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With Maryland having over six hundred species of plants and animals on the endangered species list, it is essential to have an abundance of well-trained animal rehabilitators to slow this list’s growth.

Lynn Anderson is a certified animal rehabilitator who works with a vast array of different species.  Some animal rehabilitators chose to focus on a specific species, like Anderson’s main focus is on birds.

Rehabilitators can work in a variety of ways.  They can work out of their homes, with state organizations or even with a non-profit.

“I began my animal rehabilitation career later in life, my late 40s to early 50s, and had a lot to do in order to be a licensed animal “rehaber.” ”  Anderson completed her two-year required internship in order to rehabilitate animals.

The internship lead her to the most important part of her animal rehabilitating career thus far, the Orphan Wild Rescue Center located in Lusby, Md.

“It is way off the road- on a dirt road.” There was plenty of space of tons of animals, which is exactly what Anderson wanted. She takes in as many animals as possible

“The barn on the property was falling down and I had to repair it.” She said this with a smirk and continued to explain how this is an expensive field to go into.

“It is so expensive to run a place like this but because it is a non-profit, I can fundraise and get donations.” One donation Anderson went on in detail was about wiring the cages and the vicinity. One company gave her money off of the labor cost.

“The center allowed me to create and grow my non-profit, Feathers and Friends Wildlife Rehab.”

The non-profit’s mission statement is “to provide care, shelter and help to the less fortunate wildlife who have been injured, orphaned or in trouble. We’re all about the animals.”

Anderson made the decision to leave the center three years ago and start “rehabbing” in her home.

“I do miss the center. When I had to give it up I looked for colleagues and friends in the field who needed a bigger place for their animal rehabilitation.”

The Center had to be used for animal rehabilitation purposes because the land was acquired by the National park and planning service. “The Center is on 58 acres of land and the person who uses the Center is only responsible for up-keeping three acres.”

Her husband was not very thrilled about moving Feather and Friends home because “there is lots and lots and lots of stuff lying around. Food items are everywhere.”

Anderson laughed and said “My family always jokes and says that if we ate fur and feathers for dinner we would never have to wait for food again.”

***

To become an animal rehabilitator there are a list of requirements to get certified.  These requirements are necessary to maintain standards and ensure safe animal rehabilitating practices.

In Maryland, the organization in charge of this is the Maryland Wilderness Rehabilitators Association.

The requirements to become licensed include completing 200 hours with a master rehabilitator, having six hours of approved continuing education every year and joining one of the industries associations.  This checklist can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website.

The continuing education courses keep the rehabilitators on the same level as their counterparts and up to date with the latest research on care of the animals.  These workshops are throughout the year and are open to members and non-members of the association.

For those who cannot attend the workshops held through the Maryland Wilderness Rehabilitators Association, they can receive their credit hours through the Wildlife Rescue League of Virginia, the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.

“Getting licensed and permitted to do animal rehabilitation wasn’t too difficult,” Anderson said. “You just have to deal with regulations and the certification.”

Permit renewals are done every two years and proof of the education hours and credit must be proved at the time of renewal. Each year the animal rehabilitator is required to complete six hours of continued education.

Caging is another requirement for permit renewal.  The state is particular on the type of caging and wiring used for each grouping of animals. All these materials are at the expense of the rehabilitator.

For other animal rehabilitation, such as birds, a separate license is required and this can be attainted through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

               Proper animal rehabilitation is important for the safety of our environment and ensuring that local animals do not become threatened or endangered due to mishandling or improper care. The best way to become an animal rehabilitator is to volunteer at nature and wildlife centers and obtain the required experience with the animals.

***

Perrie drove around the corner and put her car in park before killing the engine.  She leaned forward in her car seat, binoculars pressed tightly to her face.  The injured goose had flown right by here, she was sure of it, now all she had to do was find it.

Once she found the goose she could devise a plan to capture it and bring it in to have its injuries examined by a professional.  With some luck she could get that goose the help it needed by the end of the day.  While scanning the rooftops through her binoculars, she quickly went over several possible courses of action in her head.

A sharp tapping on the window snapped her out of her thoughts of the goose.  A woman with a government badge demanded that she roll down her window.  A lengthy conversation resulted in Perrie having to leave the scene and abandon any hopes of finding the injured goose.

“They almost arrested me,” she laughed as she leaned back in her desk chair.  “Apparently I had been parked in front of a government building with binoculars far longer than a normal person should be.  Had to show my ID and licenses and everything to prove that I was indeed just looking for a bird.”

Perrie is a wildlife rehabilitator who specializes in capturing and releasing injured birds.  She is often called when injured animals are found by people who don’t have the training or expertise to capture them themselves.

“I got a call from a government facility last week about how they had a duck covered in kerosene.”

Perrie not only helps to capture these injured animals but she does her best to help educate the people involved as well.  When she went to the facility the next day to get the duck, she explained to the people there that they should expect to find more within the next few days.  Within an hour of Perrie leaving with the duck, she received a call saying they had found another duck covered in kerosene.

