Donna Mori: Horse Sense: Think Spring
Before I get into this month's column, I would like to respond to some other local horse people who wrote letters to the editor about some issues they had with my mare column. I would like to let first time, or non-horse people know, that because I said, "a gelding may be a better choice than a mare," in no way did I mean that you do NOT have to worry about being hurt, or that you do NOT have to learn how to communicate with him. A horse, be it a gelding or a mare, can hurt you in a nanosecond.
There was also concern that I used the word "dominant" to explain the role we should take with our horses. There is always a pecking order among horses. We need to learn the right way to communicate to them that we are like the lead (dominant) horse, that it benefits them to follow us, and that being with us is a safe place to be. I would never condone abuse in any way, shape, or form. We want to build a partnership with them. It is our job as horse owners to go to clinics, read books, watch training DVDs or learn from experienced horse owners, the proper way to communicate and handle our horses. I stand behind what I said that mares can be, let's just say, more "temperamental." That is my opinion and I am sticking to it. I hope this clears up any confusion others had that inexperienced horse people would misunderstand my intentions. Moving on.
It seems hard to believe but spring is just around the corner! Looking out the window right now it seems like it will never get here. But soon enough our coats, clothes, gloves and mouths, will be full of horse hair. AAHHHH sweet spring.
Trail rides are the highlight of warmer, longer days. Of course that is between Black Fly, Deer & Moose Fly seasons, oh, and the No See Ums, no problem. But really, there are many beautiful trails to explore here in the North Country. If you have a trailer there are many places to go. Whitaker Woods is a beautiful ride with very nice footing. The trails behind Redstone Quarry and trails off of East Conway Road go for miles and are very nice as well. From my stable there are now some new trails that have just been built this past fall connecting trail 19 which gives access to more than 20 miles of trails. You can cross Route 153 going east to Center Conway or go west to Madison. White Lake State Forest offers access to trails, and in Ossipee there are some amazing trails that you can ride on for hours and never cross the same path. In Freedom, from Lead Mine Road or Route 16, you can get out to some awesome wide trails, riding four abreast or more, in some spots. Some horse people caution riding there due to possibility of glass hidden under the sand. Before you head out on any trail it is a good idea to check the conditions yourself, see if the area is posted, or get a landowner's permission to park and ride the trails, if necessary.
These are just some of the areas that I am aware of. If you talk to other horse owners I am sure there are a ton more places I am not familiar with. Then there are the beaches you can ride during certain times of the year as well.
I used to ride on the roads all the time, but as I have gotten older and more cautious, I like the roads less and less. There seem to be more and more people sharing stories of drivers going by way too fast, too close, or honking their horn spooking their horses, and too many riders getting hit by distracted drivers. I have talked to many horse friends who have said they will no longer ride on the road. It is not worth risking their own, or their horse's life. Many of my horse friends thought it would be a good topic to get out there, and make people aware of how dangerous it can be to ride on the roads. With so many trails available to us maybe we should avoid riding on the road altogether, if possible. Crossing, or a quick jaunt up the road to get to a trail head is one thing. As for me, riding for an hour or more is a risk I don't want to take any longer. The way to go is to trailer to some of the wonderful places around here, or find an access point from where your horse is staying. If you don't have a trailer there are many horse groups on Facebook, and people with trailers that may be willing to share a ride. If people pitch in for gas and help clean out trailers after a ride, I bet many riders would be willing to pick up each other. There is also a great horse club in the valley that meets once a month. The White Mountain Horse Association gets horse people together and involved in some great activities. They plan trail rides, and host informative talks throughout the year. Give them a call or find them on Facebook.
Donna Mori is a certified riding instructor/ Natural Horsemanship trainer.
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 06:35
Cathie Gregg: Wildlife Rehab: Rehabilitating fisher in New Hampshire
Photography by Kathy Ladisheff
The fisher is a fascinating animal to rehabilitate and its personality can be misunderstood. Although it is commonly called a fisher-cat it is not in the feline family and the only “Fisher Cats” found in New Hampshire would be the minor league baseball team in Manchester. The fisher is a member of the weasel family and related to the weasel, mink, marten and otter. The fisher has a long slender body with short muscular legs, which aid them in their climbing abilities. The fisher has inch-long, very rugged claws because it spends much of its time in trees and will “cache” (store or hide) their food in tree trunks and at the crotch of tree limbs. Fishers often den in hollows in trees about 20 feet off the ground. This New Hampshire mammal is nocturnal and, like the bobcat, tends to be elusive.
