Federally Threatened Streaked Horned Lark Chicks Hatch

Written by Jen G. Pywell

Streaked Horned Larks nest on bare ground in sparsely vegetated habitat 
Photo credit: Dr. Randy Moore, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU via ODFW

Drive right outside of Corvallis and you will see vast expanses of flat agricultural land, much of it grass seed farms. A threatened bird species not often treated at Chintimini Wildlife Center called the Streaked Horned Lark (SHLA) breeds on this and other private land, including the airport. The largest known breeding population of the SHLA is located in the Willamette Valley. Because the lark’s habitat is so specific, suitable breeding sites must be maintained to ensure its survival. 

The City of Corvallis’ Herbert Farm and Natural Area has shown to be a successful nesting site for Streaked Horned Larks. 

Recent conservation efforts that were funded in part by ODFW’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program (WWMP) restored part of the land to a native prairie. Another piece of the property was specifically managed for lark habitat in order to mitigate habitat loss at the airport due to runway modifications. It is on this 23-acre parcel where the birds successfully bred.

Over the summer, three chicks hatched on the site and a second pair also fledged young. While this is great news, researchers aim to ensure that these birds will continue to use this site where they can be monitored and the appropriate features of their habitat can be managed.         

Streaked Horned Larks are ground nesting birds. Conservationist Bob Altman of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) who monitored the larks for this project said that they require wide open spaces with sparse vegetation and that they use the edges of fields and even roadsides for nesting. 

Habitat loss is making it difficult for these birds to thrive. ODFW biologist Ann Kreager states that “many agricultural fields in the Willamette Valley are being converted to hazelnut trees, further reducing habitat for the larks.” In fact, a road bisects the Herbert Farm & Natural Area (HFNA) as well as a private hazelnut farm, which was a grass farm not very long ago.


Streaked Horned Lark 
Photo credit: David Maloney/USFWS

Other disturbances, like construction, may leave birds displaced. For example, the largest known population of larks breed at the Corvallis Municipal Airport. When the airport began modifying its runways, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) put into place the mitigation project at HFNA. Management of the site where the Streaked Horned Larks nested was directed by Dr. Randy Moore of the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife at OSU. Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) Restoration Ecologist Peter Moore observed that “in late May the contractors mowed and disked the area to remove thatch that had built up, and larks turned up shortly afterwards and bred.”

A field of ryegrass at Herbert Farm in 2013, prior to restoration 
Photo credit: Peter Moore/IAE

Why the larks came and where was their origin is unknown. Sometimes it’s just a matter of how tall the grass is. Dr. Randy Moore said that a breeding pair may be on a young grass field in May but by early June the grass is too thick for nesting. At that point, whether they completed one nesting cycle or lost at a first nesting attempt, they may decide it isn’t a great spot anymore and go looking for a new site.

One of the swales in the spring after the water has receded, creating good lark habitat at HFN 
Photo credit: Peter Moore / IAE

Before the project began, HFNA was a grass seed farm that was later converted to a native prairie. Matt Bahm, the Program Director for Conservation Research at the Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE) explained that swales are one key feature that maintains habitat suitable for larks. USFWS created berms to flood swales and promote bare ground with little vegetation. Since HFNA sits where the Marys River and Muddy Creek converge, seasonal flooding can maintain these swales. Bahm continued that improving habitat on the site will also benefit all sorts of species, including migratory birds.

Native prairie vegetation on the formerly farmed field at Herbert Farm 
Photo credit: Peter Moore/IAE

It wasn’t necessarily the attractive-looking habitat alone that lured the larks to HFNA. They are birds with high site fidelity, Altman explained, which means that they go back to the same place where they were born and where they’ve bred in the past. This makes moving them from one location to another challenging. So the team implemented some creative tactics.

Streak horned lark model by Howard Bruner 
Photo credit: IAE

Local artist Howard Bruner was commissioned to make life-sized Streaked Horned Lark models and Bahm built boxes that played back breeding songs to try to convince the birds that HFNA is a safe place to breed.

All the effort paid off. Altman said that the year prior no birds settled, even though “flyovers” were observed. But this past June, two or three pairs nested. The birds were discovered when the IAE team was leading a field tour and heard a breeding song from a live bird. From there Altman’s research assistant, Lara Jones, observed a female carrying nesting material, which helped locate the nest where the three chicks later hatched. ODFW said the hatchlings were “a significant milestone as these ground nesting birds often succumb to predators and crop harvesting.” 

