“Last year, the Wildlife Rescue Center located in Ballwin, Missouri, saw a significant uptick in the number of patients it cared for: Some 3,500 creatures got assistance from the center’s small staff and army of volunteers over the course of 2020.
The increase didn’t come as a total surprise to executive director Kim Rutledge, who noted that it’s part of an overall upward trend in recent years.
“But 2019 to 2020 was a really big jump,” she added.
Rutledge told St. Louis on the Air that a variety of factors may be contributing to the trend, including more public awareness of wildlife rehabilitation and more concern for the environment in general. Rutledge also wonders if the fact that people have been at home more, and outside more, may be part of it.
“Now kind of the working theory is [that] possibly because people were home more, they perhaps were in their yards and encountering animals,” she explained on Friday’s show. “It also feels good to help wildlife, so in a time when people were super stressed out, it could be possible that people really were going out of their way to be good samaritans when they could.”
Even amid pandemic shutdowns and tricky protocols, the Wildlife Rescue Center crew found ways to continue helping animals. The center’s busiest season came at the same time as the most intense period of COVID-19 upheaval.
“Really over the course of a weekend we managed to communicate with our group of volunteers to get everybody’s availability, find out if we had people that could do multiple shifts, and we completely changed the way that we operate so that we could have isolated groups and teams that didn’t come into contact with each other,” Rutledge explained.
Some of the most common creatures that make their way to the center include cottontail rabbits, gray squirrels, possums, mallard ducks, Canada geese and box turtles.
“We do get occasional animals that are a little less common to see — we do see quite a few red foxes, gray foxes, bobcats, occasionally,” she added. “We’ve even had a badger actually at one point in time. So all the wildlife that you see outside, just about. We treat mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and waterbirds. we stay quite, quite busy.”
But the best stories out of her organization, Rutledge said, involve animals that never have to come to the center for rehabilitation in the first place….”