Monthly Archives: March 2018

Your Impact on Wildlife

by Amanda, LVT

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the great outdoors are just a few steps out your front door. A part of the great outdoors is wildlife. Many of us take for granted that little squirrel in the tree, the birds by the bird feeder at the kitchen window, or that occasional raccoon that landed in your headlights crossing the road at night. We take many of the squirrels, possums, deer, and birds for granted that they will always be there to view. But, many of the native species to PA are endangered or extinct due to a growing population, deforestation, and wildfires.

The week of March 12th is National Wildlife Week, when the National Wildlife Federation dedicates for all ages to take some specific time to devote to seeing how our ecological footprint is impacting the wildlife we are used to seeing daily. To kick-off this week, let’s dive into the various species native to PA that you might find when you enjoy the great outdoors with also a peek into the species that desperately need help to thrive.

Night Heron re-sizedSome of the endangered species in PA include bitterns, shrews, night-herons, flying squirrels, warblers, terns, wrens, upland sandpipers, egrets, and everyone’s favorite, Indiana Bats. One animal you might not have heard of before is the Dickcissel, which is a bird that loves grassy fields and similar to a sparrow. They sing to one another in tones that are similar to its name. They made it on the list due to human populations growing and pushing into their natural habitats.

There are a few species on the threatened list including harriers, bats, Alleghany woodrats, and the long-eared owl. These owls are very secretive and shy which makes observation hard to determine what is causing this species to decline in numbers. The small-footed bat is native to Cumberland and Franklin counties in the small caves but their numbers are declining.

Some of the species in PA that are on the recovery list include the Bald Eagle and the osprey. One special window into the bald eagles and the recovery process is the Hanover Bald Eagle Nest cam. It is a great and safe way of watching the eagles in action without interrupting their natural habitat. You can visit the webcam on Facebook or on the PA Game Commission website.

Why do I bring these endangered species up? Or, maybe you are thinking why it’s important to learn about wildlife conservation? What is my impact on wildlife in PA? One key way to make a difference is to learn what wildlife species are on the lists and to know what their natural habitats entail. Other suggestions from the PGC include the following: contribute, be ethical, monitor for changes in your community, and manage the environment- this could include protecting grassy fields, protecting wetlands and other forest lands.

Take time this week and throughout the year to dig deep into what your impact is on the environment and how that correlates to the wildlife close to your home and work.

National Adopt a Guinea Pig Month

guinea pigsIn 2002 the ASPCA declared the month of March “National Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month”. This was developed because of the overwhelming number of guinea pigs entering shelters. A guinea pig may be the perfect pet for you if you are not quite ready for the commitment of a dog or a cat.

Don’t get me wrong, guinea pigs are a big commitment just like our other household pets. They require a large space to live in and do best when they are around other guinea pigs; so usually adopting a bonded pair is best. According to the Humane Society of the United States, one guinea pig needs a cage that is 30”x36” to comfortably live. It is also strongly recommended that guinea pigs have at least one hour per day of play time outside of their cage in an even larger play area. Guinea pigs love to run around and explore new places! It’s also important to pick a good location to put your guinea pig cage in your house. They are very social animals and love to be around activity. A living room would be the best place for them since this area sees the most traffic from an average family. They are also very vocal (especially when they know it’s time for their veggies), so your bedroom may not be the best place for them to live. It’s also good to remember that guinea pigs are very sensitive to noise, so avoid putting your pig next to the TV. Also, be sure to keep them away from drafty areas, direct sunlight, and other pets in the home.

guineapig2Before adopting a guinea pig, it’s important to understand their dietary needs. A guinea pig’s diet has 4 requirements: fresh hay, fresh water, pellets, and fresh vegetables. As a general rule, guinea pigs should be offered 1/8th of a cup of a good quality pellet every day. They should always, and I mean always, have access to fresh timothy hay. Guinea pigs are hindgut fermenters, which means they digest their food in the latter part of their digestive tract. If a guinea pig stops eating for a long amount of time it can cause what is called “gastro-intestinal stasis”. This means that the stomach is not properly emptying and the movement of food through the intestines drastically slows. This can cause back up of food in the stomach which causes a major medical problem because guinea pigs are not able to vomit the contents up once their stomach fills. Therefore, it’s important to always have hay available to your pigs. Another staple in your pet’s diet will be fresh vegetables. About 1 cup of leafy greens or other veggies (carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) daily are necessary for your pet’s health. Guinea pigs are not able to produce vitamin C naturally so they must get this important vitamin through external food sources otherwise they may develop a deadly disease called “scurvy”.

Guinea pigs make great pets. I adopted my two guinea pigs, Lenny and Bentley, in 2016. I graduated from the Veterinary Technician program at Wilson College and these two brothers were a part of our Laboratory Animal class. I fell in love with them immediately and decided to adopt them. They spend most of their days lounging in their pig-loo’s, eating vegetables, and popcorning around their play pen. They made a great addition to my family!