As a wildlife rehabilitator, I meet wonderful warm hearted souls who dedicate themselves to protecting our wildlife. Although there are many fantastic and knowledgeable rehabilitators within the state of CT, in my opinion, Wildlife in Crisis (WIC) is the standard of excellence — in fact, I was so impressed, that I simply had to share! But let’s start at the very beginning…
I assisted in the rescue of several orphaned opossums in Trumbull, CT, last week. As you may know, opossums are nocturnal animals – meaning they are active at night. In addition, mother opossums lack maternal instinct – they have eight or nine little ones per litter, hanging onto their backs or nestled in their pouches (opossums are the only marsupials indigenous to North America), and if one drops off, either they don’t notice, don’t care…or both! Therefore, finding a baby opossum less than seven inches long (from nose to the base of the tail), alone in the daytime – definitely translates to “orphan”.
There is more to this story.
When I arrived to retrieve the orphan, I was greeted with a big smile from Bill Adams, the Good Samaritan who called me – and not one, but two baby opossums! It is reasonable to assume with opossums, that if you find more than one, there are probably others nearby. Therefore, we began to canvas the property, starting in the area where the first one was found, progressing to where the second one had been retrieved. Put on your “surprised” face, because it was within this area that we found a third and less vocal opossum. Our search led to the street where we found several markings indicating several bodies (including little ones) had been hit by a vehicle - apparently several babies had been thrown and survived! We systematically broadened our search and found a fourth orphan across the street in a neighbor’s hedges. The baby opossum was quite entangled – but similar to how a moth is drawn to a flame; the orphan released his grip on the hedges to go to the warmth of my gloved hand.
What should you do when you find an injured or orphaned animal?
First and most importantly, do not disturb the animal unless you are sure it needs your assistance – we can often be overly enthusiastic when our wild friends do not require our assistance (fledglings, cottontails the size of a tennis ball, and many nesting animals come to mind).
Know your species – before you intervene. A baby opossum out and about during the day provides a good example – opossums are not diurnal animals, but rather nocturnal, an opossum visible during the day is an indication that the animal is in distress.
Never compromise your safety or that of anyone else. For example, an entangled bird of prey will lash out to defend itself – and its talons and beak are weapons that should be respected!
Do not attempt a rescue if you are unsure of how to approach the animal safely, and if you do not have the proper protection – i.e. gloves.
If you do rescue an animal – place it in a safe, quiet, warm, secluded place with fleece or a sweatshirt/tee shirt so it does not become entangled, and then reach out to a CT state certified rehabilitator in your area.
What happened to the four orphaned opossums?
I am certified to rehabilitate baby orphaned and injured mammals, however, it is important to know your limitations, and I do not currently have the proper facility to rehabilitate opossums. So, once stabilized (after a visit to a veterinarian, and with guidance from my friend and mentor Joan Carruthers), I needed to find a trusted resource to rehabilitate the four little ones.
I contacted WIC, located in Weston CT, and I received a timely call back and confirmation that I could bring the four orphans to the rehabilitation site. The facility is located adjacent to a nature preserve, and offers animals a quiet, relaxing retreat, as they recuperate in a wilderness setting – with an efficient staff (all dedicated volunteers) providing care and tending to every need – assessing
progress and development – hopefully, resulting in release back into the wild.
Upon my arrival at the Center, the official greeter, a wood duck, felt it his responsibility to groom my hand as he chattered his warm hello. Inside, every square inch of available real estate is utilized – and there are so many cages and incubators (too many to count) – each one providing a cozy habitat for a rehabilitating animal.
However, what struck me the most is the cleanliness. A pristine environment will eliminate the propensity for the spread of disease – but maintaining an entire facility to this standard is impressive, especially since the facility accepts over 5,000 animals a year!
How can you help our injured and orphaned wildlife at Wildlife in
Whatever you consider your favorite animal, everything that makes its home (permanently or as a migratory resident) in the state of CT, is represented at the center (hawks, owls, foxes, songbirds, raccoons, deer, waterfowl, rabbits, reptiles, amphibians, rodents…and opossums).
WIC is the only all-species wildlife care facility in Fairfield County, CT.
Since many of these injured and orphaned animals cannot be released in time for seasonal migration or to prepare for winter, the center operates year round. This is quite a financial and physical undertaking.
While a minimal donation of $40 is suggested upon intake of an injured or orphaned animal at WIC, this does not begin to cover the costs involved in the rehabilitation of most animals. For example, the four opossums, although already about 10 weeks of age, will spend approximately 10-12 weeks at the center before they are ready for release – that is a lot of food and care – and expensive!
Established in 1988, WIC is a volunteer-run non-profit organization. You should know that tax deductible donations are graciously accepted and appreciated any time during the year – and no donation is too large or too small! And because the organization is volunteer-run, every dollar contributed will directly benefit the animals! So, if you appreciate our wildlife and you are considering a donation to a worthy cause, I would encourage you to support this
organization. To donate and learn more about WIC, click here.