by Joyce Conner, Catherine Johnson, Kathy Lester, and Donna Lewis
On Sunday, February 24, 2019, four El Camino Real Chapter members attended three hours of volunteer training at the new All Things Wild Rehabilitation Center in Georgetown, TX. It was difficult to find the first time out, but was found on a hill in a clean, large facility.
You may have seen their March 2019 newsletter, Paws N’ Claws, that went out to all of our members. If you missed it, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this three-hour training, we met many of their highly skilled and compassionate workers and covered so many topics about the center and care of the animals that it would be impossible to repeat everything here. So, instead, we have tried to distill the information into a few topic categories.
The All Things Wild Rehabilitation (ATW) 501c(3) organization started in 2012 with a small group of dedicated rehabilitators who wanted to combine their expertise, effort, and time to help more of the wild animals who were being increasingly negatively impacted by humans. From their Facebook page, the mission of ATW is “to promote respect and compassion for all wildlife though public education and awareness; to rescue, rehabilitate and release sick, injured, orphaned, and displaced wildlife back into the appropriate habitat; and to provide sanctuary for those in need.”
Their new facility 15-minutes north of downtown Georgetown officially opens March 11, 2019, and the public is invited.
We learned that volunteers have many opportunities and are urgently needed. Because of construction along IH 35, wildlife habitat is being destroyed at an alarming rate. And, this is the time of year that many of our wild animals are bearing their young.
At the center, you can feed (or clean homes of) the animals, clean work areas, clean and organize supplies, or perform other center operational chores (like handy-wo/man or office duties). Some work can be off-site, like helping with fundraisers and newsletters, transporting animals, and collecting cash and supply donations (be sure to check on needed items before taking them out there, because of limited space). Catherine will occasionally let us know about needed supplies.
They require many volunteers in-center in order to provide the frequent feedings and cleanings of the animals. They ask center volunteers to sign up for three-hour shifts at least weekly, so that all animals’ needs can be covered during each day. Sarah Moody is the current Volunteer Coordinator, and she can be reached at 512-745-7063 or email@example.com.
They do not accept all animals, and in some cases, due to injury, they transport the animal to the Austin Area Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc., for serious medical care and euthanasia.
For example, while they take birds, they are still working on getting a raptor permit and must build a 20x50x16 flight pen for them. They will hope to be ready for reptiles later this year.
The largest animals currently at the center are rescued donkeys. (We failed to find out the story behind their rescues and their intended futures.)
During the training we learned how to feed and clean cages for tiny baby cottontails, raccoons, opossum, and even skunks. We also learned how to recognize the skunks’ tango dance as a warning before spraying!
By license, they are allowed to keep in permanent residence only two animals of each species for imprinting (for orphaned babies) and education of the public. These animals are all ones that are unable to survive in the wild. All other animals are released into the wild as soon as they can survive there. Because of this, the center is always looking for suitable habitat for releases (the property must have had a prior site visit by staff to confirm suitability, like having a water source).
Interesting Facts Learned
While many of their rescues are from injuries, the majority of their animals are from kidnapping! We humans are prone to take babies from their nests/dens before giving the mothers time to return. So, don’t assume that babies need rescuing unless you know the mother is dead or have more absolute proof of that.
So, for an example, in the case of a dead opossum at the side of the road, you should carefully turn it over (remember that opossums will play dead) and check its pouch. If babies are attached inside, pry them off and immediately get them to the center. If the mother dies, her milk goes sour and the babies will die from drinking it, so time is of essence.
Holding a baby animal will almost never cause a mother to reject it. In fact, as regard to birds, vultures and turkeys are the only birds that can smell, so other birds do not even smell human contact.
Wild animals do not make good pets. While some wild animals are kept in captivity because of injury, they are still wild animals. Some may have to spend their lives in a human’s care (due to inability to survive wild), but we should respect their natural instincts and not treat them as pets. Others are just inherently extremely difficult to tame. (You also need a permit in Texas to have a wild animal.)
Many wild animals carry diseases or parasites that can be transmitted to humans. These include: rabies, distemper (opossums do NOT get these diseases), parvo (raccoons, skunks, and fox get all three of the before-mentioned diseases), avian pox, mites, ticks, fleas, roundworms, etc. The center emphasizes and teaches safe and sanitary practices, like wearing proper clothing, washing hands thoroughly and often, wearing gloves, etc. Because of possibility of transmitting any of the above out of the center, they recommend that volunteers keep themselves, family, and pets up to date with immunizations (and volunteers who are going to handle specific species to get the rabies prevention series of shots); and have volunteer specific clothing/shoes.
Part of ATW mission is to “promote wildlife conservation by teaching children and adults about the beauty and value of wildlife.” As a trained volunteer, we can accompany/help expert staff members at educational programs and even lead them when approved to do so. Also, our chapter can request a speaker for only $25 to help pay for the care of the wildlife.