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 dont. Its all volunteer, Burch said. The foods, the meds, everything comes out of the rehabilitators 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. Its 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. Its heartbreaking.
Burch works with her husband, Ron, who is retired from the power industry. I couldnt do it without him. Hes just as crazy about animals as I am. I dont know what Id do if he didnt help out.
In her spare time, she crochets afghans and knits blankets, which she donates to senior centers and womens 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)
Burchs website is: www.alpinemeadowswildliferehab.com/