Category Archives: Health

County contracts to kill geese, bird lovers cry fowl

Geese

The distinctive Canada geese that populated the GastonCountyPark in Dallas were a joy to many who watched them through the years.

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But the birds’ excessive waste also prompted complaints from numerous visitors. So county officials, who agreed the flock had grown too large, paid to have 144 of the birds rounded up and euthanized Tuesday.

That decision to eliminate the entire flock ruffled the feathers of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, an Indian Trail nonprofit that says the county acted too hastily, when it could have simply had the fowl relocated.

GastonCountyParks and Recreation Director Cathy Hart said the county was simply reacting to a longstanding problem the best way it knew how.

“It’s pretty common for (overpopulation) to happen around ponds at schools, parks and airports,” she said. “This is a (euthanization) service that is used a lot, unfortunately.”

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue Director Jennifer Gordon said the county never made its intentions clear. Her organization had been trying to work with GastonCounty to manage the problem, and had already relocated some of the birds. Had they known the entire Canada goose flock was going to be destroyed, they would have relocated them all, she said.

“The bigger issue here is that all animals deserve to be treated humanely,” said Gordon. “They had options to do that and they didn’t use them.”

Birds seen as a nuisance

Non-migratory Canada geese populations have been on the rise in recent years. They stand out with their brownish gray bodies, black heads and necks and white face patches.

Yet while the birds are attractive, their droppings are less appealing to the nose and shoes. A single goose can produce a half-pound of feces per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.

The waste often coated the grassy areas around the park’s ponds, athletic fields, picnic areas, concert stage, restrooms and parking lots. Before summer events such as Pops in the Park, the county had to repeatedly spend time and money power-washing areas and cleaning up feces, Hart said.

“It was really time-consuming,” she said. “We had citizens complaining they couldn’t even use the trails out there because of all the geese droppings.”

Canada geese are federally protected. But their increasing reputation as a nuisance has prompted the USDA to offer an option for removing them. Park staff must first try other approved methods to disperse geese and prevent them from reproducing, said USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman.

GastonCounty paid the Wildlife Services division $1,666 to send a team to the park Tuesday morning. The geese are moulting — shedding old feathers and growing new ones — and unable to fly away. So specialists herded the birds into a temporary corral, placed them in poultry crates and transported them elsewhere to be euthanized via gas.

“They are euthanized following guidelines approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association … and disposed of as required by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit,” Bannerman said.

No warning?

Hart said she made it clear to Gordon in early May that Carolina Waterfowl Rescue could remove any of the birds it wished to, and relocate them to a sanctuary.

“On May 23, they came out and removed a number of the birds,” she said. “We’ve allowed them to do that any time they wanted.”

About 10 domestic ducks and geese are still at the park, Hart said.

Gordon said it’s not normal for her nonprofit to rescue an entire flock of Canada geese.

“Realistically, we wouldn’t come in and take every bird from a park,” she said. “We left what was a very reasonable amount of geese out there.”

Rebecca Duffeck, a Carolina Waterfowl Rescue volunteer who lives near the park, has looked after the geese and ducks for years. She said there were no more than 40 to 50 Canada geese living there.

Gordon and Duffeck say Hart never divulged that a contract was being signed to wipe out the entire flock.

“We were talking to them, offering to help them with the geese and at no point did they tell us what they were really planning,” Gordon said.

The nonprofit could have transported the birds to a 300-acre preserve it owns in South Carolina, she said.

Hart said the county recently put up signs at the park directing visitors to not feed the geese. In recent years, park officials also tried measures such as enclosing picnic shelters near the ponds with temporary fencing, spraying the ground with goose repellant, allowing the grass to grow taller around the lake, and even removing fertilized eggs.

Gordon disputes that adequate steps were taken to manage the goose population. She believes the county violated the USDA’s requirement.

“There was no planning or thought put into this,” said Gordon. “If they don’t have a management plan, the geese will just return. And they can’t just keep killing geese over and over.”

Source: http://www.gastongazette.com/spotlight/county-contracts-to-kill-geese-bird-lovers-cry-fowl-video-1.164074#

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Chicken therapy

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to "Clementine."

Resident Sally Cross-Sevon was introduced to “Clementine.”

Ellen Levinson’s tone becomes nostalgic as she recalls how she felt the day last summer when Terry Golson placed a hen in her lap.

“Having that chicken in my arms and holding it against my body was profoundly soothing,” Levinson said.

