You’ve probably heard of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota. Virtually every story about an animal in distress that we cover in the news, ends up going there for help.
But, what you may not know is just how big of an impact this organization has. It is the largest independent wildlife hospital in the country, and right now, they are in the thick of it.
“This is the season, yeah we’re in it,” says Margaret Newberger, Waterfowl Nursery Manager.
Around every corner at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, you find a critter or creature in need of help. They take in 140 to 150 animals a day during the spring and summer. Birds, bunnies, bats, abandoned or injured, if it belongs outside, they'll take it, and have happily done so since 1979.
“In that first year we treated 40 animals and last year was 13,333, so we've grown quite a bit,” says Phil Jenni, Executive Director of the whole deal.
And to take a peek behind the scenes is pretty darn cool. Right now there are more than 800 waterfowl patients alone. Two of those are injured fledgling loons. Margaret Newberger is feeding them fish during our visit.
"He'll eat 20, up to 20 in one sitting, and he'll do that every other hour,” she says.
That kind of attention keeps the 20 full-time staff busy. And to keep up with demand, they have almost 40 vet students, 70 college interns and 600 volunteers working seven days a week. I mean, who else is going to hand feed baby opossums? And if you're thinking to yourself, why save an opossum or a squirrel for that matter?
"We don't make judgments about if there's too much of something or not enough of something,” says Jenni. “My favorite joke is that if something happened to me, I wouldn't want to go to the hospital and have them say, “It's an old white guy we're not going to save him,"” he laughs. “We're a hospital. Our goal is to provide the best quality medical care to all of Minnesota’s species."
Of course, you want to make sure the animal you're trying to save really needs your help. This time of year, well-intentioned people, bring in healthy baby animals thinking they're abandoned when they're not. Baby bunnies, raccoons and birds like cardinals, blue jays and robins fall into this category.
“The best thing to do if you find a fledgling bird on the ground hopping around is see if the parents are still there caring for it and certainly give us a call," says Dr. Leslie Reed, Senior Veterinarian and director of Vet Education.
WRC is entirely funded by donations. They've been able to help hundreds of thousands of animals through the years because of the generosity of this community. If you’d like to help with money, volunteering or apply for an internship, we have a link for you here.