For Injured Wildlife, Rehabilitator Has The Hands That Heal

OUTDOORS

August 28, 1991|By Marie V. Forbes

Patti White, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and her husband, Pat, have established a haven and hospital for injured wildlife on theirfarm on Babylon Road near Taneytown.

Patti, 30, received her training from a wildlife rehabilitator in Raleigh, N.C., while her husband was studying landscape design at the University of North Carolina.

She rescues about 400 animals a year and later reintroduces them to their natural habitat.

In addition to the family's horses and goats, the Whites are caring for a duck with paralyzed legs, a Canada goose with a broken wing and a band of orphaned pigeons.

"I guess the most interesting bird species I've ever attended was a great blueheron that we had last year," the rehabilitator says.

Inside the unfinished shell of what will eventually be the Whites' own residencethere is an even greater variety of birds and animals. A pair of 6-week-old orphaned mallards are already beginning to develop adult feathering and will soon be ready for release. A crow raised from infancywill be introduced into a crow family at the Chesapeake Bird and Wildlife Center in Bowie, Prince George's County, later his year.

"Crows are very intelligent birds and very family-oriented," Patti Whitesays. "Introducing him to a flock gives him the best chance for survival."

Two doves, one whose broken wing has recently healed, are also ready for release and will be returned to the wild this weekend, as will a baby finch.

Probably the most intriguing occupants of the Whites' animal kingdom is a litter of nine baby possums.

"The mother was struck by a car and they were in her pouch, still alive," White says. "Five girls and four boys."

The possums are already weaned and drinking on their own.

A litter of baby beavers brought to the Whites' rehabilitation center this spring was sent to the Chesapeake center, where there are better facilities for caring for them.

A softly padded cardboard box contains another litter -- three orphaned baby rabbits, each no bigger than a pocket watch, who still need hand-feeding every several hours.

White does not generally give out the formulas she uses in nursing baby animals.

"With many species, it's illegal to give the animal a diet without a license," she notes. "Also, people get very tired of the demands of frequent feeding after a couple of days."

In pointing out a cage containing a sparhawk whose broken wing is mending, White says that when handling birds of prey, she and her husband always wear heavy gloves and are carefulto keep the birds away from their faces.

"Even through heavy gloves, a great horned owl managed to sink his talons into my husband's arm," she says. "Screech owls,

for some reason, are the meanest of all for their size. A bird like this sparhawk can knock out your eye quicker than you can blink.

"I'd recommend that anyone finding an injured owl or hawk call us or call the Humane Society rather than attempting to touch the bird."

White's interest in animals goes backto her childhood days.

"I never had enough pets," she says, "although I did eventually have some guinea pigs and later on a puppy."

Her 17-month-old son, Joshua, will have no such complaint -- he paddles happily around the family's living quarters trailed by a variety of cats and surrounded by cages filled with elegant cockatoos and tropical birds.

Many of the injured and orphaned animals Patti White receives are referred to her by the Carroll County Humane Society or by Dr. Nicholas Herrick, a Westminster veterinarian.

"If we didn'thave Patti, I don't know what we'd do with all the birds and animalsthat come in this time of year," Herrick says. "Our veterinary hospital has a history of treating wildlife and is sort of a drop-off center for all kinds of birds and animals. If animals require surgery, wedo that and prescribe any medication they might need."

"But then we like to get them out to Patti as quickly as possible, so that theyare under stress for as short a time as possible. Pat White often stops on his way home from work and picks up the ones that we pass along for rehabilitation. We're very lucky to have Patti to treat and rehabilitate the injured and orphaned animals."

As her reputation hasspread, Patti White has developed many repeat customers, people who know that the animals they rescue will be competently cared for by her.

White credits Herrick with giving her lots of assistance in treating and medicating the animals she nurses back to health. The budget for her operation is meager; the Humane Society provides some moneyand more comes from private donations, but last year she operated ata $1,000 loss and the year before she lost $1,500.

Except for turtles, which do best when returned to their original habitat, none of the animals the Whites nurse back to health are returned to the people who found them.

"Rabbits are the animal that is brought to us most frequently," Patti White says, "We release them right here, and our garden suffers as a result. The squirrels go to Howard County. Robins

are the birds we most often receive.

"If I could emphasize one thing, it would be that wild animals do not make good pets. If youwant a cute little rabbit or a bird for a pet, buy a tame one.

"In order to survive in the wild, they have developed certain instincts. Some will bite unpredictably, and others simply can't stand captivity. If later on they are released, they have no

idea of how to survive in the wild," White says. "Wild birds and animals were meant to be free."

If you find an injured or orphaned bird or animal, call either White at 848-1298 or the Humane Society at 848-6494.

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