Food and resource economics students complete survey project

May 16, 2012 under CANR News

University of Delaware food and resource economics students spent the spring semester conducting surveys and analyzing data on two projects, one concerning a student’s proposed food truck business and the second on general campus awareness of alternative energy sources.

The students in the Food and Resource Economics (FREC) 409 class of Rhonda Hyde, associate professor of applied economics and statistics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented their findings during a session held Tuesday, May 15, in Robinson Hall.

Half of the class discussed the results of a survey conducted on behalf of UD student Leigh Tona, who plans to open the I Don’t Give a Fork food truck business this fall, and the other half analyzed data taken from an alternative energy survey.

Food truck survey

The I Don’t Give a Fork food truck will open for business in a space at the Delaware Tire Center on South College Avenue in Newark.

The FREC 409 students working on the project surveyed about 250 people who visited south campus to assess the viability of the business as well as the best times of operation, price points and recommended menu items.

In the end, the students found that there was a large amount of interest in the food truck from the University community, and that many of the 250 people surveyed said that they would visit the food truck in the afternoon, after 4 p.m. There was also a lot of potential for customers on Saturdays, especially during sporting events such as football games.

With regard to price points, one group found that survey participants were willing to pay $4.67 for a six-inch sub or wrap, while another group found that if Tona does offer a combo meal — a sandwich, side and drink — she should raise the price anywhere from $1.27-$1.39 in addition to the sandwich price.

Recommended menu items included sides such as potato chips, pretzels and apples, and drinks such as soda, water and Gatorade. There was a good deal of interest in purchasing tea, as well.

Sandwich suggestions included turkey and cheese on a bagel, and bagels with cream cheese.

Tona, a management major with an entrepreneurial studies minor in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, was in attendance for the presentations and had a keen interest in the findings. “I’m really surprised to see that people want to come after 4 p.m. because my original plan was to be open 9 a.m.-3 p.m., so I may have to rethink that a little bit,” she said.

Tona did note, however, that she plans on being open to the public in general and not just the UD community, which was the focus of the survey.

One of the students also pointed out that Tona will probably benefit from the early morning traffic generated by construction at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

Alternative energy survey

The alternative energy survey was used to gauge the amount of awareness that UD professors and students have about three alternative energy sources: solar power, wind power and biomass.

Select faculty and students were polled regarding their self-reported knowledge of the technology as well as the potential economic, regulatory and sociological barriers of the three alternative energy sources in Delaware.

Faculty and research scientists working in these areas were targeted for the survey. UD students majoring in natural resource management, resource economics, environmental engineering, environmental science, environmental studies and energy policy were also targeted.

Results revealed some differences in the knowledge areas of the six environmental-oriented majors listed above.

An interesting aspect pointed out by all of the survey study groups was that while UD students consider themselves very knowledgeable about solar and wind power, almost all of them answered that they did not know as much about biomass.

One group pointed out that the UD wind turbine could possibly contribute to the fact that many students consider themselves knowledgeable about wind power.

Article by Adam Thomas

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LEADelaware seeks agricultural leaders for its fall class

May 16, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The LEADelaware Class III planning committee has announced revised dates for its two-year agricultural leadership program. Sessions will begin on Sept. 12, 2012 and will continue through the spring of 2014.

LEADelaware, sponsored by the University of Delaware, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UD Cooperative Extension, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture is seeking new candidates to train as agricultural leadership fellows from Delaware’s broad and varied agricultural community. The deadline to register is Friday, June 15, 2012.

As an industry, agriculture contributes $8 billion dollars annually to the Delaware economy, according to a 2010 University of Delaware study. Continued effective and progressive leadership in the agriculture sector is essential.

LEADelaware is an agricultural and natural resource leadership program designed to help build the next generation of leaders within the food and fiber industries.

