Wild About Wildlife
Enjoy these blog posts from staff, volunteers & board members at Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary!
More posts coming soon!
On a cold May evening, in the middle of a heavy rain and hail storm, a gosling wandered up someone’s driveway, separated from his siblings and parents. A month later, in June, another gosling was found orphaned near Little Payette Lake. In both circumstances, efforts to reunite them with family were unsuccessful. Attempts to introduce them into flocks with other goslings around the same age were made in vain, as hardly any geese were found between McCall and Cascade. We presume Avian Flu and a long, tough winter had much to do with the decrease in their numbers. The couple of flocks we did manage to locate swam away before an introduction was possible, or they simply took no interest. One flock had at least six goslings. It felt as if they said, “We already have too many mouths to feed. Move along.” And so, we did [move along].
Each summer, Snowdon rescues any number of wild animal babies, and this year was no exception. Alyssa and her staff have had numerous orphans streaming through our clinic for treatment, including birds of all sorts, waterfowl, squirrels, skunks, bunnies, fawns, and perhaps the most heart-melting of all, baby raccoons! One summer as a friend and I were volunteering at Snowdon, we noticed there were three orphaned raccoons that were tucked away in the clinic. They needed multiple bottle feedings each day. As the hardworking Snowdon staff was typically overwhelmed with baby animal care during the summer months, we offered to help feed the little guys. I peered into a small kennel and saw three tiny gray and white things all huddled together sleeping. How utterly peaceful and adorable. When they heard the latch of the kennel door open, they sprang to life!
I fondly remember my “lunches with Luna” during the summer of 2014. Luna was a red fox who had been hit by a car and injured very badly. Her rear leg was broken, requiring surgery and hospitalization for an extended period of time. The leg bone did not heal correctly, and Luna was left with a limp and mistrust of humans who had caused such pain. When I met her, she was in the large chain link enclosure specially designed for foxes. The Snowdon Board of Directors, in conjunction with Idaho Fish & Game, had determined that Luna’s injury rendered her non-releasable to the wild. Accordingly, the Snowdon staff was instructed to encourage Luna’s socialization to human contact so that she could become an educational animal. Years earlier, Snowdon had an educational fox named Maizey, who was very friendly toward humans and regularly visited children’s classrooms. I saw her on many occasions out and about in town with Snowdon founder Linda DeEulis. They were a delightful pair! Remembering this, I didn’t give much thought to Luna following in her predecessor’s footsteps. I asked the interns if I and my friend could help socialize Luna during our weekly volunteer visits to Snowdon that summer. And thus we began a weekly routine of having our sack lunches with Luna in her enclosure.
They came from the east. They came from the west. They met in McCall, Idaho, at Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. Please welcome our two spring/summer interns, Shannon Blount and AnaVictoria Garcia Medina. Both are studying to become Wildlife Veterinarians with goals of working internationally and helping underserved communities. Both are highly motivated and inspirational, working tirelessly to prepare our facility for the arrival of orphaned and injured animals and caring for those already here. Additionally, they are learning to train two educational raptors, Merlin and Qa’ya (Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk).
The journey to Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary to become the new Wildlife Rehabilitator Manager was exciting, to say the least. Picture this… 10 months ago, leaving Vermont to work as a Registered Veterinary Technician at Big Bear Alpine Zoo and VCA Lakeside Animal Hospital in Big Bear Lake, California. Now, cut to… 3 weeks ago when roads up-and-down the mountain to Big Bear were closed due to the insane amount of snow being dumped… tons of snow… and more snow… and more. So much snow it was nearly impossible to throw it out of the way. Now picture 38 steep steps to climb to the front door. 38 steep steps to keep cleared of snow in order to pack the car to move to McCall, Idaho. Then, there were decks to clear to avoid collapse. The driveway. The unplowed roads. What does one do? They shovel… and shovel more… and more. Not only must one shovel out their home, but the job where they care for injured wildlife needs to be shoveled too… repeatedly… exhaustingly… painstakingly, because lives literally depended upon it… wild lives. Let us not forget that on top of shoveling, one had to pack, clean, and steam clean rugs because someone really wanted their security deposit back. The question over those two weeks of clearing snow and ice was… Will the landlords be able to make it for the walk-through, and will someone be able to leave on their moving day because, again, roads were closed, and only residents with proof of residency were allowed up-and-down the hill. Thankfully, when the day arrived to head out of town, roads were finally open to everyone.