Callers to the Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife (ECCW) asking about a dark-colored animal they saw crossing the road “looking like a Slinky” may have seen a mink. The mink is smaller, runs with a hunchback gait and can be found near ponds and streams. The fisher is a larger mammal, more of a woodland dweller. Male fishers weigh up to 15 pounds or more, and are considerably larger than females. Other than mating season in March and April, the fisher is a solitary animal. Whenever I see a fisher in the wild, it is more of a glimpse or shadow. I can smell a fisher before I will see one. Once you have had a fisher in your care, you can easily identify it by its musky odor.
The first thing people say to me when we talk about fisher is “a fisher ate my cat.” Fisher are opportunistic feeders and will indeed take an available house cat if one crosses its path, but so will a Great Horned owl, bobcat, fox or coyote. Many more cats are killed by vehicles than by fisher. Most foods on the fisher’s dinner plate consist of mice, songbirds, amphibians, squirrels, carrion and insects. Porcupines are also killed by fisher. Although a carnivore, it also eats a lot of fruits and nuts. In the fall the fisher feeds on apple drops which is why they can be seen at night in orchards.
We have had our share of fisher orphans, usually arriving in a litter of three to four“kits. Oftentimes they will come in from loggers who call us advising that they fell a tree and kits tumbled out. In many cases, mom fisher will return for her young if one is patient. One caller who was having work done on a wooded lot called us after seeing fisher kits on the ground. They were newborns, almost like day-old kittens, and we advised the caller to WEAR GLOVES and to offer a heat source. In this case a soda bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a clean rag did the trick. The babies cuddled next to the bottle and the caller watched from his window. The mother returned looking for her offspring. She reappeared over several hours, taking one kit at a time, moving them to safety. The caller was delighted with his part in reuniting the wildlife family. Note that it is important to leave the area. The mother of any wild mammal or bird will not return with people standing by. On-lookers are seen as a threat and she will abandon her young.
Although fisher are low on the totem pole for rabies, they ARE a carnivore and like any warm-blooded mammal, can carry rabies. For this reason when fawns, which have been caught by a fisher, are admitted to our Center, we have the fawn humanely euthanized. Fisher attacks on fawns are seen once or twice a summer and are usually indicated by the bite marks on the back of the neck. In the summer of 2010 a fisher kit in Dover tested positive for rabies so again, always wear gloves when handling any wildlife, even youngsters!
Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife (ECCW) is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation center located in Madison. The center is not funded to be a 24/7 emergency care clinic and asks callers to make arrangements to bring animals in during regular hours of operation. For more information about volunteering or donating to the center’s work with wildlife, or about ECCW's Butler Education Center, call (603) 367-WILD (9453). Stay tuned for our next article which will talk about two of New Hampshire’s buteo hawks, the broad-winged and the red-tailed. You will meet Hunter and Lailah, our foster-education hawks, up close in photos and personality!
Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 21:25
I hesitated writing this column in fear of insulting the mare owners out there, but I think this is a good topic for thought. So let me apologize to anyone I offend, or to all of you that own perfectly wonderful mares. I know they are out there because I have owned and worked with some.
My thoughts are that if you are a first time horse owner, or do not have much horsemanship under your belt, you may be better off with a gelding! Due to the simple fact of herd dynamics, mares are many times more to handle than a gelding. Some become so moody when it is that time for them, that they would just as soon kick you as look at you. In the herd the mare is always the leader. They tell the group when and where to move for food, and water. This may surprise some folks, a lot of people believe the stallion is in charge of the herd. Not so, his job is basically to try keep other stallions away from his band, be the only one that breeds, and to look good doing it!
