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Meet the people who rescue the animals

Rehabilitators help stunned or injured wildlife, like this hummingbird.

‘Tis the season. Spring is upon us in full force, a bit early. As I record the spring sightings in my nature log, I notice that some birds are returning early, others at the same time as normal. The trees on the other hand look as if it is the first weekend in May, and the spring flowers are on a schedule about two weeks early than what I usually notice. All of this returning and rebirth bring with it the challenges of new life. It is also when your friendly neighborhood wildlife rehabilitator is sleeping in two-hour increments in order to nurse baby mammals and birds, among the other animals they may have in their care.

Soon Audubon’s phones will be ringing with calls about baby birds fallen out of nests or caught by cats; of baby bunnies rescued from family dogs; of turtles hit while crossing the road. The calls about ‘abandoned’ fawns in city parks and backyards start to roll in mid-May as well as orphaned groundhogs, raccoons, and skunks on the side of the road next to their dead mothers.

We at Audubon are happy to take your calls, and answer your questions. And then we will refer you to a wildlife rehabilitator. You see, we don’t rehab animals, in fact, we can’t. Not only do we not have the training (which is vital), we also don’t have the required permits.

Working to rehabilitate injured animals requires specialized knowledge, a lot of time (especially in the spring), space, resources, and money. It is an essential need in any community with humans, and one that is in desperately short supply. Those who take on the mantel of wildlife rehabilitator are heroes, literally, for hundreds if not thousands of individual animals each year. So, what do you do when you find that baby bird out of its nest? Discover that the tree blown down in a storm had a nest of baby squirrels and mom is nowhere to be found? Find a raccoon killed by a car with three babies huddled at her side? Call one of these heroes.

Don’t be upset if they can’t help you, though. Wildlife rehabilitators aren’t veterinarians, and they can’t accept injured wildlife if it needs medical care – it has to go to a vet first. And certain rehabbers can only take certain species. And they only have so much space to house animals. So, while they would love to help you, they often can’t.

Meet Your Rehabber Day, which was Saturday, is an opportunity for you to learn more about what you can do, should do, and should not do. You can also learn a bit more about what it takes to be a rehabber, and if it is something you’d like to do. Depending on the season, there may be some animals present in the process of being rehabbed.

There will be some non-releasable animals at the event, to showcase what happens to some animals that are rehabbed, but never recover enough to be released into the wild. Audubon’s animal ambassadors will also be out and visiting to showcase the ‘second life’ that some nonreleasable wild animals get. Learning about all the residents of the natural world, helps foster a positive relationship with them, which we hope leads to helping them. All proceeds from this day will be divided among the rehabbers and Audubon. Currently scheduled to come are representatives from Tamarack Wildlife Center from Saegertown, Pennsylvania and Eagle Dream Rehabilitation Center from Olean, New York, and local rehabilitators Sandi Emke and Cheryl Burns. Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are still open from dawn to dusk but Liberty, the Bald Eagle is currently off display during the construction of the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat. You can visit her on her Facebook page. The Nature Center is partially open, including restrooms, the Blue Heron Gift Shop, and some exhibits. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569- 2345.

Sarah Hatfield is Education Coordinator at ACNC.

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