CRITTER CHATTER: Is it spring, yet, at Duck Pond Wildlife Center?

by Jayne Winters

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” is a phrase we associate with U.S. postal carriers, but I think it could easily describe Don Cote and his volunteers at the Wildlife Care Center in Vassalboro. (Out of curiosity, I searched on-line and found a “Wildlife Rehabilitator Code of Ethics” which addresses high standard quality care/methods; education; adherence to federal, state and local laws/regulations; health and safety practices; community support/involvement; professional conduct; and the obvious need for personal integrity, compassion and commitment).

But back to the weather not preventing the “completion of their appointed rounds.” Although we haven’t had many heavy snowstorms this winter, access to the outside wildlife enclosures still need to be plowed, snow-blown and/or shoveled. Treacherous icy paths to the pens need sanding. Frozen water tubs need to be emptied and refilled with fresh water. Cages need to be mucked out and bedding replaced. Roofs need to be cleared of snow and ice. Fencing, enclosures and tarps often need to be repaired. All of this in addition to the daily food preparations for breakfast and dinner feedings, dispensing of medications, changing dressings, washing and disinfecting food dishes and doing laundry for soiled blankets and towels.

In addition to Don’s personal 12 ducks and 22 geese, current winter residents include one chipmunk, two red squirrels, one gray squirrel, six foxes, and three deer, all of which require tending to at least twice a day. Some are carry-overs from last fall because they were too young or not healthy enough for release; the remainder are fall and winter rescues from vehicle hits, natural or predatory injuries and home “invasion” critters seeking food and shelter from the harsh elements. New admissions are evaluated and many are transferred to other rehabbers who have graciously offered their assistance to help keep animal care at Duck Pond manageable. Spring and summer rescues can quickly become overwhelming for Don and his two volunteers, one of whom is only available on weekends.

Any time during the day Don may need to respond to rescue calls, set up and monitor traps, transport severely injured wildlife to the vet, or pick up food donations from Hannaford, Wal-Mart, animal shelters, etc. Being on-call 24/7 requires patience, understanding and flexibility in his schedule. He is most appreciative of folks who can meet him at a half-way point or bring the animal directly to Duck Pond if they can safely transport it.

In addition to the day-to-day activities of operating the rehab center, annual state and federal reports have to be submitted at this time of year, with license renewal applications due every two and five years, respectively. Don doesn’t have a computer, so I’ve been helping him by downloading forms, copying, etc. I even have reminders on my own calendar of their due dates so we don’t forget! As a nonprofit organization, he has to keep accurate records of all donations, whether they are cash, checks or gift cards (Hannaford and Walmart are visited weekly), for tax preparation and filing. I must admit I’ve been impressed with his up-to-date files. I think Carlene trained him well!

Don and his volunteers appreciate and thank the other rehabbers who continue to generously accept critter transfers from Duck Pond.

Donald Cote operates Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center on Rte. 3 in Vassalboro. It is a non-profit state permitted rehab facility which is supported by his own resources and outside donations. Mailing address: 1787 North Belfast Ave., Vassalboro ME 04989 TEL: (207) 445-4326. Please note the previous e-mail address is no longer monitored.


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