What happens when baby squirrels get blown out of their nests by a hard spring rain, or a hawk gets injured by a passing car? Well, often the outcome is not a happy ending. But sometimes, an animal does get a second chance.
Every year, hundreds of sick, injured or orphaned wild animals make their way through Pittsburgh’s Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center, where the staff does everything it can to get an animal back on its feet and—if possible—release it back into the wild.
LISTEN: “Giving Orphaned Animals a Second Chance”
Getting back out into the woods was not an option for Irwin, a North American porcupine. But things seemed to have turned out okay for him. In fact, you might say he pretty much moved in at the shelter. He even has his own Facebook page.
“He’s kind of our unofficial mascot,” says wildlife educator Alexis Fitzgerald. “We’ve had him since he was two weeks old. He was rejected by his mother. He has a really sensitive stomach. So he wouldn’t be able to eat all the things in the wild that normal porcupines could eat. He’s also really comfortable around people, which doesn’t make for a good wild porcupine.”
Among the other animal all-stars here at the shelter: Raymond, a talking American crow who was injured and who Fitzgerald calls a “ham for attention”; and three silver foxes, which were confiscated from a home in Pennsylvania.
“In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to possess any kind of wild animal,” Fitzgerald says, showing off the foxes just after feeding time. “Usually they go for the meat first. Jacob, one of our foxes, you can see is very happy that he got a rat today.”
Fitzgerald says one of the most common animals that ends up at the center, especially in the spring, are baby ducks.
“Sometimes we get chicks that were purchased as gifts for Easter. And when they get too big, people will just dump them in a park.”
Fitzgerald says that the baby ducklings at the center right now are lucky that someone found them hiding under a park bench. And that’s what their work at the shelter is all about.
“Our main goal at the wildlife center is to teach people that there are wild animals around us, and that if we respect them, they’ll respect us.”
If you find a sick, orphaned or injured animal, you can call the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center at 412-345-7300.