During the two-year training program, fellows will participate in teamwork and leadership-capacity building exercises. They will be provided opportunities to practice these skills and will visit local and regional agribusinesses, and meet with policy makers that affect the agriculture industry. In the second year of the program, the LEADelaware class will plan an international trip to experience diverse agricultural practices, thus broadening their perspectives. The first and second classes visited Chile and Peru, respectively.

“LEADelaware is an opportunity to learn and experience leadership,” says Bill McGowan, UD community development Extension agent in Sussex County and part of a three-member leadership team that will conduct class sessions beginning in September.

Past fellows have included agricultural Extension agents, high school agriculture teachers, farmers, agency personnel representing USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource and Conservation Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Delaware Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, an aerial applicator, and commercial agriculture industry professionals.

The LEADelaware programs seeks to fulfill its third class, recruiting 15-20 individuals from diverse agricultural professions. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

For more information about LEADelaware and the application process for Class III, contact Laurie Wolinkski at (302) 831-2538 or visit their website.

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Arthritis and Agriculture

May 14, 2012 under CANR News

Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases that can affect the joint and surrounding tissue. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, gout, and fibromyalgia.

Arthritis is considered one of the most disabling conditions a farmer can face and is the leading cause of disability of farmers in the Mid-Atlantic area.  Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm operators.  Farmers are an aging population and the average age today is above 57.  As work tasks become more difficult, many farmers and agricultural workers may not even associate the pain with arthritis.  Signs and symptoms of arthritis include the following:

  • Persistent pain
  • Stiffness, swelling, redness or heat in the joint
  • Difficulty in moving the joint
  • Possible fatigue, weight loss and nausea

Arthritis is especially detrimental to farmers and farm workers because of the nature of their work.  Many farm chores such as mounting tractors, baling hay, feeding livestock, harvesting vegetables, milking cows, operating equipment, cleaning out broiler houses require strength, dexterity, and mobility, which are lessened by the effects of arthritis.

According to medical professionals there are benefits of exercise for farmers with arthritis.  Exercise can help you manage arthritis pain and reduce the disability as well as increase energy levels, help with sleep and decrease depression and fatigue.  Exercise is also considered very important for healthy joints.  Moving your joints helps keeps them fully mobile and strengthens the surrounding muscles which help support the joints.

Since there is no known cure for arthritis, education and awareness of pain management techniques are considered the best practice for treating the disease.  This includes but is not limited to joint protection, work simplification and stress reduction.  A few solutions that can be implemented to help control joint stress and pain in farming include the following:

  • Wear quality, non-slip footwear
  • Use appropriate assistive aids such as automatic couplers, mobility devices, hydraulic lift table, shop hoists, powered cordless caulk guns and more
  • Adhere to proper posture when sitting for long periods of time in tractors
  • Use large muscle groups to complete a task.  For example use the legs instead of the back to lift.
  • Avoid gripping and grasping for long periods of time.
  • Simplify jobs and tasks
  • Pace yourself throughout the day

Arthritis is a debilitating disease, but it is manageable.  You will be able to farm productively and safely.  The Mid-Atlantic Agrability Project and the Arthritis Foundation are willing to help in any way that we can.  We promote technologies and given your tenacity and willingness to try, you can preserve your livelihood on the farm.

For more information please visit Mid-Atlantic Agrability on the web at
www.mid-atlanticagrability.com or visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis-ag.org.   You may also call Mid-Atlantic Agrability toll free at 1-877-204-FARM (3276).

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UD’s Jaisi wins ORAU Powe Award to track down nutrient pollutant in Chesapeake

May 9, 2012 under CANR News

Too much of a good thing can kill you, the saying goes.

Such is the case in the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest estuary, where an overabundance of nutrients fosters the formation of an oxygen-starved “dead zone” every summer. In its annual health report card last year, the bay earned only a D+.

Deb Jaisi, an assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, wants to seek out the sources of a key nutrient so excessive that it has become a pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay — phosphorus (P).