But even in that moment, she wasn’t thinking so much about herself as her clientele. Levinson is executive director of Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley , a nursing home in Littleton that offers residential care for elderly patients with memory loss as well as short-term rehabilitation services.

“We deal with agitation a lot on the dementia unit,” Levinson said. “The chicken felt wonderful to hold. Something clicked. If I were agitated or upset, this is what I would want.”

She couldn’t have been in a better place when the idea struck her. She was attending a seminar led by Golson, a Carlisle resident whose acclaim as a poultry-raising authority has landed her on Martha Stewart’s TV show and in the New Yorker magazine.

During the backyard workshop, which Golson offers periodically, Levinson found herself thinking more about how the presence of chickens might affect her patients.

“We spent some time watching the chickens as they pecked in the ground and took dirt baths, and it was fascinating,’’ Levinson said.

“One of the issues present in people with dementia is short attention span. They can’t sit still for even half an hour. But if we had the chickens nearby, I started thinking, our residents would be able to watch them for a short time, move on to something else, then come back and watch them some more. It seemed like a natural fit.”

The notion wasn’t quite as far-fetched as it might seem. With its grass-rich campus amid what was once agricultural land in Littleton, the Life Care Center has already introduced several nonhuman inhabitants into the mix. Permanently installed on the 40-acre property are goats, llamas, an alpaca, and an indoor cat, and dogs come in for daily visits; Levinson wondered how her patients might react to chickens in their midst.

Levinson asked Golson to visit the facility and advise the Life Care staff on the viability of installing a chicken coop on the grounds. Golson loved the idea. After discussing with Levinson what would be required to set up a flock, Colson and the director of the facility’s memory support unit, Erica Labb, arranged a series of visits to introduce the residents to the idea.

It was during these interactive sessions that Labb, who describes herself as “not that much of an animal person previously, but now I’m becoming one,” was struck by something she doesn’t typically see during group events in her unit: rapt attention.

Unlike the more common animal-therapy programs in which dogs are trained to visit hospitals and nursing homes, the chickens are not expected to interact in any particular way with patients. And unlike the llamas, goats, and alpaca, which are kept on the Life Care Center’s front lawn, the chickens and their coop are right outside the large picture window in the activity room.

It became clear to Golson in her initial presentations that chickens carried strong associations for some of the residents. Many of them, now in their 80s and 90s, grew up around farms or had other memories associated with farm animals.

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to "Beulah," by "Chicken Captain" Terry Golson (right).

Resident Thelma Mollot, age 101, was introduced to “Beulah,” by “Chicken Captain” Terry Golson (right).

“Chickens are innately engaging,” Golson said. “I made it tactile by passing around feathers and eggs. For some of these elderly people, it’s been years since they’ve touched an egg. For those who used to do a lot of cooking or baking, having an egg in their hand can be very evocative. For one woman who grew up in Italy, holding the egg tapped into memories of making homemade pasta.”

One of Golson’s areas of expertise is, for lack of a better term, chicken personality. It was important to her to find the right mix of fowl temperaments to make this experiment work. So she began the way she always does with newcomers: by getting to know them.

“Last winter, I ordered 26 chicks from a mail-order hatchery. Once they arrived in March, I observed their innate personalities and eventually chose the five that seemed the friendliest.”

Not only did Golson want the right social characteristics among the Life Care flock, she also wanted the nursing home residents to be able to distinguish among them visually, so she chose a variety of breeds and colors to make the final cut.

The chickens and their coop showed up at the nursing home late last month.

Labb came up with an inspiration for naming the birds; she chose from among a list of the names of the residents’ mothers and grandmothers. As a result, the tenants of Life Care’s new chicken coop are Clementine, Elsie, Beulah, Mae Belle, and Millie.

“My hope is the residents get to know the chickens individually and develop some interest in their social life,” Labb said. “They’ll develop favorites. Eventually, I hope they will participate in caretaking, feeding, gathering eggs. The goal really comes down to engagement.”

Labb never anticipated adding “chicken captain” to her resume, but a few lessons from Golson taught her what she needed to know about keeping the birds safe and healthy. The maintenance staff bears the brunt of the feeding and cleaning for all the farm animals at Life Care. At this point, having animals on the property is second nature to them. Not so for those farther afield; Levinson received a phone call from a representative of the center’s accounting firm in Tennessee, who wanted to know why the nursing home had just received a bill for a chicken coop.

