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Last fall, the Southeast Iowa Wildlife Rescue Alliance was formally recognized as a non-profit organization.
“Our non-profit organization …was incorporated last summer and given non-profit status by both the state and federal government,” Dr. Jean Fitzgerald, Wellman rescue contact, said. “Its purpose is to help support the wildlife rehabilitators by distributing donations as needed for specialized formula, veterinary supplies and treatments, caging and the like.”
Though they are sanctioned by the Department of Natural Resources, the DNR does not support the efforts financially.
Fitzgerald said, though the group does not discriminate against the age of the animals they take in, most of the animals are babies.
“Often an adult that can be caught and brought to us is beyond saving,” Fitzgerald said. “However we have had some success with animals that would be considered marginal. We have released both a deer and a fox which were amputees and know the deer was seen to integrate with a doe herd.”
The most common animal dealt with are raccoons, but the list doesn’t stop there. The organization has also dealt with rabbits, squirrels, opossums, deer, turtles, woodchucks, bats, red foxes, skunks, weasels, mink, chipmunks, moles, waterfowl, herons, raptors, owls and songbirds.
“Individual rehabilitators have in the past handled around 40 animals annually,” Fitzgerald said.
SIWRA has its own website (SIWRA.org), constructed by Wellman resident Ed Hoedershelt. The hope is that the page helps to better inform people when they come across a wild animal in need of help.
The advice contained on the site includes information on what to do when you find a baby you think is orphaned and the contact information for rehabilitators, like Dr. Fitzgerald, conservation officers, and sheriffs in the counties of southeast Iowa.
The site also states that if you come upon an injured or orphaned bird or other animal, you should attempt to feed it until talking to a rehabilitator. If you strike or come across an injured deer, the public is encouraged to call 911, as only a conservation or other law enforcement officer can dispatch an injured deer.
In their effort to educate the public, licensed educators are also available to speak to groups or classes to better inform the public.
The education barrier is not the only obstacle facing the organization, according to Fitzgerald. The treatment options for wildlife can be limited in small town Iowa, meaning long commutes can be necessary to give the animals the care they need.
“We have frequently had to take animals to Waterloo for treatment. This can be an enormous hardship at a time when we are feeding several litters at four-hour intervals,” Fitzgerald said, which puts transport volunteers at a premium.
“We are also capable of mentoring individuals who would be interested in an apprenticeship with the goal of becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator,” she said.
For more information about SIWRA, or to find the contact information of your local SIWRA rescue contact, visit their website at SIWRA.org.