Jaisi wants to literally get to the bottom of this nutrient’s influx by analyzing the phosphorus present in a set of sediment cores extracted from the seafloor of the upper bay, middle bay and lower bay. The cores offer a glimpse into the geological and environmental record of approximately the past 75 years.

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a consortium of 105 major Ph.D.-granting academic institutions, has high hopes for Jaisi’s research. Recently, Jaisi was one of 30 scientists selected nationwide to receive ORAU’s Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. The award is intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities.

Jaisi will receive $5,000 in seed funding from ORAU and $5,000 in matching funding from UD to launch his Chesapeake study.

According to Jaisi, phosphorus in the bay comes from three primary sources: the land, the ocean, and the buried sediments from where phosphorus is remobilized and reintroduced into the bay. However, current nutrient management efforts focus solely on reducing inputs from land.

“The contribution of these three major sources of phosphorus has varied since colonial times,” says Jaisi, who joined the UD faculty last year. “The prevailing notion that the increase in terrestrial phosphorus alone is the tipping point for the bay’s eutrophication is questionable.”

When his new state-of-the-art isotope lab is completed in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources this summer, Jaisi and his team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will begin using a prized new instrument called a thermo-chemical elemental analyzer (TC/EA) coupled to an isotope mass spectrometer (IRMS) to assess the presence and levels of the distinctively different forms, or isotopes, of phosphorus.

Each phosphorus source, from fertilizers used on land, to wastewater effluents, seafloor sediments, or the ocean, usually has a distinctive isotope composition or “signature” retained in the sediment cores. By comparing data from the same historical period in the sediment cores, Jaisi and his research group will be able to identify the relative contributions of different phosphorus sources over time.

“The strength of this work is that it applies the natural abundance of stable isotopes to ‘fingerprint’ the phosphorus sources for the first time in the Chesapeake Bay,” Jaisi notes. “We’ll be able to see how much phosphorus is derived from the land versus from the ocean. Over time, the analysis will reveal the real culprit in the Chesapeake Bay’s nutrient overenrichment.”

Jaisi says he hopes the work will expand knowledge of the estuary’s nutrient diet and provide information useful to resource managers in controlling phosphorus overloads. He envisions the eventual development of detailed nutrient maps of the bay, as well as the rivers that drain into it.

Originally from Nepal, home of Mount Everest, Jaisi began using isotopes to explore nutrient issues as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. He says the University of Delaware has provided a perfect fit for his research.

“This is an area where phosphorus is a big and hot issue,” he says. “Here, the bay and my laboratory are side by side.”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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Electronic Recycling Day

May 4, 2012 under CANR News

From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Friday, May 11, the Longwood Graduate Program will hold an Electronic Recycling event, collecting unwanted mechanical and broken electronic items for recycling in an effort to reduce the amount of electronic refuse sent to landfills.

For more information on the items that can be recycled at the event, visit this website.

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UDairy Creamery gets birthday cake, new flavor at Ag Day 2012

May 1, 2012 under CANR News

The unseasonable cold did not stop people from making tracks to Ag Day 2012. This year’s event featured a free flight bird show, a beehive demonstration, a tree climbing exhibition, live bands and a special birthday party for the UDairy Creamery, which celebrated the opening of its doors one year ago at Ag Day 2011.

At the birthday celebration, Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), welcomed everybody to Ag Day 2012 and thanked those responsible for organizing the event.

Morgan then focused on the UDairy Creamery birthday celebration, saying, “We broke ground two years ago, last year we cut the ribbon and today we’re going to have a birthday cake.”

Katy O’Connell, communications manager for CANR, spoke next, thanking all those in attendance and taking a moment to recognize Morgan, who will be stepping down as dean and returning to the faculty at the end of this academic year.

