SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – One of the many things our region is known for is its diverse and stunning wildlife. But because of human interruption, it’s common for wild animals to get injured. You may not know how to help them, or where to turn.
Eyewitness News visited two places giving those animals a second chance at life.
If you find an injured animal, Red Creek Wildlife Center in Schuylkill Haven is here to help.
“It could be an animal found on your porch or you hit it with the car,” explains Peggy Hentz, Director, Red Creek Wildlife Center.
The facility takes in more than 3,000 Pennsylvania animals each year. The goal is to rehabiliate and eventually release the animals back into the wild.
“We take everything from hummingbirds to eagles, from tiny little baby squirrels to white tail deer fawn,” Hentz explains.
Red Creek formed in 1991 with one mission in mind; to care for as many animals as possible.
Peggy Hentz started the operation out of a bedroom, chich eventually spilled into the garage and the rest of her house. Then, she bought property across the street.
She recalls, “I found a kitten when i was 5, and I’ve just been like that ever since!”
About 60 miles away, you’ll find Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Monroe County’s Cherry Valley.
Director Kathy Uhler fell in love with animals during a college internship in 1982 and decided to make this a side-career.
“It grew and grew and grew, and now we’re one of the larger centers in Pennsylvania,” says Kathy Uhler, Director, Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center.
From birds to bobcats, the facility cares for a variety of animals. It’s the only wildlife center in pennsylvania that accepts bears.
Uhler explains, “they’re very political. There’s lots of rules and regulations and housing them is difficult.”
Experts say people should never bring injured wildlife into their homes for care. Even with good intentions, that just hurts the animal even more and puts humans at risk for disease.
Possessing a wild animal is also illegal. But, there is one exception.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has whats called the ‘Good Samaritan Act’. If a person picks up an animal they are exempt from those possession laws as long as their goal is to get that animal immediately to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet,” Hentz says.
Some animals can never return to the wild. They are just too badly injured. So, they serve an educational purpose.
“We go to schools, scout groups, elderly care places,” Uhler says.
Wildlife rehabs also offer learning opportunities for volunteers like Emily Schaffer.
“You have to try working with mammals, raptors, songbirds, reptiles, everything, and get a good grasp,” says Emily Schaffer, volunteer, Pocono Wildlife Rehabiliation and Education Center.
Although the road to recovery can be slow, it’s a journey worth taking.
“It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s what carries us through all of the tough times, because you don’t win all the time,” Uhler explains.
Kathy and Peggy both agree; the best part is watching animals fly or run freely back home. “There’s nothing better,” Hentz reaffirms.
Experts say, throughout Pennsylvania, there are about 25 wildlife rehabilitation locations, but more are needed. As non-profits, the already-existing facilities rely heavily on volunteers and monetary donations to survive.