Archive for Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Operation Wildlife taking care of more animals since deadly storms

Diane Johnson, director of the Linwood-based Operation Wildlife, explains that possums have gotten a bad rap over the years. They're harmless and pretty cute, she says.

May 31, 2011

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A look inside Operation WildLife

Diane Johnson of Linwood-based Operation WildLife talks about the demands of caring for hundreds of animals, especially during "baby season." Enlarge video

Diane Johnson, director of Operation Wildlife, uses a syringe to feed a raccoon Thursday, May 12, 2011. This kit is among a group of orphaned raccoons that were brought into the shelter on Mother&squot;s Day. Johnson, who started the shelter in 1988, says that during the spring and summer months — "baby season," as they refer to it — it&squot;s not uncommon for the shelter to receive 30-40 animals a day.

Diane Johnson, director of Operation Wildlife, uses a syringe to feed a raccoon Thursday, May 12, 2011. This kit is among a group of orphaned raccoons that were brought into the shelter on Mother's Day. Johnson, who started the shelter in 1988, says that during the spring and summer months — "baby season," as they refer to it — it's not uncommon for the shelter to receive 30-40 animals a day.

A baby bird awaits food from the confines of a small butter tub Thursday, May 12, 2011.

A baby bird awaits food from the confines of a small butter tub Thursday, May 12, 2011.

How to help

The organization is in need of donations because of the increased animal intake from recent storms. Needed items include:

• Gerber baby vegetable, chicken and turkey.

• Powdered egg whites.

• Bleach

• High efficiency laundry detergent.

• Wheat germ.

• Walmart gift cards to buy fresh produce.

For more information, email OpWildLife@aol.com or call 542-3625.

In one room, a volunteer readies a hobbled fawn — recently attacked by a dog — for a stroll around the grounds.

Less than 10 feet away, volunteer Roger Rucker wrestles a feisty bald eagle named Sassy while the bird gets an injection for an injured leg.

And down the hall, veterinary intern Shelby Parsel is cutting open a rat, which will be dinner for a lucky possum.

All in a day’s work over at the Linwood home office of Operation Wildlife.

“Walks, crawls or flies across Kansas, we’ll take it,” said Diane Johnson, director and founder of the agency that helps rehabilitate 5,000 or so wild animals every year.

It’s normally hectic inside the string of buildings next to Johnson’s home, as ducks, roosters, turtles, eagles, possums and rats are cared for by a team of more than 100 volunteers. But with recent severe storms, the organization is seeing nearly double its daily intake of animals — about 60 to 70, Johnson said.

Raccoons, birds and baby bunnies are filing in from tornado-ravaged Reading and Joplin, Mo.

The increase in animals is straining the agency, Johnson said as she roamed the buildings checking on her flock. Johnson started the organization in 1988 and has dedicated her life to rehabilitating wild animals. In busy times, 12- to 14-hour days are the norm, she said.

The organization doesn’t charge for services but takes donations. With a few grants, Operation Wildlife, which also has a Shawnee office, gets by “on a wish and a prayer,” Johnson said.

Dedicated volunteers, such as Rucker, who all work at least eight hours a week, provide the free labor. For the retired Rucker, who drives in from Olathe at least once a week, Operation Wildlife helps him make use of a master’s degree in zoology he didn’t use in his work life.

“You never know what you’re going to have,” said Rucker of the wide variety of animals he gets to work with.

Seeing an animal recover is what it’s all about.

“The real joy is seeing an animal come in injured, then release it into the wild. That’s the real thrill,” Rucker said.

Comments

AmazonParrot 4 years, 1 month ago

"Raccoons, birds and baby bunnies are filing in from tornado-ravaged Reading and Joplin, Mo." - Just last week when I brought a bird there from the tornado damaged Reading and Diane told me specifically no animals whatsoever could be brought from Missouri, or anywhere else but Kansas, and they were very strick on that issue. Also, when i asked to see where the bird was being placed I was told that would be "harrassment of wildlife". I'm sure her heart is in the right place, and I'm glad she allowed some cameras in for this story.

ResQd 4 years, 1 month ago

Several years back, my cat decided to bring me a gift of 3 baby squirrels, on my patio. Sadly, only one survived, so I took it over there and the staff were very, very nice. They allowed me to call back 3-4 days later and check on the status of the squirrel. If you love animals, like I do, please donate, it's a very worthy cause!

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