Ducks are flock birds and it is rare to see them alone, especially now during mating season.

“Didn’t surprise me at all,” she said, “especially when they called back the next day and said they found four more.”

Perrie took the ducks to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Delaware to be treated for the kerosene.  Tri-State Bird Rescue is the only recognized oil spill responder for wildlife on the east coast where they respond to incidents all the way from Canada to Florida and the gulf coast.

Perrie does her work through Tri-State Bird Rescue, who trained her in handling the animals and in responding to disasters like oil spills.

***

Fresh water oil spills tend to receive less notoriety than other spills, despite being just as destructive, if not more so.  Everything from fish and birds to land mammals are affected by these spills.  When a spill occurs, the oil can poison any and all animals that it comes in contact with.

When a bird gets covered in oil it is unable to fly because the oil weighs down the animal.  The bird will then try to clean itself, which results it in it digesting the oil and ultimately poisoning itself. Oil spills have rippling negative effects on wildlife.

“There was a spill last winter in New Jersey, all I did was work in the snow and rain for four days.  They had a fuel spill from a bunch of school busses and it was draining down into a residential pond.  There was over a hundred birds and something like 175 turtles that we had to go out in canoes and get,” explained Perrie Prouty, a wildlife rehabilitator and a member of the Delaware team of wildlife oil spill responders. These spills are exhausting to clean up and require a large amount of resources to get the environment back to health.

This particular spill was dangerous for people in the surrounding neighborhood as well.  Many of the residents relied on well water for their drinking and were afraid that this would affect the quality of their water.  This 26,000 gallon spill (the equivalent of one and a half swimming pools) was quickly responded to and no lasting damage was expected. Not all oil spill stories end as well as this one did.

Prouty has been involved in the Delaware wildlife oil spill response since the late 1990s.  She started as a volunteer for two years where she would help transport live animals a nearby facility where they would be washed and cleaned.  Prouty has since been involved in over a dozen spill cleanups since.

One of the largest oil spills in history was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.  This spill occurred because the drivers of the tanker drove the boat too close to the shore and crashed into a reef, spilling several hundred thousand barrels of crude oil into the ocean.  An estimated 2,800 sea otters and 250,000 seabirds were killed by the spill.

It took four years to clean the spill.

Prouty said the hardest part about her job is that there aren’t enough people involved.  She says that it takes a great deal of physical exertion to do these jobs because sometimes they occur back to back.

“Last year and the year before there were a bunch of spills and I couldn’t go to all of them.  I would go home and start to relax and have to run right back out.  Sometimes it was so exhausting that I just couldn’t do it,” she said.

Prouty expressed that she would be interested in training new people.

***

Kids screaming and laughing is non-stop background chatter while the Irvine Nature Center is in the midst of their summer programs.  The family oriented center is home to a wide range of summer camps where kids do everything from rock climbing to bird watching.

“It’s important for kids to spend a lot of time outside in nature,” said Erin Goodloe, a receptionist and birthday party leader at the Irvine Nature Center.

The Irvine Nature Center is an environmental education organization who aims to educate and inspire both children and adults to respect and protect nature.  They work with over 700 schools for their educational programs. The center is located in a quite part of Owings Mills, Md.

The center houses many live animals and has a wide range of educational tools available to them.  They recently had a “Woods at Night” exhibit that Goodloe says the children just can’t get enough of.

Upon entry the exhibit is dark and foreboding.  But a voice over an intercom tells you to listen, followed by owls hooting and insects clicking.  Spot lights come in on various animals all over the room, explaining their lifestyles and hunting habits.

“It’s funny how the parents are more freaked out by it than the kids.  It’s definitely the kids favorite part,” said Goodloe.

Lynn Anderson of Feathers and Friends knows that educating the future generations in important as well.  “It’s important to give back, lots of people are not aware what you can and cannot do with the wildlife,” she said.

Anderson has been able to organize many boy scout and girl scout activities at her facility.  One girl scout troop was able to build cages for the songbirds.  The troop members put together the framed wooden structures that are screened in with a door.  She remembers the girls squealing excitement as she brought out the baby birds when the cages were finished.

“Another great project that was done at the Center was a painting job. One scout group came and pained the center….purple!”

“One boy scout group came and helped with a very useful project- making nesting boxes for baby mammals,” Anderson said. “These include baby squirrels, possums, bunnies and so forth.”

“I was there to facilitate but the kids did it on their own…and did a good job too!”

Being a licensed animal rehabilitator allows Anderson to teach children about the importance of correct care for animals.

“I teach them for example that you should not feed a duck bread and if you find a baby duck you need to find food that can be ‘mashed up.’” Another important lesson she tells the children is that babies, especially birds, need heat and they cannot digest food if they are cold. “So always warm up the animal somehow before you feed it.”

Between educating and handling animals, Prouty, Goodloe, and Anderson can all agree it is a full time job that is completely exhausting as well as time consuming.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its perks.

Anderson exclaimed that the best part of the job is when you release the animal back in the wild.  “It’s the most wonderful feeling in the entire world,” she said.

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