Wildlife Rehabilitators Nurture Critters Back to Nature

By: Glynn Harris
Parish Journal’s Outdoor Columnist

Ever been sitting at home at night with the family watching television when you hear something in the attic, something bumping and crawling around?

This happened to a Ruston family recently when they discovered that a screen-covered vent to the attic had been compromised. Checking to see what was making the noise, they were shocked at what they found. A mama raccoon had decided the attic was a good place to give birth to babies. Three tiny baby raccoons were discovered, removed and placed in a cat carrier.

A wildlife rehabilitator, Stacy Eagles, was contacted. She came and picked up the babies to do with them what rehabilitators do; nurture and raise them until they’re ready to be returned to the wild.

This piqued my interest so I located Leslie Greene, a wildlife rehabilitator from Farmerville to discuss just exactly what and why and how someone in her profession goes about doing what they do.

“By definition,” Greene began, “our job is to save injured, displaced or orphaned wildlife. Some of the animals I have dealt with include raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, foxes and beavers.

“To qualify to become a wildlife rehabilitator, you have to be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and you have to work under someone already licensed for a year. Then you must have the proper equipment and facilities for animals with which you will be working, and develop a working knowledge of medications and antibiotics needed to care for animals that are injured,” Greene said.

An official with LDWF has to come and inspect the applicant’s facilities before a license is granted. Greene is 3-4 years into her very unique business.

Her interest in baby critters started when as a youngster, she had an orphaned baby raccoon that she raised.

“I became very interested in this little guy and my interest grew until I decided I wanted to do what I could for other juvenile wild animals,” she said.

Greene added that from January through late spring, wild animals are giving birth to offspring during the busiest time of year for a rehabilitator.

“It’s a 24-7 job. I get calls frequently to help out in a situation involving recently-born wildlife that have encountered problems,” she added.

One of the more interesting and heart-warming situations Greene has encountered is ongoing. Recently, she had to rescue three baby beavers. She’s raising them.

“I am having so much fun with the little beavers and find they are quite social animals. They make sounds almost like a human baby, are very social and need the emotional touch and bonding I am only too glad to give them,” said Greene.

While some animals can be released back in the wild in shorter times, beavers take quite a bit longer. Red foxes, for instance, can usually be released within six months, gray foxes five months, raccoons nine months. It can take beavers up to two years before it is safe to return them to the wild.

“Beavers live in family units with parents and older siblings and it takes up to two years before they’re ready to leave the den and go looking for their own pond. I don’t mind,” she said, “because these little fellows are so much fun.”

What to do if you find a raccoon in your attic or find a baby squirrel that fell out of a nest? Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. You can find Leslie Greene on Facebook. She’ll do the rest.


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