Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, TX
Curly Q Ranch Refuge
A TIME FOR GIVING--12/24-- Today is just like every other day on the refuge: Every late afternoon, I chop apples as I talk with my 91-year-old aunt, prepare buckets of range cubes and sweet feed for Jack, Butch, and Sundance, the resident longhorns, get the old horse Levi's food ready, through some sweets to the crying donkeys, give the goat Howard some feed, put chopped apples, dry dog and cat food out near the house for the wildlife I released here, drive the quarter mile to the release points for the rabbits and raccoons and leave food, throwing out handfuls of corn, hen scratch, sunflower seeds--whatever I have in Brownie, my old brown truck--to the squirrels and other wildlife here. Today was extra special because we are having the gift of precious rain, and my feeding was between the rainfall!--and I went to lock up Bluebonnet Cabin where honeymooners left earlier today. I HAVE THE GREATEST GUESTS! When I opened the door, it looked as if I were welcoming incoming guests: nothing was out of place, table and counters were empty, clean dishes were in the dishwasher. On my return trip as I threw out seeds, I smiled brightly, in awe of this land and its inhabitants. It is such a grand pleasure to share such sweetness.
December 4, 2011:
So much depends upon the sweetness of rain. A little has fallen but not nearly enough as the earth turns into winter in this northern hemisphere. Last week, I received a red fox who couldn't move his back legs. Nature took over, taking his life. With his death, I realized that it was time to plant all my precious wildlife children who didn't make it, ones I had been keeping in my freezers until the right time. With the fox, I planted many baby opossums, squirrels, and raccoons who I failed to keep alive. The hole was 3' deep, 2' wide, and 3' long. I watered them with my tears even though I realized that so many more had survived and returned to the wild, even the adult raccoon hit by a car with possibly a broken jaw and lost eye. Miraculously, he survived [even though he had a nasal condition!] Every day, I continue to chop apples, gather dry dog, cat, and rabbit food to leave at the spots where I released the animals and will continue to do, day after day until late spring when food supplies will return, that is, if we have rain. If not, I will continue to feed. Every day, you can find me putting out food around the ranch in loving care of the wild.
This dangerous drought pierces the lives of so many: cattle go to slaughter, so many wildlife die, so many others go hungry. I throw out sunflower seeds and dog food as I drive through our refuge. Birds and squirrels flock to the road in front of me. Even a ring-tailed cat crosses the road! This animal is so rarely seen, and I've seen it twice! Orioles and hummingbirds drink nectar from the feeders as other birds bathe in the waterfall. In such an oasis, two opossums and a newborn squirrel have died. So goes the cycle of the sun.
8 p.m. Such a wide, blue sky. No sign of rain, that elixir that quenches our parched souls. I filled the hummingbird and oriole feeders on the west porch, and voila! They appeared, the hummers in their dive-bomb fashion, the oriole in his golden shimmer. On my daily feeding rounds of the nocturnals [raccoons and opossums] this evening, I saw my lame baby dead opossum being eaten by the other babies. As I tried to grab him, the horde of 13 pulled him into their lair. Protein. I knew that opossums can eat their own, but I never thought that I would witness such nature. Survival of the fittest. Nature in all its reality. The little lame one I was going to keep for educational purposes, knowing that he would be instant prey upon release. Yesterday at feeding time, he was fine. Today, gone. Such is the cycle of life. Sunrise, sunset, and around again.
The little fox squirrel has opened both eyes now, sucking with such vigor 10 cc of formula every four hours.
Whew! It's been hot and heavy with wildlife babies this spring and summer! I have spent up to 4 hours a day nursing raccoon babies in the steamy heat. If I forgot to wear my bandanna headband, salty drops of sweat rolled into my eyes since I couldn't take my hand off the nursing baby to wipe them away.
Now, that time has passed. All 8 are in the large enclosure in the woods until they get old enough to release. I feed them twice a day: apples, grapes, dry dog and cat food, Vienna sausages [48 cans for $7 at Sam's--good protein source], about 5 pounds at each feeding. I've spent over $200 so far feeding these raccoons and the 17 opossum babies in now have!
Despite the heat and expense, when I see all 8 raccoons throwing back their heads and smacking, open-mouthed, on grapes, all is worthwhile.
The release of the opossum earlier this month was successful. Liz King was here to watch the release and to help nurse Whiskers, the raccoon baby with short whiskers. She came from west Texas to stay at Lily Ponds Cottage to encounter the wealth of wildlife.
Now, I have 17, yes, seventeen baby opossums, 6 about 5" long from nose to rump and 11 about 3" long from nose to rump. They will be eating more and more as they grow into their release length of 10" from nose to rump. Thank God, I didn't have to tube feed them! They eat twice a day: Esbilac formula, apples, grapes, Vienna sausages.
If anyone wants to help with the feed bills, please donate to Lone Star Wildlife Rescue in the name of Curly Q Refuge. It would be greatly appreciated!!
The refuge is home to opossums, squirrels, and raccoons this spring. 8 healthy squirrels were released successfully on May 1. 7 opossums came but, ever so sadly, only one remains. Rehabbing opossums is very difficult: they must be tube fed since they don't suck. Once they're weaned, usually they simply eat and grow until they are 7-10 inches long from the point of their nose to their rump. But not all goes smoothly at times. Only one will be released when it grows a couple more inches. Based on the way it scoffed up the scrambled eggs this afternoon, release won't be long.
6 raccoons have arrived over the last few weeks, and 5 remain. They were the hardest to take the bottle, but at present, the surviving 5 are eating happily. They have a rather flat mouth with a flat tongue that curls up around the baby bottle's nipple. Watching the bubbles flow through the formula as they suck is the rehabber's dream: they are growing with each suck. The baby raccoon on the banner picture is one of mine, successfully released last year.
Curly Q Ranch Refuge is a 59-acre wildlife refuge, home to many rescued, rehabilitated, and realized wildlife. Linda is a Texas Parks and Wildlife licensed rehabber, almost living in a constant state of around-the-clock nursing. The raccoon on the home page is one of her babies.
Of the many things I have learned that it is very expensive to rehab wildlife, in addition to the vast number of hours invested. Raccoons, for example, are raised on KMR, Kitten Milk Replacement, which sells for $12.98 for 6 ounces of powder. One-half cup of powder is mixed with one cup of warm water, and raccoons eat a lot!
I am reimbursed for some expenses by Lone Star Wildlife Rescue, my associate non-profit 501.c.3. If you ever want to be sure that 100% of money goes directly to the animals, donate to LSWR!
All of the proceeds from the cabin rentals go back into the care of the animals and the maintenance of the ranch for guests to share. Above all, guests must respect nature, avoid excessive noise, be very aware of their surroundings, and leave the ranch refuge as pristine as they found it.