If you’ve seen Disney’s famous children’s movies, you may have dreamed of taking in a fawn like Bambi or a raccoon like Meeko. For most of us, that’s a passing childhood fantasy, but for one Centre County woman it’s a way of life. She founded a place in Port Matilda, dedicated to helping orphaned and injured animals return to the wild.
At Centre Wildlife Care , you’ll find 9 real-life Bambis, fawns who’s mothers have died.
Robyn Graboski, the Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, who founded the rehabilitation center says, “we put collars on them so that we can identify which one is which, in case one has a problem we can monitor it.”
It’s “filled to capacity” this ‘baby season’ with dozens of squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and several species of birds.
They take in more than 1,500 animals a year.
“We get orphaned babies, mainly because of some type of human influence, such as trees being cut down, landscaping, momma was hit by a car, and the babies are orphaned,” Robyn says.
She’s now fostering baby turkeys, confiscated by the State Game Commission. Robin says the little birds were brought into the area illegally as eggs, and hatched. The commission handed them over to Robyn because of her special skills as a trained licensed rehabilitator.
“They need a role model to teach them basic things like how to perch,” she explains.
In lieu of a momma turkey, Robyn came up with some mother hens, or maybe more accurately, grandma hens.
“I put my oldest girls in there, because I thought they’d be more mild mannered and tolerant of new babies,” she says.
And, so far, it’s working. The foster children have been taught how to perch to go to sleep at night. Next on her agenda, she hopes they learn how to forage for food.
This isn’t a forever home. It’s a safe place where orphaned animals learn the skills they need to return to the wild. Others will be there until they recover from an injury or an illness.
“One of the main things is not habituating them too much to people. That’s why squirrels are housed with squirrels, opossums with opossums, and so on,” she says. “They learn social skills from each other and have very little human interaction. That’s really important for their development.”
Centre Wildlife Care is the only rehab center in the middle of the state. Robyn, a few employees, and army of volunteers rely solely on donations to accomplish their mission.
Why do they step in to help—why don’t they let nature completely take its course?
Robyn says, “a hawk catching a bunny is nature taking its course, a weasel killing a bird is nature takings its course. A car hitting a raccoon is not nature, a tree being cut down and squirrels being orphaned is not nature.”
“I want to provide a humane environment for these animals. If we can rehabilitate them and get them back out, we do. If they’re too broken to fix, at least a humane euthanasia so they don’t suffer,” she adds.
You must be a trained, licensed wildlife rehabilitator and have state and federal permits to handle wildlife, in order to do what Robyn does. She says there’s huge need for people who are willing to get the necessary training and experience. It may sound a bit daunting, but she’d be glad to help you get started.
If you think you may be a potential wildlife rehabilitator, you can contact Robyn at Centre Wildlife Care call (814)692-0004. You can also help out by volunteering or donating.
“It is hard work, but very rewarding because when we can get these animals back out into the wild, that’s the best reward that we can have,” Robyn says.