Megan Schildberg, assistant nature interpreter, poses with an eastern box turtle named Darth Vader who anyone can adopt to care for at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center in Shelby Township through its animal adoption program.

Megan Schildberg, assistant nature interpreter, poses with an eastern box turtle named Darth Vader who anyone can adopt to care for at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center in Shelby Township through its animal adoption program.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Care for amphibians, reptiles at Shelby Township nature center

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 12, 2018

 Founder is a bearded dragon who can be adopted at the nature center.

Founder is a bearded dragon who can be adopted at the nature center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Many people who adopt animals don’t realize the hard work that goes into taking care of a pet until they take it home, but the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center in Shelby Township has a program to take away the surprise.

The nature center’s adoption program is a way for someone who wants to be a pet owner to get some experience caring for animals without all the costs and responsibility.

“It gives people a perspective on taking care of animals before they get their own,” said Faith Rembisz, who does programming and is an animal caretaker at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center.

The nature center has had the program for at least nine years.

While adopting a pet at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center, you can choose to care for an amphibian or reptile on your own time while the center is open. There is a one-time yearly cost of $25 to adopt a small animal or $50 to adopt a large animal.

The program is supervised.

Some animals of were found locally and used to be someone’s pet.

“For example, there is one named Founder because he was found here at the park by two Boy Scouts,” said Rembisz.

“The thing is, when they’re babies, they’re cute and small, but then when they grow up and get bigger and older, they are more expensive. Kids get pets and they don’t realize how long they live and can’t take them with them when they get older,” said Rembisz.

Some of the animals are rescued and surrendered, but sometimes animals are born at the center, such as the baby snake Sandalfoot.

Those interested do not need to be a certain age or even a resident of Shelby Township or Utica.

“We welcome anyone interested in adopting any of our animals,” said Megan Schildberg, the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center’s assistant nature interpreter.

Schildberg majored in zoology at Michigan State University.

You can visit and learn how to take care of your adopted animal with hands-on interaction and freedom to do what you can, when you can.

Those who adopt learn what the animal requires and are able hold it, feed it and assist in caring for the animal during all types of stages. They also clean up after it.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity to give kids or even adults a chance to experience animals without the cost and be responsible. That way, parents know that their kids are ready for a pet. Depending on the program turnout, we often get adults, and one woman wants to adopt a turtle for her dog to come visit it. And some people live in situations where they can’t have a pet, so they come to us to adopt one.

“One boy saved his birthday money to adopt a pet from us after having a party here. We have kids who have adopted and come back once a week, and slowly it increases to coming back twice a week and eventually coming back more,” Schildberg said.

More than one family can adopt an animal.

The large animals currently available for adoption include Sunny, the bearded dragon; Sandalfoot, the eastern garter snake; Ponder, the Asian pond turtle; Dzilla, the African sideneck turtle; Elon, the common musk turtle; Compact, the painted turtle; Buttons, the common snapping turtle; Zipper, the common snapping turtle; Bonnie, the three-toed box turtle; Darth Vader, eastern box turtle; and Boop, the western hognose snake.

The small animals that are available to be adopted include Surge, the crested gecko; Slate, the eastern grey tree frog; Squeak, the northern spring peeper; Jag, the northern leopard frog; and Jade, the green frog.

Each person who adopts a pet at the nature center gets an adoption certificate of their own to show that they took the time to adopt the animal and provide the care it needs.

Rembisz said the bigger animals are more popular, but there are many small ones that have been adopted.

All of the yearly cost helps fund the animal’s unexpected vet expenses and regular care costs such as food.

“It helps with care of animals and vet care; for example, the bearded dragon Sunny’s eye got infected (due to health issues), and she suffered, and the vet said her eye had to be removed, and the cost helped to get her eye removed, and she had to wear a cone so that she wouldn’t scratch her wound,” said Rembisz.

Although the nature center takes in and cares for animals, it is not a rehabilitation center, so it often provides information to people about who to call for injured animals.

At the end of the year, adopters can renew their adoption and choose to switch to another animal.

If an animal becomes sick and must be quarantined, adopters can choose to switch animals until theirs gets better.

The nature center asks that adopters call in advance so staff knows when people are coming and can plan ahead.

The nature center is always accepting donations to help support the animals in its care.

The Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center is a nonprofit organization and is located at 4101 River Bends Drive in Shelby Township.

For more information about the animal adoption program, call (586) 323-2478, visit www.shel bytwp.org or visit the nature center in person.