“Toons”, the (un)Common Loon

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Each year, we admit  birds or mammals that are uncommon species at Wildside.  This year has been no exception.  We had the privilege of raising a baby Common Loon!  She was found in Lakeview, MI.  Her parents were not caring for her,  she washed up on shore and was rescued by a kind couple who were vacationing there from another state.  We were able to meet them in Ionia to pick up the baby loon.


We had never had a baby loon, only adults that were grounded because of weather or mistook shiny pavement for water and landed and then could not take off again (Loons need 90 ft of open water to take off from to fly, they cannot take off from the ground.)

Toons, as she became known, was immediately loved by all.  She readily ate small fish in the tub and soon moved to a pool in the yard.  She began to loose her fluff and get real feathers…her appetite also grew!

img_1704-1.jpg                           IMG_1750Once she was older and had feathers, we decided the beaver habitat pond would be a great place for her during the day while the beavers were sleeping.  This worked great, until one day the beavers decided to wake up early and take a swim!  Toons swam, dove and made a lot of noise, but once she settled down, she realized that she could inhabit the pond with the beavers!


We knew release needed to come soon for Toons and although we would be sad to see her go that was why we raised her (or so we thought)!

Release day:

Lakeview, where Toons had been born was chosen as her release site.  Mom, dad and I spent 2 hours driving to find the site.  Once there, we met a couple that was taking their boat out on the lake to go fishing.  We told them about what we were doing and I gave them my business card (thank goodness)!  Toons was set free on the lake.  Even though the breeze was cold that day, we stayed and watched her for over an hour to be sure she would be ok.  We left to eat lunch and then returned to find her out by lily pads, where fish like to hide, and we felt comfortable to then leave her.IMG_1974

I thought about her daily and desperately wanted to check on her, but the 2 hour drive was making that impossible.  Then, the phone call came 5 days after her release.  She had been following a couple who was fishing and had eaten a fish with a hook in it.  I was devastated, afraid we had lost her for sure.  After talking with the woman on the phone, she and her husband, who had caught her but released her, were willing to go back out to see if they could catch Toons again.  The long 30 minutes of waiting began.  Even though we had no idea if they would be successful, we headed out, driving toward Lakeview.  The call came and they had her!  We met them in Sheridan, just north of Ionia.  The whole time believing this was the same couple I had given my business card to 5 days earlier.  Once we met at the gas station, I realized that it was not the couple I thought it was.  The couple I had given my card to had been fishing the same time as the husband and wife that had found Toons following them.  It was a twist of fate that it all fell into place to allow Toons to come back into our care.

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The next big dilemma was the hook she had swallowed.  The x-ray clearly showed the hook and we were hoping she would pass it…which she eventually did.  She has not left us since and we now realize she is too friendly to release back into the wild.

Toons will have a permanent home at Tracy Aviary in Utah.  She will be flown (yes, on a plane) to Salt Lake City, Utah soon.  We will miss her gentleness and her antics in the pond; diving, flapping and eating fish…among the beavers!img_2195.jpg img_1872-e1541556080548.jpg


2017: The Year in Review


2017 was a record year for Wildside, admitting 1424 wild animals for rehabilitation.  The opossums were the highest in number, over 400 admitted.  Large numbers of songbirds, squirrels and rabbits were also admitted.  There were many unusual animals also; our first North American Porcupine, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets, our second Snowy Owl and a rare visitor, a Saw-whet Owl.

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As my last post about the beaver habitat noted, Molly and Patrick are enjoying the Paddle Brook Beaver Habitat and Bella remains inside for the winter.  The habitat is beautiful, but the filtering system needs a lot of work which will hopefully take place this spring.  We will need you to help us support this important effort.  Beavers are such an important part of the ecosystem by supporting biodiversity,  increasing habitat for threatened and endangered species, increasing salmon population, creating clean water, etc.

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Ways to Help

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The Paddle Brook Beaver Habitat

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The Paddle Brook Beaver Habitat officially opened on November 11, 2017.  Named after our educational beaver, Paddle Brook, who passed away many years ago, the habitat has a 24 ft x 16 ft  x 4 ft deep pond with a waterfall at one end.  A “Porta-Hut” is used for the beaver’s lodge with pine shavings and plenty of branches that they have been dragging in to chip and shred for their own bedding.  Molly and Patrick, the year and a half old beavers,  love their new space and spend hours in the pond swimming, dragging and eating branches and exploring their area.   We continue to need fresh wood such as aspen, willow, birch, apple, cherry.  The wood has to be free of herbicides and pesticides and hand cut so as not to have chain saw oil on it.  We are still working on the filters and hope for completion of that system in the spring.  We are concerned about the costs associated with the completion of the filtering system and the operation and maintenance of the habitat.  Any further donations for the beavers will go toward those expenses.  Molly, Patrick and baby Bella, the 6 month old beaver,  consume between $80-$100.00 of greens and vegetables per week(dandelion leaves, leaf lettuce, collard, beet leaves, spinach, red chard, broccoli, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, spinach and celery). So extra funds will also help us with that cost.  Thank you to everyone who has given  to this project, we look forward to many years of being able to appropriately rehabilitate this important wildlife species.


