Take a bow, Twin Cities. You've made the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in Roseville the busiest facility of its kind in the nation.

Driven outdoors by the virus, we've pushed the center into overdrive. People who found lost and injured animals lined up at the rehab door.

When December arrived, admissions at the center exceeded 17,500, with 18,000 possible by year's end. That's easily 2,000 more than the previous busiest year.

June 4 was the busiest day this summer and in the center's history, with 220 patients arriving in nine hours. That week, May 31 to June 6, the number was 1,130 animals.

Young mammals drove nursery numbers this summer, according to Tami Vogel, communications director at the center. The number of adult admissions held steady with previous years, Vogel said.

In August, 98 different animal species were admitted. Because of the area's water wealth the number of waterfowl brought to the center was "stunning," Vogel said.

Many of the fledgling birds, the fawns and bunnies and other babies — 850 in all — were sent back home with the kindhearted people who brought them to the center.

"If the animal shows no injuries," she said, "we ask the finder to return it to where it was found, and to watch for changes."

Being alone does not mean the animal is lost or has been abandoned, she told me. "We're very strict on entry," Vogel said.

The center has the same release policy for animals recovered from injuries. They are returned to the spot of capture.

"That's their neighborhood," Vogel said." That's where they could have family. It's the place they are familiar with, and the place where they have a social position."

The Roseville facility leads the nation in patients "because Minnesotans care," Vogel said.

Donations, volunteers and people serving as interns also increased, she said. The center is totally dependent on donations; it receives no state or federal funding. (You can donate at wrcmn.org/donate.)

Admissions slow in winter because both fewer people and animals are outside, and it's not nursery season. Five years ago, Vogel said, they could go four or five days without a winter admission.

Not anymore, she said. Admissions are made daily.

"In winter we never know what's going to come through the door," Vogel said. "It could be anything from bats to swans."

There's an uptick in mammals in cold weather because they're seeking a warm place to spend the winter, Vogel said.

"We get flying squirrels and bats," she said. "They're usually found in attics when people retrieve holiday decor." Bats, by the way, are never released outdoors in winter; they'll die.

Vogel advises people who find animals obviously injured to bring them in. Call the center before making a delivery trip if you are uncertain about condition. Calls usually are returned within an hour. The center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the year. The phone number is 651-486-9453.

Vogel said no one wants the animal being delivered to get loose in the car. She advises using a box that is securely taped shut, which sounds like very good advice to me.

You can call the center for information about how to safely capture and transport an animal. Speed counts, Vogel said. A state statute allows 24 hours to get an injured animal to rehab.

If you have an animal removal problem, Vogel says the rehab center can recommend a preferred company to handle that. Animal control policies vary, she said.

Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at woodduck38@gmail.com. Join his conversation about birds at startribune.com/wingnut.