LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Injuries and illnesses for wild animals can be deadly in their natural environments, making them an easy target for predators. Here is an inside look at a Lake Charles wildlife rehabilitation center where the wild animals are nursed back to health.
At Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, every day for director Suzy Heck is a walk on the wild side.
"We get in over 1,000 animals a year now and try to get them back into the wild," she said.
The center is a temporary home for wild boar, eagles, pelicans, raccoons, geese, deer and owls - just to name a few. The animals are orphaned or injured, like a barn owl found tangled in barbed wire, tearing up its wing.
"Feathers are missing here and there," said Heck, "he has lost quite a few feathers and will need to molt out."
That injury would kill the owl if left in the wild, where he could not fly and catch prey.
"He is on antibiotics and until that skin can heal over and the feathers grow out so he can fly again, he'll be in our care," said Heck.
The golden eagle named "Shoo Shoo" (after Calcasieu Parish) has arthritis, leaving it with a hanging wing.
"I X-rayed him and he had a calcium build-up in an elbow joint," said Heck.
Some birds and mammals will live out their days at Heckhaven - the only hope to survive. "Tri," the now three-legged deer, is one of the permanent residents.
"He came in as a baby," said Heck, "somebody had found him. His mother had been hit by a car and he had too."
Hundreds of baby animals are brought to Heckhaven each year and it takes human intervention to keep them alive. You will see a lot of the same technology at the center as what you would see in a hospital for a baby human, from incubators to heat lamps. The same techniques for monitoring and scheduled feedings are also utilized.
Babies are raised by hand until they are old enough to graduate into a cage setting then a halfway area, a protected wooded swamp area with a large flight cage or exercise run. Finally, it is time for release, a bittersweet day for Heck.
"It's happy and sad," said, Heck, "it's the most wonderful feeling to see something go back into the wild into their natural environment, whether they run or fly, and know that you had a part of getting them back there."
If you ever come across a wild animal that is sick or injured, do not touch it. Immediately call animal control, Wildlife and Fisheries or a state park ranger. Many animals carry diseases and react aggressively in stress.
Heckhaven's goal is to rehab and release any wild animal that comes in contact with humans. It is a non-profit organization always in need of donations, volunteers and feed.
This is Heckhaven's Wish List:
*Human foods - baby box cereal (rice, oatmeal), baby jars (any fruits, veggies, puddings)
*Fresh or frozen - raw meats (duck, deer, chicken, beef), fish (whole, filets, no large scale)
*Feed - dog and cat (dry, canned), livestock (horse chow, corn chops, deer corn, stock, hay)
*Volunteers - weekly or monthly, computer and photos, write short stories, photograph animals, maintain website, set up Facebook
To learn more about Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, click here or call Suzy at 477-6129.