SYCAMORE – Do you know how to become a wildlife hero?
Children who attended the Wildlife Rehab program last week at the Sycamore Public Library do. According to Christy Gerbitz, director of operations at Oaken Acres wildlife center in rural Sycamore, there are four steps to follow if you should come across a wild animal that seems to be in trouble and may need help.
Besides knowing the history of that particular animal, you need to use your eyes and ears. Does the animal appear to be in trouble, and is it making noise? Gerbitz said if it is in distress, it will. Then determine if it’s in the wrong location. A duck, for instance, belongs in the water; a robin does not. Finally, in your zeal to help out, you must always protect yourself.
“All wild animals are dangerous,” Gerbitz said.
She said children should not approach a wild animal, but should call an adult. Unless it’s an obvious emergency, like if the animal is in the roadway, adults should call for assistance from Oaken Acres, local police or animal control.
Sarah Tobias, head librarian and a volunteer at Oaken Acres, said it’s more important to keep a wild animal warm than try to feed it, because you don’t know what it will eat.
Tobias said the wildlife rehab program was part of the library’s Winter Challenge reading program, consisting of reading, discovering and creating. She said she hoped it would encourage those attending to read more about animals and wildlife.
During two animal programs last week, Gerbitz displayed a screech owl named Stinky, rescued by a sanitation worker in Shabbona last year, and a turkey vulture named Vinnie. Volunteer Robert Gross gently stroked Stinky in a corner of the library basement to calm him before his big appearance. Most of the animals at Oaken Acres aren’t shown publicly.
“It’s very stressful for wildlife to be viewed by the public,” Gerbitz explained.
Oaken Acres has been in operation for 30 years. For more information and tips on what to do if you find an injured or orphaned animal, visit www.oakenacres.org.