As a registered nurse for the past 13 years, Karen Putney has helped humans set up the hospital. She now also helps injured and abandoned animals through her nonprofit organization, Farm River Wildlife Rescue and Revisions, Inc. Image courtesy of Karen Putney.
After Karen Putney and her husband Brent adopted their first dog from the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in East Haven 12 years ago, the couple decided they loved the shelter so much that they kept coming back to visit.
“I even took my Girl Scouts there for a tour of the shelter,” Karen recalls. A few years later, she began volunteering to help care for the animals at the shelter with her two young daughters.
“We try to follow suit, so they will enjoy community service and want to continue it for the long term,” Karen says of her girls’ innate interest in volunteering.
While helping out at the animal shelter on a regular basis, Karen and her family met the local rehabilitation specialists who worked alongside animal control officers, and through them realized that “there were certainly very low numbers of [animal] Rehabilitation compared to the high volume of calls that are coming in from across the state.”
That’s when Karen’s eldest daughter said she loves big birds and birds of prey and wanted to work with them as a rehabilitation specialist when she got older. Upon hearing this, Karen confessed to her daughter that she had wanted to rehabilitate mammals since she, as a child, found an orphaned opossum.
“Why didn’t you?” It was her daughter’s logical question, which Karen thought: That’s a really good question.
Karen explains, “I didn’t have a good answer, so I looked at [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] Program, do my internship, which is at least 40 hours, and you have to take a test. It was a whole day’s unit at that time [and] It was online through Connecticut.
“They are only offered once a year,” Karen continues, “usually in the spring, and after you complete all three parts, you can be a wildlife custodian so you can legally handle it and have it in your possession because it’s not legal for the general public to care about wildlife “.
The first year Karen worked in animal rehabilitation, there were more requests for help than she had expected.
“The number of calls, even in the first year, was incredible,” Karen notes, adding, “Then our numbers last year went over 300 calls for this season.”
Karen deals only with small mammals, which mostly include opossums, flying squirrels, gray squirrels, red squirrels, and chipmunks. Taking care of these types of mammals is just a handful. The problem is that there are too few licensees to rehabilitate small mammals because it takes a special kind of person to take charge of the wildlife.
Karen explains: “There aren’t enough people doing it, and neither is my husband [Brent] Ended up getting a license [as a wildlife rehabilitator] A year later, because our size has gone up a lot.”
The demand has become so great Karen says that a good friend she works with at Bridgeport Hospital – where Karen works as a maternity nurse dealing with mothers with postpartum depression, and who also volunteers at the same animal shelter – ended up obtaining a license as an animal rehabilitation nurse.
And although her daughters are still too young to receive a rehab license (18 is the minimum age), they help out where they can.
“It’s a little tricky because kids can’t do a lot of hands-on animal care,” Karen explains, but we ended up getting USDA license that allows us to do public education using non-releasing animals. I have two opossums designated [as] It is non-releasing from our vet, and we have a government check through the USDA. [The inspector visits] annually to make sure we get the right care and that we can provide it for them.”
After passing each examination, Karen says, “Then we can offer programs and lessons to the public. We did the Branford Festival [and] We have an event for older kids [at] The library in Branford [Blackstone Library]. I did a summer camp for [the] Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. I went once a week with an opossum and talked to the kids all about marsupials and living with wildlife.
“[My daughters] They help me a lot with the educational part, they come with me when they organize events and have to teach other kids what they learned, which is great,” says Karen.
They help a lot with our household affairs [animal] Rescue operations,” Karen explains, adding, “This is another thing that happened during COVID. The amount of animals people are giving up to save is something we’ve never seen before. The amount is absolutely out of this world. Animals are disposed of outside. These are discarded pets: rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, and lizards; People find it outdoors only because people get rid of it [because] It is very difficult to get a position [for these unwanted pets] In a rescue operation because everyone is drowning. I think a lot of people are trying but they let them go.
Karen continues, “Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, we started getting calls from not only animal controls in different cities that needed wildlife assistance, but animal controls in different cities that don’t usually deal with small animals saying please help, We found a rabbit outside, found something in a box in front of the building, so we started doing local rescues as well.
“Eleven guinea pigs arrived one night because someone was renting an apartment in New Haven and the house was literally condemned and someone had to take [the animals] “Immediately before they hit the street,” Karen says.
This is something Karen warns against, buying or acquiring cute animals when they are young but which end up being too much work, too expensive, or too dangerous once the animals reach adulthood.
While many states, such as Connecticut, have made many animals illegal for the general public, such as prairie dogs, chimpanzees, and monkeys, Karen says, “It still amazes me that in many states there are skunk, raccoon, and opossum breeders, so while these are illegal,” Karen says. [to have as pets] In Connecticut, it’s still legal in many states.”
If people want a pet, Karen asks people to stick with animals like domesticated cats and dogs, small mammals and birds for pets.
And if someone comes across an injured wild animal, Karen advises, “Take it to a rehabilitation worker early. Don’t feed them. If you can safely contain it in your crate or carrier, don’t feed them.” [simply] Provides warmth. You do not serve food. And you determine the place of rehabilitation. A list of wildlife rehabilitation specialists by species is available on the DEEP website.”
Karen accepts small mammals from cities throughout New Haven County.
“I’ve had a lot of help calls from North Haven,” Karen says, but if she gets a request for help from far away, she’ll reach out to other rehabilitation licensees in the state. She notes that “all rehabilitation workers know each other because it is a very small community.”
And when it comes to paying for all the costs associated with being an animal rehabilitation professional, Karen says, “We’re trying to book more educational sessions, become a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit and have just hit one our anniversary, so we’ve been trying to learn more about fundraising.”
To learn more about Karyn’s wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, or to offer support, visit her website at farmriverwildlife.com or contact her via Facebook.
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