BAR HARBOR — Every corner of the Acadia Wildlife Center is brimming with environmental art, interactive exhibits, and nature collections to capture any curiosity for hours. But beyond the treasure trove of zoological treasures, there is an even more fascinating discovery: the furry, feathered and scaly creatures nestled in custom-made enclosures.
Ann Rivers is the sole steward of the non-profit rehabilitation clinic and the dozens of wild animals cared for inside. She has been on the scene since 1997, seeing several hundred patients and answering 5,000 phone calls a year. At any given time, the center can house up to 100 animals ranging from mammals to birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Rivers’ around-the-clock mission is to nurse these injured wild animals back to health and eventually to their original habitat.
“It all starts with a phone call,” Rivers said.
A person who has encountered an injured animal contacts the center for help. Rivers will assess the seriousness of the situation with them to see if the animal really needs help.
“We talk about it, they tell me what they see, what worries them,” she said. “I wonder if I should tell them to bring it.”
Once arrived, the admissions process begins. As the animal settles down after the tumultuous journey to an isolated area, Rivers obtains as many details as possible from the affected party about what happened to better understand and care for the patient.
“So if they found him under a window, you think, OK, he hit a window, I’m going to look for those kind of symptoms,” Rivers said. “Every observation that someone has made is something important.”
She will then administer an exam to fully assess the patient and chart a course of recovery. Injuries can range from wounds and concussions to broken bones. Treatments may involve X-ray imaging, blood tests, and medication prescriptions.
Once the injuries have healed, the small temperature-controlled rehabilitation rooms are transformed into large outdoor cages. Now is the time to exercise and prepare to return to their original homes.
In the case of two abandoned baby bobcats, whose two-minute feeding video posted to the Acadia Wildlife Facebook page garnered more than 18,000 likes and 2.8,000 shares, they were found during an excavation under a brush pile in June.
After unsuccessful attempts to reunite the kittens with their mother, game warden Eric Rudolph brought them in for examination. At first, Rivers left them in a quiet room, periodically feeding them food using a feeding syringe.
Once they adjusted to their new surroundings, the male and female were moved to an outdoor enclosure, filled with trees and logs to climb on. They now spend their days playing and growing into strong felines, hopefully able to cope with unsupervised conditions.
Eventually, the bobcats will be released in the fall around the time their mother would have let them go. But Rivers makes a gentle outing where the two can come and go all winter for food while learning to hunt. She said this is a vital step for their survival as they are at a disadvantage; even feral cats only survive at a rate of 40%.
Everything from a moose to a mouse
This summer, the center walls have housed foxes, goslings, coyotes, stoats, marmots, swallows, bats, woodpeckers, skunks, hummingbirds, snakes and many other species. And two patients don’t have the same prognosis.
A hummingbird with a broken wing needs a cast, orphaned baby bats need to be nursed every two hours, and a coyote with mange can be treated with three months of medication.
“You get hundreds of different species with hundreds of different issues,” Rivers said. “You have to learn on the job.”
Regardless of the wide variety of ailments and illnesses that AWC is prone to, every patient needs a healthy dose of loving care to achieve a successful recovery. Thanks to Rivers’ tireless dedication, within days a once weakened animal can be found running free as if it had never been harmed.
“It’s incredibly satisfying. You wake up every day and you’ve done something,” Rivers said.
Animals that cannot be released into the wild due to lasting injuries become permanent guests of the center. Rivers applies for special education permits from Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the federal government to keep these people.
Rehab patients are shielded from the public so they retain their wilderness, but education partners are specially trained to acclimate to humans. interaction.
Conservation education programs are held at the nature center on Saturdays at 11 a.m. by reservation or at other times by appointment.
Rivers said the education center, which teaches the public about animals and conservationism, was born out of a desire to give something back to its customers in return for helping save an animal.
“Let’s say we save 100 animals; the following year, it’s another 100 babies. So there’s a generation of animals that wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t cured the original,” Rivers’ son Tony Mullane said.
“It’s the same with education; all the kids you spark that interest in, they go on and fall in love with nature and animals, then they care about it and grow into an adult.
The nature center or education classroom is home to a variety of owls, including two saws, one of the smallest owls in North America, a porcupine named Spike, a fox, several species of turtles , dozens of bats and even a bald eagle.
AWC is one of the only centers in Maine with a full-time bald eagle license. Luke, who has worked at the center for 15 years, came to the center as a minor with a major head injury. Barely able to stand, he learned to walk and eventually to fly.
An upbringing peak named Harry has been docile for years. He could barely take flight until one day he was found floating. After testing it in a flight cage, the AWC certified its release. These types of small miracles tend to occur regularly at the center.
From Humble Beginnings to a Successful Sanctuary
The AWC facilities are located on 15 acres of private land and include a 1,100 square foot clinic and nature center and 15 outdoor enclosures for retrieving animals, including an eagle flight enclosure, cage water for loons and a flyaway for bats. But the refuge did not start in all its glory. He grew from a 10ft by 10ft hutch and a rabbit hutch.
In fact, Rivers inherited the organization from founder Coleen Doucette, who started the AWC in 1994. Doucette left to work on oiled wildlife in Delaware. Rivers’ experience began in wildlife rehabilitation and education at the Audubon Society in Massachusetts.
For three years she worked at the clinic until she went to college in Ontario. One of his teacher’s partners was the director of the Long Point Bird Observatory on Lake Erie.
“Every moment I could get away from school, I went more every summer, every vacation,” Rivers said.
After spending countless hours researching and protecting endangered nesting species, she earned her Master Bird Bander credentials.
His tenure in Canada ended with his graduation. But she soon found a new home in Mount Desert Rock after seeing an ad in the newspaper for a position as a whale research assistant. Being isolated 25 miles from the sea created perfect conditions for a bird research station.
There she would begin her love for bats. Nocturnal creatures made their way into her nets at night when she fished for petrales. She would later go on to build Maine’s first bat flight at the AWC in 2019.
“I just think they’re amazing,” Rivers said, “And I tend to like animals that other people don’t like. Maybe so I can change their minds about them.
She ended up at the AWC to take the place of her next-door neighbor who was going to close up shop. After a 10-year hiatus from rehab and an afternoon with Dorcette to prepare, Rivers was left in charge.
Rivers has been at work ever since, expanding the center and caring for nearly every variety of wildlife for 25 years.
Mullane remembers when the walls of the education centre, which was once a boat-building carpentry workshop, were erected. He worked alongside his mother to build a new exhibit or cage each year.
“My mom and I built the whole eagle cage together. We lifted each panel and screwed it down,” he said.
Mullane, who remembers riding in his childhood car with bears in the back seat at an early age, said he would likely inherit the organization one day, but wonders how to cover the ever-increasing costs. .
“I’ve worked for most nonprofits all my life. I like to get up and work for a mission and do something good in the world, but you also have to be able to live,” Mullane said.
Rivers said rehabilitators are in short supply because most people are unwilling to give up their lives and savings to care for injured or orphaned animals.
“I need to have something that is meaningful to me, that I can look back on my life and say I feel good if I did something,” she said. “That’s why I keep doing it. And the animals are wonderful.
For more information or to donate, visit AWC’s website at www.acadiawildlife.org.