BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
VIRGINIA BEACH — The Canada goose was found flopping around in the mud, hungry, and very stressed.
She was injured, probably from buckshot, according to the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, wildlife rehabilitators who are caring for her.
“We gave her a bath,” said Karen Roberts, a wildlife rehabilitator. “That made her feel better, and she began preening herself. Canada geese don’t like to be dirty.”
The goose is now recovering, but it could be late spring before she’s ready to be released into the wild, said Roberts and Barbara Gipson, wildlife and special projects director for the society. Some of her feathers are badly damaged, and Roberts said she thinks the goose may not be able to fly well until she grows new feathers during the spring molting season.
The Virginia Beach society is the only one Hampton Roads that has a wildlife rehabilitation program, and the wildlife rehabilitators treat injured or orphaned wildlife from across the region. This Canada goose was found at a construction site in Portsmouth, but many sick or injured birds, particularly loons and sea ducks, are often found in southern Virginia Beach.
Loons, Gipson said, are particularly susceptible to injuries from boats, and marine animals can also inhale water into their lungs when the water is choppy. Fishing line is also a big threat to birds, and some are shot by arrows or pellets.
A young blue heron died in December after being rescued from a residential neighborhood near Dam Neck Road. He was badly emaciated, and he may have been hit by a car.
Winter is particularly rough for young birds that may not yet have the survival skills necessary to find food, and some even become disoriented and wander into unsafe areas.
During the summer, wildlife rehabilitators also deal with orphaned birds and mammals.
The wildlife program is always in need of volunteers to help rescue, care for, or transport the wildlife, Gipson said.
Some tasks, such as caring for the babies, usually require a full-time commitment because of frequent feedings, but people who work can care for adult animals or help rescue or transport the animals.
Right now, Gipson is also interested in soliciting funds to buy decoys and two whoosh nets, or large nets that can be used to trap birds from a distance.
The whoosh net reduces the stress to the animals that comes from having to move in on close range, and decoys help attract the birds. “Birds are pretty smart, so if they see other birds in an area, they think it’s safe,” Gipson said.
Gipson and Roberts also urge citizens to call the Wildlife Rehabilitation Referral Line if they suspect an animal may be injured. Don’t wait to observe the animal, they said, but call immediately and let a trained rehabilitator decide if immediate rescue is necessary.
To report an injured animal, call (757) 263-4762. For more information about how to volunteer or donate to the wildlife program, visit vbspcawildlife.com.
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC