“We’ve received three calls in Bartow County within the last week and several more over the last couple of months,” GWRA Executive Director Chet Powell said. “The most recent three calls involved a fawn that was caught by some dogs, four fox kits that were found and the last one was a opossum that was found dead on the road, but they were able to save six babies. The outcomes of these calls varied, partly because we had no volunteers in the immediate area [and] response time is critical.
“... In all three cases, the volunteers came from the Atlanta area. Obviously in any medical emergency situation, time is a major factor and the faster the response the more likely the outcome will be a positive one. Out of the three calls there in Bartow County, the only one lost was the fawn and it was just basically because the response time took too long.”
Referring to baby season as the busiest time period, Powell said GWRA is averaging 30 to 50 calls each day on its statewide hotline.
“This is the time of year that wildlife rehabilitators look forward to and dread at the same time,” Powell said. “Most of the rehabbers in Georgia are people who are retired and do this on their own time with their own money. It drains them both physically and financially, but they save thousands of animals every year.”
“This is the time of year when we are getting calls about almost every animal native to the state of Georgia. Most of the calls are about ‘orphaned babies’ and we encourage people to call us before moving it if possible. It’s a natural tendency for a human to see a baby animal and equate it with a human baby, but that is a terrible mistake. When young animals are taken from the care of their parents it disrupts the entire cycle of nature. And it places undue pressure on the wildlife rehabilitators who are already being overworked. The ultimate goal when we receive a call is to prevent the animal [from] being picked up if it is healthy and natural. If it is injured or [orphaned], then it will be transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation [facility where] it will be prepared for release back into the wild some time later in the fall.”
A nonprofit organization, GWRA originally was formed in 2010 to respond to calls regarding rescuing animals in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Currently, the organization has about 250 volunteers statewide, with hopes to possibly triple that number by offering online training.
“All of our volunteers are required to take mandatory training,” Powell said. “After they have completed their training, they work with local wildlife rehabilitators and will respond to reports of injured or orphaned wildlife in their local community. Their job is to assess if the animal is indeed injured or orphaned, or if it actually is a normal process of nature and should be left alone.
“For instance, the call that we had about baby foxes in Bartow County was that they were orphans, but our volunteers were able to locate the den and return them to their mother’s care. In cases where animals are injured or orphaned, the volunteers are trained to secure them safely and transport them to a licensed rehabber.”
Powell continued, “... Every successful rescue is memorable in its own way, but the ones that stand out the most are [when] you actually see animals reunited with mates. I’ve had the privilege of personally rescuing a bald eagle that was injured and then returning it to its mate just in time for nesting season. I have returned fawns after they were taken from the woods by people who meant to do the right thing, but just did not know any better, and watched the fawn be reunited with its mother on multiple occasions. All of our volunteers get to have those same experiences and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
To help extend its volunteer base, GWRA will be debuting an online class for prospective volunteers in the near future.
According to GWRA’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pages/Georgia-Wildlife-Rescue-Association, “Whether you intend to volunteer in your spare time or if you plan to become a full-time licensed wildlife rehabilitator, this is the class for you. The first session, ‘Introduction to Wildlife Rescue’ is required for all GWRA volunteers who will be working directly with wildlife rehabilitators as apprentices or transporters. You will then have the opportunity to work with wildlife rehabilitators. You will learn about laws, rules and other requirements and you’ll get the basics of wildlife rescue work from biologists, veterinarians and experienced wildlife rehabilitators that you will need to continue to the next level.
“Subsequent sessions will focus on specific topics, animal groups and procedures. Some folks will be content to remain as volunteers doing transports and assisting rehabbers while others of you may choose to take the test to obtain your own wildlife rehabilitator’s license. It’s all up to you! The sessions will be open to the public for $40, but members of the Georgia Wildlife Rescue Association (GWRA) get the usual 50% discount so they can register for $20. You can join the GWRA by following this link: http://www.georgiawildliferescue.org/you-can-help.html.”
Along with the organization’s website, www.georgiawildliferescue.org, and Facebook page, individuals can learn more information about GWRA by calling 844-953-5433.