The center operates on a $750,000 annual budget, which comes solely from private donations.
Volunteers do the brunt of the work, cleaning enclosures and feeding animals.
“It’s hard work. It’s mostly about feeding and feces,” Jenni said. “It’s not glamorous, but it’s extremely satisfying.”
Kirstin Parker, a school teacher, is volunteering this summer. She remarked on the recovery on an injured green heron. “He’s now able to eat the minnows in the dish,” Parker said. “On Saturday, he could barely lift his head. He has made great improvements.”
A lot of volunteers are students aspiring to work with animals. Caitlin Mothes of Lakeville is studying zoology at North Carolina State University and wanted some hands-on experience this summer. She hopes to one day work in wildlife conservation and research.
“It’s a lot of hard and dirty work, but I love it,” she said.
Staff veterinarians and veterinary technicians oversee medical care.
A daily chart is kept for each animal. Some are simply orphaned. Others have been injured and undergo X-rays, surgeries, casting and other treatment and rehabilitation.
“I love wild animals. I feel very lucky to be here,” said vet tech Katie Heino, who has worked at the center for a decade.
She said the weekend of the June storms was a new kind of busy. “We were inundated,” she said.
‘We are a hospital’
Jenni remarked that a few years back, some wildlife advocates lobbied the center to stop treating house sparrows. They’re considered invasive and can be aggressive nesters pushing out other birds. But the center treats them all.
“We are a hospital. It’s not up to us who we should and should not treat,” Jenni said. “Our position is the impulse for compassion is strong.”
On the Internet, a blog, website and Facebook following have expanded the center’s reach. After the storms, staff posted a photo and information about how to put a fallen nest with baby birds back into a tree. “More than 40,000 people saw that Facebook post,” Jenni said.
He said that the center doesn’t release a survival rate but that thousands of animals are saved each year and returned to the wild.
The center also has made an impact on the people who come through its doors. At an upcoming memorial service for a longtime donor from White Bear Lake, Jenni will release songbirds at the behest of the family. The center was a big part of her life, Jenni said.
“It made a huge impression on her.”