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A wild summer at Wildlife in Crisis in Weston

p1-WIC_Possum288WWildlife in Crisis intern Sam Fino of Weston holds a baby opossum, one of the organization’s many animals in need. —Xander Landen photoThe summer months have kept Weston’s Wildlife in Crisis busy. This non-profit organization has served the town for more than 20 years and has devoted itself to land conservation and wildlife preservation, providing injured animals with free care to safely recover before they are released back into the wild.

Weston’s birds are flocking to Wildlife in Crisis, as this time of year poses particular challenge to their populations. It is one of the few wildlife care centers in the area that accepts and treats injured birds. This is vital for Weston’s bird species, considering that songbirds seem to be the animals in need of the most care.

It is very common for songbirds that are injured by domestic cats to be brought in around this time of year. In fact, the organization says it is not unusual to receive five or six songbirds with cat-related injuries per day. To combat this unfortunate trend, Wildlife in Crisis recommends Weston residents keep their cats indoors as much as possible.

In recent summer storms, nests have been washed out of trees, leaving baby birds stranded. Wildlife in Crisis has worked to raise these baby birds in incubators and hand feed them until they are developed and strong enough to enter the wild independently after two to three weeks.

Last year, Hurricane Irene left countless hummingbirds helpless and homeless and many are still in the caring hands of Wildlife in Crisis, which took them in last summer.

Peter Reid, who has worked at Wildlife in Crisis since it was founded by his wife, Dara Reid, in 1988, says that Wildlife in Crisis has received an increased number of birds of prey in need of care. The organization has become a temporary home to several species of hawk, a peregrine falcon — the fastest animal in the world — and barred owls, to name a few. Normally birds of prey hunt along the tree-line, which is almost always contiguous with Weston’s roads, causing these animals to have head-on collisions with oncoming vehicles.

p1-WIC_Owls288WBarred owls at Wildlife in Crisis.On a positive note, according to Mr. Reid, it is good that Weston is seeing an increase in these birds’ numbers. Before DDT was banned as a commercial pesticide in 1972, the substance significantly damaged the populations of several animal species including the birds of prey and drove some to extinction or endangerment.

“It has taken over 30 years for DDT to get out of the food chain, and finally birds of prey are making a comeback,” said Mr. Reid.

In 2003, Weston had its first eagle sighting since the 1950s, and it is hoped these birds are here to stay.

Feathered friends

Another bird that has received recent attention from Wildlife in Crisis is the chimney swift. Since North America was settled, these birds have adapted to nesting and raising their young in people’s chimneys during spring and summer. People frequently mistake the chimney swift’s raucous squawking with that of a bat’s or other animal’s, but these birds are not to be feared. They can actually help control insect populations as they eat thousands of them every week. Wildlife in Crisis encourages those with chimney guests to let them be.

In addition to Weston’s feathered friends, Wildlife in Crisis has rescued several reptiles this year. Many local residents have called Wildlife in Crisis to report snapping turtle sightings in their backyard. This 300-million-year-old species travels across the country to the Northeast to lay its eggs.

“Each year they return to their ancestral nesting grounds, which now happen to be in many of Weston’s backyards,” said Mr. Reid.

p1-WIC_Birds8288WBaby cardinals get some TLC at Wildlife in Crisis.Sadly, not all Weston residents are tolerant of visiting turtles: Wildlife in Crisis has received multiple calls reporting turtles that were intentionally run over and even shot. Fortunately, turtle shells are relentlessly protective, and most of the time, Wildlife in Crisis can care for these injured animals, repair their shells and release them back into the wild.

Snapping turtles

Snapping turtle sightings are no cause for alarm, as they do not bite unless provoked and do not stick around for very long. After they lay and bury their eggs, they travel back home to the South.

Baby raccoons brought to Wildlife in Crisis in the spring have been cared for and recently released. Every spring, the organization takes in young, abandoned raccoons whose mothers were trapped and killed.

“Unfortunately, animals like raccoons are considered pests. We strongly discourage the trapping of wild animals as it can have a large effect on populations,” Mr. Reid said.

Weston’s Wildlife in Crisis organization is not only active during the summer, but also takes on the responsibility of caring for animals in need throughout the year. It provides educational services for Weston’s youth, and hosts Scout and school groups during the school year to teach the importance of animal preservation.

“It’s extremely rewarding to provide a place where injured animals can recover. It’s our moral responsibility to help these creatures,” said Mr. Reid.

If you encounter an injured wild animal, visit Wildlife in Crisis’ website, wildlifeincrisis.org, and give it a call at 203-544-9913. The organization is also accepting and grateful for donations.

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