Red Oaks Nature Center to hold program on wildlife rehabilitation

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 4, 2019


MADISON HEIGHTS — Ever encounter a wounded wild animal and wanted to help it recover, but didn’t know how?

Certainly there are groups that specialize in this, such as Wild Wings in Hazel Park. But those wanting to take matters into their own hands can learn how during an upcoming presentation at the Red Oaks Nature Center at Suarez Friendship Woods.

The nature center, located at 30300 Hales St. in Madison Heights, will hold the program “Wildlife Rehabilitating: Is It for You?” from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19. Admission to the event costs $1 per person.

The presenter is Holly Hadac, a wildlife rehabilitator licensed through the U.S. Department of Natural Resources, or DNR. She will teach about DNR licensing and ongoing education requirements for wildlife rehabilitation, as well as the topic in general. The program is geared toward adults with a serious interest in saving the lives of wounded, sick or abandoned wildlife.

“Holly will discuss when an animal needs help and when to leave it be,” said Sarah Matuszak, seasonal program specialist at the nature center. “Fawns, in particular, are often found without their mom because mom leaves them to hide in the grass during the day while she is out feeding. If Holly receives a call about a fawn, she knows what questions to ask and how to check what condition the fawn is in, such as dehydration, which may tell us if mom has been gone for too long.”

Other topics that will be taught include commonly required medications to have on hand from the vet and proper diets for wildlife, enclosure setups and requirements, enrichment techniques for preparing an animal to survive on its own, and how to determine what an animal needs.

“Rehabilitation can be rewarding, but not every story has a happy ending,” Matuszak said. “Holly will discuss releasing requirements and techniques; how to judge if an animal is ready for release, and when and where to release; and what happens when an animal does not recover to the point of being releasable.”

Hadac specializes in rehabilitating large mammals including deer, coyotes and foxes, but she also has experience with raccoons  and has assisted with other mammals such as opossums, beavers and muskrats. Hadac has also worked as an assistant researcher with the Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Program (, involved in trapping, radio-collaring and tracking coyotes in the tri-county area. She has worked as a rehabilitator for 20 years.

Becoming a certified wildlife rehabilitator involves a fair bit of work, including required courses through the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Approval is also based on a written letter from a vet willing to work with the rehabilitator, or a licensed rehabilitator who states that one is qualified.

The rehabilitator’s facility — which could be their home — will then be inspected by a DNR conservation officer to make sure that the enclosures meet the listed size requirements. Once a person is licensed, he or she then must keep records for each animal they care for and all costs involved in its upkeep.

Matuszak said that the idea for the program came about because the nature center is often contacted about orphaned and injured wildlife in the spring.

“Being that wildlife rehabilitation is a volunteer position, there is a shortage of wildlife rehabilitators, and many of them are limited as to what they can take in, and (they) fill up fast,” she said. “Holly is passionate about getting the word out to recruit more wildlife rehabilitators to the area.”

Sarah Hudson, the naturalist at the Red Oaks Nature Center, said the program is a first step.

“Who hasn’t found a baby rabbit in their lawn or a bird on their porch and wondered what to do with it?” Hudson said. “Wildlife is all around us — our animal neighbors are admired and appreciated at bird feeders, on nature hikes, and even chance viewings as we drive from place to place. This program will empower community members to make more accurate decisions when faced with a potentially injured or orphaned animal, making them better neighbors to animals as well.”

For more information on wildlife rehabilitation, visit wild