Littleton resident Richard Carozza , a recent McGill University graduate who is applying to medical schools, has joined the Life Care team for the summer as a volunteer to apply his scientific research skills to the experiment.

“We’ve already discovered that Life Care has a lower usage of antipsychotic drugs than other facilities with dementia patients,” he said. “Could this be related to the presence of animals?”

And by extension, Carozza wonders, can he prove a measurable difference in the patients’ behaviors after they start interacting with the chickens? He will spend much of the summer investigating these questions.

So far, Labb and Levinson both say they are pleased with the residents’ interest in the coop, and eager to foster continuing interaction throughout the summer, including having the residents help gather eggs once the chickens start laying.

Golson would like to see this model extended to other long-term care and memory loss facilities, particularly if the same careful attention to detail is followed.

“Life Care went far beyond just throwing some chickens and a coop out onto the lawn,” the facility’s consultant said. “It’s important that this not be done in a slapdash way. It has to come across as a beautiful, well-cared-for flock, just as this one is.”

And the presence of the animals helps when the residents have visitors as well.

“It’s a way of connecting generations,” Labb said. “Nursing homes can be scary places for young children. People sometimes don’t know how to visit. The animals provide something for everyone to watch together.”

Golson, whose website (www.hencam.com) features live streaming video from her own chicken coop, believes that “watching chickens is both engaging and peaceful at the same time.”

“Having chickens in the backyard is like looking at the ocean. There’s a lot of movement and at the same time it feels calming. What could be better for memory-loss patients than this constant ebb and flow in which they can engage? It’s a perfect match.”

Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/west/2013/06/26/flock-chickens-provides-new-form-animal-therapy-for-memory-loss-patients-littleton-nursing-home/Oj9mrJmiCmAI74ryCe4JuK/story.html

Drought’s impact on duck dynasties

Top Photo
You know what they say about how ducks take to water.

What if there isn’t any water?

Dry conditions across California this spring reduced the population of breeding mallard ducks by nearly one-quarter, to levels not seen since the drought of the late 2000s.

In round numbers, the population decreased from 387,100 ducks last year to 298,600 ducks this year.

Reductions in water supply often make headlines for the impact on farms, cities and endangered fish. But this year’s poor duck count demonstrates how waterfowl, too, are susceptible to drought.

The results, released last week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, have implications for the hunting community in Stockton and elsewhere, since hunting regulations next fall will be based in part on how many ducks were breeding this past spring. The economic benefit of waterfowl hunting in California has been estimated at more than $100 million.

Waterfowl are faring much better in other parts of North America, but 70 percent of the mallard ducks harvested by California hunters come from this state, making it important to ensure the birds have quality habitat and water here at home.

Caroline Brady, programs coordinator for the California Waterfowl Association, said she doubts hunters will be surprised by the reduction in population.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a shock because of the lack of water,” she said.

The good news is that populations could bounce back if next winter is wet. The numbers have fluctuated up and down over the past two decades, and bag limits are actually more liberal today than they were more than a decade ago, Brady said.

“The important thing to look at is the general trend,” she said. “For the most part there’s years when it’s really high and there’s years when it’s really low.”

But, she added, “Some water (next year) would do everyone some good.”

Ducks usually pair up in late winter, and once spring arrives, they work together to find a nesting site. They’ll pick one that is upwind and not far from water.

The problem during a year like this, Brady said, is that water is moved around so much, particularly on private lands.

Ducks that pick a nest based on availability of water may suddenly find themselves five miles from the nearest source.

Fish and Wildlife has been conducting its waterfowl surveys since 1955, flying fixed-wing aircraft up and down the Valley and over the farms and wetlands of far northeastern California. The California Waterfowl Association assists, using low-flying helicopters to watch for birds on the ground.

Mallards weren’t the only concern this spring. The total number of ducks of all species declined from 529,700 last year to 451,300 this year, which is 77 percent of the long-term average.

Source: http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130625/A_NEWS/306250319

Hi-rise hatchers

Thirteen eggs in a planter on one of Terry Allen Kramer’s terraces hatched the day she was having a luncheon for friends at her Upper East Side penthouse.

The wild ducklings were not only tiny but also hungry, so she put out dry cereal and shredded lettuce. “And then they wanted the lobster we were having for lunch,” said Mrs. Kramer, the Broadway producer whose hits include the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.”

Her ducklings might have been the only baby birds nibbling on cold lobster in New York City, but they are hardly the only mallards born on Manhattan’s terraces and roof decks, according to Michelle Gewirtz, a volunteer at New York City’s Wild Bird Fund.

