Picture it. You've been up all day long feeding your estimated 3-4 day-old baby squirrels every 3 hours. You're exhausted, but as you stand there, nestling them back into their heated pouch for the night, you feel a warm gratifying feeling come over you. This feeling is why you are a certified wildlife rehabber, the reason your heart drops when you've exhausted every avenue of hope and necessary medication in your arsenal to try and save a baby. A baby that an "amateur took," you know, "I can do it myself" person who thought a pet supply store trip and knowledge from a Google and Wiki-Pedia search could save the newborn animals' life. These same scenarios are why you do what you do for animals. While it is hard work and pays nothing monetarily, as we are all volunteers, the reward of watching the animal you've spent countless hours nursing back to health become wild again is all the fuel you need to keep doing this arduous yet rewarding job as an animal rehabber.
You snap out of the daydream you found yourself in, turn on the sound machine, mimicking nighttime sounds in the forest to help ease the baby squirrels in for the night, and turn off the light. Then, a quick shower and a glance at the clock on your nightstand reading out midnight as you turn off the lamp and go to bed exhausted. Yet, a smile comes to your face knowing you have given another day of hope to 4 newborn orphaned baby squirrels who wouldn't have had any chances after the last storm blew down their tree in which their mother made her nest for them, killing the mother squirrel and leaving behind her helpless newborn babies.
Around 4:30 AM, your jarred awakened by your phone frantically ringing to find a person frantic on the other end as they found another injured animal that requires your care. You jump up, throw on clothes, and out the door. You get into your vehicle, still barely awake, and drive quickly to the address the caller gave you to pick the animal up to try your best to save it. All for a few minutes of watching it once it is released, becoming wild yet again.
The above scenario is what most of our wildlife rehabilitation volunteers here at Wild Again in Mississippi face daily during the on-season (or as they call it, "baby season"), which starts at the beginning of spring and goes throughout summer. Even during the winter, calls still come in for adult mammals, but nothing compared to right now, the beginning of spring. I have had the chance to see these amazing people from a first-person perspective and look on while their brains and years of training and knowledge kick in, assessing a new intake and figuring out what the problem is. The kicker of this entire situation is that they do this without pay, state or government aid, donating their own time, money, blood, sweat, and many hours and even some tears.
Growing up on a farm, I was no stranger to animals or the many hours of hard work in which they required care or doctoring if one was sick. Of course, I was young, but I was always my Grandaddy's helper, asking him more questions than he probably would have liked, but I was always eager to lend a hand, and I learned as we went, too.
When a mutual friend introduced me to Estelle Roberts (before Wild Again in Mississippi even existed), our founder and executive director, my friend told me, "She is a wildlife rehabber and rehabs all types of cool animals!" Estelle nodded and smiled, and then she glanced at the clock on her stove and immediately jumped up and said, "Oh! It is feeding time! Would you care to help me feed some baby squirrels?" "Yes, mam, I would love to, but I don't know what to do," I said reassuringly. "Ah, just watch and learn! Put these gloves on," Estelle said, and off we went to her large cage on her back porch with four half-grown squirrels. That was the day I witnessed something never before seen. I did not have one clue that people like Estelle even existed. Thankfully now I know otherwise, and soon after that, Estelle founded Wild Again in Mississippi, Rescue, and Rehabilitation, I.N.C. Now I quickly share our organization's card and our reason for existence with people who mention finding an animal or ask me what is "Wild Again in Mississippi" if I have on some of my W.A.I.M. gear (our organization's branded t-shirts). Having a squirrel scamper away from you when you walk up on one in the yard to having multiple ones crawl all over your back, searching for another treat or bottle, is an insane experience, but one I never regret. If anything, those encounters gave me more respect for God's animals, which is why I am still with this organization today, all thanks to Mrs. Estelle.
Every year, we have a mandatory conference for all our volunteers throughout this organization. The yearly conference ensures our members stay updated on training, new techniques, and procedures, as well as any new outbreaks of diseases and so forth. In addition, we always have three keynote speakers, usually wildlife rehab specialists from various places all over the United States, who participate via Zoom call or in person to speak to our volunteers so that they have a wide range of knowledge in their rehabilitation background. I am always impressed at each gathering with how knowledgeable our volunteers are, people from all different backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of life all coming together for one common shared interest: the welfare of the animals that we rehabilitate and rescue. It's a powerful yet moving sight to see, and to be a part of such a fantastic group of people is rewarding and an honor. It shows that when people come together, put aside their differences, and focus on one common goal and interest; they will be successful and succeed far beyond their expectations. The rapport I have built with our organization members is a blessing, and to know that we are all connected via private social media groups to lend knowledge, a hand, or guidance (whether spiritual or life advice) to others is something that sets our group apart. We aren't just a bunch of volunteers; we are like a family that looks out for each other and our wildlife friends in need.
Many people may not realize that as a non-profit organization, Wild Again in Mississippi runs solely off donations from unique and unforgettable donors. In addition, other profits are made off of an enormous fundraiser every year that we have started since 2022, celebrating Easter and giving back to the small, friendly community of Enid (and numerous guests that come to our events from all over North and Central Mississippi)- allowing a fun, free admission event for children and families to celebrate Easter together, along with a few more minor internal and external T-Shirt sales yearly. Fundraisers and events run our organization monetary-wise, along with donations and, most importantly, our fantastic staff and numerous trained volunteers who volunteer to rehab for this organization as one big team. We all believe in our mission to help promote wildlife conservationism fully. This organization, comprised of all 100% volunteers, is like a well-oiled machine working seamlessly together in tandem. However, it can only continue to work if generous donors and the tremendous outpouring of support at our official organization-hosted events and official fundraisers continue so that every animal in our care will one day be released.
Trust me; there is nothing like watching an animal on its release day take off into the wild only to stop and look back at our release team as if to say thank you before returning to being "Wild Again."
Help support Wild Again in Mississippi today.*
*We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your donations are tax-deductible!