We are excited to introduce our newest licensed wildlife rehabilitator and educator!! Kate Harrell has been one of our apprentices for approximately two years, and completed the application process with the TWRA in late February. Kate spent the past year preparing a written account of her experience as an apprentice and designing a triage area and nursery for neonate mammals. The final project before applying for her licenses with the TWRA was constructing a large release cage this past winter; this will be a place for rehabilitated animals to acclimate to the outdoors and give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the local animals.
The construction of the release cage began by surveying the property for a spot that was relatively level, far away from noise, and surrounded by trees. The dimensions of the cage had to be large enough to accommodate two adjacent “rooms”, so that there could be animals on each side. Mitchell Kohlmann, of St. Elmo, measured and set the corner posts in concrete and then built the framework to accommodate a floor, roof and center wall. It took several people to then wrap the framework with ¼” galvanized hardware cloth. Mitchell then built a 4’x4’ double entrance around the doorway on the exterior wall. The frames from three salvaged doors were used to make cage doors. With the centers of these old doors removed, Kate stapled hardware cloth to the wooden frames. All seams on the doors and the cage itself were covered by 1”x4” pieces of lumber so the sharp edges from the hardware cloth would not injure little paws. After installing some squirrel-size doors, feeding trays, and shelves, natural materials like leaf litter and tree branches were added to provide plenty of climbing and caching practice.
Kate is very excited to continue volunteering with Happinest; her favorite part of rehabilitation is seeing a happy animal on release day. “You really can see how joyful they are,” she says, “and that makes all of my efforts absolutely worthwhile.”
Kate will specialize in squirrels, chipmunks, and opossums.
On Feb 23, Tim from Lowe’s Home Improvement on Gunbarrel Road, Chattanooga called the TWRA about a Cooper’s Hawk inside the store. The TWRA referred him to Alix Parks, and she advised him with ways to try to entice the hawk back outside. He called again the next day because their efforts had been unsuccessful.
So that night after work, Sherry Teas volunteered to try to catch the hawk. Alix gave her a hawk trap with two live mice inside and she headed to Lowe’s. The employees guided her to the section of the store where the large, female Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out. Her crop was visibly bulging from the songbirds she had been eating inside the store that day. Sherry was concerned she wouldn’t have an appetite, for the mice but when she sat the trap in the isle below her, the hawk swooped down on the trap within seconds.
Sherry ran over to grab her gloves and just as she put one glove on, the hawk jumped off the trap and flew straight at her face. With quick reflexes, she caught the aggressive Cooper’s in mid-air with the one-gloved hand! The hawk was still flapping and fighting to get away while Sherry was trying to get the other glove on, but she didn’t have a firm grip so she slipped out of hand.
Four more times the Cooper’s landed on the trap, and finally she was snagged. Sherry threw a towel over her and removed the snag off her foot. By this time, about 15-20 shoppers had gathered around to watch with excitement. Sherry held up the hawk for a few photos, then loaded her up and released her outside.
On February 28, 2016 we were fortunate to partner with the Wildlife and Zoology Club at UTC for a box-building day. The members of the Wildlife Club constructed nest boxes for rehabilitated wildlife, under the instruction of local woodworking expert, Tyler Luttrell, of Grain Surgeons, LLC. Lowe’s Home Improvement of Hixson, TN, generously donated all the materials to Happinest. Kate Harrell graciously organized the project.
The nesting boxes are a necessary component of the release process for many rehabilitated animals. The boxes provide a safe place for the animals to nest while they are exploring their new environment. The boxes also remove the stress of competing with other animals for space and nesting resources. Oftentimes, food and water are provided along with the nesting box, so that the newly released animal has the best possible chance for adapting to the wild.
Tyler designed the nesting box plans, and pre-cut the pieces to make assembly as easy as possible for the Wildlife Club. The faculty advisers of the Wildlife Club were also present; Dr. Brad Reynolds and Dr. Tom Wilson are members of the UTC Department of Biology, Geology & Environmental Science and assisted with organizing the event. The UTC students worked in small groups to drill holes, and fit the pieces together, reinforcing the seams with wood glue. Volunteers from Happinest, including Tyler, and the faculty advisers of the Wildlife Club brought power tools for the students who did not have their own.
It was a great day for everyone; twenty nesting boxes were constructed for Happinest. Ten boxes are designed for raptors and ten boxes were designed for squirrels. The students were excited for the opportunity to directly help local rehabilitated wildlife, and Happinest is so grateful for their enthusiasm and interest, as well as their assistance! We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Lowe’s Home Improvement of Hixson for their support, and the UTC Wildlife & Zoology Club for all of their hard work!