Wildlife Rescue Team gears up for summer | SummitDaily.com

Wildlife Rescue Team gears up for summer

Owls and other birds are sometimes found injured, and without the volunteer Division of Wildlife

Rescue Team to help, many of them might not make it in the wild. DOW is recruiting volunteers for its wildlife rescue team.|Summit Daily file photo/Brad Odekirk| |

SUMMIT COUNTY – Tom Kroening remembers the calls his state Division of Wildlife (DOW) team has received.

One reported a crow that had found something to eat on the end of a fishing line and later became entangled in a tree. Others dealt with the grebes that land on shiny surfaces – notably wet asphalt – and can’t take off unless they are in deeper water. Still others involved animals, usually bear cubs or raccoons, that crawl into Dumpsters and can’t get out.

He hears them all.

But the district wildlife manager for the DOW is often stretched for time, and can’t always get to injured or abandoned animals as quickly as he’d like. So he depends on a cadre of volunteers who take calls, help the animals and educate the people who call his office.

His next introductory meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. Training will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 24, and a second session will follow later in the spring.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to deal with wildlife,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for the public to assist the DOW in handling calls that many times we can’t get to. It helps the wildlife get a quicker response and allows us to do more of the things we’re trained to do that the public can’t necessarily do, like law enforcement and wildlife management.”

The calls for help begin in May and go through October, when animals have come out of hibernation or begin migrating back to warmer climates. Last year, Kroening estimates the Wildlife Rescue Team, in its fifth year of operation, responded to 85 or 90 calls for help last year. In 2002, it was 107.

“It’s been extremely beneficial,” he said. “That’s 107 calls we didn’t have to deal with directly at the time. The team is giving professional, competent service.”

Some of the requests are easy to solve.

A bear “trapped” in a tree will likely come down and return to the woods if people leave it alone. A fawn or calf “abandoned” by its mother will likely be reunited later in the day when the doe or cow is done grazing elsewhere. A bird that has fallen out of its nest will not be abandoned by its mother if someone places it back in its nest.

“People find young birds and they’re reluctant to pick them up and put them back in their nest or make an artificial nest because they’re afraid the mother bird will smell their scent on them,” Kroening said. “Birds can’t smell. If they hear young, they’ll come back and keep raising them. If mom’s alive, she’s going to be helping.”

Kroening and the team deals with all kinds of animals, ranging from elk that have been struck by vehicles to small birds that have flown into windows or raccoons stuck under houses.

Most injuries to animals are related to humans, when domestic animals chase wildlife or someone cuts down a tree not knowing there’s a squirrel’s nest in it.

Not all calls are pretty, Kroening noted, and he needs volunteers who realize that, on occasion, an animal has to be euthanized.

“If it can’t survive in the wild, they (the volunteers) have to be able to handle that,” he said. “Some have to be euthanized. That’s sometimes what happens.”

Other criteria for volunteers include a flexible schedule or one that provides specific days off consistently. Also, a little knowledge of wildlife, the desire to work with animals and the ability to work with and educate the public are helpful.

Those interested in volunteering on the team can show up at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near Frisco on Tuesday. For additional information, call Kroening at (970) 468-5848.

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