Alpine Meadows Wildlife Rehab

HSUS- All Animals Magazine March/April 2011

Creature Comforts- Coats for Cubs gives fur back to the animals
The two fox kits were just a few weeks old when their mom was hit by a car, orphaning them by the roadside. When a passerby stopped to help, tragedy struck again: His dog jumped out of the car and killed one of the youngsters.
At the Alpine Meadows Wildlife Rehab facility in Floyd, N.M., the surviving kit (shown above, top left) arrived scared and angry, with an injured toe, says wildlife rehabilitator Angela Burch. Snappy “had a chip on his shoulder, and I just let him keep it.”
Fortunately, Burch had something on hand to soothe the traumatized animal: fur bedding from The HSUS’s Coats for Cubs program.
Last year, the program distributed more than 4,300 donated fur garments to 200 licensed wildlife rehabilitators across the nation. Secondhand clothing retailer Buffalo Exchange has been a key partner in this effort since 2006, setting up collection bins in its 40 locations and two franchise stores from November through April. Some garments are ripped or soiled, so people are happy to get rid of them, says company president Kerstin Block. But many are in mint condition, donated by people who “feel that this is really the righteous thing to do—to give the fur back to the animals.”
This message is also spread by young animal lovers who set up Coats for Cubs drives at their schools or churches. “It’s such a great opportunity to educate people in an upbeat way about the fur issue,” says Heidi O’Brien, HSUS student outreach director. “The public seems to be thrilled that they can use fur they’re embarrassed to own in such a positive way.”
While saddened by the cruelty of the fur industry, Burch calls the garments a “godsend” for the orphaned rabbits, squirrels, foxes, deer, and other animals in her care. For animals who are terrified and won’t nurse, “you wrap them up in the fur coat and they’ll start looking for a nipple.” Burch pokes a hole in the garment, slips in a bottle, and watches as a previously shell- shocked orphan enjoys a meal.
In August, four months after she took him in, Burch released Snappy along with three other rehabbed foxes on her 640-acre property. Some nights, she catches glimpses of these survivors—living reminders of her hard work, made easier through a program that returns fur to its most rightful owners.
For a tiny gray fox named for his snap- pish attitude, Burch says, “that fur coat made all the difference.”    — Julie Falconer

