The Christmas Squirrel

When I got the late afternoon call, it didn’t sound good. A squirrel was cat attacked and rescued by a little girl who had been holding the adult squirrel in her lap for over an hour. As a wildlife rehabilitator with years of squirrel experience, my first thoughts were, this squirrel is mortally wounded and on his or her way to squirrel heaven or the squirrel’s in shock. If it was the latter and the squirrel came around while on the youngster’s lap, the scene would not be pretty and could possibly become dangerous to downright bloody. After the gentleman caller told me that he thought “all the squirrel needed right now is to be held and kept warm,” I knew I had to get that squirrel off the nine-year-old’s lap. I met the family at Burger King around 6 pm, and the little girl was still carrying the squirrel in her sweatshirt, even after my advisement to place her in a box for transport. The squirrel was moving but not responding normally, so I gently transferred her from the sweatshirt by towel to a kennel cab. In the triage at my home, I placed the kennel cab on a heating pad and gave her some time. An hour later, she was a totally different squirrel. She growled, chattered and charged the door more than once when I checked on her. Confirmed: it was the latter. Even though the towels evidenced no sign of blood, I figured a ride to the Outerbanks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS) in Newport, when I went in for my shift the next day, was in order to give her the once over for possible puncture wounds that would need to be cleaned and treated. The ride to the shelter went well, but the exam room was another story. She was totally IN rather than OUT of her little squirrel mind and wanted no part of an exam, probably reflecting on the cat that pounced on her and carried her around a day earlier. Maria and I are much bigger than the cat! We decided not to sedate her because of the risks involved and since she was acting her normal squirrel “in survival mode self,” avoiding us at all costs and still no signs of blood or injury, the decision was made to take her back to her neighborhood and the trees she knows. It was dark when I arrived home on Christmas Eve, so back into the triage she went. She would be a Christmas Day release, or so I planned. Christmas morning, after feeding all the outside critters, I headed into the triage and the place looked like a robbery had gone on in there; things were overturned, knocked off shelves AND squirrel poo pellets were ON TOP of the kennel cab! She had chewed her way through the side of my toughest kennel cab and was no longer inside. She beat the live trap three times Christmas Day before finally being caught Christmas night. Then it snowed quite heavily the very next day!!!!!!! Snow is welcomed by most North Carolinians, because it happens so rarely, especially on the coast and even more appreciated around Christmas, but not so much when you have an agitated adult squirrel to release. So, I had to wait for a partial melt off before her release, which wasn’t until two days later. While confined to the live trap, she had plenty of food and water, and even felt comfortable enough to do a little remodeling by chewing at least five cover towels to make nesting material and because it was Christmas, I used red, green and white towels, of course. She chose white as her dominate color as you can see.
On Tuesday, I called her rescuers to let them know she was coming home. The little girl wanted to be present, along with her Dad and brother. I’m thinking – there’s not a lot to see with the speed of a squirrel release, but it was cute. They were all standing in the road, flagging me into the drive, when I arrived. I found a big tree and pointed the live trap towards it. No one saw anything! She was so fast, she was out of the trap and up the tree before our eyes could register anything! It even took a while before we could locate her in the tree! After dumping a zip lock bag of squirrel munchies at the base of the tall pine, I wished the family a Happy New Year! and we parted to enjoy the remainder of our holiday season. I’m hoping, with everything the squirrel experienced in the past week, she knows to be a whole lot faster, way more vicious and a little wiser when moving about during her daily scheduled activities.

Happy New Year Everyone!!
Linda Bergman-Althouse
Author of “Save Them All”

Triple Threat!


