Wildlife Clinic

Rebecca Michelin, right, director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at the Schuylkill Center's Wildlife Clinic, examines a squirrel patient, assisted by rehabilitator Chris Strub.

Last week, we shared the difficult but no longer surprising news that the Schuylkill Center was shutting its doors temporarily as our state and the world wrestled with the COVID-19 virus. I then invited you to park in our Hagy’s Mill Road parking lot and hike onto our trails, where our 300-acre forest allows lots of room for social distancing. I’m happy to report that you’ve taken me up on that offer, as the lot has been full most of the week, and lots of you have enjoyed the healing and stress-relieving benefits of time in nature.

I also reported that our Wildlife Clinic, the only one in Philadelphia and one of a small handful in the region, was staying open so its staff could perform their life-saving work as baby animal season kicks into high gear. In fact, the first baby squirrels arrived at the clinic just about then.

Sadly, that decision changed.

As the pandemic ramped up, it became clear we could no longer ask volunteers to gather in our clinic. And our small staff cannot handle the waves of animals that may soon pour in. So reluctantly, and for the safety and wellbeing of the animal patients, staff, volunteers, and animal rescuers, the Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center temporarily closed to the public as of last Friday. Our staff will provide essential treatment for more than 30 patients currently receiving care, but will not be able to accept walk-in patient admissions.

But our staff can still assist you. If you find, say, an injured or orphaned wild animal, please reach out to Wildlife Clinic staff by phone. Call the Schuylkill Center at 215-482-7300, and press 2 at the prompt – this is our wildlife hotline, still operating, where our staff will respond to emergency calls and wildlife inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have a non-emergency wildlife question, you can also reach out to clinic staff via email at wildlife@schuylkillcenter.org.

“In this way,” said Rebecca Michelin, director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at the Schuylkill Center, “we will continue to fulfill our crucial role as an emergency resource by providing instruction and education for members of the community who find injured and orphaned wild animals in need.

“The safety and health of humans and animals,” she continued, “is critically important to us, and we know that with rational and reasonable action we can continue to provide life-saving care to wildlife in need. We ask for your understanding during these challenging times and we will assess reopening the clinic on a daily basis. Please check our website for any updates.”

Rebecca told me this from her native Nova Scotia, where she sadly is stuck – for now. She returned home two weeks ago for what was intended to be a short visit, but the virus caused America and Canada to first drastically reduce international flights – hers was canceled – and then close the border. So as I write this over the weekend, it is incredibly unclear when and even if Rebecca will be able to return to Philadelphia, leaving her staff one person short at this difficult time.

Like all nonprofits, the Schuylkill Center is struggling with how we weather the economic fallout from this virus, which has cut into our cash flow and caused us to cancel our public programming deep into April. We'll share updates with you here and on our website’s blog, but also wish you and your family well as we navigate this treacherous viral whitewater, where apparently the worse is still ahead.

May you and yours stay healthy.

Mike Weilbacher directs the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Upper Roxborough, tweets @SCEEMike, and can be reached at mike@schuylkillcenter.org.

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