Rehabbing wildlife: Local group works to keep animals healthy

Photo by Lynn Hietala Pictured are a pair of fawns that were rescued and rehabbed by Lynn Hietala.

Volunteering is an ongoing way for members of the U.P. Wildlife Rehabilitation-Keweenaw Group to contribute to society.

The organization consists of a group of volunteers who make up the non-profit association of wildlife rehabbers in the Upper Peninsula. The group covers Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Ontonagon counties with the goal of rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife and then returning them to the wild.

The initial group was founded by Gloria Urban as “a way to connect all of the wildlife rehabbers in U.P.,” said licensed rehabilitator and volunteer Lynn Hietala.

Hietala has been with the group for six years. Urban was the one who led the way for Hietala.

“In order to be licensed you have to be mentored,” said Hietala.

The U.P. group currently has two people with a permit. Lynn Hietala, based in Chassell, and Jennifer Burroughs, based in Lake Linden.

In order to rehabilitate, “You have to be licensed and have the appropriate facilities,” said Hietala.

Most rehabilitation organizations are home-based and those homes must be inspected by the Department of Natural Resources to determine if they are appropriate.

The permit to license is also obtained through the Department of Natural Resources. This is a statewide license; the U.P. group does not currently have a federal license yet but are working towards one.

Hietala says a separate facility for rehabilitation would be nice but “most rehabbers do it from home” so there’s no great need.

The group’s main focus is to raise money to be able to continue rehabilitating animals. The group is “strictly volunteers and funded entirely by ourselves with donations from the public,” said Hietala.

The winter season is not particularly popular for rehabbing. During this time the group does lots of fundraising in order to rehab in the coming seasons. They recently ended a Giving Tuesday fundraiser and have teamed up with the Amazon Smile charity.

With Amazon Smile, you list U.P. Wildlife Rehabilitation as your charity and a percentage of your purchase will go to the organization.

Each season is different for rehabbers.

“We never know what the next season holds,” said Hietala.

The group does its best of keeping the animals in a familiar environment.

“We try not to interact with them much,” said Hietala. “We want to keep them as wild as possible.”

Some of the animals they have rehabbed include raccoons, squirrels, puppies, cubs, foxes and bunnies.

The last season was very wet, busy and difficult for the group. There was an outbreak of distemper, which is a fatal disease and halts rehabilitation.

“It is fatal,” said Hietala. “Once they have it we can’t rehab them. The animal has to be euthanized.”

Despite the woes, Hietala says the group still had a successful season.

Hietala says “There’s so many” memorable cases that she has had. During the past season, there was an injured fawn that required surgery, and they worked with local veterinarian to rehab it.

The community’s donations helped covered the cost, said Hietala.  

Anyone who would like to donate can go to their U.P. Wildlife Rehabilitation Keweenaw Group Facebook page. The donations are submitted through PayPal or can be sent to a mailing address.

Donations are used to purchase supplies and formulas that feed and care for the injured animals and orphans.

For any wildlife calls or donations please contact Jennifer at 906-370-1043 or Lynn at 906-369-2027.