On Sunday, I experienced the privilege of releasing three Screech Owls we raised from infancy at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport after they lost their home to loggers. They now live in a protected North Carolina forest adjacent a meadow with a pond and river close by, away from traffic and human interference but close to “meals on the go.” All you tiny rodents, big fat bugs and squiggly things better watch out! Nature is harsh but necessary. The Screeches must be careful as well, because a hierarchy exists when it comes to predation. Although they are efficient predators themselves, larger animals on the wing or the ground will take an opportunity if they are not quick and wise. The two amber faced and one gray faced Screech spent months at the shelter, eating, growing and learning how to be the owls they are meant to be. They are stubby, tiny owls, only reaching a length of between eight to nine inches and six to eight ounces in weight. Their large, yellow eyes fill most of their flat round face, crowned with ear tufts and like larger owls, their beak and talons are curved and deadly. They hunt from dusk to dawn, which is something wildlife rehabilitators must ensure the owls are capable of before releasing them to the wild. Their great sense of hearing helps them locate prey in any habitat. Hopefully, in their new environment of old and new trees, they have found cavities in which to roost. One may even be so rude as to boot a woodpecker out of a cavity to take it over. Screech-owls are primarily solitary, so no telling how long they will stay together in the wild. Even though they were raised as siblings at the shelter and acclimated together in an outside enclosure, they may have gone their separate ways already. When we think of owls and the sound they make, most familiar to us is the typical “hoo hoo,” we all use when imitating an owl, but the Screech owl is named for its piercing call which is basically a hair raising, high pitched scream, hence the nickname, demon owl, which I think is a bad rap and not very becoming. They do have a more pleasant trill, more like a song they sing, that is just between them, one Screech to another during courtship or between members of a committed pair. They really aren’t the kind of bird you want to see or hear in your back yard, especially if you supplement the feeding of other wildlife. Here’s hoping they are enjoying their freedom and the wide open spaces of their new world in the forest, and I must say, it was an honor to share their Independence Day!

Linda Bergman-Althouse
Author of “Save Them All”
Wildlife Rehabilitator
North Carolina, USA
http://www.bergman-althouse.com

Fawn Rehabilitation Grows on the Coast!

