“If you talk to the animals
They will talk to you
and you will know each other.
If you do not talk to them,
You will not know them,
And what you do not know
You will fear.
What one fears one destroys.”
- Chief Dan George
I am a gardener not a wildlife expert. Yesterday, when our new sweet baby squirrel friend was found clinging soaked and shivering to the rocks near our pond the outlook seemed dire. Gently lifting his bedraggled body, I sent our youngest son running for a t-shirt to wrap it in. A quick call to our local vet yielded the phone number of a local man, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, living just 10 minutes from our home. I phoned Gary who gave me urgent care instructions and told me that if the wee one was still alive at 6 p.m. Gary would take him in. Until then, it was critical to keep the babe warm with a heating pad and provide Pedialyte for hydration.
After an hour the patient was dry,warm and curled up into a ball sleeping soundly. His shallow breathing becoming deep and regular. Time to see if he would drink. After a failed first attempt with an infant syringe, I made a quick trip to the store for a bottle. It was a bit large, but he seemed to make do. His afternoon was spent sleeping and waking in regular intervals with “feedings” in between. At 7 p.m. it was time to deliver him to the expert for true medical care.
Gary Zimmerman and his wife Trish are class II licensed wildlife rehabilitators and the owners of the Black Creek Wildlife Station, Inc. Gary met me at the door of his converted 1850 barn which serves as triage for sick and orphaned wildlife. I was struck at once by his easy demeanor and when he tucked the baby squirrel into his flannel shirt any and all doubts were erased. Gary and I chatted for almost 40 minutes as he shared about what he does and the challenges he and other wildlife experts are facing.
Gary and his wife Trish live along Black Creek. In Gary’s rural area alone, increased use of pesticides and herbicides are affecting local creeks and streams where water fowl were once released. Mature evergreens and trees, a vital part of the habitat along the creek have been cut down to make way for swimming pools and lawns. What’s even more amazing… all of the wildlife release sites on the east side of our city have been leveled for new construction. Yes, ALL. With the natural habitats and secondary release sites eliminated where does wildlife go once its ready to be re-introduced to the wild? His answer, “The dump.”
Of the 750 acres belonging to the landfill, roughly 165 are dedicated for current and future refuse. The rest, with the efforts of Gary and other volunteers, is being restored as a natural wildlife habitat complete with bluebird boxes and more. Who knew?! Gary informed me that he’s released over 60 animals in the last year to our local landfill; including owls, a red-tail hawk, rabbits, a fox and next…our squirrel. I must confess I had not an inkling that our local landfill was working to establish a safe haven for wildlife. How ironic that land holding so much of our material waste is the same ground used as a safe depository for some of our most treasured wildlife… I have a lot to learn.