Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – July 4, 2023
Give Me Liberty…
Independence Day is upon us. Besides all the normal festivities associated with the tradition of celebrating our independence…fireworks, hot dogs, red, white and blue bunting…celebrating freedom is critically important to us at Liberty Wildlife. How so, you might ask. Let me explain…
Our initial reason for being here was and is to rehabilitate and release wildlife injured mostly through no fault of their own. That remains a centerpiece of our mission and agenda. If the unfortunate patient is eventually able to go free, then that happens. I have never understood anything else….healthy, strong, and willing, the animal deserves to do what it was meant to do…fly or run with wild abandon, find a mate, reproduce…be wild! Enough said.
Sadly, some of the broken creatures seen at Liberty Wildlife cannot be returned to the wild. At the root of all decisions made about the future of an animal is the idea: No Suffering. For example, our educational ambassadors, all of them injured at one time, have been deemed non-releasable. Now, sufficiently healed, they have every chance for a quality life, even if it means a job change. As Educational Ambassadors, they mostly live to an old age…who knew that a golden eagle at or over 40 years would have feathers that turned grey, like our golden eagle, Apache?
Those Educational Ambassadors that give any indication that they are through with the task of educating are allowed to choose jobs again and become foster parents, doing what nature calls them to do….raise and train offspring even if they aren’t their own, and even though these foster parents aren’tt themselves in the “wild”. But train those babies, they do. And they raise them into tough predators with all of the instincts to be free, to be liberated, to be independent.
At its core, wildlife rehabilitation isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for the weak at heart. It isn’t for the hangers on. It isn’t for the pet trade.
It is about doing what is right—healing and then setting free the creature…liberating it…sending it to its best life. Anything other than that has to be justified. Enough said.
So, this Independence Day, I am reminiscing on all the incredible experiences setting animals free. And there are many. There are the releases for animals that were significant to me in particular…ones that fought beyond expectation to have a second chance…and there have been many. Then there are those that had great significance for others. One in particular will never leave me.
It was a lovely late summer evening in the Oak Creek area of Arizona. We were invited to the ranch of Senator John McCain. I found out that he had a particular love and respect for both the out of doors, nature, and birds in particular. We had that in common. And, we had received an orphan great horned owl from the area earlier in the season. Now fully grown, it was time to go free…what better place for it to find its best life.
This was a while back, when hand releases were still “okay,” and I asked the Senator if he would like to do the honors. We gloved him up and brought the owl out of the carrier. I handed it to the Senator, and we gave our customary wish for the well-being of the owl. The Senator hoisted him aloft and we all watched with rapt attention as its wings caught air, and it soared off to its new life with the well wishes of those gathered….a poignant moment.
As all eyes returned to the ground and those around us, I took notice of another poignant moment. The Senator was still fixed, watching the trail of that owl. Of all the releases that I have done, I don’t believe anyone understood better or demonstrated more gratitude than Senator John McCain, who more than most, perceived the practical truth of freedom…nothing taken for granted. Here’s a person who spent more time than imaginable with no freedom…cruelly caged….and now participating in the act of freeing another living creature. He looked at me and I knew…he just got it…And, not for the first time, but maybe the most impactful time…I, too, got it. The multi-layered essence of freedom and liberty…should never be taken for granted.
That is the essence of what we do at Liberty Wildlife. Enough said! Happy Independence Day!
This Week @ Liberty – July 4, 2023
It’s funny to recognize that I often forget when a holiday is upon us. I usually don’t remember until someone asks me why I’m working—which they then remind me what day it is—to which I respond, “the animals don’t realize it’s a holiday!” It makes for a good laugh; all the same, on a day when gatherings are happening and, despite the heat, people are outside, those same people find injured animals and make the trek here to Liberty Wildlife. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; we are grateful for your eyes and ears and the time it takes to come here. We are grateful, too, to our awesome volunteers who spend these holidays here with us and the animals in constant need of care.
We really couldn’t do it without all of you!
Groot the Coatimundi
We live in an age where information is constant; whether it’s the news or social media or something in between, things are updated on the regular. It’s easy to fall in to the ‘doomscroll’ of Instagram or Facebook, and often times, I find my feed inundated with people who’ve found an injured animal and have recorded their time helping to heal it. It can be wonderful and heartwarming and exciting…
Yet, what you’re not seeing is the other side; that many of these animals can no longer be released because they’re too habituated. Or, the other other side, that they’ve been kept as pets illegally. Which is the case for Groot, the Coatimundi. Hailing from Indiana, he was confiscated for just that reason, and transferred to Liberty Wildlife in 2018.
