Critter Chat – February 15, 2017

The way I look at storm drains has significantly changed over the past 25 years.  More cats and dogs than we ever wanted to know about use these storm drains to safely go from place to place, and to get a little bit of perceived security.  I am not exaggerating when I say that more often than not, I think about animals whenever I see a storm drain.

During the spring and summer, the calls about kittens meowing in these drains increase.  Riverside Drive and Piedmont Drive have a real problem with stray cats using the storm drainage system to navigate traffic.

I cannot remember the first storm drain call I received, but I remember several unique cases.

Late one night, we received a call from the police department. An adult cat had been injured and had jumped into a storm drain. We readily agreed to help, and met the police at the address. Our catchpoles could not reach the cat, and she was so frightened that she kept retreating further into the drain. I believe that was the first time we had the idea of baiting a trap with food and slowly lowering the trap into the drain. It took a couple of hours, but she finally went in!

Another call took us to a business that had a problem with stray kittens in their parking lot drains. We were able to catch a couple with poles, but the majority eluded capture. They were so tiny and could not jump out of the drains. About 2 a.m. the next morning, I woke up to the sounds of heavy rain. The kittens were the only thing I could think about. I called a patient volunteer who helped me realize that it was probably already too late to help those kittens. As soon as we got to work that morning, we went back to the business; sadly, we didn’t hear any sound of kittens meowing.

In another case, an injured cat had been seen jumping in and out of the drains on Riverside Drive. We set a trap and police officers on night duty faithfully checked the trap. Around midnight, she went into the trap and was taken to the shelter. She required veterinary care; the kindhearted police officer that found her in the trap wound up adopting her. She has had a wonderful life of being spoiled for many years now.

A few years ago, we were also called to the location of a storm drain where a large dog had become trapped. We rescued her and she was adopted. In another dog case, three dogs were trapped in the system under Audubon Drive. Public Works employees used a remote-controlled camera to find their location and they were also rescued from the drains.

We still laugh about the time a woman who was walking on Franklin Turnpike heard a small kitten meowing. When we got to the approximate address we had been given, the cell phone rang, so I stayed in the car for a few minutes to answer some questions. April walked over to the sidewalk and got down on her stomach so she could listen to any sounds coming from the storm drain.  She not only heard, but also saw a four week-old kitten beyond arm’s reach. It took several minutes, but by throwing canned food down into the drain and keeping the catchpole in position, April was successful in catching the little one.  When April and I were driving away, we noticed a Pittsylvania County sheriff’s department car with the lights on going slowly down Franklin Turnpike.  We had the same thought at the same time -someone called in a report of a woman lying on her stomach on Franklin Turnpike.  I called the emergency dispatch center and was told that, yes, the officers were looking for a woman who was lying on her stomach.  I told the dispatcher what had happened, and that all had ended well.

In another unique storm drain story, a mother bird was seen hopping around a storm drain in front of a doctor’s office. We discovered one of her little babies had fallen into the drain.

April and I duct-taped wood dowels onto a small goldfish net and were able to capture her baby. The mother had stayed nearby, and there was a happy reunion of mother and baby.

It is amazing how our view of such simple things can change.

I will always think of the animals saved, lost, and in peril when I see storm drains.



Critter Chat is published bi-weekly by the Chatham Star Tribune. See the original article here.

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