well as injecting Baytril and fluids twice daily. It was going to be a long recovery. The rabbit might not survive due to the nature of the injury. “Good luck!” she said.

My lengthy regimen of twice daily treatments began.  During the next five days, I followed the doctor’s directions exactly.  Scalper was a trooper in every sense.  He never tried to bite and he seemed to know I was trying to help him. No matter how gentle or careful I was with his treatment, it was very painful, and he would whine or grunt. 

I was very diligent in making sure his nutrition was top notch. Twice a day he was given a conglomeration of clover, various grasses, weeds, cherries, blueberries, apples, strawberries, and a large amount of Oxbow diet consisting of alfalfa/ timothy pellets and fresh timothy hay.  Because of the loss of blood and body fluids, his weight had dropped to 174 grams, making sub-Q fluids mandatory. Unlike many rabbits who are picky eaters in captivity, Scalper had a great appetite, especially for the Oxbow products and fresh produce, which I believe contributed to his quick healing.  

On the sixth day I stopped the fluids but continued the rest of his regimen. By now Scalper should have been about 185 grams but slowly continued to show improvement by increasing his weight to176 grams. He seemed to be very content in a quiet section of my basement with one side of the cage facing the wall and the other exposed to the indoor treatment area for other patients. Covering the exposed side of the cage with towels and using an overhead light in a corner of the cage during the day helped calm him and created a semblance of day and night. To avoid traumatizing him further, I tried to be as quiet as possible when I treated him and spoke in a whisper.

By the eighth day, I decided to pay my veterinarian another visit. Scalper was up to 200 grams, but scabs were forming and the tissue was a mess with the skin on his back about to slough off.  The edges were very crusty and dry.  Dr. Mark Thompson advised putting Vaseline on the skin around the edge of the wound to help soften the tissue so it could adhere better. It’s a trick used on horse wounds, he said.  This was a real turning point in his recovery.  Dr. Thompson advised me to continue my home therapy for the skin and to apply the same treatment of Nolvasan scrubs and antibiotics to the bone protruding from the foot.  Surgery was too risky but flexing the joint twice daily would help improve movement. He believed the rabbit had only a slim chance of recovery.

Another problem arose on the ninth day of treatment. After washing and rinsing the rabbit with Nolvasan, I dried the area with a towel.   Because Scalper’s back legs were always bent, the skin on the back of the left hind leg didn’t dry well enough, causing the whole back of the leg to open up, exposing muscle and tendons.  This, I was told, could have been due to the effect of the injury on that side.  If I ever wanted to give up, it was then.  I regained my composure and concentrated on solving the problem.

Although using gauze and towels to dry the area is the normal protocol, that wasn’t working, so I had to be creative. I used a hand-held animal dryer with various controls.  I placed Scalper in a net bag on several towels in the sink and used the dryer on a cool to warm setting, holding it about 14 inches from his body. I constantly moved the dryer to different positions and ran my fingers through the fur so as not to burn the rabbit and cause further damage to the injured tissues.

 My decision to use a dryer on a low setting after each washing and then apply the Vaseline and topical antibiotics proved most beneficial. However, the noise created more stress for Scalper. I gently stroked his fur and talked to him in a soft, low voice. Our close bond enabled me to work well with him.  Besides the entire back of the rabbit and the left foot, I now had the whole posterior side of the left leg to treat with Silver Sulfadiazine. It was not an easy area to heal because of the constant movement of the leg from hopping around the cage.  Also, pressure had to be applied to the patella to extend the leg for treatment.  As the battle for his recovery continued, my determination, patience and tender loving care paid off.  Scalper continued eating and gaining weight despite the setbacks.  This was one tough rabbit.

Another two weeks passed with incredible results.  Overall healing was taking place.  After 26 days of being indoors, I could now place Scalper’s cage outside in my enclosed compound with no more antibiotics and daily weighing.  I didn’t have to worry about maggots or wet weather infiltrating weakened tissue.

On Aug. 19, I called the Brevard Animal Hospital to view the rabbit one last time before release.  Both doctors were amazed at the his recovery. Their support and excellent medical advice was invaluable.

Scalper had a slight circular bruise about half the size of a dime on the bottom of his left foot where skin grew over the protruding bone. The left leg was completely healed and new fur covered his entire back.  After 29 days in captivity, he weighed 560 grams and was agile.