“It was very satisfying,” Bahm said, “Last year was tough, we had a lot of monitoring and no activity, lots of data sheets but not birds, so it was definitely rewarding to have that happen.” 

Three Streaked Horned Lark chicks at Herbert Farm & Natural Area in 2019 
Photo credit: Lara Jones

According to Dr. Randy Moore, the population of Streaked Horned Larks is in the low thousands, most of which live in the Willamette Valley. So three chicks successfully fledging is a big deal. The chicks were also banded, which means they can be monitored. The goal is to continue monitoring and maintaining the HFNA as suitable lark habitat, Altman said. The City of Corvallis will continue to maintain the habitat using prescribed fire and mowing. Kreager added that “once imprinted on the site, the odds of these birds continuing to use HFNA are very high.”

What is the fate of the streaked horned lark? 

Altman said that if we can attract the larks to conservation land, as was observed at HFNA, and can manage for their protection, then there is hope for this threatened species. 

Dr. Randy Moore explained that “as long as the Willamette Valley produces grass/forage crops, there’s potential for SHLA habitat.  But there also has to be a significant amount of land set aside for permanent lark management in the valley.” A recovery plan has been developed as required by the Endangered Species Act, which will give conservationists the tools to address the challenges that arise as the landscape changes.

What can you do? 

The HFNA property was acquired through funds provided by the WWMP. The City of Corvallis owns and maintains it. ODFW and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) own a conservation easement. WWMP, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), USFWS and state wildlife grants funded the project. IAE, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Dr. Randy Moore (OSU) worked on habitat restoration and management. Bob Altman (ABC) monitored for the streaked horned larks.

Lark videos:

Harrier Predation

Cute babies and mom

Cute babies and parents

Where Are They Now? CWC Edition!

Many of our past volunteers and interns go on to do incredible things with their lives and career paths. We are always sad to see them leave, but we know that their experiences at Chintimini Wildlife Center helped pave the way to where they are today, and we are so grateful for what they contributed to our Center while they were here!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brianna Hinricher (aka Bree!), a past volunteer from our Raptor Education Program.

Bree played a vital role in our education program – she dedicated two-and-a-half years to our program as a Raptor Trainer. She was an excellent caretaker and a phenomenal educator. Her passion for sharing her knowledge and her positive outlook was contagious. Here are a few photos of Bree from her time at CWC:

Bree is currently an Education Keeper at the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Arizona. They provide three educational shows a day for the public with their animal ambassadors. They also do three lorikeet feedings a day with the public.

I do get to work with a very handsome King Vulture (and we will hopefully get more birds of prey in the future). I also work with other bird species, mammals and reptiles! Besides the daily shows and feedings, my day also entails cleaning and feeding all of our ambassador animals as well as doing training sessions with them. Just recently we received a baby prehensile-tailed porcupine, who is just now about 2 months old and will one day be in our shows!

Here are some current pictures of Bree working as an Education Keeper in Arizona:



We are thrilled for you, Bree!

Meet the Interns! Winter 2019

We have five incredible wildlife rehabilitation interns this term that we’d like you to meet. Each of them brings enthusiasm, dedication, and knowledge – we are so glad to have them with us!




Emilee is from Clackamas, Oregon and has been attending Oregon State University since 2014. She is currently finishing out her bachelor of science degree with a major in Zoology and minor in Chemistry and will be graduating in June of 2019. She has had previous experience with being a carnivore keeper for 2 years working with tigers, lions, leopards, servals, lynx and much more. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching Netflix, baking and hanging out with her cat, Gerald, and her boyfriend. Emilee is excited for the opportunity to be a wildlife rehabilitation intern here at Chintimini Wildlife Center as well as gaining new knowledge and skills!


IMG_4335Annabelle is a 4th year undergraduate student at Oregon State University. She will be graduating with a bachelor of science in Biology with a Chemistry minor in the spring of 2019. She starts classes at the OSU Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall of 2019 and will graduate in 2023 with a DVM degree. When not studying or working, she loves riding horses, rock climbing at Smith Rock, and skiing. She’s almost always in the company of her dog, Poke. Annabelle is grateful for the opportunity to learn from experts at Chintimini Wildlife Center for the duration of winter term.