Big Bend Sentinel July, 2008

Alpine woman takes in Big Bend’s injured, abandoned wildlife

By MEGAN WILDE
ALPINE – Like any foster mother, Angela Burch doesn’t sleep much when orphans show up in need of her care, and the infants in her charge have unique needs. In recent months, this 36-year-old Alpine resident has stayed up many hours each night feeding three gangly months-old Pronghorn, a football-sized baby javelina, and weeks-old cottontails smaller than her palm.
Burch is the only state-permitted wildlife rehabilitator in the area, the nearest others being in El Paso. While living in Reno, Nevada, her hometown, Burch found she had a knack for rescuing fallen baby house sparrows. That calling eventually led her to complete several courses and certification programs in animal rescue, wildlife rehabilitation and veterinary assistance. About two years ago, after moving to Alpine, she started up Alpine Meadows Wildlife Rehabilitation at her home near Sunny Glen. Her work is voluntary and funded entirely by her family and private donations.
“There is a need for this here, and I just kind of fell into it,” she says. “I’ve always loved animals, and I wanted to make an impact. So far I think I’m doing all right.”
At her Alpine facility, she has nursed numerous injured and abandoned animals back to health and returned them to the wild. Cottontails, jackrabbits, javelina, bobcats, deer and antelope are her specialty, though she takes in other creatures on a case-by-case basis. Among the animals she isn’t permitted or equipped to take in are birds, reptiles, skunks, raccoons, bats, foxes, and coyotes.
“Unfortunately most of my patients, nearly all of them actually, are created by man,” she says. “Either the animals’ parents get hit by cars, or they’re kidnap victims.”
By kidnap victims, Burch says she is referring to animals taken by well-meaning humans. People often find a lone baby animal, think it’s been abandoned, and try to rescue it by bringing it to Burch. But many of these animals aren’t actually orphans.
“A lot of wild animals, such as deer and bunnies, they don’t stay with their babies all day. They go off and do their thing, and come back later to check on them,” she says. “So if you see a wild animal, leave it be, unless you find a dead mom or a baby crying for help, or you find they’re hurt.”
Rabbits, for example, are frequently kidnap victims, but a simple test will tell whether a baby cottontail or jackrabbit has really been abandoned. Place a few pieces of grass in an “X” over the rabbit nest; if mom comes back later, the grass will have been moved, Burch says.
Baby birds who’ve fallen from their nest are also often kidnapped needlessly. Burch says some baby birds require feeding every 15 minutes and have very specific nutritional requirements, so they rarely survive under a human’s care.
“People have this myth that you can’t touch them. That if you do, mom won’t take them back,” she says. “That’s not true. Put them back in the nest, or if the nest falls, put the nest up.”
Besides the kidnap victims, some animals are brought to Burch by game wardens, who’ve confiscated the wild critters from people trying to raise them as pets. For example, game wardens once confiscated and brought Burch a baby javelina they found snuggled up with a young child. People don’t realize it’s illegal to keep these wild animals as pets without a permit, she says, nor do they know how hard it is to meet a wild animal’s nutritional needs.
“There’s quite a bit of work involved in this. I don’t think people realize,” she says.
Infants, whether kidnapped or confiscated, are usually Burch’s more successful rehab cases, and most of the animals at her facility this time of year are babies. The hardest animals to help are those hit by cars.
“The fall is usually the car-hit season. That’s the depressing season because very few of them survive,” she says. “It’s always a great victory when you get someone that’s car-hit and makes it. Those are your pride and joys.”
Burch’s first rehab patient was a car-accident case – an adult bobcat.
“I expected to start out with squirrels or bunnies, and then here comes this full-grown bobcat that had been hit by a car. Fortunately he made it and was able to go back into the wild,” she says. “That was truly testing my intelligence. How do you tend a full-grown bobcat without actually getting in the pen with him? Very creatively.”
Once Burch feels an animal is rehabilitated, returning them to the wild sometimes poses its own challenges. Deer and rabbits she can often easily release on her property. Deer stay in a horse pen for awhile and socialize through the fence with a wild herd, which they then join when Burch opens the gate. Rabbits are let loose under a horse trailer near a pond, where they can hide until they decide they want to venture further.
“A lot of the time they stay under that trailer for two or three days, peeking around,” she says. “But they’re free. When they get ready, they’re gone. I wish them well.”
Besides her own property though, Burch has only a few places where she can release animals, and she needs more. She doesn’t want to release too many animals at one location, and it can be hard to find release sites for some animals like bobcats and javelina. Also, because many of her patients are herd animals, she tries to release them in groups, and it’s best if there’s an existing herd for them to join at a release site.
“I’m always looking for property where there’s no hunting,” she says. “I don’t like the idea of me spending so much time on a critter only to have it shot. I want it to be able to survive and propagate and do its thing.”
Releasing animals is challenging for Burch in other ways. While in her care, animals often get very comfortable with her, but she works very hard to make sure they stay wild. A few animals have come running back to her after being released, but most remember their roots as soon as they are set loose.
“When they get released, they do get very wild, very quickly,” she says.
Burch’s goal is always to return her animals to the wild, but after nurturing them for several months, seeing them go can be very hard.
“You always hear it’s so beautiful and wonderful, and you work towards it,” she says. “But it breaks your heart, because they become your kids. It’s the best, worst thing that ever happens.”
Even more heart-breaking is letting go of those animals she can’t help.
“You want to save them all, and you can’t,” she says.
Burch cares for her patients to the very end, whatever that end may be, and if an animal is dying, she says she always tries to hold or be near the animal when the time comes. Just last week, she says an infant cottontail passed away in her hands.
“No one ever dies alone here,” she says.
More information on Alpine Meadows Wildlife Rehabilitation is at www.alpinemeadowswildliferehab.com or by calling 432-837-1814.
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Roswell Daily Record-- July 3, 2010
By: Jessica Palmer

Angela Burch- Wildlife Rehabber

Some people work behind the scenes, unheralded, unsung, almost, but not quite, unknown. Angela Burch is one such person. A resident of Roswell for the past year, she is one of two wildlife rehabilitators in the town.

