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Warmer winter leads to spike in wildlife injuries

Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 18:18:15-05

MASSILLON, Ohio — A peregrine falcon healing from a break in her shoulder. An eastern screech owl found partially blind. A box turtle fighting a respiratory infection and a snapping turtle hit by a car. Those are some of wild animals, on various roads to recovery, at the Stark Parks Wildlife Conservation Center in Massillon.

Last year, 2,070 animals came to center for rehabilitation, the most the facility has ever seen.

A similar number of wildlife-- or possibly even more-- could be seen by the end of 2020, according to Stephon Echague, the supervisor for animal care.

"Most of the Ohio rehabilitators that I know of have seen a great increase in their intakes," Echague said.

The center believes mild Northeast Ohio winters are playing a part in the spike of wildlife injuries.

This winter is the second warmest on record in nearly 150 years. Last winter was not nearly as mild, but it was warmer than average.

Echague said instead of hunkering down in the cold and sleeping more, many animals are out earlier searching for food and getting hurt in the process.

"They'll become lethargic. They may become desperate, so they're crossing more streets, roaming a lot further to try and find food and that's when it can become dangerous for them, running into cars," Echague said.

Echague said another factor causing trouble for wildlife is the flea and tick season lasting longer due to warmer temperatures.

"Animals that are coming in almost always have fleas and ticks now whereas before it was just here and there," she said.

The center's goal is to release many of animals back to wild within five miles from where they were located. The facility had a release rate of 63% last year, which included cottontail rabbits, mallard ducks, opossums, chimney swifts, reptiles and amphibians.

Some of the animals that cannot be released are taken to other facilities or humanely euthanized.

If you find a suspected orphaned or injured wild animal, contact the center at 330-477-0448 and a representative can advise on the best way to proceed.