2017-08-11 / Front Page

Center cures critters and returns them back to nature

By Cathy Cobbs

Carolina Wildlife Center cares for rescued baby owl and baby squirrel Carolina Wildlife Center cares for rescued baby owl and baby squirrel The staff and volunteers at Carolina Wildlife Center never have a typical day.

Last year, the 1,700- square-foot facility on Bush River Road saw more than 3,700 native wildlife come through the doors for either relocation or rehabilitation. The intent of this non-profit, according to its executive director Jay Coles, is to get them back to their homes.

“For everything that comes through our door, our goal is to release them back to nature,” Coles said.

While there are a variety of animals people bring into the center, the largest category is injured or orphaned songbirds, according to Cole, followed closely by squirrels, possums, and reptiles. The center can only accept a limited amount of raccoons because of the care constraints.

The center also sees its fair share of raptors, including hawks and owls, and often partners with Carolina Raptor Center to treat and release them.

Carolina Wildlife Center nurses baby oppossum. Carolina Wildlife Center nurses baby oppossum. But it’s not all about fuzzy owls and cute squirrels. Coles said Carolina Wildlife is called to help in some bizarre cases, including one in mid-June at a property in Chesterfield that was inhabited by turtles, snake, hogs, chickens, and, most importantly, a bullet-ridden body.

According to news reports, the body of Freddie Herman was discovered June 15 in a soybean field outside his home, the victim of an apparent robbery and murder. The yard was filled with half-starving animals and a sign outside warned there were venomous snakes inside.

Law enforcement officials backed off immediately and called several rescue organizations, including Carolina Wildlife. Working with three wildlife organizations, a rescue effort was launched, and teams found and safely rescued a copperhead, rattlesnake, boa constrictor, rat snakes, and king snakes, as well as more than 40 turtles of various breeds and sizes.

Coles said Carolina Wildlife is providing care for 22 of the turtles rescued that evening and is working to raise money for their care through general fundraising and the sale of a specially designed t-shirt.

Because of time and resource constraints, Carolina Wildlife does not pick up displaced or injured animals, unless it is very large or threatens the health of a rescuer. Anyone finding a wild animal can call the injured animal hotline at 803-772- 3994 for guidance about the process of capture and rescue.

Carolina Wildlife, a 501-c(3) organization exists solely through private donations. Visit www.carolinawildlife.org to contribute or volunteer to help with this worthy cause. From the Carolina Wildlife Facebook page “We recently admitted a rat snake into the center that had been removed from a chicken coop and had a large round lump halfway down its body. The coop owner suggested it might be an egg the snake had eaten. The exam indicated the snake had swallowed a golf ball. It is apparently a common practice to place golf balls in the nest boxes in chicken coops to encourage the hens to lay their eggs in the boxes. However, the unfortunate possibility of a snake eating a golf ball, thinking it is an egg, is also common. Considering all the benefits of having rat snakes around to eat disease carrying mice and rats and eating venomous snakes, it seems that allowing them an occasional egg is a cheap price to pay for their services. The rat snake was scheduled for surgery with Dr. Foy at Sunset Animal Clinic in West Columbia, and the golf ball was successfully removed. The snake is back at the Center now for four to six weeks of recovery.”

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