Rebecca Michelin

by Rebecca Michelin, Director, Schuylkill Center Wildlife Clinic

Imagine that a fox just ran through your backyard in the middle of the day. Should you be concerned? How would you react to a live bird that your cat brought home as a “gift?” What would you do if you found a baby squirrel on the ground and its nest was high in a tree? For many people, the first thought is to search online for advice, but with so much information out there, it’s hard to know who to trust. The simplest answer is: Ask A Rehabber!

Wildlife Rehabilitators — or “rehabbers” for short — are educated and experienced professionals, many of whom have years of practice and training in caring for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. We focus on the rescue, medical treatment and rehabilitative care of native species with the goal of returning healthy animals to appropriate habitats in the wild.

I’m Rebecca Michelin, Director of the Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center, located at 304 Port Royal Ave. in Roxborough, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. We are fully permitted and able to accept most species of mammals and birds in need of medical treatment or care. Before taking on my current position, I spent 10 years working at wildlife facilities in Nova Scotia, Texas and British Columbia, in addition to my role as a certified instructor in basic wildlife rehabilitation with the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. The exceptional wildlife professionals here in Pennsylvania have been so welcoming and I’m proud to continue to provide this important service for our community as the only wildlife clinic in Philadelphia.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, (Groundhog Day!) we are celebrating the reopening of our updated clinic with Winterfest for Wildlife, a fun and educational event featuring wildlife crafts, animal face painting, nature walks and talks on issues affecting urban wildlife. The event is free and open to all and will take place in at the main building at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education from noon to 4 p.m. We will also offer a limited number of tours of the clinic facility so you can get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes and learn about our vision for the future.

In this monthly column, you will have the opportunity to ask a rehabber about anything wildlife-related; I will be responding to reader questions and writing about issues affecting human and non-human animals alike. With climate change and increasing land development reducing natural habitats, wild animals are being displaced in higher numbers than ever before and are having to adapt quickly to their changing environments. As a result, humans and wildlife are coming into contact more frequently, which results in conflicts that, more often than not, do not end well for the animals. Collisions with cars and windows, increased exposure to disease from overcrowding and attacks by cats and dogs are devastating wildlife in huge numbers and causing greater demand for the services of rehabilitation centers.

We can all help to significantly reduce the incidence of human-wildlife conflict through better understanding of what is normal behavior for wild animals in urban environments, when an animal is truly in need of rescue and what we can do to mitigate our personal effects on the wild animals who share our spaces.

In next month’s column, I will be writing about mange, a type of skin disease, in our fox population. Since our November reopening, we have had more calls from members of the public about foxes with mange than any other issue.

If you have a wildlife concern that you would like answered in an upcoming article, please submit your questions to wildlife@schuylkillcenter.org

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