By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Thousands of animals are taken in every year by special wildlife rescue groups around the country. In New England, these specialists find themselves caring for a variety of critters. On Wednesday, June 9, the Dover Town Library welcomed Nicole Wally on Zoom to discuss her experience working as a wildlife caretaker - and the dos and don’ts of wildlife rescue.
Wally shared information about a variety of species that she has rehabilitated throughout the years. The presentation came at a perfect time, with summer fast approaching. “During the summer, that is the most common season for wildlife casualties, so this presentation is going to focus on the common things you might encounter with wildlife during the summer,” said Wally. She continued to explain that mating season, increased traffic, migration patterns, and an increase in fishing correlate with increased animal incidents in New England.
Much of what Wally and her colleagues have rescued consists of orphaned animals. Baby birds, for example, are a common sight at the rehabilitation center. Wally drew upon her wealth of experience and offered some rules to follow upon finding a potentially orphaned animal. “You want to make sure they stay nice and warm. Never give food or water. They might not be old enough to eat and drink on their own. Also, if they’re injured and if they have any sort of head trauma, that’ll just make it worse,” explained Wally. The eventual goal is to hand them over to professional animal rehabilitation centers, where they will be nursed to health and released into the wild.
The audience got visibly excited at the sight of baby rabbits, squirrels, and opossums. Audience members were surprised to discover that possum are North America’s only marsupials, and cannot contract rabies. They also eat ticks, with their presence reducing the chance of catching tick-borne illnesses. “No one wants to get Lyme disease. We actually had volunteers fighting over who got to release them in their yards for that reason,” said Wally.
The most dangerous rescues consist not of birds of prey or mammals, but rather reptiles. Wally told her audience about the variety of turtles in New England, emphasizing that they are particularly at risk of being hit by cars. Wally recalled an incident that occurred earlier in the week when she was driving and saw a snapping turtle crossing the road - accompanied by a well-meaning bystander trying to help. “He’s really lucky he didn’t get his fingers snapped off,” Wally said. Snapping turtles can snap two-thirds of the way around their shell. Instead of picking them up from the front or middle, snapping turtles should always be picked up by holding the shell on either side of their tails.
Whether its ensuring a baby animal stays warm until it can be taken to a wildlife rehab or helping a turtle cross the road, we all can lend a hand.