O’Connell thanked Morgan for everything that she has done for CANR, saying, “She has just been such a wonderful support for Ag Day and the team. And anytime we’ve had a new idea, she’s supported us wholeheartedly.  She’s always here every Ag Day from the minute we open until the last table is taken down. She’s really been great and we wanted to thank her especially at this Ag Day.”

Morgan was then in for a surprise treat as O’Connell handed over the microphone to Melinda Litvinas, UDairy Creamery manager, who informed Morgan that the creamery has created a special flavor in Morgan’s honor.

Litvinas said, “We don’t know if Dean Morgan has noticed this yet, but in honor of her support of the UDairy Creamery in the past years, we’re now selling ‘Robin’s Egg,’ which is vanilla ice cream with chocolate chunks and toffee pieces.”  The flavor was inspired by a submission by Mark Barteau, UD senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives, in the fall Blue Hen Signature Flavor Contest.

Litvinas went on to announce that the creamery will now be making and selling their very own ice cream cakes, which will be available in different sizes in the store, and can be ordered on-line at the creamery website.

The birthday cake, made by Leigh Ann Tona, a management major with an entrepreneurial studies minor who works at the creamery, was then unveiled and Jacob Hunt, a senior in CANR and assistant manager of the UDairy Creamery, led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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Ag Day visitors can do the ‘waggle dance’ at beehive exhibit

April 27, 2012 under CANR News

There’s something for almost everyone at Ag Day, this Saturday, April 28, at the University of Delaware. There’ll be pony rides, farm tours, the UD Botanic Gardens plant sale, sheep-shearing demos and free-flight bird shows. And, at one of the most popular attractions, a chance to see an open beehive and learn how to do the “waggle dance.”

Debbie Delaney, a UD assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, is responsible for the Ag Day bee exhibit, which is staffed by her graduate and undergraduate students.

“Visitors do seem to like the bee exhibit,” acknowledges Delaney. “In recent years, I think people have become more aware of the critical role that bees play in pollinating crops – here in North America they’re responsible for pollinating some 90 crops.”

Beyond that, notes Delaney, “bees are fascinating social insects. People want to learn more about them. Take the ‘waggle dance,’ performed by honeybees. With this figure-eight dance, honeybees are able to tell their hive mates where to find patches of flowers, water, new housing locations and more. The direction of the dance demonstrates the angle other bees should fly to find the nectar source.  And the speed of the movements indicates the value of the source.”

At Ag Day, waggle dances and open beehive demonstrations (by veiled beekeepers in a cage) get the most attention. But visitors who check out the rest of the exhibit will discover that UD’s bee program is abuzz with activity.

“It’s an exciting time to be a bee researcher at UD,” says Delaney. “We have lots of going on, from the addition of a second apiary to several innovative research projects.”

Delaney is starting the second year of a research study to see if bumblebees improve crop productivity. Before this project, bumblebee research hadn’t been conducted in Delaware since the 1940s. But Delaney and her co-researcher, Gordon Johnson, a Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetable specialist, see potential in bumblebees.

“Over the past decade, managed honeybee populations have been in decline due to colony collapse disorder and other factors,” says Delaney. “In response, growers and researchers have started to pay a lot of attention to native pollinators, and in particular, to bumblebees.”

Delaney also is excited that the University will soon be home to two apiaries — the existing 22-hive teaching apiary and a new research apiary operated in collaboration with Penn State University and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency. Delaney and other researchers will use this apiary to study non-chemical ways to manage parasites in colonies.

The teaching apiary, tucked below mature black locust and tulip poplar trees, is the hands-on classroom for Delaney’s beekeeping class. Her students steward their own hives and learn bee biology and beekeeping skills. Plus, the honey that these students collect can now be purchased. “Dare to Bee Honey” is sold exclusively at the UDairy Creamery. The first batch of the 2012 season should be available for sale in late July or August.

