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Back to the Wild back in a bind

Tom Jackson • Mar 16, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Back to the Wild, hurt by the loss of an important supply of free food for its hawks and owls, is appealing to the public to aid its mission of healing wounded or sick wild animals and returning them back to their habitat.

Back to the Wild founder Mona Rutger says her group is facing the most serious financial crunch of its 24-year existence.

“Our source for rodents we rely on to feed all our injured wildlife and permanent residents has gone,” she explained in an email she sent to the Register.

The Charles River Lab facility in Portage, Mich., is shutting down and laying off 84 employees.

“They literally had hundreds of thousands of clean (no research chemicals in them) rats and mice daily that they euthanized and had to throw away, so they donated them daily to zoos, rehab centers and nature centers all over” Rutger said.

Back to the Wild utilized Charles Lab and would make the trip once a month to collect its share of rodents. Each trip saved Back to the Wild thousands of dollars, she said.    

“Our center alone will now need an additional $80,000 a year to keep our doors open, just to purchase the rodents we need. I just placed an order and filled our 10 freezers, but it cost over $4,000 and won’t last long until I have to reorder from companies that sell rodents” Rutger said.

Rutger said it’s important to make two points clear: She’s not shutting down; and nothing will happen to the animals she has.

“People are calling asking when we are shutting our doors for good. I don’t plan to ever do that. I will find a way, somehow, somewhere, to not let the community down and all those who have supported us through the years. There has to be an answer to this” she said.

Rutger says that best answer would be if a few companies or people could pledge $10,000 a year to help Back to the Wild keep its doors open.

“If just 10 companies, or individuals would pledge $10,000 each year to our cause, we could make it. Right now, the only two companies that are doing that are in the Cleveland area” she said.

Sustainable funding would allow Back to the Wild to know it can carry out its mission.

“Today alone, we took in 12 injured wild animals, but that’s a slow day. In the spring and summer, we can take in over 25 to 30 animals each day and every visitor is offered a tour of our center” she said.

“We never charge, but hope that some will be able to leave a donation to help care for the animal they brought in. Most do not leave a donation” she said.

Other ways to help

“We have had just a handful of generous bequests left in wills to Back To The Wild over the years, that have literally kept us afloat. If this would happen a few more times, it could make all the difference” Rutger said.

Being part of a person’s last wishes is gratifying for Rutger.

“We found these bequests have made a major difference in keeping our doors open and have meant a lot to the families who wanted to be sure our work could continue,” she said. “They felt good knowing they were providing for our center, even with their passing”

Those donors make “the kindest, most unselfish gift and legacy,” she said, and they are acknowledged at the center with plaques and inscribed pavers.

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