CRITTER CHATTER: Farmers in the region are contributing to the supply of much-needed milk

by Jayne Winters

I wasn’t sure what this month’s article was about, but after just a few minutes of talking with Don, we agreed to thank some local farmers who recently helped out during a shortage of fresh milk for the fawns of this year. .

When I visited Duck Pond Wildlife Rehab in June, I was immediately drawn to one of the most recent admissions: a few-day-old fawn whose mother had been hit by a car. She was one of 16 people Don has cared for so far this summer and after a quick request from Don, she quickly emptied her midday bottle. Although they are one of Don’s “favorite” creatures (the other being foxes), fawns require 24/7 care due to their feeding schedules. Don usually orders powdered milk from a company in Arizona in anticipation of the arrival of many injured or orphaned coons and fawns in April/May.

The company makes milk that contains specific proteins and fats for wild animals in zoos and those cared for by rehabilitators. The obvious advantage of the dry form is that you only do what you need to, so nothing is wasted or spoiled; the liquid is reheated in the microwave, but is only good for 24 hours. The cost is $200/bucket plus shipping, and Don typically uses eight buckets a year. For the very young fawns, he prefers to feed with fresh goat’s milk that he was able to obtain locally, on average 165 gallons/year. Fortunately, fresh milk can be frozen until you need it. The first morning feeding is from 6 to 7 a.m., with subsequent bottles being provided every six hours around the clock. Even if they are hungry, some fawns, especially younger ones, are reluctant to take the bottle. Changing the bottle nipples often does the trick, but until then the milk may need to be warmed again. Fawns will drink milk until Labor Day, then gradually switch to grass, leafy greens (clover, dandelion, etc.) and finally cereal.

Last month, Don found an urgent need for goat’s milk because the order from Arizona had been delayed. I contacted Jamie and Heidi Bray, friends of mine who have a small farm in Somerville. I had recently visited their newborn kids and knew Mama Kiwi provided a good supply of milk. They were happy to drop some off at Duck Pond and put Don in touch with good friends Anil and Kelly Roopchand, owners of Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, a pasture-based goat dairy also in Somerville. Don drove to the farm and was duly impressed with the visit and milking operation by Anil and Kelly’s son, Keiran. He particularly appreciated gifts of milk: neither the Brays nor the Roopchands would accept payment. Additionally, Don has been in contact with Tom and Lynn Ryan of Little Valley Farm, China, who have supplied him with fresh goat’s milk for years. With another possible source from Winslow, it looks like he and the fawns are ready for summer!

Once the fawns are large enough to fend for themselves, they are released back into the group they were raised with rather than individually as there is more security in numbers. And Don is adamant about not slacking off after October, just before hunting season.

As I was about to leave, Don received a call from an IF&W biologist about four gray squirrels whose nest had been accidentally moved by CMP workers fixing a line. After evaluating them, they will likely be transferred to another rehabilitation center in Boothbay for further care. I also received a few photos of a gray fox kit that was too small for an outdoor enclosure and was housed in a dog carrier in the house. You never know what you’ll find at Duck Pond!

Don continues to limit the number of admissions and long-term residents by transferring many rescued creatures to other rehabilitation centers who have generously offered to assist in their care. Please check out these websites to see if there is a rehab center closer to you to help keep critters care in Duck Pond more manageable: https://www.mainevetmed.org/wildlife-rehabilitation Where https://www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/orphaned-injured-wildlife/index.html

Donald Cote operates the Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center down the road. 3, in Vassalboro. It is a state-licensed, non-profit rehabilitation center supported by its own resources and outside donations. Postal address: 1787 North Belfast Ave., Vassalboro ME 04989 TEL: (207) 445-4326. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PREVIOUS EMAIL ADDRESS Wildlifecarecenter IS NOT MONITORED AT THIS TIME.

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About Jefferey G. Cannon

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