DURHAM — The 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Opie Taylor raises baby birds after accidentally killing their mother with his slingshot may be the series most memorable.
In reality, nursing injured and orphaned wild animals and releasing them back into their habitat is not so easy, say volunteers at the Triangle Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic or TWRC.
TWRC, which took in more than 2,000 animals last year, is looking for a new building after outgrowing and closing its former location at 1417 Seaton Road in Durham in December.
The building had major plumbing issues, including one working sink, President Pamela Bayne said. With wildlife and volunteers bumping into each other, it wasnt working, she said.
The TWRC staff decided to close during winter when the clinic was not as busy. But the staff and volunteers worry about the coming months.
While people may have good intentions when rescuing injured wildlife, those good intentions can cause horrible problems, Bayne said.
Its illegal to deal with birds without a state and federal permit, Bayne said. There are over 400 species of songbirds just in North Carolina alone, and rehabilitating is not just simply feeding.
Some raptors, like eagles, need cages sometimes over 100 feet long, to build muscles after an injury. All birds also need the correct diet to have their body and feathers mature properly.
You have to know each species, Bayne said. At TWRC we work with every bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile.
Not keeping pace
Bayne said donations and volunteers have not kept pace with the number of animals coming in.
The agency ran a deficit in 2011, according to its most recent federal tax report, taking in $77,993 in revenue and spending $86,521.
But the report showed the clinic still had about $87,795 in assets, and Bayne said money was not the main reason for closing.
If the building had been adequate, grants and donations would have been enough to stay open, she said. But costs, such as medicines, keep rising and not everyone who drops an animal off donates.
We have had individuals who are very generous to us; thats why we managed to stay in business, she said. But theres no question we need financial and volunteer support.
More harm than good
Like Opie and his slingshot, human actions, like moving into native habitats, automobiles and poison in yards, cause most wildlife injuries.
When people take them in and attempt to care for them, they often do more harm than good.
For example, people sometimes force open a birds mouth to feed it and break beaks or jaws. In addition, many young birds must be fed as often as every 30 minutes for 14 hours a day.
Bayne, whose position was unpaid according to the 2011 tax report, said a free or low-cost central location in the Triangle with enough land for outside flight cages would be ideal.
Volunteer Emily Weinstein hopes a new location can be found soon.
It staggers the mind, the hospital they run seven days a week with literally hundreds of baby song birds chirping for their meals, squirrels, turtles, large birds of prey, she said. This area will be hurting badly if TWRC isnt back up and running by spring. I hate to think of it.