We have had a really great response from everyone regarding food donations. We truly cannot thank you enough. Please keep the fish and other donations coming. On terribly cold days like today, wildlife needs more food than usual to generate enough body heat to keep themselves warm.
Here's another donation idea for you. Are you a trapper or do you know anyone who is? Well, do we have a deal for you! You keep the pelts and we'll take the carcass! Easy as pie. Give us a call if you'd like to donate! Education office: (715) 623-2563; Rehab clinic: (715) 623-4015.
Photo: It may seem strange, but those are frozen muskrats being loaded into the back of that pickup truck. The muskrats came from a trapper in Wisconsin and we are very grateful for these donations. Muskrats are very nutritious and a natural food source for our raptors. Since this photo was taken, only a week ago, most of these muskrats have already been eaten. We could definitely use more! (Photo credit: Alberta Halfmann)
Photo above: What's on the menu today? Delicious donated suckers!
Photo above: Denali, one of the resident Bald Eagles is very happy with her selection of sucker fish. She says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Photo above: There is nothing like fresh fish on a cold winter day to make an eagle happy.
On another (slightly related) topic, this -19 degree weather has me thinking about our amazing feathered friends. In weather like this it is fascinating how birds manage to even stay alive, not to mention thrive. How do they manage to escape frostbite? The truth is that many birds do get frostbite, especially domesticated birds that may not have evolved in the climate, such as chickens and pigeons, but native species have adaptations that help them avoid it.
All birds have feathers; some designed for flying, and others for warmth. If you have ever worn a down jacket you know what I mean; feathers are warm! These feathers can be puffed out to create air spaces that hold heat. To keep their feet warm they can take turns tucking each foot into their warm belly feathers or squat down and cover both at once. Birds also have body temperatures that are naturally much higher than that of a human. With a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit you would take your child to the doctor, but birds are very well at this body temperature.
Some birds, like gulls, have special veins in their legs that transfer heat through a system called countercurrent exchange. As warm blood comes from the body down to their legs, it passes some of its heat to the cold blood returning from the feet. This helps to keep their body warm by not sending super cold blood from the feet into the body.
When birds are compromised or injured in some way, winter can be a very dangerous time. Not being able to get to food or stay warm can result in further injury or death.
Photo above: The feet of a Trumpeter Swan that arrived at REGI with frostbitten feet. Due to a wing injury, this swan was unable to get herself off of the ground or regulate body temperature. The frostbite killed the delicate webbing between the toes causing it to dry up and fall off. Swans can survive with damaged webbing, and this one is quite lucky someone found her and brought her to safety before more damage was done.
If you want to help out your local birds you can make sure your feeders are full of seeds and suet. Simply having food available can save a bird's life in a harsh winter. Keep a lookout for injured birds and try to keep warm!
REGI Wildlife Educator