Next time you find a distressed or orphaned animal, don’t panic. Wildwoods Rehabilitation Center will walk you through the steps of what to do and not do to potentially save the critter's life.
Wildwoods is a nonprofit organization based out of Duluth that not only works to care for orphaned animals or animals in distress and return them to the wild, but also to educate the community on how to coexist with its wild neighbors.
According to Wildwoods' website, the organization's mission is to promote the understanding, appreciation and well-being of wildlife and the world we share through compassion, care and community involvement.
Nancy Wolfe, president of Wildwoods' board of directors, has been with the organization since the summer of 2012 and is currently studying for her wildlife rehabilitation certification.
Wolfe actually found out about Wildwoods on Facebook. She used to live in Arizona and was involved in an organization that was similar to Wildwoods that worked with rehabilitating wild birds.
“For the short amount of time that I have been involved with them, it has been a life changing experience for me,” Wolfe said. “I am quite a nature person and love the outdoors, so that drew me in.”
Wolfe said the critter care that Wildwoods offered was not the only thing that drew her in, but more importantly, the education piece of it.
“Teaching people how to coexist with our wild neighbor is very important in this area,” Wolfe said. “The education is absolutely critical. When someone finds an animal they believe to be in distress, the key is for them to call us so we can give them instructions on what to do.”
Wolfe’s most memorable experience with the organization so far was actually with the first animal she encountered there, a bald eagle. The bald eagle had been shot and had to be transported to the Raptor Center in St. Paul, where it then had to be euthanized.
“To be that close to a bald eagle and see it lying on its back totally helpless, that was life changing for me,” Wolfe said. “I was walking on clouds for several days after that. It really was life changing.”
Wolfe said you really don’t know how magnificent these animals are until you see them up close.
David Beard, a member of Wildwoods’ board of directors, has been involved with the organization for two years. Beard explained Wildwoods’ mission as respectfully caring for orphaned or injured animals, but also educating people about changing behaviors that can harm animals.
One of the main behaviors Wildwoods tries to target and discourage against is hunters using lead ammunition. When an animal gets lead poisoning, it usually results in the animal dying in a slow and painful manner.
Another behavior that Wildwoods discourages against is live trapping, which is the trapping of an animal and releasing it in a new habitat.
“All you are really doing is taking them somewhere else to die,” Beard said.
Beard said that if an animal is brought to another area, it will most likely be wandering prey and not be able to find a home, due to other species already inhabiting its home.
“The first year we had (helped) about 50 animals, and it just keeps growing,” Beard said. He estimates that Wildwoods saw around 500 animals last year.
Wildwoods sees anything from turtles, to pelicans, to eagles, to squirrels, to raptors, to bunnies, and has even seen a bobcat and a 162-pound black bear.
Some of the animals that Wildwoods is currently helping can be seen in the video below. This nonprofit organization works to care for orphaned animals or animals in distress and return them to the wild.
Volunteer Jason Block has been involved with the organization for almost two years and actually helped with both the bobcat and the black bear.
“It was really terrifying, but also really cool,” Block said regarding his experience with the black bear.
Block said that they were not really sure what was going on with the black bear, as he came out of hibernation and wandered through Jay Cooke State Park in a lethargic manner. After the bear was put into a kennel, he was then transported to Wild and Free in Garrisson Minn., which specializes in working with larger animals.
“Normally, we have to use a sedative to get them into a kennel, but we didn’t have to use anything," Block said. "During the whole drive, he didn’t make a noise."
Block volunteers his time to the organization by serving as a member on the fundraising committee, critter care and helping with educational tasks, such as school visits and tabling at certain events.
“I really do enjoy working with animals," Block said. "It is the high point of my day."
Block’s favorite animals to work with are bald eagles, bears, and wolves, and he has gotten the privilege of working with the first two.
“It is cool that I get this opportunity to work with these animals that you normally don’t get to work hands on with,” Block said.
Block recommends this volunteer opportunity not only because of the experience with the animals but the learning experience.
“It is a great learning opportunity from professionals, and you get to expand your experience and work with different animals,” Block said.
Wildwoods is always interested and in need of finding new volunteers, Block said. As a volunteer, you can participate in many different things, such as critter care, fundraising, helping with educational events, cleaning cages, doing laundry, or even helping serve on the board of directors.
“We are looking for people who are seriously interested in being on our board of directors and actively participating in our mission and moving it forward," Wolfe said. "They don’t have to be experienced, just need to have a willingness to learn and grow with us."
Click here for information about a Wildwoods' art sale to take place April 21.