Injured, Abandoned Wildlife—Who-You-Gonna-Call?
Safe Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

February, 2008--Have you ever stumbled upon a baby bird or rabbit that appears to be lost or abandoned by its parents? It’s a heart-wrenching and confusing moment as you decide to leave the baby or take it home and hopefully nurture it long enough to release it back outdoors. But that, in itself, is not the best thing for these wild creatures.

That’s why Susan Dwyer of Granby founded Safe Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center—to give orphaned and injured wildlife a chance at life that they otherwise would not have. Dwyer, who has been a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator for nine years now, saw a need for a place where these creatures could be tended, nurtured and prepared for a release back into their natural environs.

“For many years I would bring them into my home and try to care for all their needs but it is not only a tremendous time commitment but an activity that requires a lot of physical space, equipment and resources,” said Dwyer, who, along with other members at Safe Haven, raised about 300 animals last year and successfully released most of them back into the wild.

According to Dwyer, Safe Haven is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation centers in the state. Currently all of its volunteers help care for the orphaned and injured wildlife as well as perform the multitude of other duties associated with a rehab center, but in-home rehabbing limits the number of injured animals that can be taken in at any one time.

The Center is hoping to raise funds to build a structure to house all of its feathery and furry visitors, thus streamlining the process and providing a better haven for these creatures.

“Medical supplies, cages, food, formula and all of the other paraphernalia that is necessary for the successful rehabilitation of these birds and animals take up a lot of space,” said Dwyer, who has generously housed wildlife in her home the past nine years. But, according to Dwyer, rehabilitation is expensive. She estimates that Safe Haven’s rehabbers spent about $15,000 per year each in their rehabilitation efforts. Add to that the personal cost of time—all of the rehabbers have full-time jobs—and the output is, indeed, costly.

Dwyer, however, believes that these creatures deserve a chance at life—no matter what the financial or personal cost.

“The wildlife comes to us in dire need,” said Dwyer, who explains that Safe Haven takes not only rabies vector species, such as raccoons, skunks and foxes, but also takes in opossum, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks other small mammals and birds. “We do not have the heart to turn them away.”

Over the years Dwyer has sensed a growing frustration from the public who find these injured or orphaned wildlife. With a dwindling number of rehabbers in the state, telephone calls to various numbers are connected to answering machines and, quite often, no one calls back.

“There is a huge vacuum in this area,” said Dwyer, who hopes to raise enough money to build a facility that can house a much larger operation. “This leaves very worried or angry people with orphaned infants or distressed wildlife with no way to find help for them. Many turn to local veterinarians but most of these doctors will not take in wildlife.”

Safe Haven operates a 24-hour Hotline (860.653.2811) for people who have found orphaned or injured wildlife. Demand is greatest, according to Dwyer, from late February until late October. “Most young wildlife are born in late winter, early spring,” she explained, “and that is often when some untimely accident or event will cause the babies to be separated from their parents.”

Dwyer gets misty-eyed when she thinks of one baby raccoon, Angel, who got caught in a chain link fence after being chased by a Rottweiler. Angel’s siblings all escaped but she was stuck in the fence and had to endure an all-night ordeal with the Rottweiler growling and lunging toward her. Dwyer responded to a call the next morning from a neighbor of the Rottweiler’s owner. When she came to pick up the baby raccoon she found a shivering shell of an animal. Though the baby raccoon was just bruised, she was in shock and was withdrawn and unresponsive.

“Animals will go into a trance-like state when faced with extreme fear,” said Dwyer. “Over a two-week period I treated her for PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder—and soon Angel would grab my finger when I went to feed her.” Three months later Dwyer released Angel in a wooded park away from people and dogs.

“It was a very bittersweet moment,” said Dwyer, “but it epitomizes the value of what we are trying to do at Safe Haven.”

Though Dwyer and other Safe Haven rehabbers—including trained volunteers and students—will continue to administer to orphaned or injured wildlife, their hope for a facility and land on which to build it is dependent on donations.

Donations can be made on Safe Haven’s secure website at www.safehavenrehab.org or by mail to Safe Haven, PO Box 147, North Granby, CT 06060-0147.

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