Getting a solid night’s sleep at Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue is pretty much impossible these days.
Night feedings are keeping Peggy Jenkins up as she and a few dozen volunteers attempt to keep about 120 wild baby animals alive.
It’s the busiest spring since the centre opened near Oil Springs in 2011.
“I couldn’t even answer the phone last night because I was trying to get ticks off three snarly raccoons,” she explains. “They were in bad shape when they came in.”
At just six weeks old, the raccoon cubs were found by homeowners who noticed them in their yard. When brought to rescue centre the babies were dehydrated, underweight, filthy and covered in ticks.
“They were just wandering aimlessly and crying,” Jenkins said. “As soon as I saw them, I knew their mom was gone.”
Though she runs the only sanctuary for abandoned wild animals in the area, Jenkins does not encourage the public to bring young animals without calling first.
People often mistakenly believe they are helping when in fact they are separating mother from her offspring, she said.
“Of course, if there is blood or wounds, the animal needs help, but we don’t want people to just bring babies to us.
“A lot of the time, the adult is not far away,” she said.
Many of the raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, fox and skunks at the rescue centre arrived because their parents were killed in road traffic.
Others were found days after their mothers were trapped and removed from home attics. Much of the wildlife comes from Sarnia, Jenkins said.
“We got 10 baby raccoons when a tree was chopped down near Ridgetown and the mothers were either hurt or abandoned them.”
At the centre, young animals are nursed back to health, whenever possible, and released to the wild three to four months later. The objective is to keep them wild.
Some of the wildlife is on the species at risk list, such as large snapping turtles. Female turtles are frequently hit by cars when they cross the road this time of year and are brought in injured or dead.
Jenkins has amazing tales of removing the eggs from dead turtles and incubating them until they hatch.
“Last year, we harvested 58 eggs from one and 57 babies were born,” she said.
She does all of this on a budget of about $45,000 a year. None of it is government money and must be raised through donations.
Each winter, Jenkins trains about 30 volunteers – some from as far away as Germany and Denmark – to prepare for the busy spring season.
“I’m working almost 24/7 right now because of all the night feeds,” said Jenkins, who has fostered wildlife for nearly 30 years.
“If you have an adult animal at your house that you need to get rid of, call us first and we’ll help them move. If you have the knowledge, you can usually get those little critters to leave on their own.”
Heaven’s Wildlife Centre can be reached by calling 519-466-6636 or visiting www.heavenswildliferescue.org. If there’s no answer, leave a message. It’s probably feeding time.
* Wild animals should not be touched. They are not cuddly. Do not attempt a rescue without expert help.
* If a wild animal takes up residence in your home, call Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue for assistance. Most can be enticed to leave on their own with the right approach.
* If injured, a wild animal should be kept in a warm, dark, quiet place. Don’t feed or handle. Call Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue for assistance.
* Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue does not accept deer or birds.