Although you won’t see the same coloring on Arizona’s Coatimundi’s; Groot is a South American Coati—where they enjoy the tropics and subtropics of lowland forests—whereas here in Arizona, you’ll see the White-Nosed Coati. They can be found in dry, open forests or tropical woodlands, where they forage for fruit, small rodents, invertebrates and lizards.
If you’ve been on-site for Public Hours, it’s rare you’ll get to see Groot. He usually likes to hang on our rehab side, where he has his own enclosure to hang and forage. However, if you’re heading to our intake window, you may catch a quick glimpse of him. The summers are hard for him, so we bring him inside to bask in the air conditioning of the building…
For some reason, I don’t think he minds much!
The Infamous Desert Tortoise
If you’ve been in Arizona for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve heard about the desert tortoise. Native to Arizona, Utah, Colorado and California, you’ll find them in a variety of habitats like washes, canyons and sandy foothills, where easy meals like cacti, grasses and wildflowers can readily be found. You won’t see them year round, though; desert tortoises go through a process called ‘brumation’ (I’ve covered it in a previous blog, do you remember what this is?). If you’re wanting to see them out in the wild, they’re most active from March to June, and again from September to October. Past that, they hang burrows in where they brumate in (it’s a type of dormancy) until they’re ready to head out.
Truthfully, I’ve never seen one in the wild myself. Hatchlings can be tiny-tiny (smaller than my palm!) and adults can weigh up to about fifteen pounds. They’re even known to live up to eighty years, and don’t reach sexual maturity until their almost twenty years old!
And for those of you who happen to follow AZ Game and Fish on social media, you’ll see their calls to adopt those who’ve been injured (and can’t be released) or taken from the wild (who also can’t be released). With their ability to live such long lives, it’s not an easy decision; if you have the space in your yard, it’s so worth the time! They make wonderful, outdoor pets, who are keen to eat weeds and herbs, and keep you company in the hot summer months when yardwork is still a must.
Check out AZ Game and Fish’s website to get more info!
4th of July: Freedom and Fireworks
Anyone who is anyone knows the 4th of July is a big deal; we won our freedom this day in 1776 and have forged ahead as one of the leading nations in the world. For most Americans, the holidays brings barbeques and gatherings, and of course, fireworks. It’s a larger than life explosion of color to celebrate a historic day and for many, it’s a sight to behold. For wildlife, it’s a different issue entirely, and one we don’t have a whole lot of information on.
Where do our urban wildlife populations go when those loud bombs go off in the sky that they inhabit? Does the sound affect them as much as the sight? All over the world, scientists have led different studies to see how fireworks affect our feathered friends. And if you google it, you’ll find a slew of different information about it. Some will say there’s little evidence to say fireworks have any effect on conservation status, while others say they have lasting effects that can change migratory patterns.
Regardless of the side you’re on, it’s a worthwhile assumption that these things we shoot in to the sky have some effect. Whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen, but it’s worth noting that if you’re choosing to partake, sparklers are just as much fun—and bright—as anything else.
Photos from Vecteezy
It’s that time again! Remember we’re still open for public hours from 9am-11am on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (although in August for public hours we will be closed – intake is open as usual!). Make sure to come say hi to our volunteers and all our ambassador friends; there’s plenty of shade, but make sure to stay hydrated while you walk the trail!
Without further ado, here are this week’s notable mentions:
Volunteers Jen and Patrick practice flying Lobo the Harris’s Hawk (1 picture)
Volunteer Sara G. caught this picture of Ra the Prairie Falcon with a small visitor (1 picture)
A nestling Harris’s Hawk undergoes surgery by Dr. Goe to repair a broken leg (1 picture)
Green Herons stop by the wetlands for a quick snack (I didn’t realize the second was there until I looked at the photo I took!) (1 picture)
A nestling Acorn Woodpecker hangs out for a minute while being assessed (1 picture – by Jake)
Animal Ambassador Chiquita (American Kestrel) make sure volunteers know who’s mouse she has (1 picture – by Ceci)
Nestling Nighthawk makes a short appearance in triage (1 picture)
Thanks again for taking the time out of your day to read this blog. It means the world to us here at Liberty Wildlife!
Until next time!
Posted by Acacia Parker
Public Outreach Coordinator