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updated: 9/2/2011 2:57 PM

How Willowbrook Wildlife center helps heal animals

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  • A baby squirrel is hand-fed a special formula for rodents during its care at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

       A baby squirrel is hand-fed a special formula for rodents during its care at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A chimney swift gets fed a vitamin and nutrient-enriched mealworm during its rehab at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

       A chimney swift gets fed a vitamin and nutrient-enriched mealworm during its rehab at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Wildlife keeper Sean Kendall hand feeds a special formula to a young raccoon at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

       Wildlife keeper Sean Kendall hand feeds a special formula to a young raccoon at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A red-tailed hawk hangs out with some great horned owls as they await their release. After rehabilitation, animals are housed a couple in the raptor flight facility before being released. The facility is a new building at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

       A red-tailed hawk hangs out with some great horned owls as they await their release. After rehabilitation, animals are housed a couple in the raptor flight facility before being released. The facility is a new building at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Wildlife specialist Rose Augustine takes a look around a raccoon cage in the outdoor rehab area at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. Animals spend time here in the weeks and months before they are released into the wild.

       Wildlife specialist Rose Augustine takes a look around a raccoon cage in the outdoor rehab area at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. Animals spend time here in the weeks and months before they are released into the wild.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Injured or orphaned animals often find refuge at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. Visitors to the center can learn about wildlife, view animals in the permanent collection and take nature hikes, but much of what goes on is done away from the public eye.

Rescued animals native to northeast Illinois are brought in by members of the public, local municipalities or animal control officers. Squirrels, opossums, raccoons, water fowl, song birds, owls and hawks are among the most common animals rescued. The center does not take in any domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs. About 35-40 percent of the animals are rereleased to the wild. The months of mid-April through the end of October are the busiest for the center.

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"This time of year we easily have between 300-400 animals in the rehab area." said wildlife specialist Rose Augustine, noting that it is because of a spike in births and bird migration. The center also has between 75 and 100 animals in its permanent collection.

Sixteen staff members work at Willowbrook, but the more than 75 volunteers do the majority of the work, according to Augustine. Feeding all the animals their species-specific diet is a big part of the work day, as is daily cleaning of the enclosures and observation of the animals. Animals soon to be rereleased into the wild are kept away from the public and monitored with minimal human contact.

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