 The release took place in my development in a lush green area on the side of a dam overlooking the mountains.  It broke my heart to release him because of the obvious attachment, but when I saw the twinkle in his eye at freedom, it was worth it.  I had given him a second chance at life and was very grateful for God’s miracle.  The old adage “Where there’s life, there’s hope” was certainly true in this case.                                                                       Jeanette Schmitt is a rehabilitator in Pisgah Forest, N.C.

Danger in the Water: Ospreys and Mercury


By Heidi Alderman

 Master of Science candidate,
East Carolina University



t was late June 2004 when I peeked over the tangled twigs of an osprey nest on Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County to complete my data for the lake’s first to hatch that season. I expected to see only fish remains and some soft Spanish moss, but my heart sank.

In the nest I found scavenging beetles and two lumps of feathers with bones beneath. Lake Mattamuskeet’s first two ospreys to hatch in the 2004 nesting season would not be contributing to the eastern North Carolina osprey gene pool.


My research, under the direction of Roger Rulifson, Institute for Coastal and Marine Resource, and Department of Biology, at East Carolina University, is on mercury accumulation in osprey nestlings reared in eastern North Carolina. I sampled 22 birds from 12 nests on Lake Mattamuskeet and 20 birds from nine nests in Beaufort County on the Pamlico River with permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I found Lake Mattamuskeet osprey chicks had significantly higher mercury burdens in blood, down, and contour feathers than Pamlico River nestlings throughout development except for one situation. Though little or no mercury was detected in the eggs from the study areas, the youngest birds sampled (about 4 weeks after hatch) had the highest blood-mercury concentrations. The seasonal mercury burdens for Lake Mattamuskeet nestlings averaged 0.24 ± 0.17 (mean + standard deviation) parts per million (ppm) in the blood, 4.40 ± 1.73 ppm in the down, and 6.03 ± 2.22 ppm in contour feather samples. Seasonal mercury burdens for the Pamlico River nestlings averaged 0.11 ± 0.06 ppm in blood, 1.76 ± 0.89 ppm in down, and 2.37 ± 1.22 ppm in contour feathers. Mercury values for the lake samples ranged from undetectable to 0.81 ppm for blood, 1.45 ppm to 9.36 ppm for down, and 1.97 ppm to 13.45 ppm for contours. Samples from Pamlico River birds ranged from undetectable to 0.30 ppm for blood, 0.20 ppm to 3.27 ppm for down, and 0.23 ppm to 4.81 ppm for contours.


The exception to this trend was the blood-mercury levels at the peak of feather production. Blood samples from birds about six weeks old weighing about 1200 grams appeared to be about equal at both sites, whereas the feather concentrations consistently remained higher on the lake. Initial high blood-mercury levels in lake birds decreased because mercury in the living tissues was drawn into the proteins forming the feathers, sequestered away from where it can do harm to the developing bird. After the feather production ceased, however, the mercury in the blood began to rise as the Lake Mattamuskeet fledglings fed.

Pamlico River nestlings generally had stable background mercury levels throughout development (age 2-10 weeks), however, they showed variation between upstream birds and downstream birds. Upstream nests had higher mercury levels. When the data was split by upstream (more freshwater) and downstream (more marine) nests, there was a significant difference in blood and contour feather levels. Upstream nestlings nearer Washington, N.C., had higher mercury levels (blood 0.14 ± 0.07 ppm, down 1.75 ± 0.73 ppm, contour 2.84 ± 1.17 ppm) than downstream birds nearer Aurora, N.C. (blood 0.08 ± 0.03 ppm, down 1.77 ± 1.02 ppm, contour 1.99 ± 1.17 ppm). This supports the notion that the freshwater prey base for osprey is higher in mercury than saltwater prey base.


I do not think that Lake Mattamuskeet’s first hatchlings of 2004 died directly from mercury poisoning, but from the levels observed, I believe it could have been a contributing factor. If mercury suppresses hatching success of the usually more successful early nesters it could have a significant impact on the area population. Since the birds had their flight feathers and doting parents, I figured they were over the hump and would be fledged when I returned for one last look. Instead, the mercury was rising again in their blood and some sickness overtook them.
Mercury need not be at toxic levels to be of concern. At sublethal levels it affects behavior and can also have synergistic effects in combination with other contaminants not tested for in my study, for example PCBs. Lake Mattamuskeet birds were noticeably more docile than those on Pamlico River and greater nestling mortality was observed on Lake Mattamuskeet than on Pamlico River for 2004. One Lake Mattamuskeet sample had mercury greater than the conservative estimates of 13 ppm feather


mercury believed to cause reproductive problems in avian species. All nests except one and 23 of 28 contour feather samples from Lake Mattamuskeet were above the lower estimate of the adverse effects level of 5.0 ppm feather mercury content. Two (both from the same nest) of 31 samples from the Pamlico River contour feather samples were above the lower estimate.

The hatchlings I described had mercury levels below the higher estimate but were still considered at best elevated for risk to bird health. In terms of rehabilitation, when interpreting a nestlings’ chances of survival relative to mercury levels found in their feathers or blood, keep in mind the following: location of the food base, age of the bird, bird weight, time frame within the nesting season, state of feather production, condition (starvation, injuries or illness), and behavior of the bird.



Burger, J. and M. Gochfeld. 1996. “Risk, Mercury Levels, and Birds: Relating Adverse Laboratory Effects to Field Biomonitoring.”  Environmental Research 75:160-172.


Poole, A. F. 1989. Osprey: A Natural and Unnatural History. Cambridge University Press, New York. xviii + 246 pp.


Whittemore, R. E. 1984. “Historical overview of osprey at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge: results from ten years of nest and productivity surveys.” Pages 17-41 in M. A. Westall (ed.), Proceedings of the Southeastern US and Caribbean Osprey Symposium. International Osprey Foundation, Inc. Sanibel, Florida.






Keeping Chronic Wasting Disease at Bay

In February 2002, chronic wasting disease in cervids (members of the deer, elk, and moose family) did something that surprised wildlife experts: it jumped the Mississippi River, long considered a natural disease barrier, and showed up in Wisconsin.
Biologists with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission reported on the state’s program to monitor for chronic wasting disease at the 4th Annual Symposium of Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina on Jan. 28. Chronic wasting disease is a contagious neurological disease and is part of a family of diseases that

includes mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep.  The disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion that converts normal proteins in the brain and other neurological tissue into other prions.  Chronic wasting disease is always fatal; no treatment, cure, or vaccine exists.
“There are too many unknowns with the disease,” biologist Kelly Douglass told rehabilitators. Among the uncertainties is exactly how the disease jumps from place to place or is transmitted from animal to animal. The disease, which some believe may have derived from scrapie, was first discovered in 1967 in a captive wildlife research facility in Colorado. Over the years it has spread to fourteen states and two Canadian provinces. In the past year, the disease was confirmed in West Virginia, about 300 miles from North Carolina’s northern border, and in New York. Biologists in New York believe the disease was linked to the importation of an infected carcass handled by a taxidermist who is also a fawn rehabilitator.
Since 1999, the state has tested more than 1,800 free-ranging white-tailed deer and almost 700 captive cervids. So far, the state’s aggressive testing program has found no evidence of the disease in North Carolina.
In May 2002, after the disease showed up in Wisconsin, North Carolina revised its rules to prevent the introduction of the disease into the state. Transportation of animals between captive facilities and importation of cervids were prohibited; a moratorium was put in place on licensing new facilities. Minimum requirements for fencing, record-keeping, and CWD testing also were enacted.
Before 2002, the cervid program in North Carolina had been largely unregulated, biologist Daron Barnes said. North Carolina had more than 190 captive cervid facilities in 2002; now there are 83 facilities.  More than three-quarters of these facilities hold less than 20 animals. Once it became obvious the disease could easily spread, the state began an intensive monitoring program, including semiannual inspections of captive cervid facilities, testing requirements, and rule violation provisions.  The state gave people holding cervids in captivity the option of surrendering their licenses and their cervids. The state spent $247,850 to compensate owners and to purchase 396 animals, about 16% of the total captive population at that time and what the state considered to be a very large sample size for testing. Of those, 328 animals were killed and tested and no evidence of the disease was found. Only animals older than 6 months were tested.
So far, no changes have been made to the rules regulating the rehabilitation of fawns. In 2002, the fawn rehabilitation program was cancelled by the state in response to chronic wasting disease.  But because of public opposition, the program was reopened.  Now that the Commission has dedicated staff to facilitate and oversee the program, the fawn rehabilitation program is being restructured.  Part of that restructuring process will include the examination of program operations with input from the fawn rehabbers and commission staff. For more information on CWD, including tips on safe handling of deer and deer parts, see the CWD page, or


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WRNC extends a special thank-you to the following in-kind contributors for raffle donations or discounts for this year’s Symposium.




D.B Scientific/Vitahawk                          

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store          

Squirrel Store                                         

NEKTON Products                               

Ben Meadows Company                        

PetAg, Inc.                                             

Washington Homeopathic Products, Inc. 

