UI wildlife clinic seeks help with supplies

SAVOY — Life can be rough for wild critters, especially the newborns.

Frisky dogs chase baby bunnies in the back yard and injure them. Strong winds rattle newly hatched birds right out of their nests.

This time of year, dozens of injured and orphaned wildlife babies are brought to the University of Illinois's Wildlife Medical Clinic for care and nurturing, but the clinic could use a little help with baby supplies.

A wildlife baby shower will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. April 21 at the Praireland Feeds store, 303 S. Dunlap St., Savoy.

High on the list of clinic needs are things to keep the animals warm, like heat lamps, says Dr. Julia Whittington, the medical clinic's director.

"If anybody has a spare incubator sitting at home, that would be awesome," she says.

But there are plenty of smaller wishes on the list, too, like animal feed and warm blankets.

People attending the shower can bring a gift or purchase one of the clinic's needs and donate it for the animals' care, and will be invited to play baby shower games.

Guests will also be invited to see some of the clinic's birds of prey and wildlife orphans, and hear a presentation offered at both 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on what to do when finding a baby wild animal.

Among some of the items needed for the clinic are bird seed, peanuts with shells, plastic igloos, fleece blankets, laundry detergent, heat bulbs, small plastic aquariums with lids, fruit and vegetable baby foods, plain Cheerios, Ziploc bags, peanut butter and free-standing or hand mirrors.

The mirrors are for lonely birds, according to the folks at VetMed.

"We need food, housing supplies, different consumables, cotton balls, Q-tips," Whittington said.

Prairieland Feeds Assistant Manager Natalie Piper said the store will also have a list of some items available for purchase for the clinic.

The clinic also offers sponsorships for $200-per-day in honor of birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones to help support its costs.

Whittington said summer is the Wildlife Clinic's busy time of year, but activity picked up early this year. About 35 percent to 50 percent of its patients are neonatal or young wildlife.

Some of the baby critters are rescued by well-meaning people who aren't aware of the animals' parenting habits, she says.

"Many of these guys have simply found their ways to places where it wasn't obvious that mom and dad were still taking care of them," she said.

Whittington adds that some wildlife animals have been injured or orphaned and really do need rescuing. After they've been treated at the clinic, they're taken to rehabilitators to avoid imprinting and become prepared to be released back into the wild.

"We're raising them with people, but we don't want them to be pets," she said.

Taking wildlife into your home is a bad idea, Whittington cautions. Cute little baby wild animals grow up and they can bite, scratch and spread diseases to people, and if they can no longer live in the wild they wind up being euthanized.

"It's just really important for people to understand that the best place for wild animals is in the wild, and the best source of raising wild animals is the parents," she said.

How do you know when to step in and bring an animal to the UI clinic? The clinic won't turn any animals away, Whittington says, but she advises clearly assessing the situation before attempting a rescue.

Obvious cases for rescues are those animals that have been injured and are cold, not moving and being bothered by flies, she said.

Some, such as deer or cottontail rabbits, don't stick close to their young a lot, so their babies may appear to be abandoned when they're not, she said.

Find a wild baby out of the nest? The parents will frequently accept the baby back if you've handled it, Whittington says. Carefully place the baby back in the nest and then leave.

"The parents won't come back while you're there, but they'll often come back," Whittington said.

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