The animals at the Wildlife Center of Virginia are dependent on rehabilitators to provide them with care. That includes daily meals that closely resembles their natural diet. The Wildlife Center admits around 2,500 animals per year and some of these animals can be quite large with quite an appetite. During one of my last few weeks as a rehabilitation extern, we were rehabilitating four baby Barn Owls who ate around 800 grams of mice a day – which could be as many as 40 mice!
For many of these carnivorous animals, at least part of the diet we provide for them includes mice and rats. It takes a lot of mice and rats to feed that many animals on a daily basis. To acquire the number of feeder mice and rats that we need, we must find a constant supply from a reliable source. Our main supply of mice and rats are from research laboratories. These labs use mice and rats frequently for their research; they donate mice and rats to us to use as feeder animals.
These feeder animals are very important to the rehabilitation process – they are a natural food source for predators higher up on the food chain. There are a large number of animals at the Center that prey upon mice or larger rodents in the wild, including eagles, foxes, opossums, corvids, snakes, vultures, owls, and other raptors.
Mice are not only used daily as a food source but they can also be used for enrichment with the animals. Enrichment is very important to animals in captivity even if they are only there for a short amount of time. Here at the Wildlife Center, dead mice are often hidden inside of an object. This simulates a natural foraging or hunting experience and helps keep the animal from getting bored. Boredom can lead to strange behavior that could potentially be harmful to the animal, and we can help prevent boredom by adding enrichment items exciting enough to interest the animal without causing stress. Personally, I think hidden mice are the favorite enrichment item for many of the animals that come through WCV. Who wouldn’t like a little extra treat to search for?
WCV Class of 2014