By Mike Weilbacher, Executive Director
There are so many signs of spring. Here at the Schuylkill Center, skunk cabbage and lesser celandine, the latter a bright yellow flower, are already in bloom. A pair of bluebirds, the male an impossible shade of blue, examined nesting boxes last week, clearly house hunting, and a pair of Canada geese returned to Fire Pond, likely the same pair that raise their young here every spring.
The running of the toads across Port Royal Avenue is another benchmark here in Roxborough, but the toads have not awakened yet. Fear not: they are coming soon!
But over at our Wildlife Clinic down Port Royal Avenue, there’s a whole different sign of spring. In last week’s monsoon, that weirdly warm storm with lightning and thunder (in February!), a pair of baby squirrels, brother and sister, must have gotten knocked out of their nest in the wind, and a good Samaritan brought them to the clinic for the facility’s special TLC.
They were the first baby squirrels of 2016.
Thus, Rick Schubert, the clinic’s gifted director of rehabilitation, was able to pick a volunteer to win the year’s “No Prize,” the annual lottery for predicting when the first baby squirrel comes to the clinic. And yes, there is “no prize” for winning—just the thrill of victory.
When I visited the clinic last week, Rick was planning on bringing the babies home with him that night after work, as these newborns, eyes not yet open, fur not yet grown in, need constant, round-the-clock feeding.
And that’s spring at the Wildlife Clinic, a parade of baby animals—squirrels, rabbits, nestling birds of all kinds from tiny wrens to hawks and owls, kit foxes, baby possums separated from their mother and her pouch, raccoons, even fawns.
Ma and pa stores have their Christmas season, the busy but exhausting time when they do most of their business. Last week, the clinic’s Christmas season began.
While the clinic has two rehabilitators, as Michele Wellard assists Rick in this precious work, they are understaffed for an organization of this size and importance, and the Schuylkill Center’s long-term game plan is to fix that situation. Happily, some 70 volunteers assist Rick and Michele in feeding all these animals, not to mention doing all the cage cleaning you can imagine must be done. Still, the race is on.
This is where you come in. The Schuylkill Center is organizing a Campaign for the Clinic, a project aimed at burying the clinic, its staff, volunteers and baby animals with so much of what they need to survive the spring rush. Like paper towels and trash bags, bleach and Dawn dishwashing detergent, canned and dry dog and cat food. For the full list, check out the box on this page. Bring any of these items to the Schuylkill Center on Hagy’s Mill Road (NOT to the clinic, as they are too busy to handle visitors), and drop them off in our lobby.
You can also go to our web site and make a special donation to the wildlife clinic so they can continue purchasing the supplies and materials they need, like medicine and food.
Every year, the clinic quietly handles some 3,300 animals, and over its 29-year existence has helped creatures from more than 150 species, several of them endangered.
Over the years, other area clinics have closed down, so the Wildlife Clinic is now the last facility of its kind in a four-county area. It’s one of the places that makes Roxborough special, and we’d love for you to support it.
A couple of storm-blown baby squirrels will thank you, not to mention Rick, Michele, and a hardworking group of volunteers.
Campaign for the Clinic
Please bring any or all of the following to the Schuylkill Center, where you can leave donations in the visitor center lobby, and learn more about the animals cared for at the clinic.
Dawn dishwashing detergent
Trash bags (esp. 55 gallon)
Canned or dry dog or cat food
Tape (scotch tape, masking tape)
Broom and/or mop