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Oaken Acres answers call of wild

Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Life is about to get a little wilder for Kathy Stelford and the staff at Oaken Acres.

With the onset of baby season just weeks away, Oaken Acres is preparing for an influx of wildlife at its facility at 12140 Aldrich Road in Sycamore. Oaken Acres is the only wildlife rehabilitation center in DeKalb County since the Wild TAILS nursery, an entity of the TAILS Humane Society, announced last week it would not open its doors to wildlife anymore.

“We’ve been very happy to partner with Oaken Acres for the last seven years, and we know the babies will be in very good hands with them,” said TAILS executive director Beth Drake.

Wild TAILS and Oaken Acres partnered in 2007 to care for wild animal rescues. The Wild TAILS nursery specialized in nurturing wild babies until they were strong enough to be taken at Oaken Acres.

“The main reason that we are transferring this [program] back to Oaken Acres is because they’ve done some expansions on their facilities in Sycamore,” Drake said. “It just makes sense.”

Oaken Acres is prepared for the larger number of incoming babies, Stelford said. But she hopes people will follow a few guidelines if they encounter a wild animal now that the warmer weather is on its way. The first thing people should do when they find an injured or orphaned animal is to call a wildlife professional at Oaken Acres. It’s best to have them figure out what the next steps should be, she said.

“If a human can come into contact with them, it means something’s wrong,” she said.

But this doesn’t always mean the animal needs to be rescued by a person, she said. If the wildlife professional advises the animal be captured and taken to Oaken Acres, an appointment must be made beforehand until May 1, when baby season has begun officially. Stelford also recommends cat owners keep their cats indoors in the spring because baby animals are vulnerable and often won’t survive if attacked.

This time of year also is when wild animals are most likely to intrude in attics, or birds’ nests are most likely to fall into vents and gutters. Stelford encouraged residents to call Oaken Acres instead of a nuisance animal agency, which often results in the animals being destroyed.

“The most common and most effective and humane way to get animals to leave an area is to use bright lights and noise,” she said.

Stelford suggested turning on talk radio to get raccoons out of the attic, for example.

“It’s a humane way to do it and the animal doesn’t get killed and babies are not left,” she said.

With the closing of Wild TAILS, Stelford stressed the importance of Oaken Acres now more than ever for wildlife. She encourages anyone who encounters a wild animal to take action.

“Don’t turn your back on an orphaned wild animal. There’s a place you can go with it that will help it,” she said.

“Give them a chance, a second chance.”

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