Grad student Katherine Darger doesn’t utilize either UD colony for her bee research. Working closely with Delaney, Darger is testing for Africanization tendencies in unmanaged colonies from Florida to Maine. However, since Darger says she is “happiest when knee-deep in a colony,” she tries to get out to the UD hives as much as she can.

She will be showing off her hive-handling skills at Ag Day, performing several of the caged demonstrations, which take place at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Darger likes Ag Day and other public events almost as much as she likes being in the apiary. “I love doing outreach,” she says. “I hope to inspire more people to become beekeepers, plant gardens to attract and support native insects, and reduce the fear that draws people to insecticide cans.”

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Professors, students travel to UFLA; interns selected for collaborative work

April 24, 2012 under CANR News

Three professors and two graduate students from the University of Delaware spent spring break in Brazil, visiting the University Federal de Lavras (UFLA) campus, strengthening the academic and cultural bonds between the two universities and taking in the sites and sounds of the South American nation.

In addition, four UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) undergraduate students have been selected for an opportunity to develop international teaching modules in conjunction with professors and students at UFLA and UD, and to visit this University in 2013.

About the UFLA trip

During the spring break trip, the UD delegation spent its time meeting with faculty from UFLA, touring the facilities, teaching classes and taking trips to remote locations ranging from waterfalls to biodiesel factories. They were escorted by Eduardo Alves and Antonia dos Reis Figueira, both professors of plant pathology at UFLA.

Greg Shriver, assistant professor in CANR’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said he found it to be a very informative trip and found that much of the research being conducted by entomologists at UFLA is similar to research under way at UD.

Talking with Jùlio Louzada, the head of UFLA’s applied ecology department, Shriver said, “They actually have a forest fragmentation study going on in and around Lavras, which is a lot like the study we have going on in and around Newark.”

Shriver and Zach Ladin, a CANR doctoral student, were able to visit part of the Cerrado, a vast tropical savannah ecoregion near the UFLA campus where the study is taking place, and said that the two universities hope to collaborate on their studies regarding dung beetles.

Nicole Donofrio, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said she was impressed by the campus, noting that “the academic buildings are gorgeous and equipped with an impressive array of new research equipment,” and added that the trip was crucial in providing strong connections between the two universities for the coming years.

“One of the goals was to make more connections and try to find additional links for people to have ‘sandwich students’ here in the next two years,” Donofrio said. Sandwich students refers to a program established between the universities in which UFLA doctoral students spend one year studying at UD that is “sandwiched” between their studies at UFLA.

Donofrio and Emily Alff, a CANR master’s student, taught a class on fungal transformation for the UFLA students. Alff said that being on the UFLA campus was a tremendous experience. “All the research they do is so applied,” she said. “It really makes you think about the bigger picture of research as a whole.” She added that the food and climate were perfect, saying, “Brazil is just a gorgeous country.”

Tom Powers, assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and director of UD’s Center for Science, Ethics and Public Policy, said he was impressed by a UFLA practice in which they try to “leave nothing behind.”

Powers joined Donofrio and Alff on a visit to UFLA’s model biodiesel and bioethanol plant, located on the campus. “They use the water from the roof and the parking lot to run a lot of the processes,” he said, adding, “They use everything from, or have the potential to use everything from, fish guts to waste from sugar cane and castor beans. So, in terms of using all of these materials for the production of biofuels, it’s really astounding. And then what they don’t make into biodiesel they make into soap and everything else. They’re really trying to find some use for every byproduct in the production process.”

About the Brazil internships

Four CANR student interns have been chosen for an opportunity to conduct research and teach courses at UFLA.

The four interns who have been chosen for the project are:

  • Sarah Thorne, a junior;
  • Sara Laskowski, a junior;
  • Jacqueline Hoban, a freshman; and
  • Melanie Allen, a junior.

The internship will run from April 2012 through June 2013, with the interns supervised by UD faculty teams.

