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Oaken Acres serves record number of animals

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Oaken Acres Wildlife Center in rural Sycamore had its busiest year ever in 2013, taking in about 520 injured and orphaned wild animals. The biggest increase in numbers came in raptors, opossums and coyote pups.

“Our release rates – the number of animals we successfully returned to the wild – were in line with the best rehab centers in the U.S.,” director of operations Christy Gerbitz said. “Our personnel can be very proud of the work they did.”

Favorite stories included the “miracle save” of a fawn struck by a car on Greenwood Acres Drive in DeKalb and left for dead. The unconscious fawn was rescued by an elderly couple, triaged at Prairie View Animal Hospital and spent several days semi-conscious. One day, still bruised and with one eye swollen shut, he stood up and began eating and drinking on his own. Within days he was in an outdoor pen with four other fawns, and he was released last fall.

Then there was Igor, the Canada gosling that was probably “rescued” by a well-intended but uninformed individual. He was suffering from metabolic bone disease as a result of an inadequate diet, and was barely able to support himself, let alone walk or swim. With weeks of good food, sunlight and exercise in an outdoor pen, Igor didn’t catch up to his fellow goslings in size, but was definitely good to go at the end of August.

And no one at Oaken Acres will forget the snowy owl that was hit by a car in DeKalb. The owl healed better than anyone expected and was released after nine months of rehabilitation.

“There’s no doubt that the need for wildlife services in our county is tremendous,” Oaken Acres founder and director Kathy Stelford said. Oaken Acres is the only local facility licensed to provide wildlife rehabilitation services.

Board member Lisa Gurman knows the need for these services firsthand.

“So many times I talk to people who have come into contact with injured or orphaned wildlife and they have no idea what to do,” she said. “If you have been in that situation before, it can leave you feeling pretty helpless. Few people realize this community service is right in the area and capable of caring for the animal until it can be released.”

In 2014, Oaken Acres will offer educational programs featuring live birds of prey, and is applying for special permits to treat endangered and threatened species, including bald eagles. A fundraiser, the second annual “Babies Gone WILD!” will be held April 26.

“We have an endless list of projects and dreams for wildlife at Oaken Acres,” Stelford said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have an endless supply of money. Like most charitable organizations, Oaken Acres dreams are only limited by dollars, and that’s where anyone who cares about wildlife, can help.”

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