I am so excited. The 2015 baby season is almost upon us and soon I will be called back to volunteer at Wildwoods, taking care of all the orphaned and sick baby squirrels, birds, fawns and Lord only knows what else. It’s bittersweet and every person who volunteers feels a little pang of guilt because we’re looking forward to injured, orphaned and sick animals so we can take care of them.
But they are so damn cute.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but I truly mean it, even a year after I first started volunteering, a year after I fed my first baby squirrels and fawns and birds, I am still passionate about it. I’m even MORE passionate about it. For me, there is something so epically fulfilling about what I get to do at Wildwoods (even the spring cleaning part where I spent several hours scraping out and scrubbing the aviary) and I can’t get enough of it. The thought of animals being in pain, scared because they don’t know what to do, how to heal, or because they’ve found themselves in an unfamiliar place, separated from their parents and only source of food, having a wild and desperate need to survive but not having the resources or ability to on their own—it makes my soul ache and I have to respond.
Imagine you are a baby squirrel. You have never been outside the nest, your parents provide all the nourishment and safety you require and you are completely dependent on them. Then all of a sudden, one day the tree you’ve been living in is cut down, chopped up and hauled away. Your nest is still inside one of the logs, but now your parents cannot find you. You’re alone and you have no idea how to provide for yourself. You will die. A wild instinct kicks in, it screams at you from within that you must survive, but your instinct has not yet developed enough to tell you how, your parents did not have enough time to teach you what you needed to learn, and your body has not developed enough to give you the physical strength and agility you’ll need.
How terrifying that must be! How horrible to have every part of your being telling you you need to do something, but not telling you what, that you’re about to die, and not having that human quality that allows us to suppress fear and use logic to dull the intense screaming.
That’s party of why I love doing what I do. I have always felt a pang of righteous indignation, of the responsibility to do something, when anyone/thing is made to feel fear or panic by someone else who should know better. Animals never know that they don’t deserve to feel that way, to be abused, to be hurt, to be hit by a car or poisoned—in that way they are very much like children—and so as a grown-up who knows better, I must step in. I’ve never been able to connect with people or human children like I can with animals, and so, for me, it is natural that I volunteer my time helping them and providing them with a safe place where they can heal, grow, and develop their instincts so they can survive in the wild where they belong.
If you are like me, if you feel a deeper connection with your cat than your neighbor, if you have a need to protect, if you are looking for a sense of purpose, if you’ve ever felt guilty because you’d rather pay attention to your friend’s dog instead of their newborn baby, if you have a fascination with wildlife and a love of nature, I very much recommend finding a local wildlife rehab organization and volunteering your time there. Just being in the presence of these animals is therapeutic and can melt away a bad day in an instant. If there isn’t a wildlife rehabilitation organization near you, volunteer at a zoo. Or better yet, become a licensed rehabber yourself (you’ll need to contact the DNR first and find out what their requirements are).
If you’re in the Twin Ports area (Duluth, MN / Superior, WI) check out Wildwoods at wildwoodsrehab.org. New Volunteer Orientation season is upon us and they are offering three in-person training sessions (please RSVP by calling 218-491-3604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org):
- Tuesday March 31st 6:00 pm -8:00 pm at UMD, Montague Hall Room 206
- Saturday April 18th 9:00 am to 11:00 am at UMD in Duluth, Kirby Plaza Room 385
- Tuesday April 28th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at UMD in Duluth, Kirby Plaza Room 385
If you can’t make it in person, they offer online training as well. If you’re not in the area, but live in Minnesota, the DNR offers a list of licensed rehabbers in the state here. For more info on what to do if you find a sick or injured animal in Minnesota, click here or call 218-491-3604. For more facts on wildlife rehabilitation, click here.