Build It Beaver Update September 2017

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Wow, it has been over a year since we started the campaign and we are happy to say that even though we are not close to our goal, we have started The “Paddle Brook Beaver Habitat.” The habitat has been names after our beloved paddle Brook beaver that was with us for 13 years. he has now passed, but this beaver habitat is being built in his memory to house, rehabilitate and finally prepare for release North American Beavers.
Our plans are:
– A shed that has arrived to hold wood, beaver wood chip bedding and the pumps, filters, electrical connections, etc. It is 10 x 20 and has plenty of room in it. Darlene built 2 lofts also to hold the supplies more efficiently.
-A pond that will be 18 x 12 x4 with a 2 foot high waterfall that will run 24 hours per day.
-The habitat will have buried chain link fencing donated by DeWitt Fence to keep the beavers from digging out.
-The whole area will then be covered again in dirt so natural grasses, weeds, etc. will grow for the beavers to eat.
-The beaver lodge consists of a galvanized steel arch structure, called a Porta-a-Hut, that will be covered with dirt and grass to help insulate it from the cold.
-2 smaller pens, 10 x 15 will be built within the habitat to hold other beavers that are in rehabilitation.

This cost of the habitat has been closer to $60,000, however we are still hoping to raise extra funds to help with the electric costs and the ongoing maintenance of the habitat.

The beavers consume about $100.00 of greens and root veggies (dandelion leaves, leaf lettuce, collard, beet leaves , spinach, swiss chard, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, spinach and celery per week. So extra funds will also help us with that cost.

Molly and Patrick are just over a year now and about 50 pounds each. They are anxious to have the habitat completed, hopefully by early October.

Bella, the baby beaver we received in late May is now is almost 16 weeks old, weighs 10 pounds and is anxious to take over Molly and Patrick’s large cage as she is being housed in a play pen currently.

All the beavers are doing exceptionally well thanks to all of the knowledge we received at the 2 conferences my mom and I attended and all of the research we found about beavers on the internet, and the assistance of other rehabbers around the country that rehab beavers.

Spring 2017

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This young beaver was caught in a leg hold snare trap and left to die a slow, painful death.  Stephanie was jogging by and could see he was in pain and not able to free himself.  So she called WILDSIDE.  A nearby land owner and a DNR Conservation Officer managed to cut him free but he had to be transported with the trap still on his foot to us.  With your donations, this young beaver will make a full recovery after having had x-rays and wound care that was quite extensive due to the trap injuries.  

As we begin yet another spring at Wildside, it is important to remember about all of the baby animals you may come into contact with that may or may not need your help!  Some general recommendations are below, but see Wildlife Emergencies fore more information!

  • Call WILDSIDE for assistance at 517-663-6153.
  • Use a heating pad on low under the box you have contained the mammal in.
  • You can pour rice into a sock and tie off the sock. Heat that in the microwave for a minute and a half.
  • You can put hot water into a soda pop or water bottle in a sock. CHECK often as the water cools quickly.  Most mammals’ body temperatures are warmer than ours (about 102 degrees)
  • It is important that the baby be able to move away from the heat source.
  • For smaller mammal species, a secure box small or a smaller cat carrier will do with a small box inside it.
  • For larger mammal species, use a larger box or pet carrier with t-shirts on the bottom. Put air holes in the box before you put the baby inside.
  • Place the container in a room away from all household activity (pets, children, etc.).
  • Prevent the possible transmission of parasites or disease by not letting children handle wild animals or letting them near pets.
  • Do not forget to continue to provide supplemental heat during transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Do not try to feed any animal you find.  There are special formulas made specifically for wild animals.  Human baby milk, or cow’s milk can kill a wild animal.

For injured animals, a box or carrier in a quiet place is best until the animal can be transported to WILDSIDE.  This injured Snowy Owl was hit by a semi near Grand Rapids.  She has a fractured wing that will hopefully heal well so that she can be released.

Please remember the following as we head into spring:


DO provide supplemental warmth as explained.

Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator: WILDSIDE Rehabilitation Center,  517-663-6153, Eaton Rapids.

Wildlife parents DO NOT abandon babies that have been handled by humans.   They just lick off our scent.

Transport all orphaned, injured or ill mammals to a rehabilitator as soon as possible.

Build It Beaver Update November 25, 2016

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The baby beavers have GROWN!  Both Patrick and Molly weigh almost 25 pounds each now.  They spent the summer and fall in their outdoor pool, in the tub in the clinic and in their cage.  Now for the winter, we will be forced to give up any pool time as we have no way to keep the water clean and ice free.  They are 6 months old now and are amazing creatures!  We are blessed to share their lives with them!

BuildItBeaver Update September 18, 2016

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Molly now weighs 10 pounds and Patrick weighs 15 pounds.  They eat a variety of vegetables including dandelion greens, beets, carrots, sweet potato, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, kale, spinach, as well as apple leaves and branches and their favorite, willow leaves and branches.img_1105


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