CRITTER CHATTER: What is involved in caring for wild animals for rehabilitation?

by Jayne Winters

Last month I re-introduced readers to Donald and Carleen Cote, who established the Duck Pond Wildlife Rehab Care Center in the mid 1960s. What did that involve?

To rehabilitate wildlife, you must hold a valid State of Maine Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Permit. In addition to completing a Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (DIF&W) application, you must also take an exam and meet several requirements. A Federal Rehabilitation Permit is also required if you wish to rehab species such as migratory birds and threatened or endangered species, which are managed under federal regulations. For more information, go to Wildlife Rehabilitation, Is It For You? (PDF) on the DIF&W website, which provides a good overview of what’s involved in rehabilitating wildlife.

An injured eagle recently brought in to recover.

By 1964, the Cotes had applied for and received all five federal and state permits necessary to raise waterfowl and rehab wildlife. As their names and quality care became familiar with local wardens and veterinarians, wildlife “patients” increased and although, initially, Carleen was able to care for the few babies that required frequent feedings by bringing them to work, her retirement in 1990 eased the pressure as she was at home to answer the phone, take in wildlife and provide care around the clock. Mammals eventually outnumbered birds and the Cotes found it difficult to find time for all, especially baby birds which demand considerable one-on-one time. In 1997, they met with Diane Winn and Marc Payne, founders of Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom; although the Cotes continue to rescue and care for birds, many are transferred to Avian Haven.

In 1998, at the suggestion of several friends/supporters, Carleen submitted the paperwork required for Duck Pond to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We hear this phrase often, but I’m not sure how many readers know just what it means. Simply put, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is an organization that has been approved by the IRS as a tax-exempt, charitable organization. These typically include advocacy groups for human rights, animal rights, land conservation, environment, general emergency relief, etc. They do not earn profit and are primarily supported with donations from people like you and me. Besides the federal tax exemption, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit can receive grant monies, can provide tax deductions to individual donors, may receive special postage rates and other discounts.

Nonprofits still have to file tax reports annually, documenting every purchase related to the organization. In the case of Duck Pond, any unused animal-related purchases, e.g., cages and food, cannot be sold; they must be given to another nonprofit. In addition, if the nonprofit closes, its remaining assets must be given to another charity.

The work the Cotes have done for 55 years – yes, 55 years! – is not simply feeding sweet baby animals until they’re well enough for release. It’s also hard physical work, 24/7 feeding schedules, ordering supplies, extensive travel in all kinds of weather, and commitment to tedious, required paperwork. No one makes a salary. No one gets reimbursed for time or gas. Every dollar donated to the Duck Pond Wildlife Rehab Care Center goes directly to the care of the animals: the orphaned fawn, the injured raccoon, the starving bobcat.

Next month we’ll get to the day-to-day operations!

Donald Cote operates the Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center on Rte. 3 in Vassalboro. It is a nonprofit federal and 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 EMAIL:


Responsible journalism is hard work!
It is also expensive!

If you enjoy reading The Town Line and the good news we bring you each week, would you consider a donation to help us continue the work we’re doing?

The Town Line is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit private foundation, and all donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Service code.

To help, please visit our online donation page or mail a check payable to The Town Line, PO Box 89, South China, ME 04358. Your contribution is appreciated!

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *