Wildlife rehabilitation program seeks to inform, recruit

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 27, 2017

 Holly Hadac, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project assistant researcher, works with radio equipment for tracking coyotes.

Holly Hadac, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project assistant researcher, works with radio equipment for tracking coyotes.

Photo provided by Stony Creek Metropark Nature Center Interpreter Sarah Matuszak

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — At 7 p.m. Friday, March 24, the Stony Creek Metropark Nature Center will host Holly Hadac, a veteran wildlife rehabilitator based out of Oxford Township, to discuss the challenging and rewarding profession of saving wild animals.

Hadac will discuss what it takes to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and offer tips on what to do if you or someone you know comes across an injured or baby animal.

For 20 years, Hadac has worked to reintroduce injured, sick and orphaned animals back to nature. She specializes in large mammals and coyote education. She has rehabilitated a wide variety of animals on her 5-acre property, including opossums, raccoons, fawns, foxes, beavers and many other mammals.

Hadac also is an assistant researcher with the Southeastern Michigan Coyote Research Project, which involves trapping, radio collaring and tracking coyotes in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

“I want to get the word out that we exist, not only because people call us when they find injured or orphaned animals, but because our numbers have dwindled, and it’s our responsibility to find people to replace us as we retire,” she said. “I tell people it’s a God-given privilege to touch a wild animal. Not a lot of people get to do that. When I step into a pen, it’s still magic to me.”

She said that while working as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator is rewarding, it is not for the faint of heart, as not all animals live, and it also requires a lot of time, money and ongoing education.

“They are not pets. Wild animals should be kept separate from domestic and farm animals,” Hadac said. “We spend our own money on them.”

During the program, Hadac will offer a PowerPoint presentation about DNR licensing and ongoing education requirements, which wild animals may work best at interested parties’ homes, how to set limits, the associated costs and more.

As far as how to deal with specific wildlife encounters, Hadac said to leave fawns alone, as they are supposed to fend for themselves during the first three weeks of their lives and their mothers are rarely far away.

“Wildlife does not abandon babies any more than we do,” she said.

Hadac added that the idea of birds and other wildlife abandoning their young after being handled by a human is a myth.

“You’d take your baby back if a deer licked it,” she said. “If they don’t like your scent, they’ll lick it off. Birds have a poor sense of smell, if any at all.”

Additionally, she said that coyotes have been sensationalized in the news, and people do not need to fear them. She called them some of the most timid animals she has worked with.

“Unless you handle coyotes, you can’t speak from personal experience,” she said.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks Interpretive Services Manager Jennifer Hollenbeck said the nature centers in the park system get a lot of questions from the public about orphaned or injured animals and what people should do when they find them.

“We want to bring awareness to it,” Hollenbeck said. “This particular program is highlighting if you want to be a wildlife rehabilitator, talking about how rewarding it is, but also how challenging. It is a profession.”

Hollenbeck said those who are unsure of what to do with wildlife that might need help should seek out a DNR-licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

“It’s always best for people to use caution if they do see an injured animal,” she said. “Don’t just approach it and start picking it up. Call a professional, licensed person first.”

If people encounter an injured animal at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, she recommended that they report it to the nature center or a staff member.

Stony Creek Metropark is located at 4300 Main Park Drive. A metroparks vehicle entry permit is required to enter any metropark and costs $35 annually for regular admission, $21 annually for seniors and $10 daily.

For more information about the free program, call the nature center at (586) 781-9113. For questions about injured, sick or orphaned animals, find a wildlife rehabilitator at www.michigandnr.com/dlr. To donate to wildlife rehabilitation at the Howell Nature Center, visit www.howellnaturecenter.org.