Mike Dupuy Hawk Food                        

Coconut Creek Publishing                       

Nature’s Way                                         

Fox Valley Animal Nutrition, Inc.            



Possumwood Acres/Toni O’Neil            

Animal Rehabilitators of the Carolinas

Hampton Inn of Asheboro                      

NC Zoological Park                               

Kathy Lillard

Kay Raade

Wild at Heart Wildlife Rehab./Beth Knapp-Tyner

John Althouse

Linda Bergman

Connie Sale



Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

By Toni ONeil

Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary is a work-in-progress in Hubert, N.C., halfway between Jacksonville and Swansboro on the coast. It is a 17-acre wildlife rehabilitation facility created by Toni O'Neil, who moved there in August 2003.
The center, which takes in all injured and orphaned small mammals, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and shore birds, became a 501(C)(3) nonprofit in April 2004. O’Neil became full-time director at Possumwood Acres on Oct. 1.
The center has a large separate "animal room" indoors for immediate treatment, several outdoor pre-release cages, and a large waterfowl pen. Plans include expanding the lagoon area and building a pond for ducks and geese. Expansion plans also include trails through the woods with display cages for non-releaseable raptors and songbirds, a blue-bird trail and an area for hands-on teaching for school children.
While this is a place for wildlife rehabilitation, the primary focus of Possumwood Acres is environmental education and teaching children about native wildlife and their habitats. Many presentations are given to the local elementary schools, as well as programs for adults at public libraries. Popeye, a non-releasable opossum, assists with presentations although his participation primarily consists of eating grapes and yogurt and then going back to sleep.
O’Neil began her rehabilitation training in Charlotte in 1991 when she volunteered at the Carolina Raptor Center. She also had the good fortune to serve an internship with Lessie Davis of Wild Care, Inc. of Wingate, N.C. O’Neil obtained her state and federal permits after becoming involved in several local wildlife rehab organizations.
Her love of animals started at an early age - she had a pet duck when she was 4, and she was reading bird books at 8 and identifying songbirds in the neighborhood. Her father used to read to her from his zoology books as he was preparing for the biology course he taught at a community college. O’Neil credits that early experience with inspiring her years later to get a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Maryland in College Park.
O’Neil lives with her husband of more than 30 years, Denny. They are the proud "parents" of four dogs, two cats, three goats, and too many domestic ducks and geese to count. Their two grown children, Brianna and Sean, return to the family home when th
ey realize they miss finding dog and cat fur in their food.


Book Corner

By Brenda Hiles


“The Pig Who Sang to the Moon – The Emotional World of Farm Animals”

By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Random House

277 pages


In “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon,” Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
acknowledges that the position he takes is a radical one.


“I think it is wrong to raise animals for food,” he writes. “I just do not believe that anybody will take care to give an animal a “good life” if the point of that life is to end up as a meal on the table.”

We betray the trust of farm animals every day, Masson argues, by taking from them eggs, milk and meat. In often painful detail he describes what occurs on farms: dairy cows that bellow when separated from their young; pigs kept in cramped, squalid conditions; chickens forced to produce too many eggs, only to be slaughtered when they can’t keep up with demand.

Masson includes a chapter each on pigs, chickens, sheep, cows and ducks. The book is rich in anecdotes to illustrate his argument that animals experience pain and joy much as humans do.

The way to relieve their suffering is simple, Masson writes. We should allow farm animals to live the life they were meant to lead without fear that they will be exploited or slaughtered. He paints a Utopian picture of chickens roosting in trees, sheep frolicking on hillsides and cows raising their young in green pastures.

Masson’s argument for veganism works on an emotional level, but its lack of scientific rigor may fail to sway many critics. 

Humans, who have difficulty maintaining habitats for wild animals, are unlikely to find it economically feasible to create large areas for domestic animals to live in peace. Surely the demands placed on the environment by a growing population would encroach on Masson’s vision of Utopian pastures.

In writing about the intelligence and sensitivity of pigs, Masson fails to mention that pigs, too, will eat meat. A serial killer in Canada disposed of his victims by feeding them to his pigs.

No animal starves or freezes to death in the wild, Masson says. Yet, there have been documented cases of emaciated animals, especially deer, suffering in the wild.

Despite its flaws, the book offers plenty to think about. Be warned: After reading “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon,” it’s difficult to sit down to a meal without thinking that the food on your plate was once a living creature capable of great joy and pain.