Ohio County resident and animal lover Brittany McFadden opened Shamar Wildlife Rehab and Sanctuary in Hartford last month.
McFadden said she’s always wanted to work with animals, and while she assumed she would be working with household pets, she saw the need for a wildlife sanctuary in Ohio County.
“It really has been my dream to work with animals,” she said. “There are all those people out there advocating for the cats and dogs, but there’s nobody out there for the wildlife and conservation is so important.”
McFadden came up with the idea after seeing a Facebook post asking for Nikki Christian, a “wildlife rehabber” in Sacramento, to come to pick up an animal. She said she decided look through the process of starting a sanctuary and received her Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit permit last month.
McFadden said she has had six animals in her care so far and plans to have many more in the next coming month as “baby season” rolls in.
While McFadden has never handled wildlife before, she said Christian has been her mentor through it all.
“The basics, I’ve just taught myself through. There’s a lot of good literature out there,” she said. “As a rehabber, I can medicate, I can give vaccinations, I can euthanize, so that’s been a learning experience.”
The goal for the sanctuary, McFadden said, is to rescue, rehabilitate and release. She said once she takes in animals, she tries to give them an environment that is as close to their natural one as possible. She said she plans to have an interactive environment for animals, especially young ones that will have to learn and adapt to living in the wild later and need to develop the necessary skills to do so.
“We are not going to handle them a lot. It’s not like a puppy and a kitten,” she said.
After animals are rehabilitated, McFadden said they will typically be dropped off at the location from where they were rescued at so they are in a familiar place.
For wildlife, especially young ones that have trouble adapting, she said she plans to release them on her own property, which is about 17 acres. She will have an enclosed space where animals can come back for food if they need it.
“All that time, they’re going to be getting more wild while they’re coming back and getting more food. Eventually they’re not going to need to come back to that food … for us, it’s going to be a process. We’re not going to just drop them and they have to be on their own,” McFadden said.
The goal throughout this year, McFadden said, is to raise money to build enclosures and a climate-controlled nursery, as well as further education throughout the community about wildlife conservation. She said she hopes to get into classrooms to help teach kids about why wildlife is important to the ecosystem.
“I think as time goes on and we get established, and people can really see the conservation, why it’s important, and the efforts that we’re making, I think it will make a difference,” she said. “I think the education is key right now.”
McFadden said the project would not have happened if it were not for the support of her family and the community.
Shamar also has a Paypal wish list of items the sanctuary is in need of if anyone would like to contribute. Updates will be available on the Shamar Wildlife Rehab and Sanctuary’s Facebook page.