NEWPORT — The Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter is applying for grants to fund capital improvements to the facility that is used to rehabilitate hundreds of injured and orphaned wildlife each year.

As part of the effort, OWLS grant writer and intern Robin Serne is inviting those who have volunteered, donated or brought animals to the shelter to write letters of support to be included in grant application packets. The deadline to submit letters to OWLS is Saturday, and they can be emailed to

Ms. Serne has created a suggested letter template that is available upon request at the email address.

“You may have brought animals to the shelter or called and got advice from the rehabilitators,” Ms. Serne said Thursday. “This helps show the shelter’s community impact and that the community values the shelter.”

In 2018, OWLS treated 1,462 animals, ranging from songbirds and waterfowl to mammals such as opossums, squirrels and deer. They are currently in the middle of baby animal season and are inundated with baby opossums and songbirds.

“We’re just starting to get squirrels because baby squirrel season is about to begin,” she said.

They also recently received a diamondback terrapin, a type of turtle found in brackish water and marshes that is considered a vulnerable species. The shelter is in the process of installing an indoor pond to rehabilitate turtles and waterfowl. The shelter is currently holding a contest to name the terrapin, which will become an education animal because it can’t be released back into the wild.

Ms. Serne said preliminary estimates put the cost of needed renovations to the shelter at nearly $300,000.

One of their proposed projects is a dual-purpose addition to house an anticipated influx of mammals in 2020 if new rules are enacted that allow wildlife rehabilitation centers to once again accept rabies vector species such as raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats.

“In 2020 the NC laws are going to change and allow us to take in the rabies vectors species again. As it stands, we just don’t have the physical space to hold mammals that will have to be in isolation when they first come to the shelter,” Ms. Serne said.

The 40-by-16-foot addition would also have an area to treat and isolate water birds such as pelicans, loons and gulls that regularly come in suffering from injuries and starvation in the winter months. Many times they have a contagious lung infection, which requires isolation from the other birds, according to Ms. Serne.

The addition would have its own HVAC system so mold spores will not spread to animals housed in other areas of the shelter.

As part of the project, OWLS will construct an additional intensive care unit multipurpose room and a walk-in freezer in the new wing, install a backup generator, replace the crumbling back deck multi-use area, expand and renovate the cramped laundry room and create an outdoor linens pre-washing area.

“Right now our workers spray poop-covered towels out back in the yard with a hose before placing them in an old washer,” Ms. Serne said.

The shelter proposes pouring a 20-by-20-foot concrete pad in the yard, with a 10-by-20-foot pole barn roof for shade while workers clean the towels as they hang on lines. It will also allow an area for washing and storing kennel cabs.

The addition would contain an 8-by-16-foot walk-in freezer/cooler combo and a concrete floor with drains to make it easy to wash down with a hose and mop. It would also include stainless steel sinks. There would be a double-bowl sink to wash dishes and hands and two to four large one-bowl sinks for water birds to swim in when they are being rehabilitated.

The laundry room renovation would combine the current laundry room with a large master bathroom to make one 16-by-15-foot room with a new subfloor. This would allow space for two stacking washer/dryers, four to six large one-bay sinks, a new water resistant floor, stainless steel tables and wall shelves.

The last part of the project involves installing a generator to power everything on the property.

“During Hurricane Florence we didn’t have access to water and our refrigerators went down and we lost the frozen food and fish for the animals,” Ms. Serne said. “These things will continue to happen when the next hurricane comes.”

Ms. Serne said she is trying to finalize a grant packet to submit to the Big Rock Foundation by Friday, Aug. 2, which is why she needs letters by Saturday. She’s also planning to apply for several other grants in the near future.

While she’s hoping for grants to be funded, she said donations and volunteers are currently needed to keep up with the day-to-day work at the shelter.

Volunteers are especially needed to help with repairs due to damage from Hurricane Florence.

“Anyone with construction experience would be wonderful. Anyone with flooring experience or who has flooring materials would be great. We received insurance money for the roof, but we didn’t get nearly enough to fix a lot of things that happened,” she said. “We still have a lot of damage to outdoor enclosures. We could also use someone willing to do yard work and mow on a regular basis.”

Ms. Serne said the shelter could also use more volunteers to feed baby birds and mammals.

In addition, donations are welcome. As well as donating directly to the shelter, donations can be made through the Amazon Smile program. Plus, people can make donations to Second Go-Round Consignment in Newport in the shelter’s name.

“The money from the sale of the items will be donated to the shelter,” Ms. Serne said.

Donations can be made directly to the shelter on the OWLS Facebook page, on its website at, by mailing checks to OWLS, 100 Wildlife Way, Newport, NC 28570, or by dropping them off at the shelter.

Those interested in volunteering can contact OWLS volunteer coordinator Breeana Allmon at

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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