When William “Danny” Nicely isn’t helping the staff at The Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS) in Newport, NC release a Bald Eagle, he’s tending to his 2010 herd of seventeen fawns. A thirty year veteran of the Marine Patrol for Coastal North Carolina, Danny decided two years ago to do something no one else was doing down east on the coast; rehabilitate fawns. From 2006 to 2008 Dan was the man to call for triage and transport of fawns, but the success rate for those fawns turned out to be bleak to dismal with the majority dying within three weeks of delivery to a rehabber hours inland. Danny theorized at the time and has since come to believe the stress involved in traveling and switching caretakers hindered the fawns’ survival. Encouraged by Herta Henderson, a staff member at OWLS, Danny decided to take the steps required by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to obtain a primary fawn rehabilitation permit. Away from highways and down a white graveled lane deep in the woods, he had the room to oblige fawns on twelve acres adjacent the Croatan Forest. He was willing to build a barn and pen to accommodate them, definitely motivated and passionate enough to see this through, and his supportive wife, Margaret, was willing to accept this new rehab life and help if needed. During the Wildlife Rehabilitators of North Carolina 2008 Symposium, Danny took the Fawn Rehabilitation Course presented by WRNC Board Member, Beth Knapp-Tyner. His wildlife rehabilitation mentor, Herta, also took the course that day to obtain a secondary fawn rehab permit. Armed with recent accomplishment of the Fawn Rehab Course, an Associate’s Degree in Fish & Wildlife Management from Wayne Community College, and his love for the animal, as well as the recognized rehabilitation need, he submitted the required paperwork and was subsequently granted a primary North Carolina Fawn Rehabilitation Permit. He immediately went to work. His first stop was a visit to his Veterinarian to let him know his permit was now a reality, and he was in business. Danny’s new selfless mission inspired the Veterinarian who encouragingly agreed to provide medical treatment as necessary. Fortunately, taking a fawn to the vet is an easy drive of less than five miles from Danny’s home. Danny waded shallowly into fawn rehab the first two permitted years with only 3 to 5 fawns a year, but in 2010 the number shot up dramatically which could be due to a few reasons he states. “Loss of habitat, mainly. All the development west of the beach areas causes more deer interaction with people, vehicles, dogs and other competing animals. And also because people know I’m here, so they don’t have to call someone farther away.” Danny reports the most wide spread medical problems within his fawn population this year were bouts of diarrhea and deer mange which afflicted five of the fawns, but fawns received due to dog attacks evidence the most serious injuries which usually require sutures, wound care and possibly splints or surgery. He keeps a schedule of four Purina Kid Supplement feedings a day and as the fawns mature, they graduate to grasses, soybeans, apples, goat feed, sweet potatoes and corn. Danny says tending to animals is his most enjoyable hobby, although the work is not easy and never ending. If or when he gets the time, he loves to farm, especially grasses for the deer. While the fawn food prep is continual and cleaning and hauling tiring, Danny is always astonished and rejuvenated when he takes a peek at the social behaviors of the fawns. “It’s amazing to see them interact; how they check out the newcomers and very quickly accept them into their group where they basically foster each other.” When I asked about his favorite fawn rehab experience, he didn’t hesitate saying “All the releases. They’re all my favorites.” Then he went on to talk about his first fawn from Beaufort two years ago. The fawn was lame because he was walking on his ankles with his front hoofs bent under. The fawn was diagnosed with malnutrition, but with Danny’s constant care, the fawn eventually stood up on his hoofs and could soon out run the other fawns in the pen. The recollection of that fawn brought Danny around to talking about Cotton from South River. He couldn’t help but name her because she required more time, attention and babying than most. Bit by a venomous cottonmouth on the end of her nose, her face, nose and mouth were so swollen she could not bottle feed. Pan lapping worked better for her, although other fawns soon surpassed her in size. “She’s grown now and doing fine today but doesn’t wander too far from the barn and pen yet. That snake bite was serious and her condition touch and go, so she’s been with me the longest and will probably stay close by for a while. Of course, one of the goals in fawn rehab is to limit human contact to prevent imprinting, which is always a challenge you have to stay focused on,” Danny states, “especially when you are their sole source of food and care. Blind feedings are my M-O.” Another challenge Danny faces with the fawns is how strong they become as they grow. A few times they escaped the pen by bumping or pushing their weight against the gate or literally running through the fence. They didn’t go far and were easy to round up, but what he’s learned they are capable of caused him to mend and reinforce fencing and the gate to a point that ensures the only way they can get out is if they sprout wings and fly. Danny always utilizes a soft release after opening the gate to their new world in the Croatan Forest, allowing the young deer to return to the barn and pen for supplemental feedings (breakfast and dinner) and safety, if they so choose. “I’m always rethinking my approach and methods to ensure I keep doing it better each year.” When asked how long he sees himself in the biz of fawn rehabbing, he stated “I can’t imagine not doing it. I love it. The satisfaction I feel from seeing them make it is overwhelming. I noticed a couple of my releases in the field across the way this morning. That’s a great feeling.”

Linda Bergman-Althouse
Author of “Save Them All”
http://www.bergman-althouse.com

Apple A Day – NOT!


