Local volunteers give wild animals a second chance

Most people enjoy seeing wildlife in their backyards, and in Duluth there is usually no shortage of these opportunities. What many people don’t realize is that the more animals they see, the more possibilities there are for those animals to be injured by humans. When wild animals do get injured, most people have no idea what to do to help them. That is where Wildwoods Rehabilitation comes in.

Wildwoods Rehabilitation is a newly incorporated nonprofit organization that has been working to rehabilitate wildlife in the Twin Ports for almost six years. Wildwoods receives between 300 and 350 animals a year, a number which has been gradually increasing every year since they began. The animals vary; it can be anything from a bald eagle to a mouse, or a lizard from Arizona that made its way here in a returning spring breaker’s backpack.

The organization consists of about 20 volunteers who help with feeding and other chores, and a few more who help transport animals that Wildwoods can’t rehabilitate to other rehabilitation centers such as the Raptor Center in the Twin Cities.

Wildwoods has three licensed wildlife rehabilitators on staff, with two more people working towards their rehabilitation licenses. One of the licensed rehabilitators, Alisha Stalker, has wanted to help wild animals her whole life.

“When I was four I went to a summer camp, and while I was there I found a nestling bird, and because no one knew what to do with it, how to help it, it ended up dying. I felt so angry and helpless that no one could help this animal.”

Now that she is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Stalker feels like she can be the informed person who helps animals in need.

“It means everything to me to be able to help these animals,” Stalker said.

For volunteers at Wildwoods, the drive to help has been there for a long time. Leann Bollin has been volunteering and interning with Wildwoods. She has also had the drive to help animals since a very young age.

“I’ve wanted to do this since I was little, be able to be in a position to help [the animals].  Many people would say it’s natural selection, that these animals shouldn’t survive for a reason, but really they just need a little extra push. I love to be able to help them and give them a second chance,” Bollin said.

In the fall and winter, Wildwoods Rehabilitation gets many domesticated ducks that look like mallards, but do not fly well or migrate. Wildwoods Rehab keeps the ducks until they can find them homes. Photos courtesy of: Wildwoods Rehabilitation

The dedication from the volunteers and rehabilitators shows in their success stories, and they have seen many successes over the years.Through them all, there is one in particular that stands out to Alisha Stalker. Last summer, a cat killed a mother wren that had a nest filled with hatchlings. Wildwoods received the birds and over the course of about a month they were able to get all of them healthy enough that they could be released, without losing a single one of the young wrens.

While they have had successes, Stalker would like to see less animals come to them in the first place. She thinks that this could happen if people could be more understanding of the situation animals are often in.

“The biggest reason we have animals coming in is human encroachment, urban sprawl, whatever you wanna call it. People are taking away their habitat,” Stalker said. “They need food, if that means going through someone’s garbage they’ll do it, they’re starving.”

Stalker had just one thing for the people of the Twin Ports to remember.

“If you find an animal, stop, call us immediately before you do anything, unless the animal is immediate danger.”

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