This is a wonderful article about a couple who have dedicated their time and opened up their home to injured wildlife! Kudos, Terri and Dave!
CARRIE ANN KNAUER 03.AUG.05
PLEASANT VALLEY - Last year, wildlife rehabilitators Terri and Dave Coppersmith took 450 injured or orphaned birds and small mammals into their home to be nursed back to health and released into the wild.
By the middle of the summer this year, they have taken in 800 animals, Terri said, and they will likely help 1,000 by the end of the year.
"People keep saying, `What's happened? The animals have gone crazy,'" she said.
Terri said she doesn't blame the animals. She said she believes the problem has more to do with an increase in the number of people coming into contact with wildlife as more and more people move farther from cities. She said she has noticed a rise in the number of animals that come to her nearly every year since she and her husband started to take in animals four years ago.
The Coppersmiths started their training to be state-certified wildlife rehabilitators 10 years ago through the Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary in Bowie. The couple volunteered to help veterinarians and other wildlife rehabilitators every Sunday, and slowly they learned enough skills to feel comfortable doing the work on their own.
Requirements for a wildlife rehabilitator permit include proof of adequate training in the capture, handling and care of wildlife, usually gained through a mentorship program with another rehabilitator. The applicant also must have facilities of sufficient size and design to properly maintain the permitted wildlife in captivity, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Living on a 15-acre property in Pleasant Valley, the Coppersmiths built some songbird and raptor rehabilitation cages on their property, as well as a small mammal house where they could hold squirrels and opossums. Before they knew it, they were receiving calls from veterinarians, nature centers and residents, all looking for their help for an injured or orphaned wild animal.
"The sooner we get them, the better the chance they have," Terri said.
In the beginning, Terri took care of the hourly daytime feedings for the birds and the daytime feedings for the mammals, while Dave continued his job at the U.S. Department of Defense. During heavy times when many young animals were coming in that needed a considerable amount of care, Dave would take off for a few weeks from work to care for the animals.
But last year, Dave decided he was ready to retire, and now he and Terri equally share the duties of caring for the animals. Dave specializes in the mammals, and Terri specializes in the birds.
Each animal's length of stay at the Coppersmiths' home varies, Dave said. Birds may need three to four weeks of care, and mammals such as squirrels, opossums and bunnies usually need between five and six weeks.
The Coppersmiths are required by law to keep a record on each animal for the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including where it came from, what was wrong with it, how they treated it and when it was released. Most of the birds and squirrels are released on their own property, Dave said, and he takes the opossums to the Catoctin Mountains to give them more space away from human contact.
Terri said she gets people from all over who bring her animals they have found or maybe accidentally injured themselves. Not every animal is going to make it, she said, but she and her husband do their best to restore the animal to health for as long as they can.
While others may not view the life of a baby opossum as worth the trouble, Terri said she finds joy in doing what she can for these animals.
"I think it's up to us as humans to do what we can to balance out the harm we've done," Terri said.
Before suburbanization, animals were born and raised and went off to live their lives virtually unaffected by humans, she said.
"Now, they're living in our back yards, and they have nowhere to go," she said. "I feel a sense of obligation because we can [help them]."
This summer, the Coppersmiths have had one of their most rewarding cases; an oriole that came to them with a broken leg. Terri said Dave has an amazing ability to realign breaks, and he was able to reconnect this oriole's leg bones with precision. The bird is now moving about its cage with grace and ease, and the day for its release is quickly approaching.
"It's nice to see her jumping around. I can't wait to release her," Terri said. "I know I'm going to cry. Part of your heart goes off with them."
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