Hoban said she is looking forward to getting to travel to Brazil, and “excited about getting to work with a lot of interesting people and learning about a wide variety of research topics.” Hoban said that the internship “appealed to me not only because of the exciting travel opportunity, but also because it seemed like a really interesting way to apply the material that I have been studying in class.  The project gives me a different perspective on the subjects that I am interested in learning about. It also opens my mind to the educational aspect of my fields of study.”

Hoban added, “Everyone on the team seems like they have a lot of passion for their research and I cannot wait to work with them.”

The project is led by a faculty team from CANR and CAS and is intended to help build longstanding academic programs and research partnerships with UFLA that will enhance the international nature of curricula in areas of common interest, such as food security, bioenergy animal agriculture and biodiversity.

The project will also aim to stimulate creative thinking in the students who participate about how to develop innovative solutions to complex global agricultural and environmental problems.

There will be a curriculum enhancement portion of the internship, where students will assist faculty on both a part time and eventually a full time basis, and an experiential learning aspect, where the students will travel to Brazil for up to four weeks with UD faculty.

The interns will be responsible for developing a minimum of two teaching modules per course, and the modules will consist of PowerPoint presentations or other innovative learning methods that provide detailed information on the course topics developed by the interns and their faculty advisers.

This new research and teaching project is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s International Science and Education Program.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Fabi crowned 2012 Delaware Dairy Princess

April 24, 2012 under CANR News

Amanda Fabi has been named the 2012 Delaware Dairy Princess, an honor befitting a student who spends her time working at the UDairy Creamery and milking cows on the University of Delaware’s Newark farm.

Fabi, who majors in pre-veterinary animal bioscience in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, had to compete against someone very close to home to earn the crown: her sister, Megan. Of vying with her sister for the top prize, Fabi said that there wasn’t so much a sibling rivalry as there was a sibling cooperation. “We were each others support system,” said Fabi. “We helped each other get ready, so it was cool.”

The Felton Delaware native served as the Delaware Dairy Princess alternate last year, and said that the experience helped prepare her as she competed for the Dairy Princess crown. The competition had three categories, with the participants having to do a skit which promoted the dairy industry, followed by an interview and an impromptu question.

Fabi said that she lucked out on the question portion of the competition, as her question was about hormones in milk, a topic she was familiar with having done her freshman research paper on the subject.

As the Delaware Dairy Princess, Fabi was awarded $1,000 to go along with the title and she said that her duties will include going to different events “such as the state fair or to day camps for little kids or elementary schools and basically promoting the dairy industry and explaining to kids exactly where their food comes from when they buy it from the store.”

Fabi said that the summer is a busy time as she has to talk to many 4-H camps and spend lots of time at the Delaware State Fair. There is also Governors Day, where she said she gets to “walk around with the Governor and Miss Delaware and we get our own body guards, it’s pretty cool, you feel important for the day.”

Of her time working at the UDairy Creamery, Fabi said that she loves all the new flavors that the Creamery comes up with, as well as being involved from the start—with the milking of the cows—to the finish, actually getting to sell the ice cream, epitomizing the UDairy slogan “from the cow to the cone.” She says that she is “old fashioned” when it comes to her ice cream flavor selection, with her favorite being butter pecan.

When she is done at UD, Fabi said that she wants to be an animal virologist. “It sounds weird but I like diseases and learning about them and how to prevent them,” said Fabi.

As for studying at UD, Fabi said that she enjoys the “family atmosphere” of her major. “The people within our major are so close and it’s basically like a family,” said Fabi. “We help each other study for exams and for things like organic chemistry, and we can always go to each other and get help with projects and it’s just really nice.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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Spring means baby animals and a busy time for Delaware’s wildlife rehabilitators

April 19, 2012 under CANR News

Every spring, Cathy Martin cares for baby animals that wouldn’t have needed help if humans hadn’t “rescued” them, thinking these wild creatures were orphaned or abandoned by their mothers.