Originally from Nevada, she started her rehabilitation work in Alpine Meadows, Texas, hence the name of her 501(c)3 charity, Alpine Meadows Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Few know what wildlife rehabilitation, or what a wildlife rehabilitator, is. Fewer still understand that to work with or handle wildlife, one has be permitted by the state or federal government, said Burch. 

A rehabilitator does wildlife rescue and takes care of sick, injured and orphaned animals.

“Because of the permit, a lot of people think I work for the state, but I don’t. It’s all volunteer,” Burch said. “The foods, the meds, everything comes out of the rehabilitator’s pocket.”

In fact, state and federal law prohibits rehabilitators from charging for their services. 

“Not everyone can do it. Rehab is a specialized skill that requires training,” said Burch. The New Mexico Game and Fish Department testing that is required to obtain a permit is rigorous.

Burch received her training from the International Wildlife Rehabilitators Council. She is one of a handful of people in the country who have professional certification. 

Fines for any member of the public who interferes with wildlife or attempts to keep animals as pets are stiff, ranging from $500 to $25,000 for endangered species. 

Burch started her animal work with domestic rescues of horses, dogs, cats and birds. She still has many of the animals she rescued in the past, including several horses, dogs, cats, a macaw and cockatoos; but she soon became overwhelmed by the numbers.

She switched to wildlife rehabilitation because she “kept finding wild animals that needed help.”

Burch specializes in mammals. Her favorites are the pronghorn. She also works with deer, bobcat and is one of the few people in the state who is qualified to take in javelina.

Specialization is often necessary in rehabilitation. “Each animal has specific nutritional needs.” 

“I try to avoid rabies vector animals.” Rabies vector animals include foxes, skunks and raccoons.

She is a softy and has a hard time refusing an animal in need. She currently has three foxes in her care. One in particular was a sad case. “His mom was hit by a car and his brother, killed by a dog.”

Burch has advice for those who run across wildlife in distress.

“Leave juveniles alone unless you see a dead mother nearby. Put baby birds back into their nest when you find them,” she said. “It’s a myth that animals will reject their young if they catch a human scent. Animals are good parents and you will see them search for their missing babies if they are taken. It’s heartbreaking.”

Burch works with her husband, Ron, who is retired from the power industry. “I couldn’t do it without him. He’s just as crazy about animals as I am. I don’t know what I’d do if he didn’t help out.”

In her spare time, she crochets afghans and knits blankets, which she donates to senior centers and women’s refuges.

The Burches will be moving from their home on East Second Street. She and her husband have finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to buy a ranch, but she will continue to provide service for the area and take animals from Roswell. 

The new facilities will be great, she says, with a separate house to keep animals.

“My (new) next door neighbor works for Game and Fish and I hope he will bring animals to me,” she said 

She recommends that anyone who finds sick or wounded wildlife should contact New Mexico Game and Fish or, for birds, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Officials can pick up the animal and transport it to the appropriate location.

“If you have a computer, there are websites that list permitted rehabilitators across the state,” Burch noted.

In Roswell, one of the best contacts is the Spring River Zoo. Marge Wood, a one-time rehabilitator, knows area rehabilitators and will help get the animals placed in a permitted facility. (Post note,--please do not call Marge Woods regarding found wildlife please contact your local game warden)

Burch’s website is: www.alpinemeadowswildliferehab.com/

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