Piedmont wildlife rehabbers seeing increase of animals in need

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MOCKSVILLE, N.C. -- Michele Poe has helped countless injured animals in need. But one stands out most in her mind.

“I had a fawn that had a leg injury,” Poe describes, of an animal she encountered last year. “This fawn had the will to live.”

Poe is a wildlife rehabber specializing in fawns. She says most of the injuries she sees in them are leg injuries.

“It took several weeks, a little bit at a time, she got up, she used his leg and a couple weeks you couldn’t even tell,” she said.

Poe says it usually takes about five to six months to rehab a fawn. She grew particularly close with this one, naming her “Maime.” After nursing her back to health, it came time to release Maime back into the wild.

“Just to see her go from dragging her back leg, to running on it, is a memory I’ll never forget,” Poe said.

Poe is also the president of Wildlife Rehab Inc., an organization based in the Piedmont, but with members which travel all over the state of North Carolina.

Today, they’re needed more than ever.

“Sometimes it involves a lot of wild goose chases,” said Carol Kiser, VP of training for WRI. “Literally.”

Kiser says they took in more than 3,000 animals in 2019.

“It is rising,” she said, of the number of animals they find in need. “We never go fewer than we did before, so it’s a big deal.”

Part of the reason for the increase is what’s new in the area; new roads, new construction, new development, etc. Last week, they picked up a hawk that had been injured in a new housing development.

“You wonder if that was a hawk that had always been there, and then all of a sudden he can’t fly his normal paths,” Kiser said.

WRI has rehabbers specializing in everything from birds, to mammals, to reptiles. Kiser says new construction has resulted in an increase in injured turkeys, geese and deer.

“It’s a pretty sophisticated process. We’re not wildlife moms, but we try the best we can,” Poe said.

The process of rescuing, rehabbing and releasing has now been expanded to Rabies Vector Species, which had previously been off limits in the state.

“A lot of the animals that we used to get calls for and couldn’t do anything about,” Kiser details, referring to animals like bats, foxes and raccoons. “Now we can.”

WRI was started in the 1980s and membership varies anywhere from 65 to 75. In addition to the magnified need for rehabbers due to an increase in injuries, their necessities are about to grow during their busiest time of the year; spring, when most baby animals are born.

“It was worth the time, and the effort, and the tears and the laughs to get that animal back in his natural environment,” said Poe, of animals she has treated. “To see them go is also sad, because they’re not a part of my life anymore.”

She adds that if you are untrained and come across an animal which has been injured or endangered, that you should try to get them to a dark, dry, cool place.

“Call a rehabber first,” she said. “Do not feed, do not give them anything to eat or drink.”

If you’re interested in becoming a rehabber, WRI holds a Wildlife Rehabilitation Class at Forsyth Tech. Their spring session runs from Feb. 27 to May 7. To sign up, contact FTCC.

For questions, call Wildlife Rehab Inc., at (336)785-0912.

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