“Springtime is baby season for wildlife. If you encounter young animals, take a few minutes to assess the situation. Wild animals rarely abandon their young,” says Martin, president-elect of the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators. In addition to this volunteer position, Martin is a fisheries biologist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.

More than 1,500 birds and mammals are brought to wildlife rehabilitators in Delaware each year. Many of these animals are in genuine need of assistance but others would have been better off left alone.

If a baby animal is bleeding or shows other signs of injury, put on gloves and use a towel or dustpan to push the animal into a box. Then call Martin or another local rehabber (see contact info below).

However, if the animal doesn’t appear injured, leave it where you found it. If a bird has fallen from a nest, either put it back in the nest or place it in a cardboard box with a hot water bottle to keep it warm. Give the parent a chance to retrieve it.  (It’s a myth that a parent won’t care for a baby animal if it has been touched by humans.)

Whatever you do, don’t stick around to see if mom is coming back, says Kyle McCarthy, a University of Delaware assistant professor of wildlife ecology.

“You may think that you’re well hidden or that you’re far enough away but a mother deer will smell you and a mother rabbit will see you,” says McCarthy. “She views you as a threat and won’t return until you leave.”

Even without the prospect of danger, some animals don’t devote much time to their newborns. In fact, mother rabbits usually only spend about five minutes at their nests each day.

In the world of ecology, rabbits are known as r-strategists. “Rabbits and other r-strategists give birth to lots of young but invest little parental care in these offspring,” says McCarthy.

Mice and other small rodents, insects, fish, some birds and bacteria are all r-strategists. The results of this laissez faire parenting style can be disastrous. “It’s not uncommon for a mouse to give birth to 20 babies in one season and only one survives through the year,” says McCarthy.

But since rabbits and other r-strategists breed like, well, rabbits, another brood of offspring will arrive before long. Rabbits begin giving birth in spring but have additional litters throughout the warm season.

Bears, deer, fox, some birds and humans are K-strategists. Compared to the r-strategists, fewer young are born in each litter. Deer less than one year old often give birth to just a single fawn; older does usually produce twins. Four kits in a litter is typical for the red fox.

K-strategist parents are heavily invested in the care of their young. After the red fox vixen gives birth, she doesn’t leave the den for about two weeks, relying on the male to bring her food.  The new kits weigh only about 3.5 ounces, are blind and totally helpless.

The parents bring live mice to the den once the kits are about a month old to help them learn how to hunt. The kits continue to live with their parents into mid-autumn.

Groundhogs, which are native to Delaware, usually have April birthdays. Not that you would know it.

“You aren’t going to notice any baby groundhogs running around until much later in the spring,” says McCarthy. “They aren’t able to leave the burrows and walk for a full month.”

McCarthy has a lot of respect for the volunteer work that Martin and other wildlife rehabbers do and he knows that their success stories are hard-earned.

Mortality rates vary for rescued wild animals raised in captivity but generally aren’t good. Baby rabbits are one of the hardest to raise while fawns have a much better survival rate. McCarthy’s own memories confirm this fact. His father was a bear biologist in Juneau, Alaska, and became the town’s de facto wildlife rehabilitator.

“People brought my Dad sick or abandoned porcupines, deer, squab, raptors and other animals,” recalls McCarthy. “As kids, we were always getting attached to the babies and naming them. One of my favorites, ‘Punky,’ a porcupine, was successfully rehabilitated back to the wild but many other animals died despite Dad’s efforts to save them.”

To locate the volunteer wildlife rehabilitator nearest you, go to this website and click on “contact us.”  You also can find info there on how to donate animal products or make a financial contribution to the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators.

Ag Day, April 28

Love baby animals? At Ag Day you can see both juvenile and adult raptors and lots of baby farm animals, including calves and lambs. This annual, free community event takes place on the grounds of UD’s Townsend Hall in Newark. For more information, call 831-2508 or go to the Ag Day website.

Article by Margo McDonough

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