Before coming to Snowdon, I had yet to have the pleasure of working with ambassador raptors. Early in my tenure, the Board of Directors tasked me with the seemingly impossible job of retraining Merlin, the great horned owl. Our 14-year-old education bird had grown fond of his enclosure after an extended event hiatus during the sad times. Though Merlin was a challenge to win over (the topic of our first website blog), it only took about a month for us to start touring Valley County on a 30-presentation-long circuit. I continue to work with Merlin almost daily, and he has proven to be a very tolerant and stoic education bird once again.
There is a steep and challenging learning curve to animal training. The key to working with any animal, or person for that matter, is patience and consistency. I had the pleasure of building on these skills with a local falconer, Isaac Pottenger, while training a non-releasable fledgling red-tailed hawk we received over the summer. This 3-month-old youngster flew into a truck near Council soon after leaving the nest. The altercation left him with two compound fractures in his right wing, which usually results in the need for euthanasia. Instead of immediately putting this bird down, the Board and I agreed to see if he had a curious and food-motivated disposition. Though life in captivity is a challenging transition for most adult wild animals, juveniles can often adapt to this new set of stimuli. Isaac told me the number one way to earn a bird’s trust was exposure, so I moved some pillows and my laptop into the loft of our raptor enclosure. A week after doing all my computer work in my new nook, I could feed this wild fledge by hand.
Sometimes animals just know best. Such was the case with a tree squirrel that had been hit by a car. Jeff and I were volunteering at Snowdon one day when we received a scratchy cell phone call from a guy who had scooped up an injured, unconscious squirrel and wrapped him in a towel. At least that’s what I thought he said. Cell phone coverage at Snowdon can be fleeting at times. Then the caller said he was speedily on his way to the sanctuary as we spoke, so it was lucky that Jeff and I happened to be on site to assess this squirrel. In my mind, a squirrel vs. a car does not usually end well for the squirrel. When Brent drove up, this was the scene: All the vehicle windows were open; there was a large panting black dog in the back seat; and there was a lively squirrel running back and forth across the top of the bench seat. Apparently, the squirrel came back to life during the drive! I couldn’t believe that the squirrel didn’t jump out the open windows or, for that matter, into the dog’s gaping mouth. This was when I began to chuckle.
When Jeff and I tried to capture the squirrel to assess its injuries, it demonstrated amazing skills at eluding capture inside the car. It ran over Brent, onto the steering wheel, across Brent’s arms, and back to the seat top. At one point, the little squirrel jumped straight onto the big dog’s head and clamped all four squirrel toes onto his doggie scalp, like a toupee! At Brent’s command, Elroy the dog froze, and the little squirrel ran down Elroy’s back to the other end of the vehicle.
My name is Macy, and I’m Snowdon’s one and only 2022 fall intern. While earning my undergraduate degree, I spent 8+ hours every other week volunteering to care for wolves and wolf dogs at a sanctuary near Fort Collins. After graduating with my B.S. in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, I accepted a position with USGS surveying Boreal toads in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though I enjoyed backpacking for a living and studying this unique endangered species, I wanted my next job to offer me more animal handling experience. When I found Snowdon’s post on Conservation Job Board, I wrote my cover letter and kept my fingers crossed. Thankfully, Sierra was impressed with my application, and our interview went great! I packed up my SUV to move outside of Colorado for the first time in my life, giddy with the prospect of rescuing wild animals. As my time at Snowdon is quickly coming to a close, I can confidently add animal handling, raptor training, primary veterinary care, and content creation to my resume. However, this internship has taught me so much beyond syringe feeding and wrapping broken wings.
I arrived the first week of September to a frenzy of baby animals, weaned and restless, ready for release. Within two weeks of my arrival, the sanctuary buzz reduced to a quiet hum in the absence of skunks, foxes, a raccoon, a Swainson’s hawk, and a fawn. Despite our much lighter animal care load, we somehow got busier. With our open house event rapidly approaching, we hurried to make the property visitor ready.