To be a successful Wildlife Hospital you must have many people supporting you in a variety of ways. November is the month we traditionally give thanks, and I would like to thank some of the groups of people who help us care for wildlife every day. We have an incredible number of generous donors, skilled and dedicated volunteers, and an amazing staff. But this column is not about them. Today I want to address the “unsung heroes”, the ones who go out of their way to help wildlife in distress and get them the help it needs.
At our Cape Cod Wildlife Hospital, we receive about 2500 animals a year. These are the admission numbers so far for this year:
2200 animals through October
Many of them are brought to us by good Samaritans in the general public. No animal shows up without a human attached to it. These animal rescuers climb trees, stop traffic, wade into oceans and ponds, and drive long distances to get these animals to us. We are so appreciative of their efforts and their passion. Here are some of their stories.
A real estate agent from Falmouth went to show a house to an interested party and found a snake in the basement. Despite being fearful of snakes, he managed to catch the snake and put it into his gym bag. He then drove it to us in Barnstable, but upon arrival, the snake was nowhere to be seen. The gym bag was unzipped and the snake was somewhere in the car. With the help of our multi-talented staff, the interior of the car was dismantled and the snake was located. He was grateful the snake was found and he didn’t have to burn “his car to the ground”. The snake was fed, treated for some minor injuries and released.
A young woman was driving home from work around midnight when she came across the gruesome scene of a dead opossum that had been hit by a car. There were dead babies in the road with the mother, but she was also able to find 8 live babies. She took the live babies and kept them warm overnight and called us in the morning. Some of the babies had injuries that were treatable. They were all successfully rehabbed and released.
A man called about an orphan squirrel he had found under his refrigerator in his kitchen in Arlington. He had no idea how it got there. It was a Saturday and no closer wildlife center was open, so he drove this little squirrel from Arlington to Barnstable on a Saturday in the summer. Those of you who have had to go over the bridge in the summer know what true dedication this is. The little orphan was put with others his size, thrived and was released with his group.
Sometimes people literally give the shirt of their back. Often when animals are found on the beach or in the woods, no appropriate carrier is available. A gentleman brought an egret wrapped in his clothes. The egret had a clam stuck on his foot. The clam was successfully removed, his abrasions were treated and he was then released. The man came back to retrieve his clothes.
An injured and orphaned mute swan was brought to us from the Boston Esplanade after his mother was attacked and killed. The cygnet had surgery and spent many months in our care. A woman named Sylvia had been involved with these swans at the Boston location for years. She called 2-3 times a week for updates, and then updated the rest of the community in Boston about the progress. It was truly a labor of love. The cygnet was released and is growing into a beautiful swan.
In a waterfront community in a small pine forest some women walking by heard the cries of young owlets. Upon investigation, they found two Great Horned owlets on the ground that had fallen out of their nest. They called us and waited with them until we arrived to examine them and attempt to re-nest them. The parents stayed nearby watching and swooping us. The re-nesting was successful. Two volunteers monitored the nest daily to make sure they remained safe. Eventually they fledged and were able to live successfully in the wild.
Retrieving animals from high places is one of our biggest challenges. One family had a Great Horned owl in a tree sickened by rat poison. They called their arborist who came and retrieved the owl and turned it over to us. It was critically ill but is recovering and we hope to release it soon. Another woman found an Osprey hanging from its nest by a piece of baling twine. She called her husband who was a professional tree climber to come and capture it. They called us to receive it at the nest. It was successfully treated and released back to its nest. Fire Departments also assist us when they can. This past summer we had both Barnstable and Yarmouth Fire Departments re-nesting osprey chicks at two different nests at the same time.
Many people will stop for animals hit by cars that are lying in the road. They often have to stop traffic, and secure the wounded, frightened animal on the road. Many turtles are brought in this way, and it is life-saving. We have the ability to repair fracture shells and heal and release them. Most turtles in Massachusetts are endangered or threatened so each turtle is very important.
Without an involved, caring community, far fewer animals would make their way in for treatment. We do caution everyone to never put themselves at risk or enter into an unsafe situation to rescue an animal. Call us and we will give you the contact information of local support in your area.
During November and every day, we thank all of you for caring enough to help. We all are the stewards of our wildlife.