Helping Injured Wildlife and a New Wildlife Rehab Center in Northern Colorado


In a place like Fort Collins that’s full of nature trails and greenbelts, it’s easy to come across a wild animal or two. I see racoons, fox and deer on the regular, doing their thing as they co-exist in my neighborhood. I’ve also seen my share of injured or abandoned wildlife, including the baby barn swallows featured in the photo for this post. The babies were in a tunnel along the Spring Creek Trail after their mud nest crumbled, and they were left crying on a on an upended bucket left in the middle of the trail. Cyclists and walkers whizzed by, causing them a lot of stress.

The happy ending part of this story was that I knew exactly where to take them at the time; WildKind, the former wildlife rehab arm of the Larmier Humane Society. I connected with Bob Nightwalker, my boss during my employment there, and I knew after I dropped them off the baby birds would be cared for by trained, talented folks.

However, as of late 2012, WildKind is no longer an active arm of the Larimer Humane Society. That means there is currently no rehab center equipped to take injured wildlife and rehab them to the point of healthy release back into the wild. The good news is that this is about to change. There are a group of dedicated licensed wildlife rehabilitators, including Nightwalker, and professionals with backgrounds in veterinary and human healthcare, and environmental sciences who are starting a new wildlife rehab organization called the Poudre River Wildlife Center to try and fill this critical gap in animal care.

About the Poudre River Wildlife Center

According to their website, “PRWC is a new, forming organization developing ways to foster a healthy environment for both wildlife and people in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. Our mission is to provide rehabilitation services to injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife, and collaborate with community partners to promote wildlife conservation through education, outreach and training. The goal is to open in time for spring 2014 “baby season”–a critical time for wildlife.”

“PRWC will focus on the treatment and captive care of Colorado’s native wildlife (excluding raptors and large mammals) with the sole purpose of returning them back into the wild. “The focus is to also promote and create a more holistic and peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife in the community.”

In addition to caring for injured and orphaned wild animal babies, PRWC will provide education and assistance for any resident that finds a wild animal in need, and collaborate with local and state health agencies to track and monitor zoonotic diseases and the general health of wildlife.

The current board for the pending non-profit consists of various volunteers: former WildKind folks and professionals from CSU, including an ecologist and a human doctor, and an assistant from the CSU’s vet teaching hospital. The business plan was written by a masters student and students in marketing department are helping with promotion, and a city planner is helping with zoning details.

PRWC is currently looking for a location in Northern Larimer County, while shaping the vision of the organization and making decisions using the areas of expertise of the board to get it off the ground.

If you are interested in seeing how you can help the PRWC, they are hosting an Open House on Wednesday, Oct. 30th from 6:30-8:30pm at Everyday Joe’s Coffee House at 144 S. Mason St. in Fort Collins. Right now PRWC is looking specifically for folks with a background in wildlife medicine and captive care of wild animals, and to add people with expertise in the following areas to serve on the board; real estate, media, fundraising/event planning.


Helping Injured Wildlife you Find in the Meantime

In my experience working at WildKind, I noticed a large part of Nightwalker’s job was public education. I learned so much in my experience there and connected with Nightwalker again, currently employed as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator at Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Longmont (currently the only “sort of” local organization taking in injured wildlife). I felt it was important to share a few tips about how someone can support injured wildlife until the rehab center gets off the ground.

He explained how there are different steps to take if you happen to find injured wildlife depending on if it’s a bird or a mammal.

“Many people think that a young bird on the ground means it’s abandoned, but it’s a normal stage of their development for crafting their flying skills and lasts about 3 – 5 days. Parents are usually near by keeping watch. So if a young bird is fully feathered and on the ground, hoping around, it’s most likely learning to fly. However, if you notice a nest has fallen out of a tree and babies are on the ground without feathers, eyes closed, it would be a good idea to bring them to a rehab center.

As for mammals like squirrels, bunnies and racoons, there are similar criteria. Do they have fur or are they naked and blind? Are the parents near by and are they able to move on their own? “If there is ever a doubt that they can always call or bring it in — especially a baby,” says Nightwalker.

Nightwalker added, “In Colorado it’s illegal to keep wildlife. There are stiff fines for keeping a wild native species in captivity as a pet. If you are found out or the animal escapes, it may be too imprinted by human interaction and must be euthanized. The animal will also need to be tested for rabies, which requires killing it. So now you have this animal you’ve grown to love that’s going to have to be put down.”

“There is also no way to know if you are giving them the right nutrition, and the animal may have developmental problems as a result. So even if your intention is to release them in the wild, if they have not developed properly and they can’t recognize their own kind, it’s not a quality life for them at all.”

For more specifics about what to do with baby birds or mammals if you happen to find one, here’s information from the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.


Facebook Twitter Email