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Wildlife Center: A busy 2009

Staff Report
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The Wildlife Center of Virginia admitted a total of 2,534 animals for treatment during 2009 – injured, ailing, and orphaned wildlife from all across Virginia.

The 2009 caseload was the highest number of patients treated at theinternationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine located in Waynesboro since 2004.

As expected, the 2009 total included many common species – 280 Eastern Cottontail Rabbits; 252 Virginia Opossums; 210 Eastern Gray Squirrels; and 107 American Robins.

Also admitted for treatment were a number of threatened species, or species designated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as species of special concern. Leading that list were the 40 Bald Eagles admitted during 2009 – a single-year record during the Center’s 27-year history.

Among these 40 eagle patients were three birds from West Virginia and 37 from Virginia, including a bird that had become trapped in asphalt tar at the King and Queen County landfill, an eagle struck by a truck on I-95, and an eagle chased into the Rappahannock River by an Osprey.

Among the other “notable” cases of 2009 were:
· Several Black Bear cubs, orphaned when their mothers were struck and killed by cars;
· Four Great Horned Owl babies that were given “foster care” and training by Mama G’Ho, a resident owl that serves as a surrogate mother;
· A Pied-Bill Grebe that literally had swallowed hook, line, and sinker [actually, two sinkers]. Center veterinarians operated and carefully removed this fishing gear from the grebe’s stomach. The grebe recovered and was released;
· Nineteen patients that had been shot, including two American Crows, two Bald Eagles, a Canada Goose, a Raccoon, two Red Foxes, four Red-tailed Hawks, a Tufted Titmouse, and six vultures [two Black and four Turkey];
· Two Peregrine Falcons. The peregrine is regarded as the fastest animal on earth; the speed of a diving peregrine has been measured at 217 miles per hour. By the early 1960s, the falcon was believed to be extinct as a breeding species in Virginia and all areas east of the Mississippi River. A program of peregrine reintroduction began in Virginia in 1978; there are now about 20 known breeding pairs of peregrines in the Commonwealth.
On Dec. 22, Wildlife Center President Ed Clark released a Peregrine at the Grandview Nature Preserve in Hampton.
· A Gray Treefrog, admitted just after Christmas. This frog was discovered when some outdoor plants in which it had sought shelter were brought indoors, out of the wintry weather. The frog will be over-wintering at the Center.

During 2009, patients were admitted from 92 counties and municipalities from all over the Commonwealth [a complete list of 2009 patients by city/county is attached]. Most animals are brought to the Center by concerned citizens; others are brought in by animal control officers, other federal, state, and local officials, from humane societies, etc.

Animals are admitted to the Wildlife Center for a variety of reasons, including animals that are struck by cars and trucks [127 cases], birds that crash into windows [80 cases], and animals with infectious diseases or parasites [71 cases].

During 2009, 222 animals were brought to the Center after they were attacked by free-roaming cats. Birds and other animals that survive an initial cat attack are still in danger; unless treated, infections from the toxic bacteria found in a cat’s mouth kill a significant number of animals.

During 2009, 324 animals – or one in eight cases – were patients classified as a “kidnap” victim – a young animal brought to the Center in need of no “help” from humans. These are animals still receiving care from their parents, or young animals ready to live on their own. “Despite our natural inclinations, the BEST chance of survival for a young uninjured animal is often to leave it in its parents’ care,” Clark said.

Center staff works with citizens who find young animals to assess whether these animals really do need human intervention. [The Center’s website – – includes a special “I need rescue advice” section to help citizens assess the health-care needs of animals.] “The Center encourages those who care about wildlife to ask questions FIRST about the most appropriate course of action,” Clark added. The

Center’s front desk is staffed seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; one of the Center’s veterinarians is on call 24 hours a day.

The busiest months during 2009 at the Center were May [472 new patients] and June [524 new patients]. The busiest single day was June 4, when the Center admitted 48 new patients.

Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Wildlife Center has cared for more than 54,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

The goal of the Center is to “treat to release” – to restore patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild. The Center provides state-of-the-art medical care for the sick and injured, and sustained, quality foster care so that animals may be returned to the wild with the ability to survive, and thrive, in their native habitats.

The Center trains veterinary and conservation professionals from all over the world, and wildlife rehabilitators across Virginia, and is actively involved in comprehensive wildlife health studies and the surveillance of emerging diseases.

Additional information about the Wildlife Center is available at


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