Wildlife rescue center survives on good will
Many Carbon County residents drive past the unmarked building on Carbonville Road every day without knowing what lies behind the doors and in the backyard.
The Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is run by Debbie Pappas at that location. Holding both state and federal permits to do the work she does, she quietly goes about her labor of love helping to rehabilitate wildlife to return to their habitat after they have been injured or abandoned.
Pappas receives no funding or reimbursement for the work she does, so it is pretty remarkable to see her operation. She responds to calls from at least seven counties to rescue wildlife that have been injured. Her calls come from DWR, UHP, BLM, city and county officials, and the public.
She has been working in wildlife rehab since December of 1994. Most of the animals she cares for are raptors, which are her specialty. She does take in most other animals with the exception of bears, cougars or other large predatory animals.
|A Saw-whet owl at the center.|
Many of the animals that she cares for have been injured in collisions with vehicles or other traumas. Pappas is not a vet, so she must use the vets to do the surgeries and x-rays it requires to begin the healing process. The local vets are able to give her a discount of about 50 perecent to help. The raptors and other birds require an avian vet and for that she must travel to Payson. He also gives her a 50 percent discount. Still all those costs come right out of her pocket and are not covered by any state or federal program. In all it costs her about $6,000 a year to do the work.
On going costs include doing several loads of laundry every day. There are the rats, mice and other food to help the birds relearn how to feed themselves. Also syringes, gauze and other medical supplies are items that she goes through almost daily. Donations of these items are always helpful to keep the program running.
Pappas is in the process of filing for a 501 (c) (3) status so she can apply for grants to help with the costs. Donations from the public so far only average about $250 each year. She is looking at approaching the power and coal companies for help when the center becomes a non-profit because the coal trucks and power lines contribute to the array of injured birds she sees every year.
The small orphaned birds she takes in are cute. It would be easy to fall in love with them and try to make a pet out of them. She reminds herself daily that if she is tempted to start allowing that to happen, she would need to get out of the business. It is imperative that the animals and birds do not imprint themselves with the humans that are caring for them. They need to retain their instinct if they are to survive in the wild.
|An injured American Kestral.|
Some birds are injured too badly to return to the wild even after they are coaxed back to better health. Then a decision has to be made whether or not to send the bird to a teaching organization, a long tem refuge or destroy the animal. It can be an agonizing decision, but one that sometimes has to be made.
Pappas could not do the work she does alone. She has two very dedicated volunteers that assist her daily. Connie Waddell and Don Byrge are critical to the operation of the center. At the present time she has two golden eagles, two long eared owls, two Swaisen hawks, two Redtail hawks, an American kestrel, a Screech owl, a Saw-whet owl, and two orphaned cottontail rabbits.
The smallest orphaned animals reside in a spare bedroom while they gain enough weight to survive. They are in a climate controlled setting and weighed daily to monitor their progress.
One of the best ways the public can assist is to teach their children to leave sick, injured or perceived abandoned wildlife alone. Some times just their picking it up can doom an animal that might be able to survive if left for its parent to find it. Also, the risk to humans handling sick wildlife is great. An animal may bite or scratch the rescuer. Many sick animals become infested with fleas and ticks. These can carry many diseases that can be passed on to humans including rabies and bubonic plague. It is better to call for a professional to assess and handle the situation than risk injury.
As the summer progresses Pappas expects to get many more calls. Anyone wanting to help with donations of supplies or funding can contact Pappas. She does ask that you don't bring small children to the center expecting a zoo like tour. These animals are trying to rehabilitate and are wild. They may do unexpected things at any moment because they are acting on the instincts of a wild animal.