By Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Sometime in our own lifetimes we may be in need of help -- the same holds true for our wildlife.
In most instances, they can take care of themselves, and in other situations they can't. That's where Wild Kritters of Niagara County Inc. volunteers come into play.
According to the group's mission statement, "Wild Kritters of Niagara County is a nonprofit group of state and federally licensed volunteers. Our mission is to help wildlife in Niagara County that have been orphaned or injured and are in distress. We care for and raise the animals to be released back to the wild as quickly as possible."
In a February story, I mentioned an email I received from Andrea Ferin. She told us about the squirrels in her yard and the problems with them, including some tiny flying squirrels in her chimney and how she couldn't get them out. She said she called Wild Kritters and volunteer Susie Wrona came out and rescued them.
After that column, I received an email from Kathleen Britton, president and co-founder of the Wild Kritters group. She wrote, "I am so sorry to disagree with you on the red squirrels being rare in this area. As a wildlife rehabilitator with Wild Kritters of Niagara County, we have picked them up in Lewiston, Lockport, Pendleton, Gasport, Youngstown and Ransomville. We had to add Wilson this year.
"It is true they do occupy some of the same space, but the reds like deeper forest areas and spruce, fir and acorns. They get along with grays like the Hatfield and McCoy's. Reds are more of an aggressive squirrel, smaller in stature, but that is all. Flying squirrels used to be found closer to the Rochester area, but they have been found in Gasport, Niagara Falls, Wheatfield and Cambria."
The first thing I thought was "Oh oh, I wrote something wrong" when she said, "I am so sorry to disagree with you." After some emails back and forth, I found out. I can't explain enough how Britton and her many men and women volunteers, in Britton's words, are, "dedicated to their mission to care for sick, orphaned and misplaced wildlife and get them back into the wild as soon as possible."
Wild Kritters of Niagara County is a self-funding organization and the help comes from people like us to keep them going. They take donations in any amount, and that helps to pay for medical care, medications, specialized food, caging, supplies and more. They have a small overhead, because the volunteers work from their homes. Therefore, help is never far away in Niagara County.
There is only one outdoors group that helps this organization, and that is the 3F (Fin, Feather and Fur) Club on Swann Road in Lewiston. The 3F will host Wild Kritters' 10th annual basket raffle from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 17. Admission is absolutely free. Go there to talk to these people and get to know them. Bring the kids and your camera, because they surely will have some critters in cages for all to see and pose with.
Personally, I feel there should be many more outdoor-orientated organizations (hunting/shooting clubs, fishing clubs, etc.) that would or should support the efforts of this group. If you were one of the 20,000 who attend the Wildlife Festival held on the Niagara Power Project grounds each year, you may have seen the volunteers in their booth explaining what they do, and how they do it.
If you need the help of Wild Kritters, and you may need it, because spring is on its way and there will be many orphaned feathered and furry friends that need help, don't try and do it yourself. Rehabilitators such as those with Wild Kritters can take care of problems like these, as they are licensed by New York state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to work with injured and orphaned wildlife.
The photo accompanying this article shows a brood of six baby opossum (possum) in a temporary home until they can be released safely. I don't know the story about their rescue by the Wild Kritters organization. If you get to the 3F Club event in April, ask a rehabilitator and find out; I'll be doing the same thing.
Or visit their website at www.wildkritters.com. There, you will get the names and contact information of the volunteers, sign up for their newsletter or even make a donation, and check out many pictures of rehabilitated creatures of the wild.
Maple Sugar Time
Because New York's official tree, the sugar maple, is found throughout the state, there are numerous "sugaring" operations as well. The weekends of March 19-20 and April 2-3 are official maple sugaring weekends, featuring events at locations around New York. The closest to us probably Gaeta Family Farm at 3789 Ridge Road Lockport (716-439-9435) or Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village located at 3755 Tonawanda Creek Road, Amherst (716-689-1440).
Remember to take a kid fishing and include an elder, too.
If you have questions or suggestions, contact Mark Daul by email at [email protected].