May 24th, 2019

Ocean friends

Visiting a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet one of our local wildlife rehabilitators and learn how they support our local citizens and wildlife.

Pennsylvania has a number of licensed wildlife rehabilitators: They care for injured or orphaned wildlife that is unable to survive on its own. Our local rehabber has been volunteering for over 10 years and works primarily with squirrels and opossums. Some rehabilitators specialize in a certain species, such as songbirds or rabbits. Baby songbirds require a huge time-commitment because they need to be fed every few hours! If a rehabber wishes to work with species that may be prone to carry rabies, they require special training and immunization. These include foxes, groundhogs, skunks, raccoons, bats, and coyotes.

Animals are only taken in if they truly need help. For example, if an animal's mother has been killed before it is weaned, then the little one isn't able to survive on its own. The rehabilitator that I visited was caring for an animal in this situation. She had received an opossum who had been separated from his mother. The opossum had been found at a local farm, where a dog was barking at it. Its mother was nowhere to be found and it was too little to eat solid food. The rehabilitator was giving him a formula to drink and provided him a safe, warm place to rest and grow. He was hiding under a blanket in his container. The rehabber had placed a heating pad underneath the container to keep it warm. The little opossum was still very scared from his ordeal, but he looked healthy and he didn't make any noises at us.

This was the closest that I'd ever been to a possum - it was actually really adorable :) It looked similar to the opossum in this video. I hope he is recovering well and that he can be released soon. That's the rehabilitator's goal - to release all of the wild animals back into their home in the wild. It's pretty special to be able to share a part in their story, though, and to lend a hand when they're in need. They also serve a role in educating the people in our region about our local wildlife, so that both people and animals can live safely and happily.

There are two large rehabilitation centers in central PA, one in Centre County and one in Schuylkill County. These are a bit too far to visit or volunteer with, but I'm investigating other ways that I can get to know and support our local rehabbers. I'm really excited about meeting them and learning more about the animals that live here.

It's a dream come true to be able to get close to our local wildlife. It feels like coming around full circle with the days when I wrote a letter to Sea World telling them that I wanted to become an Orca trainer (1992), when I got ZooBooks in the mail (1994), when I watched Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, collected Littlest Pet Shops and stuffed animals. I've always wanted to be close to animals. I hope I'll have more opportunities in the future, like I had meeting the little opossum last weekend <3