The old adage “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” still holds true according to TV’s Dr. Oz. Although he agrees, he adds “helps – keep the doctor away.” I’m up for that! I like apples, what’s NOT to like about a crisp, refreshing apple. They are low in calories and fat, contain complex sugars and chock full of good stuff like vitamins, minerals and flavonoids believed to help prevent growth of cancer cells, promote hair growth, improve lung function, boost heart health, increase bone density, aid digestion and slow the aging process. HEY! I’ll take a bushel of apples right now! The apple is considered one of the most valuable fruits throughout the world. So, I do NOT have a problem with the apple, it’s just where the apple or remains of the apple ends up, as well as our popcorn, cheetos, bread, chips, pretzels, fries and even, ice cream! Many animals are scavengers and have learned to take advantage of human littering, wastefulness and recreational handouts. The Ring-Billed Gull pictured should be scavenging for fish, insects and small rodents close to a large body of water, but he and his kind now like to hang out where we humans shop and play because people have a bad habit of tossing food on the ground. These feathery guys and girls know this. Generations of gulls have been conditioned over the years to expect movie popcorn strewn in the parking lot, a hefty helping of fries at Hardees, small children, encouraged by adults, throwing bread into the air at a park, fast food bags that are fun to open along the highway and an outstretched hand filled with snacks connected to a human’s body wishfully attempting to bond with this wild bird. Gulls get so used to relating humans to food presence they will swoop down and aggressively annoy just about anyone for a morsel of anything! Pretty soon, we will see them smoking! People have created this abnormal gull behavior through a very simple rewards system, so we really shouldn’t complain about maneuvering around them at our shopping malls, the seabird poop on our cars or the relentless squawking they seem to enjoy. We have made the gull’s task of filling their belly too darn easy which has caused many gulls to abandon their normal feeding instincts. Gulls can spend all day eating low-nutrition, snack food, get a one-sided diet and may get sick, die or become malnourished which atrophies their feather shafts, grounding them (unable to fly). Their feathers are extremely important. Of course, we know they need feathers to fly, but those feathers also serve as a temperature regulator, protect them from wind, moisture and sun, trap air to help them float, become nesting material and fish eaters, like gulls, eat some of their feathers to line their digestive area to protect sensitive membranes from sharp fish bones. Most animals, including gulls, have evolved with very specific natural diets and have very specific kinds of digestive bacteria. Human food ingestion causes the wrong type of bacteria to become dominate in their stomachs, rendering the seabird no longer capable of digesting their natural foods. They can end up starving to death even with stomachs full of what they should have been eating all along. It is absolutely essential to the health and well-being of gulls (as well as other wild animals) that they not be fed by humans intentionally or indirectly through littering. Some people think they are just supplementing the gull’s diet with their generous but uneducated offerings, when in fact they are altering, and very possibly ending, their lives. Not feeding them will allow the gulls to find natural food sources, which provide better nutrition than food intended for human consumption. Half of our product offerings aren’t good for us either! That parking lot apple may be the most nutritional choice the gull made in weeks, although he probably dodged traffic to get it, but it’s not enough to keep him healthy and alive. Please think twice about throwing down that French Fry or cheese puff for a gull to gobble. If we all made the decision to withhold the junk food, we might just cause the gulls to leave our asphalt jungle and return to big water, and in essence, save their lives (and the finish on our cars!). Maybe we should get really serious about it, like the Brits!

Linda Bergman-Althouse
Wildlife Rehabilitator &
author of
“Save Them All”
http://www.bergman-althouse.com
http://www.owlsonline.squarespace.com

