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
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
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
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.
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