Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (HIW) receives a variety of species in need
of help throughout the year. The spring’s baby season brings several hundred
orphaned animals including squirrels, opossums and birds of prey, just to
name a few.
This year’s early
summer-like weather has increased those in need. Good Samaritans and lovers
of nature bring injured or orphaned wildlife to the experienced staff at HIW.
In the Center’s six years of experience, the staff had never received such a
young individual of an endangered species, but that all changed this summer.
On July 2, HIW
received a call about two young chicks found in a window well in Cedar Lake,
communication with the two teens who found the chicks, it was determined the
chicks were actually Virginia Rails, an endangered species in the state of
Indiana. “When the finders sent us a photograph of the chicks they had
discovered, we were very surprised to see that they were Virginia Rails!”
said Nicole Harmon, Director, Humane Indiana Wildlife Center.
“Not only is it
rare to spot these in the wild, but to find them in a neighborhood, is
almost unheard of. We immediately began taking steps at the center to
prepare for their arrival and were very excited to get them into our care.”
Harmon said an
evaluation determined the chicks were lethargic and dehydrated. They were
placed in an incubator, rehydrated, and then offered food. The Virginia Rail
is able to feed itself at a very young age, making them a semi-precocial
species. The challenge was to find food appealing enough to entice the
chicks to want to feed themselves. A diet of brine shrimp, blood worms, and
live mealworms was offered and within hours the chicks were eating on their
own. The staff also started syringe feedings every thirty minutes to ensure
that they remained hydrated while they adjusted to eating foods which are
new to them.
species is difficult to locate due to their shy, secretive nature,” Harmon
said. “Virginia Rails actually leave their parents at the young age of four
weeks. Not yet able to fly, they use their stealth and ability to run/hide
to help protect themselves from predators. As a wading bird, marshy land
with dense vegetation is the perfect habitat for youngsters to be able to
Due to the bird’s
endangered species status, the team contact Indiana DNR to inform them of
the chicks and to report their rescue location. State researchers will track
the rare species and its breeding. “We’re glad that, in our own unique way,
we are able to help contribute data to area biologists,” Harmon said.
Today, the chicks
are thriving. They were moved to a larger enclosure late last week. “I’m
extremely proud of our Wildlife Team and the professionalism and extreme
care they offer to each and every animal that comes through our doors,” said
Brian Fitzpatrick, CEO, Humane Indiana. “This year the wildlife staff has
already received 2,358 animals in need of help,” he added.
The team hopes to
release the Virginia Rails Friday, August 14, in the Indiana Dunes National
Park, after receiving permission from National Park Superintendent, Paul
Labovitz. “At six weeks old they’re weighing in at 79 grams each. It is
suggested to release between 65-95 grams and 6-8 weeks of age, so they’re
quickly approaching their readiness for release,” Harmon explained.
For Humane Indiana
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