IMG_3520Ashlee grew up in Arizona and recently moved to Oregon in the last year to finish her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Oregon State University. She has enjoyed discovering everything Oregon has to offer over the last year, including its wildlife! She started out as a volunteer and when the intern positions were posted, she jumped at the opportunity. She will be applying to Oregon State University to pursue her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and hopes to continue to volunteer at Chintimini Wildlife Center after her internship comes to an end. When she’s not at Chintimini she enjoys going on road trips to discover new places, working on a cross stitch project, baking something yummy and spending time with her two cats.




Spenser joined the Chintimini team 3 years ago; He began his journey with us as a volunteer on Saturday mornings, and last year he was asked to join our team of shift leaders. In addition to his shift leader role he is now a wildlife rehab intern for the winter term. Spenser spends 3 days a week at CWC and is passionate and dedicated to helping our local wildlife.




IMG_2999Desirée is earning her bachelor of science degree in Animal Science & Spanish with a pre-vet track at OSU. She is completing a year-long wildlife rehab internship with Chintimini Wildlife Center and continues to volunteer her time in our clinic as well. In her downtime, she loves to travel, ride horses, and practice aikido.

Season of Raptors

If there’s one thing that’s certain in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, it’s that there’s a time and a season for everything. As unpredictable as wildlife rehab can be, it’s accurate to say that we can expect to see certain types of patients arrive at roughly the same time each year.

Spring and summer mark the “busy season” for most wildlife rehabilitation centers. Enclosures are at capacity, there are hungry orphaned mouths to feed from sun-up to sun-down. Autumn is when we look forward to our raccoon releases, our migratory bird releases, and the start of winding down the chaos. And then, like clouds parting after a storm, winter arrives. Suddenly the patient load is at a glorious minimum, there’s time to take a real lunch break, and the big projects that are put off during busy season get crossed off the to-do list.

An emaciated owl receives subcutaneous fluids placed in the bird’s inguinal region

Winter is also a time where we tend to see an influx of two common types of patients: the emaciated raptor, and the collision with vehicle raptor. We see a lot of trauma in patients this time of year, due to the nature of winter itself. Food is scarce, visibility is oftentimes low for drivers, and people are generally not “out and about” as much (and are less likely to come across an animal in need).

This is the time of year when many first-year raptors (for example, a young Red-tailed Hawk) haven’t honed in on their hunting skills and, combined with colder weather and less prey availability, end up starving. Some will feed on roadside carrion, thus increasing the risk of being struck by a vehicle.

Some emaciated or severely injured raptors come to us too critical to survive or are beyond surgical repair and are humanely euthanized. While we are saddened, we are also grateful to aid in the relief of their suffering. Others come to us just in time, and with fluid therapy, followed by a specialized tube-fed diet, they slowly mend and recover. These success stories are truly remarkable!

A Barn Owl recovering from emaciation receives fluid therapy via feeding tube

How can you help?

  • If you see a bird of prey on the ground, and something seems “off,” it probably is. If you begin to approach it and it doesn’t fly away, it likely needs to be examined by a wildlife rehabilitator.
  • If you pass a hawk or eagle on the side of the road, don’t assume it is injured. Sometimes these birds are picking at roadkill and are simply finishing up a meal. If it’s safe and you are able, you can always turn around to get a better look at the situation to determine if the bird is indeed injured.
  • If you are unable to check things out, please make a mental note of the location (cross streets, mile post markers, which side of the road, etc.) and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to report the bird when you are able to park your vehicle – there may be other calls in about the same bird, and your report will help rehab staff know what to do!
  • Any raptor with obvious injuries needs to be brought to a wildlife center for examination. Please call your nearest licensed rehabilitator for instructions on how to proceed.
  • Drive with care – just as you are aware of other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians, please keep an eye out for birds on the road who might be looking for their next meal. While not every accident can be avoided, we can all do our part by being more alert and aware to the wildlife learning to navigate the world alongside us.