Mares have hormones to deal with much the same as a stallion. Who out there would buy a stallion for their first horse? I bet not many of us! I know I wouldn’t have! So back to herd dynamics, a mare will always be the leader, she perceives you as part of her herd when you are with her. If you do not step up and take the lead role, guess who will. Yup, you can bet your booty it will be the mare. Not only will you have to assert your dominance, you may have to do it on a regular basis. I am not saying all mares are extremely difficult, but most times they will be harder to deal with than a gelding. I have known some mares that over time have gotten so head strong that they will literally try to take you out if you ask them to do something, or go out to throw them hay. Absolutely unacceptable! But if you don’t know how to fix it, or catch it when it starts, it usually just gets worse with time. Then you have a horse on your hands that is pretty much an expensive lawn ornament! The more afraid you become, the more the mare will exhibit her dominance.
Some mares can actually have a harder time with a farrier during trimming or shoeing. They can have enlarged ovaries that will bother them when their leg is lifted too high, or placed in certain positions. Unless you know this and can explain to your farrier why she may be acting up, you both may think she is just “being a MARE.” Hence the saying MAREISH!
I bought a mare that had not been touched for 3 years. Let me tell you, she told me on a daily basis who she thought was in charge, until I convinced her otherwise. She was the type of mare that would charge you for food, rear when she got spooked, or if she decided she had had enough of whatever you thought the daily exercise plan should be. She would not stand to be groomed, she would toss her head and move her feet almost constantly, which a bit of groundwork took care of. But as I said if you are not sure of yourself, or willing to be the leader, maybe a gelding would be a wiser choice.
That being said, I also have to tell you that this mare, after some consistent training, turned out to be one of the best lesson horses I have ever owned! One thing I know is that once you bond with a mare it is a stronger bond than with most geldings. Maybe because, like us, they have maternal instincts and view you as a member of the family, I cannot say for sure, but this mare was phenomenal. She always took great care of her riders, young or old. I had a woman riding one time, while she was cantering, lost her stirrup and was becoming unbalanced in her seat. The mare suddenly stopped. The woman looked at me and said, “I didn’t ask her to do that.” I told her she is taking care of you. We both couldn’t help but smile.
She also learned when her hour lesson was up after a while. I would always have the rider go over to the light switches to turn the lights off when the lesson was over. At first I didn’t figure it out. When she did the same thing a few times I finally caught on. When she got to the side of the arena where the light switches were she would stop. The first few times I told the rider just give her a leg and get her going. Then one day when she did it, I looked at my watch and to my surprise the hour was just about up. I thought it had to be a coincidence, so whenever she did it I made sure to check the time. Believe it or not, she knew that it was time for the lesson to be over, or very close to it!
So I am not saying don’t buy a mare. All I am saying is know what you may be getting into. Do some reading on how to exert your dominance, learn some natural horsemanship, or at least have someone who knows horses and is willing to help you learn!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00
The Virginia Opossum, also known as the North American opossum, is sometimes called the “land alligator” among wildlife rehabilitators. This is because the opossum has fifty teeth, more than any other mammal in North America.
The opossum is a fascinating wild animal, the only North American marsupial (pouched animal). One of the characteristics of the opossum that I find interesting is their ability to “play dead” which is actually a response to them being afraid. Their predator will assume the opossum is dead and the opossum will revive when the predator and danger have passed. This coined the phrase “playing ‘possum.”
At Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife, we have only cared for a handful of these interesting animals. One opossum we admitted was struck by a vehicle in Moultonboro and brought to us by Fish and Game. Examination showed the animal had a broken jaw. Surgery was necessary to wire the jaw closed for three weeks and the opossum was tube and syringe fed while it healed. The animal recovered fully and was released into a more suitable location than where it was hit on busy Route 25. The opossum shown in the photos came to us late this past summer, the victim of a trapping accident. The animal was caught in a humane trap but somehow managed to chew through the wire on the floor of the trap, impaling her jaw on the hardware cloth, lacerating her mouth and fracturing one tooth. This first year female opossum, was examined by our veterinarian and placed on antibiotics. Although the tooth would never regenerate the infection resolved, the animal recovered and was released back to the wild.
