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Let The Wild Be Free

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

On a good day, the Lakeside Nature Center, one of the busiest wildlife rehabilitation operations in Missouri, will treat 30 injured or orphaned wild animals. On a bad day, it can expect twice that many. Over the course of a year, nearly 2,000 animals will come through its doors.

On a good day, the Lakeside Nature Center, one of the busiest wildlife rehabilitation operations in Missouri, will treat 30 injured or orphaned wild animals. On a bad day, it can expect twice that many. Over the course of a year, nearly 2,000 animals will come through its doors.

Fortunately, the Kansas City facility has many dedicated people to deal with these animals. For those few who actually draw a paycheck, it is a low-paying and thankless job.

"That's the thing people have to realize when they work with wildlife," said Kevin Hogan, Lakeside naturalist. "You can't expect an animal to lay its head on your lap and look up with big, warm eyes and say, 'Thank you for helping me!' The reality is that every day you treat an animal who's fighting for his life, he's also fighting you. And it's possible he'll take a big chunk out of you."

But Hogan, along with naturalist Susan MacDonald Bray, and Carla Bascom, a naturalist transplant from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, complain less about the dangerous animals than about people who have no understanding or compassion for wildlife.

"You see a lot of hurt animals and many are accidental," Hogan said. "After all, who means to hit an owl with a car? But sometimes we see situations where people just don't have sympathy for animals. Those are the tough ones that get to you a little bit.

"The most pathetic thing I ever saw was an adult water turtle that had all four of its legs cut off for bait and was left lying there. It was alive, but, obviously, very much in misery."

Despite such unusual acts of cruelty, Lakeside wins more than it loses when it comes to wildlife rehabilitation. With the help of three Kansas City veterinarians who donate their time, and 75 other volunteers, Lakeside returns about 52 percent of its injured or abandoned wildlife back into the wild. The nation al average is around 30 percent according to Tammie Tritico, Lakeside supervisor.

Neither Lakeside nor the Conservation Department encourages people to attempt to save injured or seemingly orphaned animals they encounter. In most

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