Rehabilitating Injured and Orphaned Wildlife
by Karen Fetter
If you consider yourself an animal lover and respect wildlife, then you would be interested in learning about Wildlife Works Inc., located in Youngwood, Westmoreland County.
Wildlife Works rescues and rehabilitates injured or orphaned wildlife. Injured wildlife can occur when an animal is hit by a vehicle or hurt by another animal or person. Animals taken in by Wildlife Works include hawks, owls, songbirds, raptors, small mammals like squirrels, rabbits, opossums, chipmunks, reptiles, snakes, frogs, toads, duck, geese, etc.
Wildlife Works does not accept companion animals such as dogs and cats nor does it accept large wildlife such as deer, as the facility does not have enclosures needed to house large animals. Also, the office is located in
downtown Youngwood surrounded by busy streets. Larger animals like deer need wide open spaces to live and run.
Releasing Injured Animals to Their Natural Habitat
“Our goal is to rehabilitate the animal so it can be released back into its natural habitat,” said Lisa Vezzani. Unfortunately, some animals die on their own and some have to be euthanized if they cannot be healed. Occasionally, animals not strong enough to be released but that can be helpful for education and are given to zoos or nature centers.
Lisa is one of only two paid employees that Wildlife Works relies on. The organization was formed in 1991. Since that time Wildlife Works has remained focused on caring for the wildlife that native to the area. The facility is licensed by United States Fish and Wildlife and the Pennsylvania Game Commission and remains one of only two Wildlife Centers serving Westmoreland, Fayette, and Somerset counties.
“I have always loved animals. I walked into this position over 10 years ago and this type of work gets under your skin. I learn something new every day,” said Lisa.
Volunteers and Donations Needed
Despite the commitment of its paid employees, Wildlife Works needs additional help. Monetary donations would help with buying much needed supplies to care for the animals. Wildlife Works also has a “Wish list” that lists all the needed materials so those who want to donate are aware of the items they are contributing toward.
Volunteers are also greatly appreciated, especially between the months of March through October. These are the months that the offspring of wildlife are being born. These new additions create the need for a lot more care because the caseload nearly triples. Volunteers are only required to work one four-hour shift per week. However, it is important that volunteers understand that wildlife creatures are not like domestic animals. Contact needs to be limited so the animal does not become dependent on humans. Therefore, all volunteers are trained extensively so the experience is a positive one for both them and the creatures in their care. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age or older.
There are numerous ways in which Wildlife Works stays involved with the community. One way is by offering unpaid internships for those in college. This experience provides hands-on training and exposes students to native wildlife.
Adopt a Wildling Program
Wildlife Works also offers the “Adopt-a-Wildling” program. The money for the adoption would be used to care for an animal so it will be able to be released back into its natural environment. There are also educational programs available for groups that would like to learn more about wildlife and what to do if a person finds an injured animal.
What to Do with an Injured Animal
If you or someone you know finds a wounded or injured animal, there are several steps to take. The first step would be to call the office as soon as possible. The staff will advise and give complete instructions based on the circumstances and what type of animal is found. Generally, most animals should be gathered up and placed into a box. A specific time needs to be arranged for the admission because it is dangerous to leave a wildlife animal unattended on the grounds.
“We try to convince people to co-exist with their wild neighbors,” said Lisa.
Wildlife existed before housing complexes and office buildings were built. The more expansion that occurs, the less room there is for wildlife. As a result, more wild animals are seen in yards, on the road, and in open spaces. The animals are forced to live among people. Many of the animals are hit and injured by vehicles. If people do not slow down and watch for animals crossing the road, many needless tragedies can occur.
The road is not the only area of danger for wildlife. The weather can also impact the animals. Harsh weather conditions can cause animals to starve or become injured because they do not have shelter. Animals can also be injured by predators.
To learn more about how you can help wildlife either by helping to save an animal’s life, monetary donations, or working volunteer hours visit www.wildlifeworksinc.org or call 724-925-6862.
Because the staff is small, people should utilize the phone messaging system. Whether or not the phone is answered, someone always checks messages throughout the weekend and in the evenings especially through the summer months and warmer weather when more animals are in need.