Erika Seirup, Animal Care Assistant

A Summer Internship

Sarah Duke, Wildlife Rehab Intern 2018

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Internship at Chintimini Wildlife Center was one of the best ways I could have chosen to spend my summer. I am currently a pre-veterinary student at Oregon State University, and am leaning toward a wildlife medicine specialty. Interning at Chintimini has allowed me to both solidify my interests and gain extensive wildlife experience. The summer internship itself has a strong focus on baby mammal care (adorable, I know) but also introduces avian care. The emphasis of the program really is on care, which is quite unique to most animal-related internships. Although we did plenty of cleaning, a significant portion of the work incorporated mammal handling. For instance, my first day as an intern was spent learning to properly handle and bottle-feed a room full of juvenile raccoons. Listening to a group of singing (or screeching, as some may say) raccoons was never on my bucket list, but I’m certainly glad I got to attend their concerts! That was one of the most memorable adventures I’ve had yet.

Interns at Chintimini work closely with the staff members; I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the program for two reasons. First, the staff members are amazing people who truly care about the welfare of the animals that come into the clinic. They are all so dedicated to the center, which makes working with and learning from them a pleasure. Second, they are phenomenal teachers with an extremely impressive knowledge set. Interacting with wild animals can be daunting at times, but the staff members ease interns into new situations and always make sure they’re comfortable completing assigned tasks. In addition to learning to care for orphaned and injured animals, I also learned a great deal about the way animals live in the wild and which animals are common in Oregon. For instance, I was surprised to learn that it is nearly impossible for bats to take flight from the ground; most need to be upside down and drop a couple of feet before they can do so. I also learned to identify and differentiate between many types of birds and mammals, which was one of my goals when starting the program.

Intern Sarah, bottle-feeding a baby raccoon


Although I loved working with the animals at Chintimini, one of my favorite parts was seeing them leave. Watching an animal recover, or in the case of orphaned animals, mature, is incredibly satisfying. Wildlife conservation is such an important cause, and being able to see the impact of everyone’s hard work is unbelievably special and rewarding. It truly motivates you to keep caring and to keep helping! As an intern, you get to see the difference you are making first-hand. It’s a win-win situation, because you get to broaden your skillset and make a positive impact on local wildlife. My first release was a small flock of crows; watching them fly away and perch in the nearby greenery was spectacular. I would absolutely recommend this internship to anyone seeking a gratifying, informative experience concerning local Oregon wildlife.

– Sarah Duke

Not Just For The Glamour of The Job


It might be easy to think of wildlife rehabilitation as a “glamorous” job. Who wouldn’t want to take care of cute, orphaned squirrels? Or tiny, hungry raccoon kits? Photos of fuzzy, eyes-closed baby mammals being cuddled by humans pop up on social media from time to time – or maybe you’ve come across videos of spotted fawns being bottle-fed by someone. What you don’t get to see, is what we really do (or don’t do!) For instance, we don’t cuddle with wild animals, no matter how cute they are, because our job as rehabilitators is to prepare them for survival in the wild once they are released. An animal that is habituated to humans, or imprinted to them, is at greater risk of death in the wild and cannot be released.

You also don’t get to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Diet preparation is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to preparing diets for our carnivore patients. And what goes in, must eventually come out, right? There is plenty of smelly poop to clean up multiple times a day. It is a sun-up to sun-down job. And most importantly, there are licensing and permitting laws that must be adhered to.

Friday PM Shift Leader, Claudia Benfield, writes about some of her less-than-glamorous experiences working with wildlife patients:

I wanted to write about different facets of what rehabilitating wildlife can be like…one week I was holding a baby squirrel in my hands during its examination. It was so tiny, it fit exactly in my hands. It had fly larvae in its mouth and we had to get them all out. The larvae were about the size of the head of a pin. I kept the squirrel warm in my hands while it made sweet sounds.  It was so precious, my heart could have burst. (But guys. Fly larvae.)

I have fed countless baby birds.  It is always so much fun when you open the door and all of their little heads pop up and they open their mouths ready to have their next meal. My favorite are the crows. They are so smart and so cute when they are young. They have such great personalities – but we must not be too friendly with them so they don’t imprint on us. But inside my heart and mind, I am bonding with them and enjoying helping them out.


Now we get to the not-so-glamorous part of this job.  In the recent months we have been able to release all of the orphaned raccoons that we were caring for over the spring and summer.  We had three enclosures of them and two were now empty. When this happens someone has to do the final clean up and sanitization. It just so happened that my shift was to do this clean up.  I had another volunteer help me out. I would like for you to keep in mind that all of our dedicated volunteers work hard to maintain a clean environment while they are there. And still, since they are wild animals they always manage to keep their enclosures very well “lived in.”

