Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Otter Habitat
By Tracy Johnston

One-time Resident of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, photo by Barbara Gregory

This June I had the privilege of visiting The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Otter Habitat located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Typically, caretaker Barbara Gregory oversees the rehabilitation of over 600 mammals and perching birds every year and is well on her way to exceeding that number this year. When I visited the facility, Barbara was busy caring for injured animals, including tube-feeding a tiny fawn with a shattered jaw. Other temporary residents I observed in rehabilitation included a second fawn, a beaver, several birds and geese.

"Pebbles," a former resident of the center, photo by Barbara Gregory

Although Barbara's goal is to rehabilitate and release every animal which arrives at the facility, some simply would not survive if returned to the wild due to various types of disabilities. Permanent homes must be found when these situations occur. Often, we think of zoos as ideal places for these types of animals. However, zoos unfortunately do not generally accept animals which are not "cosmetically perfect." Therefore facilities such as rehabilitation centers may be the only long-term option for such animals.

Permanent "non-releasable" residents at The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Otter Habitat include three otters, a beaver, a raven, an owl, and a lion. The otters include adult male and female river otters and their 1 1/2-year-old female offspring. The adult male, Emmett is missing part of his tail. The adult female, Tripod is missing her left front leg. In spite of these disabilities, Emmett and Tripod are healthy and happy and living in a large wooden house attached to a wire grain silo where their 300 gallon swimming tub is located. Their daughter, Lori B. also lives at the facility in another enclosure with a slide and swimming tub of her own. Barbara sometimes brings Lori B. along on lectures to help educate people on the facility and the work they do for animals.

The Center has been in operation for eighteen years and is licensed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the U.S. Government. As a private facility, all funding is through donations, membership fees, educational talks, and tours. For information on opportunities to help, including the "Adopt an Otter" program which helps pay for the food and care of the resident otters, contact Barbara Gregory, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Otter Habitat, 515 Sipe Road, York Haven, PA 17370; phone: 717-938-4040; fax: 717-938-8231.

"Lori B.", photo by Barbara Gregory