Each year, Ms. Gewirtz rescues 10 to 15 clutches of baby ducks from rooftops, no place for them to learn to fly.

When Ms. Gewirtz, a licensed animal rehabilitator who has earned the nickname The Duck Wrangler, started rescuing birds eight years ago, the majority of the nests were on the Upper East Side. Mrs. Kramer’s East 69th Street terraces first became the nesting site for a female mallard three years ago, and again this spring.

“It’s amazing to think that you could be in New York City and wake up one morning and you have a family there,” Mrs. Kramer said. “I almost felt like God had touched me. I had to take care of them.”

This year, several nests appeared on the Columbia University campus and on roofs and in courtyards on the Upper West Side, according to Ms. Gewirtz.

Central Park is rife with predators – from rats to snapping turtles — and the female mallard looks for safer spots, Ms. Gewirtz said.

“So she picks these terraces that are nice and green and secluded,” she said.

Mallards are precocial, meaning the ducklings are born able to eat on their own.  Since there isn’t enough food for them on the rooftops, the Wild Bird Fund recommends a special high-protein food for ducklings and dark greens. Mrs. Kramer’s ducklings continued to like lobster, she said, but when her butler returned from Florida, he brought back live worms.

The Wild Bird Fund was created by two women: Rita McMahon, a former market research consultant, and Karen Heidgerd, the practice manager at an Upper West Side veterinary hospital, Animal General. They met after Ms. McMahon picked up a sick Canada goose alongside Interstate 684.

A year ago this month, after a decade of treating animals in Ms. McMahon’s apartment, The Wild Bird Fund opened a wildlife rehabilitation center on Columbus Avenue. Until then, New York was the only major city in the United States without one, McMahon said. The nonprofit organization aims to raise $330,000 each year from donations.  As a fundraiser Thursday evening, its showing the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” starring Ben Kingsley. The event begins with at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of The Colonial Dames of America at 417 E. 61st Street.

In the first year, the staff treated 1,400 animals — mostly birds, from peregrine falcons to hummingbirds, and of course pigeons, along with woodchucks, chipmunks and assorted other wildlife. A turkey vulture was brought in with a broken wing after superstorm Sandy and now is at a rehabilitation center with another vulture.

One recent visitor to the center was David Usdan, a psychologist who has been looking after a clutch of about 10 ducklings that hatched on his building’s roof deck in May. He got food at the center and advice from Ms. Gewirtz on creating a pond out of  a plastic storage bin.

“There were a couple of mishaps with the ducklings, unfortunately,” he said. “I think five of them may have fallen off the roof. That was really sad.”

And then one day, two of the ducklings somehow made it to the street below. Traffic was stopped until they and the mother got safely to a parking lot next to Mr. Usdan’s building on 113th Street near Broadway.

“It was a crisis,” he said. “We had to figure out what to do. A big crowd was forming in front of the parking lot.”

He and his partner, Howard Brenner, shepherded the ducklings into a box, returned them to the roof and were relieved when the mother reappeared the next morning.  But since then another duckling has gone missing, and recently Ms. Gewirtz was plotting how to corral the remaining four.

She prefers to move the ducklings before they try to fly and risk falling to the sidewalk. They are eventually released in parks and on farms and estates.

“People who take care of these ducklings get super attached to them because they are adorable,” Ms. Gewirtz said.

Mr. Usdan said that he would be sorry to see his brood go, though he might get another visit next year. The mallards tend to return to the same place year after year.

Tina Chen, an actor and director who also lives on the Upper East Side, has had four clutches of eggs hatch on her terrace from what she thinks is a mother-daughter duo.  The first ducklings, though, were pelted to death by a fierce rainstorm.

“They were just so delicate,” she said. “It broke my heart.”

Determined to make sure the later ducklings survived, Ms. Chen fed them three times a day and kept them more than a month, in hindsight too long, she said.

A few weeks after Ms. Gewirtz moved them to Central Park, Ms. Chen went to try to find them. She believes she did.

“I looked and there were six ducks swimming as fast as they could,” she said. “When they got to the end of the pond, they jumped onto the ground and came towards me.”

But cleaning up after them was a lot of work, and at one point she erected owl and hawk decoys to try, unsuccessfully, to keep the female mallards away.

“I know they’re coming back,” she said. “They know this place, no matter how hard I try.”

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2013/06/23/rescuers-hatch-plan-for-ducks-that-land-on-manhattan-high-rises/

Baby quail falling in sewers

It wasn’t a pretty sight, so Bruce Hampson swung into action.

A large brood of quail — two adults and a host of tiny, fluffy babies — were walking near Hampson’s Wheeler Avenue home in Parksville when one of the youngsters suddenly disappeared from the line after falling through a sewer grate.

Hampson lifted the grate and saw there were four of the mini quail in distress. He saved three. One drowned.

“I don’t know how many have fallen through over the years,” said Hampson. “There should be something done — it doesn’t seem right.”

To that end, Hampson said he called the city, the SPCA and the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. He said he believes some inexpensive steel meshes of some sort could stop this from happening again.

“They are beautiful little birds,” he said. “It would be kind of nice to save them — they are so cute.”

The city doesn’t believe there’s much it can do about the situation.

“Good on him (Hampson) for taking the grate out and rescuing the little guys,” said City of Parksville spokesperson Debbie Tardiff.

The city has approximately 1,400 catch basins like the one that felled the tiny quail on Wheeler Avenue.

“Realistically, it is not manageable to run around and put screens on them,” said Tardiff.

Robin Campbell of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre also didn’t believe there’s much his organization could do about the issue.

“I’m sympathetic to the whole situation,” said Campbell. “It’s an ongoing problem, not necessarily quail but baby ducks.”

Source: http://www.pqbnews.com/news/212365351.html

Different types of quail cover

The northern bobwhite is the native quail species found throughout Arkansas. These predominantly ground-dwelling birds are primarily found in areas that contain large amounts of edge habitat. Edges are boundaries between different habitat types or land use practices.

The home range of a quail covey can cover as little as 20 acres up to 160 acres. In that home range, quail require various types of habitat, including: escape cover, nesting habitat, brood rearing habitat and feeding and loafing areas.

So, what is a “covey headquarters” and how does it fit into the equation for great quail habitat? Covey headquarters are patches of escape cover with dense, shrubby canopy cover and little ground-level vegetation. Headquarters are used by quail on a daily basis to provide protection against severe weather and predators along with resting and loafing areas.

The percentage of the landscape designated as covey headquarters can range up to 20 percent of the total area, with the remainder set aside for the other habitat components needed by quail. Covey headquarters should be provided in clusters of not less than 30 feet by 50 feet blocks of shrubs that are not more than 150 feet apart, which will allow the quail to have quick access to their escape cover if the need arises.

Shrubs that serve well for this habitat component include: wild American and Chickasaw plum, fragrant and smooth sumac, rough-leaved dogwood, deciduous holly, cockspur hawthorn and American beautyberry. Plum thickets are an excellent example of quail convey headquarters and occur naturally on many properties across Arkansas.

Existing Thickets — Protect and manage any existing plum or other shrubby thickets on your property. These shrubby thickets can be improved to better benefit quail. If invasive grass species take over the ground-level cover, those grasses should be treated with a herbicide, timing depending on whether they are warm season or cool season. This will re-open that ground-level cover making it easier for quail to move throughout the headquarters. Also, any over-hanging or adjacent trees to the plum thicket should be removed from the area. This strategy will help reduce predation from overhead predators and also provide a clear flight path for quail to escape from ground predators.

Creating Thickets — If thickets do not occur naturally on your land, they can be established by planting seeds, seedlings or container-grown shrubs. For beautyberry, dogwood and sumac, spacing should be on a 3 foot by 6 foot spacing. Other shrubs can be planted on a 5 foot by 8 foot spacing. Just remember, thickets intended for use as covey headquarters should be established in edge habitat, those areas of transition between habitat types and in open fields lacking shrubby cover. After you have identified the best location for your headquarters, the existing vegetation should be controlled using an herbicide before you plant the shrubs. This will promote the growth of your new plantings as well as open the ground-level cover to facilitate quail movement throughout the new headquarters.

Headquarter Maintenance — Whether you have existing or newly planted covey headquarters, you should avoid damaging these when conducting other habitat management practices on your property, i.e. prescribed burning or disking. Herbicides can be used to control invasive grasses within and around your thickets; however care should be used to avoid spraying shrubs. Also, livestock should be excluded from these areas to maintain the integrity of the thicket as a quail covey headquarters.

Source: http://www.magnoliareporter.com/sports/individual_team_sports/article_3631b0d2-d4ca-11e2-999a-001a4bcf887a.html