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Spotlight: Caring for injured wildlife

You’ve come across an injured wild animal.

What do you do?

Katherine Uhler works with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to rehabilitate animals and return them to the wild, if possible.

She is the director of the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, located outside of Stroudsburg. Licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the center serves Monroe, Lehigh, Northampton, Wayne, Pike and Luzerne counties.

The nonprofit center treats more than wild animals every year, including fawns, owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, squirrels, rabbits, songbirds, foxes, raccoons and bears.

To help offset costs, the center is opening this weekend for its annual open house fundraiser.

“Our immediate goal is the provision of humane, professional care for injured and orphaned native wildlife for the purpose of return to the wild when appropriate,” Uhler said on the center’s website.

Uhler became a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in 1980 and has been growing the nonprofit, all-volunteer Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center ever since. She has earned a master’s degree in wildlife biology and taught ecology at Stroudsburg High School.

Her husband, Eric Uhler, is the co-director, and manages the massive amount of paperwork, caring for the large mammals and raptors.

Sharon Rose Wycoff, clinic manager, has been working at the center for almost a decade, training volunteers and helping to care for the animals.

“Equally important, the organization strives to provide education to the public about the natural history, importance of, and ways in which we can coexist with the rich diversity of wildlife native to Pennsylvania.”

The center offers educational programs to prevent and reduce human-wildlife conflicts and is a phone call away for advice if you encounter injured wildlife.

“As more people move into rural habitats, contact with wildlife will become more common, adding to the potential for contracting disease and facing injury. The Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center will strive to continue to provide a place where wildlife can be treated and people informed about how to deal with wildlife issues in a safe and successful manner,” Uhler said.

The center takes care of three to six cubs a year that are orphans, or injured. “We usually get them in the middle of a winter night, so we cannot determine when they’re ready to go back to the wild, or even where they go. At least we are giving the bears a second chance. This isn’t just playing with baby animals that look so cute. It is heavy duty,” Uhler said.

Right now the center is in the middle of a medical crisis with the bird flu in the state causing food, medicine and vet bills to rise.

What’s new at the center

The center has a new screened aviary house where the birds can spend time healing.

During COVID the center built a large cinder block habitat for bears where they will have plenty of room to move around. It includes large rocks, and a group of volunteers painted the walls green and then painted trees, vines and other plants that make it look just like what a bear would feel at home in.

When the enclosure isn’t being used for bears, it is used for eagles and other larger birds with wide wing spans.

What the center needs

Currently the center is feeding hawks, owls and eagles, along with coyotes and foxes.

They take care of a lot of predators here and the cost of rabbits and rats to feed predators is costly. Also, prescriptions they use to treat the animals are very expensive.

Just treating one bald eagle for lead poisoning costs a ton of money and a single bear cub probably costs $400 to 500 or more to raise, Uhler said.

Katherine Uhler, the director of the wildlife center, with an owl that was rehabilitated. AMY LEAP/TIMES NEWS
Two young birds are rehabilitating from injuries.
A snowshoe rabbit is recovering from injuries and will return to the wild when all healed.
This little owl is mending and will leave when the weather is better.
You will always get to see this little skunk because she lives at the rehabilitation center and she is an ambassador and a teaching tool.
These tiny bats were brought to the center to grow and stay protected from winter weather and will be released when they are old enough.
If you have ever been to the center you probably already recognize this regal bobcat that lives at the center.