But oh, the final clean up.  It is a very nasty job. I can’t help but notice that even then, they keep their messes to one spot in the enclosure.  They are clean animals in their own way but they belong in the wild for a reason. They really do need to be free where they can maintain their own homes as they like them to be. This night of clean up, there was hay everywhere, hammocks, logs and dog houses to be taken out for clean up so that the enclosure could be pressure washed later.  Everything was wet and soggy. There is also a drain for the water which was all clogged up that we needed to get cleaned out. (I am sure you can imagine what was clogging the drain…) Some of it seeped into my glove as I worked to unclog it.  At one point I stepped back and into the drain with my left foot and got that wet and nasty too. At that point, I really wanted to go home and get a brillo pad and shower in boiling water!


I have cleaned Bald Eagle enclosures as well; it’s a not-so-fun part of the job but it is still an honor just to be able to be in the same area as they are. So in short, yes we do get to feed and hold some very cool animals at times.  But the work is hard and we must deal with some really yucky stuff. It is all worth it to us though because in the end, if we get to see them be free once again, that is what this work is all about.  So this work of rehabilitating wildlife is not just for the glamour of it.

Even though it can be very hard work, it is also the most rewarding work that there is…

– Claudia Benfield, Friday PM Shift Leader

Wildlife Rehabilitation Internship Experience

Now that our summer internships have come to an end and the interns have had time to reflect on their experiences, some of them have offered to write about their time spent at CWC. Our first blog post is written by Cassidy West. After completing her internship, she went on to become a Shift Leader volunteer for our Sunday PM crew! We’re so happy to have her on board and are excited to share her thoughts with you.

Intern, Cassidy West
Summer 2018 Wildlife Intern, Cassidy West

Where do I begin to describe my experience as an intern at a wildlife center? I guess from the beginning. When I first found out that I was getting the opportunity to begin this internship I literally jumped for joy. I was beyond excited that I got accepted and would be able to pursue a passion that I have had since a young age. As the day grew closer to begin, I started to feel the nervousness, and it was amplified even more after my first day. I felt so clueless and confused in every situation, terrified to make a mistake. The next day got easier, and the day after that even easier, and so on. When I finally hit a groove of comfortability, that’s when my love for the wildlife center really grew. I was able to ask questions, in any setting, and was shown proper ways to perform wildlife rehabilitation. I learned skills quickly and efficiently, and was able to practice different techniques with amazing guide and care.

I didn’t feel like the typical intern that you hear about in stories. I wasn’t shoved to the back and forced to do all the dirty work no one wanted to do (only every now and then). I was guided, and felt very taken under the wing by Mary and the rest of rehabilitation staff. They were always very patient and understanding, and never once made me feel dumb for not knowing how to tube feed, prepare diets, or even catch a bird. It was with their patience that I learned, and I mean really learned. I learned more about animal care in three months than I have in two years at college while pursuing a bachelors degree in Zoology. I definitely made some mistakes, but I learned from all of them.

Cassidy, tong-feeding two newly-hatched Barn Owlets

The whole vibe of the wildlife center is a busy relaxed feel; an oxymoron I know, but there is no better way to describe it than with an oxymoron. It’s a place where animals are given second chances, life and death happen daily (oxymoron as well). A close friend of mine asked me one afternoon after finishing a shift at the wildlife center if it was hard to see the animals be humanely put down. This was something I was worried about when I started. I love animals and always cry in movies when they die, or anything of the sort. But this was something entirely different – I told them no, the hardest part is when you’re not given the chance to help them cross that big ol’ rainbow bridge. I’d much rather see an animal brought in and be put to rest in a nice cozy blanket and room, than die alone and cold, in a box or the outdoors. This was a huge epiphany and learning experience for me.

It was such a fast paced environment that you could never sit down, and I loved it. Nothing speaks to me more than a hard day of work. There’s something to be said about being able to stay busy all day. And the wildlife center, in the peak of summer, is the best place to be to stay busy. I remember feeding raccoons for the first time, and everyone warning me how scary it can be, and it’s “okay” if I didn’t want to. I was prepared for the screaming they warned me about, but when I entered the room they were being rehabilitated in I couldn’t help but laugh. Around twenty-five raccoons in different cages were climbing ALL OVER the cage. It was the cutest and funniest thing I could have ever seen, and their little yells of excitement to get food had me smiling ear to ear. It was in that moment I knew I was pursuing the right profession.

Although, a close second would be feeding the flying squirrels. I discovered at this internship that flying squirrels are my favorite animals.

IMG_1919 (1)
Cassidy, Bottle-feeding a baby Raccoon

Overall, this internship has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I could not be more thankful to the Chintimini Wildlife Center for giving me the opportunity to learn and pursue a lifelong passion. I learned much more about saving animals and wildlife rehabilitation than I ever thought I would have. It’s all tools that will be helpful in the future, but I think the thing Chintimini taught me best was:

Those who wish to pet and baby wildlife love them, but those who respect their natures and wish to let them live their natural lives, love them more.”

-Edwin Way Teale


The Dea Enigma

Dea is a Red-tailed Hawk ambassador for our Raptor Education Program. One of her handlers, an REP volunteer named Erin, wrote a poem about Dea. We’d like to share it with you!

Enigma, by definition, means “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.” A paradox. A riddle. A mystery. 

Dea Tuesday

The Dea Enigma

5 years and childhood dreams.

I’m finally here, officially a trainee.

“I love you,” I tell her.

She bites me.


It’s not what I expected,

But I’d have it no other way.

This bird is in my life,

And she’s here to stay.


It’s a rotation of faces,

A thousand questions too –

The visitors all change,

But Dea is true.


Her presence may be steady

But her matter is not.

She’s as moody as the wind blows,

And as fussy as I am besot.


“Station,” I cue.

I’ve lost her attention.

“Station?” I plead.

She’s abandoned her ascension.


And so it’s quail and rat,

A cycle of training.

She gets her enrichment,

And I continue begging.


She’s a good bird,

She’s the best!

Handlers have their favorites,

And our scars can attest.


Some enjoy vultures

And some prefer others.

But when I hit the mews

It’s a red tail I garner.


When working with birds

Lay down all stigma.

For when you’re handling Dea,

You’re handling an enigma.

-Erin Sackett received_2003548976345018


Getting Skunked

The thought of a skunk might elicit an immediate response for most people – plug your nose! But is that really all there is to it? Some of what we think we know about skunks stems from what we see portrayed in the media. Or perhaps you’ve experienced an unlucky encounter with a skunk who felt threatened and sprayed you (or your pet!)

You might be surprised to learn that skunks are relatively mild-tempered and do not tend to spray unless they feel threatened – and even then, they give us ample warning beforehand.

Have you ever wondered how we handle caring for skunks at our rehabilitation center? Our Wednesday PM shift leader, Cherie MacDougall, tells us about a time when she brought orphaned skunk kits to the clinic. Along the way, she’s learned a lot about skunks!

“I had only been volunteering for Chintimini Wildlife Center for a few months when I answered a call for help.  A litter of Striped skunks had been orphaned and a local homeowner was able to safely and humanely trap them.  I arrived on the scene with images of cartoon skunks and tubs of tomato juice running through my head.  Exiting my vehicle, I cautiously sniffed the air expecting the pungent, overwhelming, distinctive smell of skunk.  To my surprise all I smelled was a faint rotten egg odor.  I would later learn that skunks produce their infamous smell from a highly specialized anal scent gland that develops as the skunk matures.  Following my nose and the homeowner’s directions I found the skunk kits. They were immediately identifiable by their black fur, white stripes, and bushy tails.

As I carefully reached in with gloved hands, my real education about skunks began. Nothing had prepared me for how cute skunk kits are!  A few weeks old, each kit weighed about half a pound and could fit in my hand.  Tiny and fierce they instinctively used their defensive tactics and faced me directly, arching their backs, fluffing their thick fur, sticking their tails straight into the air like tiny exclamation marks, and thumping the ground with their paws. A few even pointed their tails at me and did their best to spray.  Luckily their scent glands were not fully developed!  Undeterred, I collected the tiny mammals and drove them to the wildlife center for an exam and proper care.

Striped skunks, a primarily nocturnal animal, are omnivores and eat a highly varied diet.  They forage for plant matter, eggs, and insects.  With their excellent digging skills they are also expert hunters of small vertebrates like mice and rats.  About the size of a house cat, the Striped skunk is a valuable partner in the farmer’s constant battle against harmful agricultural pests like insects and rodents.


Over the course of a few months, the six skunk kits grew quickly into large, sleek, adults who retained their fear and caution of humans.  As the kits got older, their scent glands began to become more developed.  The young skunks needed to be fed, watered, and have their enclosure cleaned twice a day as Chintimini staff closely monitored and assessed each animal’s growth and development. Striped skunks will only spray when threatened and after a defensive display. They can release a large cloud of scent or release a well-aimed stream that is accurate up to a distance of six feet.  Each feeding became an exercise in slow, cautious movements. As long as the skunks didn’t feel threatened we volunteers were able to avoid any unfortunate encounters.

Since my experience with the Striped skunk kits, I have had the pleasure of caring for many more skunks over the past few years.  I continue to learn more with each patient.  For example, Striped skunks are not the only species of skunk found in Oregon.  Less common is the Western spotted skunk. Although similar in appearance to the Striped skunk, the Spotted skunk is smaller and has white spots on its forehead and under its ears.  When spraying, the Western spotted skunk will often stand on its front legs when “aiming” at their predator.

When the skunks were full grown and capable of surviving in the wild, Chintimini staff released them in suitable habitat near where they were originally found. Once small and helpless, these amazing mammals were getting another shot at living the life they were born to.  If you ever come across a skunk in the wild, the best thing to do is stop and back very slowly away without making any sudden movements.  As long as the skunk doesn’t feel threatened, the shy animal will be happy to go its separate way without spraying.

As always, if you see an orphaned or injured animal please call Chintimini Wildlife Center at (541) 745-5324.

Cherie MacDougall

Wednesday PM shift leader

Volunteer since 2015

Source: https://www.britannica.com/animal/skunk

Volunteer “Level 2” Training

Every year we host multiple “Level 2” trainings for our volunteers. This provides them the opportunity to expand on their responsibilities in the clinic and learn more about what staff does to handle specific injuries that they might not get to experience as a Level 1 trained volunteer.


Level 1 volunteers are essential to the consistent flow of our daily tasks and routines. They keep laundry hosed down, clean, dried, and folded. They bleach, wash, and put away dishes. They prepare specialized diets, clean cages, and weigh our patients. They are oftentimes the “face” of the clinic when they greet the public during animal admissions.

It isn’t glamorous by any means, but it is completely necessary in order to provide the high quality care our patients need by preparing clean bedding, dishes, and fresh diets every single day.


Some volunteers choose to remain at the Level 1 position for the duration of their volunteer experience. Others choose to expand their skills by opting to attend our continuing education courses. Level 2 training sessions are 2 – 2 1/2 hours long and are held at least twice a year.

Wondering what new skills volunteers get to learn?

  • How to perform a basic exam: Volunteers learn how to properly fill out preliminary exam notes, check basic vital stats (For example, is the animal warm? Does it have obvious injuries? Is it dehydrated/emaciated?) Each patient will still receive a comprehensive exam by our staff, but this initial exam gives us a quick look at how urgent each case is and what appropriate steps need to be taken upon arrival. 
  • How to tube feed critical patients: Each species has very specific dietary requirements. But what do we feed our critical patients who are unable to eat on their own? Some patients require tube feeding, which is a skill that requires a careful hand and an attentive volunteer. This skill is not something that is taught only once, it requires a lot of observation and practice.
  • How to give subcutaneous fluids to birds: We assume that most patients are at least somewhat dehydrated by the time they are found and brought to the clinic. Volunteers learn how to carefully administer sterile electrolyte fluids such as  Lactated Ringer’s Solution to dehydrated avian patients.
  • How to wrap a broken wing: Wing wraps can be crucial to the recovery of a broken wing. A wing wrap, when done correctly, immobilizes the fracture and allows for proper healing without being cumbersome. A bird with an improperly healed fracture will usually be unable to fly and therefore cannot be released. Practice, practice, practice! We want our volunteers to have ample opportunity to practice this skill, as it can be a “use it or lose it” ability. Fractured wings sometimes need more medical attention than a wing wrap alone. Each patient with a fracture receives an x-ray and a treatment plan, which sometimes includes surgical pinning.

If this sounds like something that interests you, please join us in our mission! We can never have too many volunteers, and with busy season just beginning – we welcome you to attend an orientation and sign up to volunteer with us.

To volunteer at Chintimini Wildlife Center, contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Kathi Franklin at volunteer@chintiminiwildlifecenter.org

– Erika Seirup, Animal Care Assistant