Tiny Dancer

Litters of orphaned opossums come and go at the shelter without much fanfare, just lots of feeding to get them up to weight and ensuring they eventually eat on their own before heading out into the wild with their siblings. The needs infant opossums have when attached to a teet in Mom’s pouch are very similar to a human baby growing in their Mother’s womb. They are not ready for the outside world until the critical time period elapses, allowing sufficient physical development to enable them to exist on the outside. When we get opossums (usually due to Mom being hit by a car, unfortunately) at thirty grams or more, although still premature births, their chances for survival with assistance from an attending wildlife rehabilitator are pretty darn good, barring any injuries sustained during the family trauma. SO, when opossums are brought in or picked up that weigh twenty grams or less and have injuries to boot, their odds of survival go way down. That’s what happened on Wednesday, April 7th. I got the call that a Momma Opossum was “down” in someone’s yard close to the Library and although, she had passed, there were survivors, four out of eight infants to be exact. The man handed them to me in a tiny box, which fit them perfectly, because they were tiny, too. The scale in my triage digitally flashed 20 grams for the first weigh in – then another at 20, and yet another at 20 and the last one, 22 grams. After warming them and cleaning all the debris and dried fluids from their fragile skin, they, all girls, evidenced serious bruising and a couple were missing digits on their back feet. It would take a miracle (or 2 grams) if any survived. You guessed it, the only one to make it in those first few days outside Mom’s pouch was the little girl weighing in at 22 grams with all digits intact, but her skin was so fragile and peeled constantly. What little hair she did have was falling out. Great pains were taken to provide enough humidity for her skin condition and mineral oil, as well as, lanolin was applied to her skin until finally, the flaking stopped and hair started growing in again. When the hair started growing, so did the rest of her. I couldn’t help but name her Tiny Dancer, although we wildlife rehabilitators try our best not to name any animal we will be releasing to the wild. Tiny Dancer was always moving, she’s never quit moving. It was like she was saying to me, “I can make it,” and the flailing of tiny legs while eating from a syringe was her unspoken message, “See, I’m strong, just give me your time, please.” Today, she is 218 grams (7.7 ounces) of fluff and attitude, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She is the sole survivor of her litter and I’m not ashamed to say, “I love this possum,” but fortunately, she doesn’t love me back. She nips my fingers with her many tiny teeth, hisses occasionally and is always trying to get away from me, which is exactly the way this little marsupial should be. She still has quite a bit of growing to meet the two pound requirement for release, but she’s on her way! I’ve been waiting for another opossum to check into the wildlife shelter that is about her size, so she won’t be alone, but so far, they have been too small or too large. Until then, it’s Tiny Dancer and me!

(Tiny Dancer spends most of her time sleeping in the bandana hammock at the top of her cage.)

Linda Bergman-Althouse
author of
“Save Them All”
http://www.bergman-althouse.com
http://www.owlsonline.squarespace.com

Hangin’ Out!

Book Lovers’ Fairs or Expos are great opportunities for networking in ‘author world,’ showcasing your  writing talents and generally, having a lot of fun.  Meeting fellow authors is a marvelous trip.  Most writers are unique in so many ways I truly appreciate.  Although I look forward to meeting and hanging out with a crazy, diverse bunch of writers, some of the moments I anticipate the most at a multiple-author, book event are spying the adorable, animated characters milling around and rushing to hang out with them.  They’re there to bolster the childrens’ books or advertise something out in town.  Either way, I’m thrilled to see them.  I’ve grown very respectful of mascots over the years.  They don’t talk, have pleasant demeanors,  delighted, if not goofy, looks on their faces, transmit infectious energy and throw out happy waves to everyone.  They’re big and have even bigger heads, with shoes to match.  I get so excited to see them, I want to be them.  Yes, my mind has gone there.  The thought of becoming a big head with big shoes bounces in my brain quite often, but the dilemma is what head would I choose?  I’ve envisioned a Bluebird because they’re happy, have wings and are uncommon as a mascot.  Bees are disappearing, so maybe I should be a honeybee to bring attention to their plight.  I’d still have wings, but I’d also be adorned with antennae and yellow is a good color for me.  I’ll think on that a while.  I guess my message to everyone with this little bloggie blurb is stay positive, have fun in whatever you do and respect the ‘clean’ fun others are having even if it’s not your cup of tea.   Book signings,  Literary Symposiums and Writers’ Workshops are on the schedule for me over the next six months, and I plan to have a huge amount of fun teaching or learning at all of them.  I just hope some big-headed mascots will be close by to hang out with.  Bye, Bye, now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

Backyard Fatality . . .

As much as I love nature and nature loves me,
I can’t seem to escape the occasional backyard fatality.
Their hunt is aggressive but manners demure, it wasn’t a cat, that’s for sure.
Feline free roamers with pure criminal intent are not nature to me.
Wildlife has little defense against efficient sport killers as these.
With cats, death is usually quick and quietly carried away.
They leave no trace, there is nothing to know, no guilt to pay.
No . . . this was a hawk, Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s variety,
Who must also eat, so I reluctantly accept an occasional loss and know it must be.
Nature circles where I live; my grounds, my mind, soul, and in my heart.
Disjoined bed of feathers, tragic scenes such as these give way to guilt’s start.
Which to save . . .  is not for me nor others to say, it’s nature’s way.

