The Good Father
Since June is the month in which we celebrate Father’s Day, Peace River Wildlife Center wants to focus on some of our unsung heroes—the fathers of wildlife. At PRWC we are frequently quite mother-centric. We often talk about our foster mothers. We have volunteers that feed displaced baby birds in our many baby bird brooders (or incubators) here at the Center all day long. We have volunteers that do baby mammal home care in their own homes. We also have birds that provide foster care for orphaned and injured baby birds. Many of these wonderful people and birds are of the female persuasion, but not all of them. Some of them, we aren’t even sure what their sex is. (This ambiguity occurs more often with the birds.)
We have many staff members, both volunteers and employees, who are fathers and grandfathers and all the work they do makes it possible for PRWC to carry out our mission. One of the wonderful members of our staff, Rick Andrews, in particular always has a house full of baby mammals. He is a great foster father to rabbits, squirrels, opossums and the occasional raccoon. Rick has children of his own and he is a great father to them also. He is patient, kind and understanding—all the qualities it takes to raise healthy, well-adjusted babies. If his kids end up a little squirrely, it may be because some of their foster siblings were actually squirrels.
Rick works part time for PRWC. Correction—he gets paid for the 20-30 hours he is at the Center each week. Like all of our foster parents, he receives no compensation for the additional time he spends at home caring for his charges—and that time can be considerable. Each baby can take up to 5-10 minutes to feed. With 20 babies in home care (a not unreasonable number at certain times of the year), that is an additional 3 hours of his time each day just spent feeding the babies. Add to that the time it takes to prepare the food, disinfect the feeding supplies, and clean the cages. Seven days a week—no days off when taking care of home care mammal babies! Just like taking care of your own kids, except that it’s harder to pawn the four-legged ones off to the grandparents for a night out at the movies.
Like any good dad, Rick is not just handy with a baby bottle. He is PRWC’s tech guru, helping with computer glitches, web site malfunctions and our social media campaign. Rick even set up a series of cameras in various habitats so we can monitor critical patients without disturbing them and provide live video feeds to our fans who want to watch some of our off-exhibit releasable patients. Unfortunately, some of our more prolific fathers (namely the rats) chewed through the wires on those cameras and they are down right now, but with Rick on the job, we should have them back up in no time.
PRWC is also starting a fund to buy a GoPro camera, a small video camera that can be mounted on a rehabber’s hat while we go about our crazy normal days, so we can post short videos on our web site and Facebook. People are often disappointed that the releasable animals in our rehab facility are not on display. This will be a great way to give everyone a glimpse into the process of returning these injured animals to health and eventually to the wild.
The next installment of our tribute to fathers will include a look at a few of our avian foster fathers. Some people may be surprised that some of the male birds are just as attentive when taking care of their offspring as the mothers. I’m sure there are a few fathers out there that won’t be the least bit surprised about that.
by–Robin Jenkins, DVM