WildCare: where the wild things are getting help
WildCare Oklahoma, a non-profit organization in Noble, is giving a second chance to injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife across the state.
Co-founders Rondi Large, O.T. Sanders, and Nancy Harrington started the organization in 1984 as a home-based wildlife rehabilitation center before becoming the non-profit organization known today in 1995.
“The impact of humans on the environment is continually increasing with developments, roads, damming of natural waterways, et cetera, and the pressures on native wildlife are immense,” said Kristy Wicker, education director at WildCare. “Native wild animals play such important roles in keeping our world healthy and act as natural balances to potential problems. A diverse ecosystem is better for everyone, as is a humane and compassionate human population.”
The non-profit cares for more than 240 species of native Oklahoma wildlife. The most common animals that are admitted into the organization’s rehabilitation program are Eastern Cottontails and Virginia Opossums, with 1,609 cottontails and 759 opossums admitted in the past six months.
Wicker said that the non-profit’s intake rate is up 9% compared to last year, with 4,965 animals being admitted into their care so far in 2023.
According to the organization, almost all of the animals that are admitted are affected as a result of human activity. The most common reasons for admission are injuries from cars, window collisions, poisoning, trapping, human work accidents, and dog/cat attacks.
The animals are housed in special facilities around the property, according to their species and needs.
“We try to make sure animals are not raised alone, but have others of their species to interact with or hear and see,” Wicker said.
The main facility, the Golden Family Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, houses an admissions desk, raptor room, reptile room, mammal room, raccoon room, songbird room, cottontail room, predator room, and its own veterinary clinic.
Animals that require less attentive care are housed in outdoor enclosures, with 13 aviaries for birds and nine other outdoor areas for mammals.
“Wild animal instincts are pretty remarkable to see and even young animals that grow up here become much wilder as they age and when they are moved to an outside enclosure where they are able to engage in more naturalistic behaviors such as foraging and hiding,” Wicker said.
Wicker said that employees and volunteers must take precautions to ensure that the animals do not become too habituated or attached to humans.
“We limit talking in areas where animals are cared for, sometimes using drapes or other items to hide our faces if an animal is susceptible to imprinting,” Wicker said. “It’s not perfect, but we do work hard to give our animals the best chance we can for a successful release.”
The organization offers multiple volunteer programs for those who want to get involved.
The animal care volunteers are assigned to one three-hour shift every week and complete duties such as dishes, laundry, diet preparation and distribution, enclosure cleaning, grounds projects, and assisting the nursery staff during feedings.
The transport volunteers are assigned one evening transport shift every week. Volunteers in this position are responsible for transporting wildlife from the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter to the WildCare property.
People can also volunteer their property to be home to wildlife eligible for release. Members of the community who have a minimum of 30 acres and a year-round water supply are encouraged to sign up.
Later this year, WildCare will be hosting its annual open house where donors can learn more about the mission of the organization, tour the facilities, meet the staff, and learn through interactive displays.
To learn more about WildCare, visit the website at www.wildcareoklahoma.org.