I try to keep them safe with cover and food; the doves, cardinals, flickers, squirrels,
Wrens, bluejays, titmouse, robin, thrasher, chickadee, opossum and sparrows.
But there’ll come a day when one is not alert or fast enough to out sway,
And I shall gather up all that is left of one I encouraged to stay.
I’ll always love nature and nature will love me,
Just wish I could escape the tormenting backyard fatality.

 

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All”

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

Words With the Tiniest

One of my hummingbirds spoke to me the other day.  Of course, it was in sign language, but none-the-less, communication was received and understood.   I daily enjoy the three or four hummingbirds who have selected my sugar-water feeder as their favorite in the hood whether  I’m watching them, one at a time, perch and drink during my breakfast, while lunching on the deck or as I’m passing by the patio door.  I wish they would come in together to partake, but they don’t all get along.  So, I watch them run each other off quite a bit.   On Wednesday I was doing all those domestic, cleaning chores we never look forward to doing when I needed to rinse out a rag at the kitchen sink.  While there, one of the female hummingbirds zipped in front of the kitchen window and hovered eye-to-eye with me.  “Well, Hello” was what I said.  I wasn’t quite sure what she was up to yet, as that was an unusual place for her to be.  Although, the kitchen sink window was some distance from the feeder, I didn’t think too much about it.  She stayed in position the entire time I rinsed out the rag and then the sink.  About five miutes later, during another pass I made at the sink, she did the same thing.  I walked to the patio door and there she was, still eye-to-eye and less than eight inches from the glass.  I looked up at the feeder and received the message, silent but clear.  “You are my human, so please do something about this mess!”  Although the feeder wasn’t empty, it was low and two dead wasps were floating in it.  When I opened the door, she sped to a Bradford Pear branch to watch “operation change out.”  She waited in the tree the entire fifteen minutes it took to drag the patio chair over for the climb, clean the feeder, mix and cool the sugar juice before hanging it back in place again.  Before I could get back in the door, she was right next to me.  I heard the buzz first, and when I turned my head, there she was and right at eye level again.  If possible, she looked a little less intense, and I think she was giving me another message.  “You’re welcome,” I said as she buzzed up to the feeder and wrapped the tiniest feet around the red, circular perch.  Her tiny, tube beak sucked so much fluid in one draw, I was afraid she might get a head rush and fall off the perch.  Isn’t nature simply wonderful?  So, stay alert.  The world and all it’s living things are speaking to us.

Don’t forget to check out my “Author’s Holiday Give-Away” below and enter before December 10th.  Your biorhythms just might be in line for you on this one! 

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author of “Save Them All

Write What You Know

“I’m thinking about writing a book, but haven’t figured out what to write about yet.”  That’s a statement made to me quite often when I meet people during signings, a writer’s workshop or readings.  It has always puzzled me.  I guess it’s the ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?’ thing.  Usually something happens that I’m reacting to (good, bad, ugly, whatever) that compels me to write.  So my response, which I feel a person is looking for, is “probably the wisest thing to do is write about what you know.”  Everyone has an interesting story, if not quite a few.  Really. If it’s not their personal story, it’s something they’ve heard  or witnessed.  Some people have exceptional interpersonal skills and can word weave captivating and unique relationships that are intriguing to read, while others have a gaming mind that can fill us with suspense or terror.  There are still others who can inspire us by sharing personal experiences where they’ve gained or lost (either way, learned from) that give us knowledge we can use to enrich and improve our lives.  Maybe written emotional purging is cheap therapy we engage in that will indirectly enable others to also derive benefits.  Writing doesn’t always have to become a book, though. I’ve completed only two books, but additional personal experiences, causes and concerns or longings have become stories, articles, poetry or even a blog post.  After advising an aspiring author to “write what you know,” I follow  up with, “ask yourself why you want others to know what you know; to awaken them and hope for deep thought, provide information, education or entertainment?    The answer to “why do you want others to know what you know?”  will usually drive you in the right topic direction.   Try not to throw up roadblocks, such as “nobody would be interested in that” or “there’s nothing special about me or what I know.”  I’m always surprised (but not shocked) by what others don’t know.  What our brains contain may seem second nature to us but brand new to those who’ve walked a different life’s path.  There is so much to know and life to live, how can anyone possibly know and have done it all.    So if you truly want to write a book, go for it!!  Teach me to maintain beehives or tell me what it’s  like to to be a bike courier in New York or if you’ve been married eighteen times, I’m curious enough to want to know how each began and how each ended or if you haven’t lived on land for the past fifteen years, maybe it’s time to drop anchor for a while, steady yourself next to a 60 watt bulb and write about every wind and wave that kept you out at sea.  Someone always wants to know what you know.   Who?  Now that’s a marketing question.