Although the opossum is as elusive as another New Hampshire wild animal ... the bobcat, we have admitted six times as many bobcats as opossums in 23 years. We see very few opossums at our center but as the opossum expands its range northward, we know we will begin to see more admissions. Wildlife centers south of us in other New England states receive many opossums each year, most coming in as orphans when the mothers are found dead on the road. If we were to see an opossum on the road which had been hit by a car, we would wear gloves and check the pouch for babies! Birthing season starts in January to February and will last until early summer. Babies can number up to 20 but the litter is usually about 8-10, which is fortunate as the mother can only nurse 13. Other babies would starve.
The Virginia opossum is about the size of a housecat and is solitary and nocturnal. They measure anywhere between one and two feet, most being about 16 inches long. This doesn’t include the tail which can add another eight to 18 inches. Most folks think the opossum is an unattractive animal, one to be shied away from, but this is probably due to the tail of the animal which is long, rat-like and hareless. The prehensile tail (which means used for grasping), is beneficial in carrying objects, much like an elephant can use its trunk, and for hanging onto branches. The coat of the opossum is grayish-brown with fur that looks almost “frosted” and a pure white face with a long snout and those beady eyes found in nocturnal animals. The feet, which look more like hands, might be another reason the animal looks odd. So I can see why most people think the opossum wouldn’t win any beauty contests.
In networking with other wildlife centers that have experience in raising neonate (newborn) opossums, it is an extremely diffcult job to keep them alive to the point of releaseability. At birth they are the size of a bumblebee and their survival rate is almost zero if they are hand-raised at that age. As with any mammal we receive, from squirrels to fawns, neonates are a challenge. After birth they use a special “thumb” loated on their front legs to climb into the mother’s pouch to nurse and continue developing. The opossum is omnivorous which means it will eat just about anything from insects to rodents as well as vegetables and fruits. They are also apt to be caught raiding the neighborhood garbage cans.
Because the tail is hareless, as are the ears, one would think the opossum to be a hibernator in our cold winters but this is not so. An opossum that was admitted to us in the winter of 2012 was the victim of extreme frostbite. We could tell that the animal had been frostbitten the winter before as well because of the scarring on the ears and tail and because of the missing toes. That may be the reason that continued frostbite the following winter was more than this animal could overcome. Dispite our efforts to rehabilitate this opossum, the animal did not survive. The life expectancy of opposums in the wild is very short, usually not more than three years. I would expect the mortality in our northern states would be higher than in more temerate climates.
Join us for our next column in which we will share information about working with fisher, another New Hampshire forest animal which shares a somewhat undeserved reputation, a little like our friend the opossum.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 02:00
A little more than a decade ago, Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife became licensed to care for New Hampshire’s injured and orphaned deer fawns. This program was put into place with center working cooperatively with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to provide care for these fawns to be raised until they can fend for themselves.
Since deer that have become acclimated to human contact at an early age typically do not exhibit the normal fear of people that deer raised in the wild do, it is imperative that these orphaned fawns be raised in such a way as to minimize exposure to human contact and any acclimation to humans.
Accidents bring in orphaned young
Fawns begin to arrive at Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife in mid to late May and these admissions continue to spike through June. These are usually the animals that are orphaned when the doe (dam) is killed on the highway. More often that not, the young will be lying next to the dead mother on the road. If the fawn is older, it may be off in the woods nearby. During these months we also see fawns that are picked up unnecessarily by humans who are only trying to help but are in reality, kidnapping the fawn from its mother.
Alone is not abandoned
When a fawn is seen by itself, the first instinct is to intervene. In nearly all cases, this is not necessary. A fawn alone does not mean the animal is orphaned or needs assistance. Questions or concerns about a fawn seen alone, or any wild animal, should be discussed with New Hampshire Fish and Game or Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife (367-WILD) prior to intervention.
The first question we ask a caller is “How long has it been seen without the mother?”
If it has been a few hours, even overnight, we want to wait to allow the mother time to retrieve her youngster. It is normal for the mother to leave her fawn while she goes off by herself and the doe typically feeds her fawn at dawn and dusk, leaving in between. The fawn, born without a scent, is actually safer from predators when left alone. Any continued presence or frequent visits to check up on the fawn will only contribute to the liklihood of the fawn being abandoned or being found by a predator. Unless you can verify that the fawn’s mother is dead, please leave it alone or call us so we can help make a decision in the best interest of the fawn. Resist the temptation to continually check on the animal; doing so only serves to further separate it from the doe.
