Watch now: Wild animals find a friend in Normal veterinarian | Local News

Watch now: Wild animals find a friend in Normal veterinarian |  Local News

NORMAL — Where there is wildlife, there will be injured animals. But when nature’s course won’t allow for healing, where are they to go?

For many locally injured creatures, the answer is Brunswick Animal Hospital, 401 N. Kays Drive in Normal.

There are more than 200 licensed wildlife rehabilitators across the state, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Four are located in McLean County, with just one of those, Dr. Randy Brunswick, in Bloomington-Normal.

Brunswick has been working in wildlife rehab since 1987, when he started his private practice. Since then, he has been treating everything from deer and ducks to raccoons and hawks, all free of charge.

“Not a lot of practices are jumping into it because you’re not making any money. You’re donating your time,” said Brunswick, who is permitted both by the state and federal governments to treat wild animals. “It’s just goodwill, like donating to a charity, but I don’t see many of the other practices in town doing this.”

Many times, people bring in squirrels, rabbits, possums or goslings to be treated after their cat or dog tried to eat them, Brunswick said.

Brunswick, who graduated from the University of Illinois Veterinary School in 1981, said he relied on guidance on books and online research for as he treats all manner of creatures.

Brunswick said he has received animals as big as snapping turtles, blue herons and even bald eagles for treatment. They were later sent to another rehabber to continue recovery because of limited space in his practice.

“He’s unusual in that he seems to find the time and, remember, the money,” said Ginnie Underwood, a state and federally permitted rehabber in Hudson. “There are some animals that go in that have to be euthanized and the drugs cost money, but he doesn’t charge anybody, and I think that’s amazing.”

Recently, she received from Brunswick a young red-tailed hawk that was severely underweight and a kingfisher that was concussed for rehabilitation. Both have been doing better each day, Underwood said.

The hawk has been building up its confidence and has started to eat more on its own. The kingfisher has already been released back into the wild near Lake Bloomington, Underwood said.

Brunswick said he also does not prioritize certain species over others.

“Even though there’s thousands of raccoons and thousands of possums, it’s a baby animal and they need help,” Brunswick said. “Whether it’s been hit by the lawnmower or the neighborhood cat … we do what we can and nothing gets prioritized over anything else.”

Underwood said she recalled a possum that had been attacked by a hawk, leaving part of its back exposed. Brunswick treated it and gave it some rest before releasing it back into the wild.

Although people may want to save every baby bird or fawn they see, they should also err on the side of caution and practice observing animals before intervening.

“Particularly deer in the first couple of weeks, they hide the fawns in really odd places and they don’t wan t to draw attention to them until they’re mobile, so they will only check on the fawn maybe once or twice a day ,” said Mike Wefer, wildlife division chief with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “People just need to be aware of that, unless you are for sure that the mother was hit by a car or if its condition is declining and it’s getting dehydrated. Then that’s an opportunity to come in.”

Wefer said there are Good Samaritan laws that protect people who pick up injured animals and transport them to a rehabber, but it is illegal to keep wildlife in captivity or as pets in Illinois. This is because most wildlife in Illinois are protected by the Wildlife Code, and they cannot be kept in captivity without a state or federal permit.

Anyone untrained should not handle wildlife animals because they can inflict serious injuries and can also be carriers of diseases and parasites that are transmittable to humans or domestic animals, he said.

judgment, people should be more cognizant of their surrounding wildlife and if they decide to help an injured animal, they should call a local rehabber and check with them ahead of time before deciding to drive over, Wefer said.

As for Brunswick, he said once he retires he is not sure if anyone will fill his shoes and continue this work because it is so demanding with no material payoff.

“You got to have your mentors who want to do it. You’re not going to charge into another practice to say, ‘I’m fresh out of school and I want to do wildlife rehab,’” he said. “It’s hard to have that happen if you don’t have somebody that has the wherewithal and the will to do it.”

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