 Linda Bergman-Althouse,  author of, “Save Them All

Dinah, from the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter says Hello!

Tree Rustling

I grew up in trees. Every time I went outside to play as a child (which was nearly every day, no matter the heat or height of snow), I found the most comfortable place to be was in a tree.  The strong limbs of apple, mulberry, persimmon, cherry and walnut held me closer to the clouds quite often.  That’s one of many reasons why I always feel so disappointed in humans when I see a loaded log truck; “pine and hardwood bodies stacked one on top the other, lying in state on eighteen wheeled steel sided hearses, heading for dissection at a sawmill.  The procession of death trucks loaded with stunted conifers saddens and maddens me.”  (excerpt from my novel, “Save Them All“)  Now, I’m hearing I have more to be sad and mad about.  A few weeks ago, while listening to Public Radio, I learned that some of those tree carcasses I’m mourning as they pass me may have been stolen and that the crime of tree rustling (or poaching) has become a nationwide epidemic. The radio broadcast discussion, by investigators committed to terminating this emotional and financial tragedy, spoke of trees being rustled in the northwest, but now I’ve read Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky and Arkansas are being hit as well.  Naturally I’m wondering about North Carolina.  The staggering number of log trucks I see on NC Route 53 from Jacksonville to Wilmington every day is obscene; and that’s just one road.  An aerial view of this area must  be heartbreaking and just plain sickening.  I realize for every valued commodity, somebody will want to steal it.

I also know killing trees is a business for some, but the notion that unscrupulous sorts could be stealing trees had not yet come to mind for me.  Normally what rustlers do is find someone’s land that is mainly woods, trespass on the land, and steal the trees. If they’re caught by somebody who gives enough whoop to stop and question them, they generally just say they were hired by a neighboring landowner and “accidentally” cut down the trees.  The lame apology does not replace the trees that are decades old or lessen the emotional distress of the owner who may have “loved those trees the way only someone who grew up with them could” (Saulney). The rustlers are slick, just like in the old west when it used to be cattle they were after.  They sneak onto the property, cut the trees, remove them quickly and usually have a buyer waiting for them.  From what I’ve read, the penalties for this type of crime are no more than a modest fine and a slap on their chainsaw wrist, but that’s not enough to deter a criminal who gambles on not getting caught in these remote areas.  I’m (almost) sure the first time they’re busted isn’t the first time they’ve stolen trees.  I haven’t heard much talk in our area about tree rustling, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist.  I just want people everywhere to become aware that tree rustling is happening and possibly more close to home than we know, if it hasn’t happened where you are already.  Ensure your land is surveyed, so there is no question whose trees are whose and keep an eye on your property, especially if you have large parcels of woods that aren’t regularly visited.  Older land owners are more vulnerable and susceptible because they may not be working their land or monitoring it as close as they used too.  I treasure trees for all the wonderful things they do for the environment, our wildlife, aesthetic value and for more personal reasons, too.  I know others feel the same.   Let’s keep a sharp eye and ask a few questions, might save someone great heartache.

 Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author of “Save Them All