Wild about animals
In February, the Post Independent reported that an orphaned mountain lion kitten killed and ate a house cat in Glenwood Springs. The Colorado Division of Wildlife eventually managed to corner the lion kitten and brought it to the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Silt. End of story in the newspaper. Did you ever wonder what happened next? What does it take to rehabilitate a wild animal and return it to nature?”When humans and wildlife are in conflict, wildlife usually becomes the victim,” says Foundation director, Nanci Limbach. “We are the only wildlife rehabilitation center that is licensed to rehabilitate all species of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species and bats.” Wildlife rehabilitators work around the clock, and are always on call to receive injured, orphaned or abandoned wild animals. Some are animals that humans, in their ignorance, thought might make good pets. Limbach and her brother, Al King, along with many interns, volunteers and veterinarian Dr. Paul Bingham, work at the center to feed, heal, monitor the health of and prepare the animals for return to the wild. Although the Colorado Division of Wildlife brings most of the animals to them, the state agency does not fund or compensate the center. All income supporting the center comes from grants and private donations.A young wild animal must have the skills to survive on its own, including the ability to hunt and kill its prey. While killing is an inborn instinct, before being returned to their natural habitat these animals must demonstrate that they can kill and are capable of feeding themselves. Since the ultimate goal is to keep wildlife in their proper place in nature, effective rehabilitation minimizes human contact. This includes visual contact, excessive handling (and no cuddling), which would make it difficult for wildlife to recognize humans as predators and survive in the wild. For example, when center receives baby screech owls, they are fed with owl hand puppets so they will not bond to a human face and will instead learn to relate to their own kind. Slowly, the rehabilitation specialists introduce the bird to other wild birds, moving its cage closer to a wild bird so it can learn its habits and watch as the owl kills mice for food. Limbach and King’s grandmother, Pauline Schneegas, was the inspiration for the Rehabilitation Center. “Pauline loved animals, and we were around animals from the time we were little,” said Limbach. “I thought I would be a veterinarian, but it was a man’s world at the time. So I decided to become a vet tech and to teach others about wildlife. When Pauline Schneegas died in 1991, she left money to build a flight cage and an educational building at the rehab center located on the land owned by Limbach’s husband’s family.In addition to the facility in Silt, they also run a satellite facility at a high elevation certified to take bears and is used to help bears complete winter hibernation. In the spring, when bears begin to eat again, King brings them to a lower elevation, where they are tagged and microchipped. The DOW determines the release site. Volunteers are the backbone of the rehab program, Limbach said. They help King with construction, transport animals for pick up and release, and make sure the animals have food. One year, volunteers gleaned 26,000 pounds of fruit from orchards, and commercial farmers donated produce they could not sell, to feed 25 bears.”Gene Pickett, from Parachute, heads up the volunteers. If we need something, he will make it happen,” said Limbach.The center serves not only as a place of animal rescue and rehabilitation. Its goal is to help all of us better understand and co-exist with wildlife. Limbach is a teacher and the center serves as an educational facility for the veterinary technician training program at Colorado Mountain College, providing training for the classes on wildlife.
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