Rehabilitations & Releases

Wildlife Assistance > Rehabilitations and Releases

In 2022, Lakeside Nature Center admitted a record number of animals, reaching 4,261 individuals.

• 3,162 mammals
• 992 birds
• 107 herps (reptiles and amphibians)

The graph below shows the admission trends from 2006 thru 2022. While there has been slight variability from year to year, the past three years have shown an upward trend.

The Nature Center keeps careful records about each animal admitted for rehabilitation. The details of these records are submitted to the Missouri Department of Conservation and the United States Fish and Wildlife Commission. 

The species most represented in the hospital (in order of highest numbers)

Cottontail Rabbit. Photo © Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Virginia Opossum. Photo © Susie Harris

Eastern Gray Squirrel. Photo © Juanita Bach

Eastern Cottontail, Virginia Opossum, Eastern Grey Squirrel and Common Raccoon.

American Robin. Photo © Pixabay

Barred Owl. Photo © Pixabay

Mourning Dove. Photo © Pixabay

American Robin, Barred Owl and Mourning Dove.

Ornate Box Turtle. Photo © Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Three-toed Box Turtle. Photo © Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Ornate Box Turtle, closely followed by Cross Box Turtle which is a hybrid of Ornate and 3-Toed Box Turtle.

2022’s new or unique species.

Purple Gallinule. Photo © Pixabay

Each year seems to bring a new or unique species into the hospital. In 2022, probably the most unique intake was of a Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). This ‘swamphen’ is not naturally occurring in the state of Missouri and would be considered a rare find.

Working to reunite wildlife babies and their families.

A primary goal in wildlife rehabilitation is to take measures to keep animals from coming into the hospital. Lakeside Nature Center has worked diligently the last several years to increase education and awareness to our human community to be able to reunite wildlife babies with their families to keep them together. Even with the increased reuniting successes, over half of the total number of animals brought to the center are babies that need further care from wildlife rehabilitators.

Our rehabilitation and release collaborators.

Baby turkey vulture brought into the Nature Center. Photo © Ruth Stephens

Two older babies in their nest. Photo © Lizette Somer

Baby and it’s new siblings.

We received a call a couple weeks ago that a one day old turkey vulture chick was coming in. YIKES! While a serious effort was made to try and rebond the newly hatched chick with its family, the attempt was unsuccessful leaving the only option, to bring the chick into us. Even before it arrived we were on the phone to our local raptor experts, World Bird Sanctuary (St. Louis) and Raptor Rehabilitation Project (Columbia). Neither of them were actively caring for any vulture chicks which would have been its best chance for long term care. As rehabbers, we do everything we can to avoid imprinting young animals on humans so they can form healthy and natural relationships with their own species once released back into the wild. If we can’t provide that proper care, we try to track down a more appropriate situation with our partnership facilities. Since this was the only vulture chick anyone had and we were already rehabbing an adult turkey vulture ourselves, preparations were made to use our current patient to be a surrogate role model for our newest patient. It was going to be a very long couple months of extreme measures taken to ensure the most limited contact of this incredibly young and imprintable bird. Not ideal, but we were prepared to give it our best shot!

Then, nothing short of magic happened! Lizette, from the Raptor Rehabilitation Project, was giving a presentation with their vulture ambassador and an audience member mentioned they had a friend with a turkey vulture nest on their property. She got all the information and reached out to the family to find out if this could be a possible placement for our little chick. They had 2 babies that were less than a week older than ours and were more than delighted to add a third. We found a volunteer to drive him down the next day and Lizette placed him in the nest where he immediately cuddled up under his new siblings. This was the first time he had ever touched another vulture during his five days on the planet. That must have felt so comforting to him, I know it was for us! As we all waited with bated breath and crossed fingers, a picture was taken a couple days later showing three very well fed chicks. SUCCESS!! He’s obviously smaller but will catch up in no time!

These are the times when we feel the most gratitude for our professional partnerships with facilities, such as Raptor Rehabilitation Project and World Bird Sanctuary, who graciously offer their vast experience and resources. As wildlife rehabilitators, we are bound by our ethics to do what is best for each animal that comes through our doors. And for our little chick, this was the best possible outcome. For now he will be able to grow up with a vulture family, take his first flight, enjoy Fall migration south and return one day to hopefully raise a family of his very own. 

The Nature Center works with several permitted rehabilitators throughout the state. These facilities and individuals are critical to the success of raising babies for release back to the wild. We couldn’t manage the record intakes that we have without their support and they are greatly appreciated.

Help the effort.

Your support of Lakeside Nature Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation efforts make a difference in wildlife rehabilitation care and releases. Please consider a donation.

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