A second wave of accidents
In later summer months, July and August, fawns are usually admitted because the fawns themselves have been struck by vehicles as they follow their mothers across roads and highways. Minimally injured fawns can be treated at the center with a fairly high success rate if they are admitted early enough in the summer.
All fawns need to be released by mid-September to allow them time to acclimate before winter. Therefore injuries which consist of broken legs are best dealt with as early in the summer as possible. We have had callers contact us about fawns in parking garages, on median strips, at the Ford dealer and one marooned on an island. The most unusual call was about a fawn that had fallen into an oil pit used in a garage to change oil. The fawn was removed, wiped down and released back to its mother.
Newborn fawns are admitted weighing about 5 pounds but this can vary. If a dam were to have twin fawns, the birth weight for each fawn would be lower. We can tell by the shape of the back legs if the fawn is a single or a twin because of the way the fawns were positioned in the doe in pregnancy. So if a fawn is found near a road hit doe, we can usually tell if we need to look for more than one fawn.
Some does will have triplets and in 2007 we were called by a homeowner who was witnessing a doe giving birth to four fawns in her yard. When giving birth, the doe will deliver a fawn and then walk off a short distance to drop another, not delivering her youngsters together. The smallest fawn admitted at our center was a little over 2 pounds and was probably a triplet. The fawn unfortunately didn’t survive, possibly because it was too small to reach the doe for the necessary colostrum to survive both short and long-term health. We had a three-pound fawn admitted this year and this fawn was raised to be a healthy youngster and was released with the group.
Fawns are fed colostrum when admitted because we usually do not know the full history of the animal. Colostrum is the mother’s first milk and affords the antibodies which all mammals need to survive. By giving colostrum to our fawns, we are assured that they have received it. The problem with colostrum is that it needs to be given within 48 hours of birth to be effective.
Colostrum is also good for scouring (diarrhea) in fawns and is given when a fawn has been fed by the general public.
If the instance ever arises when you know the doe is deceased and the fawn MUST be picked up, do not feed the fawn any milk products. (And always wear gloves when handling any wildlife.) The best thing to give the fawn is Pedialyte, found in the baby aisle in any drugstore, which will keep it hydrated until you can get it to a provider who is licensed to care for deer and that should be done without delay.
Once admitted to our center, the fawn is allowed time to calm down. If necessary, the animal is placed on heat or into an incubator. A weight is taken and a number placed into the right ear which corresponds with the intake records. Fawns are fed four times a day unless it is a neonate (newborn) and then 2 a.m. feedings are also necessary — a little hectic if you have multiple newborn fawns and a full rehab center of other animals. This is why summer months in rehab centers are known as “baby season.”
Weights are tracked daily on all fawns as is their overall health. One care provider at our center raises all of the white-tailed fawns from admission to release to prevent the animals from habituating (taming) on humans.
Our pen was specifically constructed away from the center to isolate the fawns from voices and vehicles and no other enclosures are near it. Our rehabilitation center is not open to visitors, although our our Butler Education Center is.
Fears in fawns
We have found that thunderstorms and fireworks are the largest stress factors that we see in raising fawns. It is not unusual in a severe thunderstorm for the rehabilitator to have to sit in the pen with the animals. Homeopathic calming agents are sometimes used if we know storms are in the area.
Fawn care is funded 100 percent by the general public. We depend on donors purchasing “fawn sponsorships” which help cover the cost of fawns raised at our center. Please call for more information or if you wish to purchase a fawn sponsorship as a special gift for a friend or family member for the upcoming holidays.
To raise a fawn from admission to release is about five months. “Round up” day is when fawns are able to be released, having grown into wild, young deer and able to fend for themselves. It is stressful, emotional and joyful all at once. To say goodbye to the fawns which we have cared for around the clock through the spring, summer and part of the fall is undoubtedly difficult. But this isn’t about me, the rehabilitator; this is about our Center’s mission of giving a second chance to these animals so they will have the opportunity to live their lives in the wild.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:19