Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter gears up for busy baby animal season

A baby owl gets weighed in a bucket Wednesday at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport. It’s among many baby animals being turned in at the shelter as baby season begins. (Cheryl Burke photo)

NEWPORT — With baby animal season picking up, the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter is in need of volunteers to help feed and care for the tiny charges coming in for rehabilitation.

“Right now we’ve mainly had baby owls, baby opossums, bunnies and squirrels and adult loons and cormorants,” OWLS Executive Director Brooke Breen said Wednesday. “We are just at the start of baby songbird season. That usually starts peaking around May 1.”

Last year, OWLS was only able to take a few volunteers because of coronavirus restrictions, but Ms. Breen said this year they are welcoming them, especially during baby season.

“Our baby bird season usually runs from May through August,” she said. “We are just so thankful to be able to build our volunteer base again.”

OWLS welcomes adult and junior volunteers. The junior volunteer program is for those 13 to 17 years of age. The shelter also offers internships to high school and college students.

There is a variety of ways to help, from feeding baby birds to cleaning and maintenance. This year, the shelter needs a few handy carpenters to help build a new back deck that had to be torn down due to deterioration.

As well as being able to accept volunteers, OWLS has opened back up for tours and fundraising events.

“We’re only doing outdoor tours by appointment, but it’s always been a help with raising funds and educating the public about what we do,” Ms. Breen said.

OWLS education director and volunteer coordinator Breeana Allmon is especially excited about being able to host fundraising events.

“It feels like a weight has been lifted and we’ll have a chance to survive and thrive,” Ms. Allmon said. “We’ll be able to educate the community about what we do and we want to help the community.”

OWLS will be set up for opening day of the Beaufort Farmers Market Saturday, April 17. One of the fundraisers will be a chance to vote on the name for the shelter’s new education opossum.

“We have three names to choose from, and people will be able to vote for $1 a vote,” Ms. Allmon said. “We’ll tally the votes at the end of the day and announce the winning name on our Facebook page.”

OWLS will also do an Earth Day event for children beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 22 at Carolina Home & Garden near Bogue.

As for the need for volunteers, Ms. Allmon said she feels like it’s going to be a busy baby bird season.

“I’m basing that on the number of raptors we’ve gotten in and the number of birds we are seeing nesting, and they are nesting earlier,” she said.

Ms. Breen agreed, saying they’ve already had two baby great horned owls recently turned in. One was brought in after the parents took over an osprey nest to have their young.

“Owls are known for taking over other bird’s nests. The osprey came back and killed one of the babies. The other one was found alive lying on the ground and someone brought it in,” she said.

The second baby owl was found alone in a high traffic area where there were a lot of people and animals.

“Its nest had failed, so some people found it and brought it in,” she said.

Once they are grown, Ms. Breen said the goal is to release them back in the wild.

The shelter also recently received two baby ducks that were part of a batch being sold at Tractor Supply Co. in Morehead City. The ducks had physical problems that prevented them from being sold. Ms. Breen said the shelter hopes to rehabilitate them and turn them over to a person who keeps wild ducks on their property.

She’s also received numerous baby opossums, which will eventually be released.

Normal turn-ins, however, involve a wide variety of song birds and waterfowl. Ms. Breen cautioned residents from rushing to pick up baby birds that have feathers if they are found on the ground.

“First step back and watch for a while. Many times the parents are nearby and feeding the baby once it’s left the nest,” she said. “Check and make sure the baby is warm to the touch and, if it looks good, leave it alone and watch. Fledglings usually spend about a week on the ground before they can fly. Many times a baby can be placed back in the nest if it’s located.”

If someone finds a baby bird with no feathers, it’s important to warm it up and bring it to the shelter.

“It’s good to call us first so we can assess the situation,” Ms. Breen said. “People can text us pictures and videos and that’s helpful when we are assessing the situation. If it’s after hours, we can be reached on our Facebook page.”

If the shelter can’t be immediately reached, those finding baby animals should place them in a quiet, warm, dry place until they can be transported. Add supplemental heat, such as a heating pad, to keep them warm until they can be transported.

The shelter also accepts eggs found in abandoned nests.

“We’ll take the eggs and incubate them if we determine they are still viable,” Ms. Allmon said. “We’ll candle the eggs with a light to see if they’re fertilized.”

Again, it’s important to wait and observe to see if parents are sitting on the eggs before bringing them in.

“Usually the parents take turns sitting on the eggs,” she said. “They might leave for a while to feed, but they normally won’t be gone long.”

If someone determines the eggs have been abandoned, Ms. Almon said it’s important to keep them warm and leave them in the nest if possible when transporting them to the shelter.

“Try not to turn them because that can damage what’s inside,” she said. “We’ll check the eggs here to see if they are fertilized.”

As for how to keep the eggs warm, Ms. Breen said the nest can be placed on a vehicle’s seat warmer. Retail hand warmers can be used, or a towel can be wrapped around a hot water bottle. She cautioned, however, not to overheat the eggs.

The shelter is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Once baby bird season picks up, OWLS will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Those interested in volunteering can fill out an application at the shelter at 100 Wildlife Way or email owls.edu@yahoo.com.

Those wanting to make tax-deductible donations can mail checks to OWLS, 100 Wildlife Way, Newport, NC 28570, drop it off at the shelter or donate through PayPal on the website outerbankswildlifeshelter.com.

Other items can be donated to the shelter, and a wish list of needed items is on the website.

For more information, call the shelter at 252-240-1200. Ms. Breen also monitors and responds to inquiries on the Facebook page.


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

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