Back to the Wild Life


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It was hardly noon, and already five animals awaited treatment: a robin, cottontail rabbit, kestrel, mourning dove, and a house finch. The wildlife center operates out of a few rooms on the first floor of a small house off Route Off this room is a narrow examination space and ICU, lined by cages, a table, and anesthesia machine.

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Here, animals receive emergency fluids, medication, bandages, and stitches. In the back, a former living room, replete with fireplace and crown molding, there are incubators for baby songbirds and orphaned opossums, birdcages and snake tanks, and shelves containing every imaginable food supply and vitamin. At a table in the center, Bruce Bowers, 71, of East Falls, fed baby chimney swifts and robins.

A retired teacher, Bowers began volunteering six year ago, when Schubert was head of wildlife rehabilitation at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education's wildlife clinic. Schubert was fired this January, after 13 years in the role.


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The circumstances of his departure were heated. After Schubert's firing, his staff and volunteers resigned in protest, effectively closing the Schuylkill clinic. Within an hour, before every box had been unpacked, the first patient arrived: a great horned owl.

What is a Wildlife Rehabilitator?

Since then, Wellard and Schubert estimate they have received 1, animals. A huge diversity of wildlife resides in the habitat that the clinic serves. Deer, bears, and bald eagles live in the suburbs. These are all organizations that step in when animals are hurt, injured, or orphaned because of human activity. Volunteers are "the life of this place," Schubert said.

Many have been around for more than 10 years, building up a bevy of knowledge in their own right. Bowers, for example, expertly alternates between wet food and berries and insects for the birds he feeds. Next to her, Fay Stanford, 68, an artist and grandmother from Narberth, dabbed at another possum's belly, trying to stimulate its bowels.

Stanford began volunteering more than 10 years ago, after she brought in an injured bird.

Timing a wildlife release

The best part of volunteering, she said, is releasing the animal at the end of its treatment. Release is the "singular purpose" of rehabilitation, Schubert said.

What does a wildlife rehabilitator do?

Proper preparation for that moment is both an art and a science. Poor rehabilitation leaves an animal too reliant upon humans, no longer able to survive in the wild on its own. There's no one else to take care of it. The task is made harder in a space so small. A volunteer committee is hunting for a permanent home for the organization, at least three acres — preferably five — in a natural area of Southeastern Pennsylvania, accessible to the metro area but surrounded by woods and fields and streams.

In the meantime, they're building up capacity as a brand-new nonprofit. Wide-ranging skills are required for wildlife rehabilitation. Every animal requires an exam and diagnosis, and usually first aid, followed by a regimen of food, medication, caging, and activity that must match the specific needs of the species, according to its size, age, and the scope of its injuries or illness.

But other needs crop up, too. Recently, Schubert used wire cutters and needle-nose pliers to surgically remove a fishing hook from the throat of a snapping turtle that "had probably been around since the Carter administration. The phone rings 50 to times a day. Often, the caller is told to leave an animal alone. Baby rabbits and fawns found alone are nearly always meant to be that way. Young birds sometimes struggle to fly because they're learning, not because they're hurt.

If the animal is in trouble, the rehabbers instruct the person on how to safely transport it to their facility.

A box with holes cut out usually suffices, which may seem obvious, but they once received a kestrel stuffed into a Wawa cup. A little after noon, Schubert received a phone call from someone inquiring after a rabbit he'd brought in. Schubert told the caller that the animal, mangled under a speeding car's wheels, had been euthanized. In accordance with a national code of ethics for this profession, euthanasia is used if an animal's suffering is beyond hope, or if it cannot be reintegrated into its wild existence.

The center takes pains not to impose human norms onto wild creatures. That's also why the animals don't get names.


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They're referred to only by case numbers. Still, an emotional current runs through the wildlife center. The volunteers are gentle with the animals, and jovial with one another. Schubert takes a moment before he examines each patient, doing what he calls a mental ritual with each animal that passes through his hands. Their rescue and subsequent survival is considered an important contribution to the conservation of a critically endangered species.

Wildlife rehabilitation clinics can also often offer advice and guidance on humane solutions for "nuisance" wildlife concerns. In these countries, it is against the law to rehabilitate or in some cases possess a wild animal without permits. In the United States, rehabilitation permits, requirements, and procedures for all animals other than birds vary from state to state. Rehabilitation of birds in the U. The only birds rehabilitators can admit without a federal permit are common birds considered to be introduced invasive species : rock doves , European starlings , and house sparrows ; although some licensed rehabilitation facilities cannot accept introduced species species as a condition of their licensing.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification.

Wildlife Aid Foundation - Wild Animal Rescue Centre in Surrey

Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Categories : Animal welfare Wildlife rehabilitation Abandoned animals. Hidden categories: Articles needing additional references from January All articles needing additional references All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements from September

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