Ame Vanorio joins me from Falmouth, Kentucky to talk all about wildlife rescue. She runs Fox Run Environmental Education Center, where she rehabilitates animals to be released back into the wild. She lives off the grid, teaching people about wildlife, alternative energy, organic gardening, medicinal herbs, and the list goes on.
Ame’s background is in both education and environmental science. I believe that comes through in everything she does. She brings a humane angle to learning about animals such as opossums, raccoons, even snakes. She not only teaches us the science behind their physical bodies and environments, but helps us understand emotion and how each animal is actually a lot like us.
She shares 3 clear simple ideas that we can use to actually help with wildlife rescue ourselves. Ame even encourages everyone to study more and become a wildlife rehabilitator if interested. Her website is a wealth of information. I seriously think we could get a college degree by just reading her blog posts!
We go through multiple “I Found an Animal, What Should I Do?” scenarios in our interview. Here are links to her recommendations:
3 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:
- Compassion. First and foremost, when we see a wild animal, start from a place of compassion. There’s a chance the animal is near us because it is sick, or injured, or stressed.
- Download Animal Help Now App. Ever get stuck seeing an animal and not knowing what to do? You can literally tap on the app and find a wildlife rehabilitator near you to ask.
- Place a Wildlife Rescue Kit in our car. This will help us to have what we need if we find an animal in trouble. We ALL really can help with wildlife rescue. Link to DIY kit.
Raised on a traditional Kentucky farm, Ame has always loved animals and became a vegetarian at 16 when she refused to participate in processing on the farm. She has graduate degrees in education and environmental science and has worked in traditional schools as well as non-profits.
Ame runs a non profit called Fox Run Environmental Education Center in Falmouth, Kentucky where she lives. She describes herself as a country girl through and through. She went to college in Cincinnati and knew quickly that the loud sounds of the city were not for her.
She paints a picture of her home in Falmouth for us. It’s a beautiful spot, in a valley of rolling hills and fresh air. She has a creek that runs through her property with woods on both sides. She farms, and she tells us that she loves that she lives at the end of a dirt gravel road, with no one in site!
Fox Run Environmental Education Center’s mission is to teach people how to live more environmentally friendly lives. They do this through education programs and outreach about alternative energy, organic gardening, and wildlife conservation. They also serve as a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.
Pinterest "Wildlife Rehabilitation" Community:
Ame and I met through a Pinterest scheduling tool that we use called Tailwind. There are communities within Tailwind called Tailwind Communities, where people share like-minded content with each other.
Ame has a community called “Wildlife Rehabilitation“. Of course I followed because I love sharing anything and everything that we can do to help wildlife rescue. If you’re reading this, and you do wildlife rehabilitation yourself, consider joining us. You can try it for a month for free, with no credit card number required.
Say hi to us in the chat as soon as you join! Can’t wait to see you.
Link to join: https://www.tailwindapp.com/tribe/join?h=wp56CLYx5ugRYb
Animal Help Now!
Animal Help Now is an app that allows you to enter your zip code and get a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators near you. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?
I mean seriously, I hope you’re downloading this app on your phone right now.
Basically, if you run into a wildlife conflict situation, or you find an injured animal, this can almost always be your step one. I know I feel more relaxed just knowing that I have this in my phone now.
Another option is to call the State Fish & Wildlife Department for the state that you’re in. They should be able to give you a number for the Fish & Wildlife Department near you.
An important note: you’re asking for “Wildlife Rehabilitators”. In every state, someone with a wildlife rehabilitator license has been through education, licensing, has a deep knowledge of animals in the local area, and will give you the most humane solution.
How do baby animals end up with Ame?
I suppose this is a basic question, but I didn’t know right off the top of my head how Ame ends up with so many baby animals. She helps about 75-100 babies a year. She gave me these top scenarios:
- an animal is hit on the road and it has babies that live
- an animal is killed by a hunter and had babies that lived
- an animal is killed because it is found in someone’s backyard but had babies that the property owner didn’t see
1. What if I find a turtle in the road?
- Keep a Wildlife Rescue Kit (link to DIY kit) in your car.
- Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Be careful of any traffic. Pick the turtle up. Put your hands around the turtle’s waste (never grab near the face or by the tail). If it is a snapping turtle, watch this video to learn how.
- Move the turtle in the direction it is already going.
- Wash your hands
It is extremely important to send the turtle in the same direction that it is already going. Don’t put the turtle in your car and take it to a farm, or pond, or place that you think it would be safer or like better. Turtles have a strong homing sense and will always attempt to try to get home, placing them in more danger. Read more about Turtle Homing Instinct here.
2. What if I find a cat?
The answer to this depends on the programs available in our local area. If we’re not familiar with options near us, the best thing is to get in touch with our local Humane Society. They can tell us what resources are available.
Many cities have Trap – Neuter – Release programs that will take the animal, spay/neuter, give any vaccines that are needed, and release back to the wild. Many areas also have a rescue group that will help the animal find a new home.
I asked about giving the animal food and milk. Ame said that she feels every animal deserves a chance, and if the animal is thin and not getting enough to eat, it’s good to offer food. But never leave food out at night!
Ame warned that animals should never be given cow’s milk. This was a new learning for me. The fat globules of cow’s milk are very large and can be hard to digest for other animals. In addition, milk as a whole should only be reserved for babies. And babies should only have milk from their own species. For example, if you find a baby kitten, you want to go with kitten formula, not milk.
As another note, cats in the wild do hunt wildlife. And Ame tells us that many bird conservation groups push for people to keep their cats inside or have outside play areas for their cat to help the local small wildlife.
3. What if I find a snake, opossum, gopher, etc. in back yard?
There’s a “conflict resolution” section on the Animal Help Now App. If you have raccoons getting in your trash can, for instance, you can get guidance from a wildlife rehabilitor on the app.
Ame says that laws differ widely by state. There are many pest control companies who will come and trap the animal and euthanize it. She says that if a company says that they are humanely releasing the animal, she would question that and dig deeper. Many states have laws that do not allow this to happen.
When we call for help, we want to make sure we’re calling a wildlife rehabber for advice first. Most are willing to help, even though they can’t come to our property to remove the animal themselves. This gives us a “compassionate” option to start with first.
Here’s an extra video of baby squirrels to warm your heart. Ame reads a story for children, shows baby squirrels living with her, and teaches us how to make a feeder for squirrels that live in our neighborhood. This is a great activity for kids.
4. What if I find a raccoon?
Again, we can always start with the Animal Help Now App for wildlife rescue. Raccoons are extremely intelligent and can solve problems. They are also very social. They can typically find a way to get what they want, whether it be to escape or to get food.
Ame thinks raccoon mothers are some of the best mothers in the animal kingdom. They actively teach their young life skills as they grow. If a mother is killed, and baby raccoons are orphaned, it’s challenging to raise them without their mother. It takes work to teach them the skills that they need, so that they can survive when released.
Ame actually has specific advice for raccoon conflict resolution on her website.
You can also watch an adorable video of baby raccoons learning to climb the tree in Ame’s orchard here.
5. What if I see a coyote or deer?
Coyotes are adapting to human urban development. They’re not after human children, or even cats. They’ve been forced in a lot of situations to live near us. And they’re like us, just looking to live and provide for and protect their families.
Ame mentions that a coyote may have been living in our neighborhood for a few years unseen. When we see one, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. It may just be circumstance that we’re happening to see them. Ame reminds us to start with compassion if we do see one. Most likely we can let it go about its life while we go about ours. And keep small animals inside the home.
Deer have also become quite common in urban areas. Ame tells a sweet story of a fawn that was found in a bank parking lot. She says in general we want to let any deer or fawn we find go about its life as it wants as well. If in doubt, we can always use Animal Help Now to call a wildlife rehabber and ask for advice.
6. What if a bird has fallen from a tree?
There are two main buckets that baby birds fall into: nestling or fledgling. A nestling is a baby bird that doesn’t have its feathers yet. The parents are still very actively feeding and taking care of it.
Sometimes if there’s a storm or an animal hunting, one could end up on the ground. If the bird you find doesn’t have feathers yet (they could have little fluffy feathers, but those aren’t yet feathers they use to fly) or has little bald spots. Ideally, you can locate the nest and put the baby bird back in the nest.
If the nest is too high, or you cannot find it, you can try placing the baby bird in a box and hanging the box from the tree. Then stand back and observe if the parents come back.
If no parents come, you want to call a bird rehabilitator and tell them what has happened.
A fledgling is a baby bird that has all or almost all of their actual feathers. If you see a fledgling on the ground, it has probably jumped out of the nest because it needs to work its muscles and learn to fly. Ame said it usually takes about 5-7 days for a fledgling to actually be able to fly.
If you find a fledgling on the ground, don’t get involved. Monitor the bird and keep your dogs and cats inside the house for the week. It just needs to get through that vulnerable week.
Ame has a full blog post here: Found a Baby Bird: Here’s What to Do
7. What about mice in my house?
The quick answer to humane mouse removal is this:
1. Find out how they get in house and seal entrances
2. Make sure pantry food is in sealed plastic containers or glass jars (no cardboard or paper food packaging exposed)
3. Don’t leave out pet food
4. You can purchase a live trap and then release mice outside – check the trap several times a day
Become a Wildlife Rehabilitator:
Ame runs the Kentucky Wildlife Rehabilitation Association, where she helps new people get started in the profession of wildlife rescue. If you’re interested in becoming a rehabber, take a look at this blog post that Ame wrote about getting started. She shares that we can even start as small as taking squirrels if we only have room inside our homes to help (no backyard, farm, etc).
What we didn't talk about today:
Ame is a wealth of knowledge. Her website has incredible blog posts and classes about many things. I’ve listed some below and highly recommend checking them out too.
- Alternative energy
- Living off the grid
- Organic gardening
- Sustainable agriculture
- Herbal medicine garden
- Eco Psychology
Support Ame's Work & Connect:
You can find Ame many places online to support her and wildlife rescue as a whole.
- If you would like to send a donation or take one of her classes, visit her website.
- If you would like to learn, her blog is packed with TONS of great info about wildlife, alternative energy, organic gardening, and ecopsychology.
- If you would like to see pictures of baby animals, check out her Facebook page. (I mean, hello! I signed up as soon as we hung up the phone. ;-).
- If you would like to connect, email or text Ame. She also answers comments on her website on the blog posts. Find her on a social media platform below.
Text: (859) 242-1037
ANIMAL HELP NOW:
KENTUCKY WILDLIFE REHABILITATION ASSOCIATION: