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Ohio Wildlife Center Begins 25th Season

The Ohio Wildlife Center has just opened for its 25th season in central Ohio. The center is a non-profit, rehabilitation facility where about 5,000 animals receive treatment for injuries each year.

The Ohio Wildlife Center hospital is in the basement of Animal Care Unlimited on Billingsley Road in northwest Columbus. There, three staff members, volunteer veterinarian Dr. Don Burton and dozens of other volunteers answer phones, evaluate injuries, and care for a wide range of creatures.

Rehabilitation Manager Kristi Krumlauf says the spring of the year means lots of baby rabbits and squirrels and snapping turtles. The turtle currently receiving treatment was among those laying their eggs and crossing roads. He might need surgery for a fractured jaw and back injuries after being run over by a car.

Krumlauf says after hospital care, the snapping turtle will likely go to a volunteer who cares for animals at her home. With so many baby animals to care for in the spring, Krumlauf says they send them out to two area prisons for assistance with nursing the newborns back to health.

About seven miles northwest of the hospital is the Ohio Wildlife center's education site on Cooke Road in Powell. What they call the pre-release facility is also here, where animals are prepared to be returned to the wild. During an Earth Day Open House, children and adults, birds, and other wildlife share their enjoyment of blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures

Conservation Education Director Barbara Ray is standing in front of an outdoor enclosure that is about eight feet square and ten feet high. With small evergreens to climb and a pond-like water source, this is home to two raccoons. Both were shot with BB's.

Both are, at the moment, nestled in an elevated box-like enclosure, but one is stretching his upper body out of the box's opening, turning his masked face to the side and then upside down, peering at visitors who peer back. He's making a play for attention, and he's getting it. He's the one brought in with 2 arrows in his body

Ray says, in addition to the BB's, one of the raccoons was shot at close range with two target arrows.

She says the two raccoons were raised from babies by someone who might have tired of their antics as they grew larger. Although the goal of the center is to return wildlife to the wild, Ray explains that once socialized, raccoons and other wild animals will not be able to survive in the wild.

Volunteer Ted Thompson says, the two raccoons have a role to play at the Center as animal ambassadors. About 40 animals that cannot be released into the wild make their home at the center's Cook Road facility.

Barbara Ray says eight full-time staff members and 250 volunteers work four to five shifts per day greeting and educating visitors through exhibits and displays.

They offer practical information on ways to attract desirable animals and avoid attracting undesirable ones. Ray says, for example, instead of eliminating squirrels, ground hogs or possums, consider evicting them from the home by, among other things, closing off the under sections of decks. First, make sure all the animals are gone

More information is available at 793-WILD.