Caring for our wildlife: Local veterinarian makes it his mission

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HIGH POINT, N.C. — With a great sense of humor and a really big heart, Dr. Paul Bencuya makes a living treating domestic animals.

At Skeet Club Veterinary Hospital in High Point, he is fondly known as “Dr. Paul.” There, he cares for mostly dogs and cats, but he treats wild and exotic animals too. He does not get paid for it, does not get a “thanks” for it, but he absolutely loves it.

With 24 years of practice, Dr. Bencuya could write a book with all the stories he has to tell.

“I have had a bobcat kitten that got turned in from Allen Jay Middle School. [A] four- to five-week-old kitten. It lived in my bathroom for a few days while I tried to find a place for it to go,” said Bencuya.

A sedated tiger cub once went for a ride in the back of his station wagon. It came from a small zoo and Dr. Bencuya transported it to take different X-rays. When he tells the story, Bencuya jokes about what he could have said if a police officer had pulled him over that day. He says he could have asked the officer to issue a ticket quickly before the tiger wakes up.

Dr. Bencuya believes every creature has value. Wildlife care is something he is glad to offer the community.

“Dr. Goho, who owns the practice, is very kind in letting me indulge in X-rays and things like that. Of course, I do that on my own time,” said Bencuya.

“It’s very difficult for the veterinarian because nobody gets paid for this,” said local wildlife rehabilitator Teresa Craig. Wildlife rehabilitators, who must be licensed to care for the animals, bring sick and injured creatures to Dr. Bencuya for treatment.

Dr. Bencuya says keeping all animals alive helps maintain a healthy ecosystem. He also says it allows him to look for diseases that may appear first in wild animals.

Ciara Johnson, who volunteers with Piedmont Wildlife Rehab Inc., said, “I would like to see more people involved in the animals and care for them and get more interested in them, because there are not many people out there that want to do this anymore. People need to do it because wildlife is important in society.”

“They’re not grateful and if you did your job properly they want to get away from you. And that’s good! Wild animals should remain wild,” said Bencuya.

Treating wild and exotic animals is incredibly rewarding for Dr. Bencuya. “To release something and see them let go and stuff like that — and you know you have succeeded — I think is a tremendous experience,” said Bencuya, adding “I hope to influence some people if I can.”

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