Chattanooga Area Wildlife Rehabilitators Help Care for Animals in Need

Now is a time of year when many species of wildlife have babies, and it’s also a time when humans often encounter orphaned, sick, or injured wildlife.

“Really, it’s our busy season, because baby season is when people tend to cut trees and they encounter birds,” said Mary Marr, songbird keeper at Camp Wildernest. “Sometimes birds that are just learning to fly, people think they’re hurt or injured, but in fact, their parents are nearby and they’re just learning to fly.”

Camp Wildernest is part of the Chattanooga Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers that help animals in need heal and return to the wild. His efforts focus on songbirds, turtles, flying squirrels and chipmunks.

At Opie Acres, founder Jerry Harvey specializes in opossum rehabilitation. He is currently caring for 128 of the nocturnal creatures, which have poor eyesight and are susceptible to being hit by cars.

He also has nine raccoons, 13 skunks of various sizes, two groundhogs and a weasel. Harvey will also take in other animals, such as bobcats and deer, until they can be transported to a location that can better care for them.

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Chattanooga Area Wildlife Rehabilitators Help Care for Animals in Need

The only animals he cannot take according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are coyotes, which are considered “vermin animals”; bats, which tend to spread rabies; and armadillos, which are an invasive species.

Kate Kinnear of the Marshall Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, focuses on squirrels and rabbits.

Camp Wildernest is an offshoot of Happinest, a rehabilitation center on Signal Mountain run by Alix Parks that focuses on raptors.

“A wildlife rehabilitator will always be better able to focus on one or two things, rather than everything,” Marr said. “It gets a bit difficult in terms of volunteer training and general care.”

While spring and summer are the busiest seasons at Camp Wildernest, birds captured by cats are frequently brought to the center year-round.

“All the volunteers here love cats,” Marr said. “It’s just safer for the cat and the birds when the cats are kept indoors.”

Besides cats, another common hazard to birds is getting stuck in sticky traps that people set to catch mice and insects.

Sticky traps are an inhumane way to kill animals, which slowly die as they struggle to free themselves, she said.

When a bird sees an insect in a sticky trap, the bird tries to eat it and also gets stuck. Birds hurt themselves badly trying to free themselves, and those released by rehabilitators have to be bathed several times to remove the glue. Every time a bird is touched by a human, it causes more trauma, she said.

Instead of sticky traps, Marr suggests two-door live animal cage traps, like those from Havahart, which are available at Tractor Supply Co., Home Depot and Amazon.

Chattanooga Area Wildlife Rehabilitators

wildest camp

Animals: Songbirds, turtles, flying squirrels, chipmunks.

Contact: 423-593-3932,

Chattanooga Zoo

Animals: All wild animals.

Phone: 423-697-1322

Rehabilitation and rescue of the happiest wildlife

Animals: Raptors.

Contact: 423-847-5757,

Marshall Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation

Animals: squirrels, rabbits

Contact: 540-392-5428

Opie Acres

Animals: Opossums, groundhogs, beavers, weasels, raccoons, skunks.

Contact: 423-255-6460

She also recommends companies like Mosquito Joe that provide all-natural outdoor pest control. Even the simple act of putting peppermint oil around a home’s baseboards can be helpful in deterring pests, she said.

“I know a lot of people have a problem and they want a solution right away,” Marr said. “Sometimes there are things you can do that would still work out and maybe take a little longer than going to Lowe’s to figure out exactly what to do, but they can always call us if they have a question. this subject. .”

Wildlife safety is one of the many reasons to avoid littering, as trash can attract animals like possums to the road, Harvey said.

In this region, opossums have two birth seasons a year – once in late February and early March, and another in late June and early July.

If people come into contact with a baby opossum, raccoon or other small mammal, the first thing to remember for the human is not to hurt themselves.

“Baby opossums are pretty much harmless for the most part,” Harvey said. “A baby raccoon, surprisingly, can actually give a pretty good bite.”

Most of the baby animals people find are easy to pick up with a cloth and put in a box. If the animal is defensive, gardening gloves may be needed for protection, or a broom can be used to sweep the animal into a basket or cat box, he said.

Once confined, it can be transported to wildlife rehabilitation centers, which sometimes have volunteers who can provide transport.

The most important thing to know is never to feed the animal.

“Wild animals’ diets are so species-specific that giving them the wrong thing once can actually kill them,” Harvey said.

People who find a turtle on the road can help it cross to the other side if it can be done safely, Marr said.

People who come across a baby bird in their garden should leave it alone to see if its mother, who is best equipped to care for it, returns – as long as there is a fence to keep out other animals that might harm it. wrong.

Or a laundry basket with a towel or blanket on top can be placed over the bird to keep it safe. The mother will often introduce herself. If she doesn’t, Camp Wildernest can take over from there.

While 128 might seem like a lot of opossums, there are times when Harvey has taken care of a lot more than that. Last year, about 800 opossums were rehabilitated at Opie Acres.

“We’ve had to limit our input this year because we’re so short on volunteers,” Harvey said.

Camp Wildernest also needs volunteers, and both rehabilitation centers offer volunteer training. To find out more, contact the various centres, which are all non-profit organizations run by donations from volunteers.

Contact Emily Crisman at or 423-757-6508.

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