BETHESDA – Now that spring has arrived, we will begin to see more and more wildlife around us.
Belmont County’s newest — and only — wildlife rehabilitation organization is urging people to do what they can to help conserve local wildlife and shares tips on how to do so.
Feronia Wildlife Rehabilitation, a nonprofit in Bethesda, is now open and ready to help the local wildlife. The organization is the only one of its kind in Belmont County and the surrounding area. Owner and rehabilitator Jordan Castello began operations in November and has recently leased 12 acres of land where the organization will continue its efforts. Currently, Castello is rehabilitating two red squirrels that will soon be released back into the wild, which is the ultimate goal for every animal in her care.
“My goal is to make sure each animal has everything it needs and is properly cared for so that it can start living a fully functioning life in nature,” she said.
Castello said spring is the “busy season” for animals and she’s excited to lend a helping hand where it’s needed. FWR is a Category I rehab, meaning it can help rehabilitate squirrels, rabbits, opossums, songbirds and waterfowl. At this time, she is unable to handle Category II or rabies vector mammals such as raccoons, foxes, bats and birds of prey.
Castello said there are a few tips to keep in mind if a baby animal is discovered: Try to reunite it with its mother; if you cannot do this, do not give it food or water. And never “cuddle” a wild animal.
“The important thing is that if they can get it back to the nest it came from, by all means do that,” she said.
The most common misconception Castello said he heard is, “If you touch a baby, the mother won’t care anymore.” This is not true. If reunion is not possible, she recommends contacting rehab for help.
“That’s what we’re here for. I’ll take it up and as best I can through some other way of reunion or if I have to, I’ll take it up and raise it. But their mothers are the best mothers,” she said.
If reunification is not possible, Castello said not to feed or water the animal while waiting for a rehabber.
“Try not to give anything for it, because that puts us behind on what to do. We need to flush what they got. Stuff from the farm store shelves is actually really bad for them. … There are actually special things that we have access to that are specially formulated for these animals,” she said.
“Keep it in a warm, dark, dry place and call your nearest rehabber, which is me in Belmont County.”
Castello said you should never “cuddle” a wild animal, even if it’s passive enough to allow it. Just because an animal is still doesn’t mean it’s satisfied; instead, Castello said, it’s “terrified.” As with rabbits, this fear can even lead to the animal having a heart attack.
“Doing that to any animal is actually harmful and very nerve-wracking for them, especially when they’re a baby. Handling them as little as possible and putting them in a dark, quiet, dry place is literally the best,” she said.
If a person comes across a dead possum on the side of the road and is brave enough to do so, Castello suggests checking the animal’s pouch for live babies.
“It’s really worth it, because they are very beneficial to our environment. Not only are they what I like to call nature’s garbage collectors, but they also eat a lot of ticks, which is very helpful for us as well,” she said.
With mowing season just around the corner, Castello recommends residents check for discolored areas in their yard before starting any yard work. She told me to check any discolored area for a burrow or den where babies could be. If there are babies or you think there might be, she recommends covering the area with a tote bag or small laundry basket while you complete the yard work. If such babies are injured in any way, she said she should contact the rehabilitation center so that she can assess the situation.
Although the organization cannot provide for Category II animals, Castello recommends that you contact her for assistance with them as she can transport them to an appropriate rehabilitation center.
When it comes to deer, the state of Ohio has very strict laws, Castello said. She recommends leaving any fawns where they are if found alone.
“If anyone sees a fawn in his yard, which is the call I usually get, just leave him alone. The mother comes back. The mothers find quiet, safe places to let the babies sit, sometimes for hours. She comes.” come back, pick it up and take it with you,” she said, adding that if the mother may be dead and the fawn remains in the area until the next day, you should call her to see what can be done. She said however, that the organization is limited in what it can do.
Castello also reminds residents that it is illegal to house wildlife for longer than necessary.
Castello said she cares about animals and wants to do her best to preserve their way of life.
“The reason I started this is because there was no one in Belmont County doing this, and the closest one was in Muskingum County. Those are precious moments that can be useful, an hour and a half traveling there, that’s a lot of time that can be saved in rehydrating the animal. We need this here, and I want people to have a place to take animals,” she said.
For more information, questions, or assistance with the recovery of local wildlife, call the organization at 740-921-3594 or visit its Facebook page.
The rehabilitation center is solely dependent on donations to function. Anyone interested in making a donation to the nonprofit may do so by mailing checks to PO Box 138, Bethesda, OH 43719 or by calling the phone number listed above.