Oh, who am I kidding?  There’s no beating this heat.  After a solid week of temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, animals and volunteers alike at TreeHouse are pretty desperate for some relief.  Thankfully, the main building at TreeHouse, which includes our education center and our indoor rehab facilities, is air conditioned.  But of course, most of our animals live outside, and volunteers are out in the heat taking care of them.  Also, although we’ve temporarily suspended work on cage construction, we’ve been hard at work over the last couple of weeks raccoon-proofing our outdoor rehab cages.  Still, at least our human volunteers can always take a break in the AC.  Our animals have to find other means of beating the heat.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days carting ice out to the various outdoor cages.  I started out by putting some ice in Einstein’s water bowl, and he was so delighted with it that I decided the other animals would probably enjoy it was well.  Belle and Bobbie seem to particularly like it–each time I’ve brought them ice so far, they’ve both headed straight for the water as soon as I opened their gate, and they’ve been soaking in it before I even walk away.  As hot as it’s been, though, regular ice cubes don’t cool the water off for long, so I’ve started freezing milk jugs full of water.  In the picture below, one of the coyote pups investigates a jug of ice.  You can also see a video clip of him playing with it here.

The coyotes have shade in parts of their cage, but the foxes and bobcats are lucky enough to have pretty dense shade for most of the day.  For the most part, they seem content to curl up for a nap in a shady corner.

Bobbie seems largely unfazed by the heat.  He (or she) is still an inquisitive and playful kitten that spends most of her (or his) time looking for mischief.  Belle, meanwhile, seems to spend most of her time passively keeping watch from above.  You can see the most recent collection of video from the camera in their cage here.

As for the birds, their cages are mostly in the sun, but we considered all kinds of weather when we were building the cages, so they all have shady places they can go.  Spartacus, our Barn Owl, is always pretty intolerant of the sun, and since this heat wave rolled in she’s pretty well spent her days tucked into the darkest corner of her nest box.  Mocha, our Short-eared Owl, has a cool nest in a shady corner of her cage.  Short-eared Owls nest on the ground in prairie-land, and Mocha has built herself a wonderful nest in the grass that is growing up in her cage.  If you visit TreeHouse and have difficulty finding her, that’s probably where she’s hiding.

Nearly all of our animals are native to this area, so they’re at least reasonably well-equipped to deal with the heat.  Socks, however, is a Rough-legged Hawk, a species that will often travel into Illinois during the winter, but which nests in the far north.  Socks loves to be showered with water from the hose.  When we mist his cage, the other hawks will typically flap around agitatedly, trying to get away from the water, but Socks will bask in it with his wings outstretched and his face upturned.

The heat and drought also mean that we have to be especially sure to release animals in a place where they’ll have a reliable source of water.  As creeks and wetlands dry up, animals converge at the larger bodies of water.  Earlier this week when Adele took a couple of kestrels to release near Horseshoe Lake, she said the lake was packed with hundreds of Great Egrets, drawn there by the fish trapped in the shallows.  A small group of Little Green Herons also seems to be making a home at TreeHouse’s pond.  But even though this weather might afford some interesting wildlife viewing opportunities, I think we’re all ready for it to end!