A Tifton-based organization dedicated to saving and protecting injured and orphaned wildlife needs local volunteers.
Chet Powell, director of the Georgia Wildlife Rescue Association, said his organization is in desperate need of volunteers from Waycross all the way up to Savannah.
“I’m working on two wildlife calls from Hinesville as we speak,” Powell said early Monday morning, “One of the calls is about a baby deer and the other is about what sounds like a baby hawk. ... I’m afraid I’m going to have to send somebody from Valdosta or Tifton to pick them up and take them to Douglas, where they can be helped. I just don’t have anybody else.”
Powell, who is retired from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said local volunteers are trained to receive calls about injured and orphaned animals, and they sometimes have to transport those animals to a Georgia DNR-licensed wildlife rehabilitator. He said he’s been inundated with calls recently from Hinesville to Waycross about wildlife found in Liberty, Long, Wayne, Pierce, Ware and Bryan counties. There are not enough volunteers to respond to calls in those counties, he said.
Currently Powell only has two volunteers from Waycross to Savannah and needs more volunteers, he said. He has recently had two calls from Bryan County, one about a fawn and another about baby foxes, so any help from Bryan County residents would be appreciated.
The GWRA began in Albany with four people then expanded to more than 400 volunteers, according to Powell, who said the decision to form the organization was prompted by the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. At the time, volunteers were spread across the Gulf coast, from Louisiana to Florida, working in regional, oiled wildlife rehabilitation centers, or they were working with wildlife-capture-and-recovery teams to aid in the recovery and relocation of thousands of Gulf Coast sea-turtle eggs to the Atlantic coast.
After the oil-rig disaster, Powell said he and other GWRA leaders and volunteers recognized the need to rescue wildlife in Coastal Georgia. Many animals are hit every day on Georgia’s roads and highways, and others are orphaned for one caused or another. He said the GWRA continued training people to be what he called first responders for injured/orphaned wildlife.
More volunteers are needed, however. Powell described volunteers as “people just like you,” who care about wildlife and hate to see any animal suffer. He added that many people simply don’t know what to do when they discover an injured or orphaned animal.
In some cases, he cautioned, the young animal is not orphaned at all, so the best advice may be to simply leave it alone. However, from what Powell understood about the fawn found Monday near Hinesville, its mother was killed, meaning the baby deer really is in need of rescue.
Volunteers are trained to respond to calls by asking the right questions and instructing callers not to touch the animals or take them home. Also, because they’re working in their own counties, volunteers are better able to find their way around in remote areas where wildlife can be picked up and transported to rehabilitation centers.
“Volunteers used to have to drive to a training site then go through eight hours of classroom training,” Powell said. “Soon, we’ll have a link they can go to on our website (www.georgiawildliferescue.org) that allows them to take the class online. Many of our volunteers are retired like me, or they only work part time. Most just want to help wildlife.”
In addition to saving individual animals, he said GWRA also is dedicated to saving native plant and animal habitats and ecosystems. Those who are unable to serve as volunteers can support GWRA’s efforts through membership and donations, which are accepted through the organization’s website, he said.
For more information about GWRA, write to Georgia Wildlife Rescue Association, P.O. Box 7272, Tifton, GA 31794, or call 1-844- WLD-LIFE (953-5433).
Taylor Carpenter contributed to this story.