It’s about saving the animals
By Brett Milam
Amy Stevens, a local wildlife rehabilitator in New Richmond, partnered with a local Boy Scout to build a fox enclosure at the Spencer Park Aviary and Wildlife Center.
To make the enclosure a reality, Stevens reached out to the local Boy Scouts troop in the area to see if anyone could help her. The troop master recommended 17-year-old Ryan Hugenberg, she said.
Stevens specializes in the rabies vector; that is, animals with a potential to have rabies, which includes foxes, bats and raccoons.
It was Hugenberg who created the blueprints and the drawings for what the enclosure would become.
“I had to give the other foxes away because I didn’t have an outdoor cage,” Stevens said.
So this cage would be the first of its kind. The fox would be kept in the cage for at least three months as it goes through the rehabilitation process.
“They’ve been orphaned or abandoned,” Stevens said.
Rehab doesn’t necessarily mean it has rabies; the mother may have been killed and the baby needs to be bottle-fed, for instance, but it could be a carrier of the rabies virus.
Once the animal has been rehabilitated, they are then released back into the township in which they came from or the three R’s: Rescue, Rehab and Release.
As for the location, Stevens said the park, which is owned by Jeff Hartnady, a friend of her’s, was an ideal spot.
“I live in a subdivision. I don’t have space for that,” she said. “He can learn how to hunt.”
Foxes tend to eat mice, eggs and chicken, she said.
When Stevens isn’t there, it’ll be Hartnady maintaining the property and bringing the fox food and water. Something he’s doing as a friend, Stevens said.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “That way I can save more animals. The reason is because of the enormousness of the area and the requirements. Without their help, I wouldn’t be able to help animals.”
It’s work that Stevens doesn’t get paid to do.
“It’s purely voluntary and I rely on donations,” she said.
She’s also rescued squirrels and bunnies, but her organization, Dragonfly Garden Wildlife Rescue, based out of Amelia, started five years ago when she rescued a bird and then was encouraged by others to get into it more.
Then it was six baby racoons and bat training, before moving on up to doing foxes. All told, the training took three years and has been a continuous process. She also works with local veterinarians, like Julia Esposito at the county’s animal hospital.
“Why am I doing this? Because nobody else was,” Stevens said.
Animals are being pushed out of their natural habitats, she said, and this is her way of “giving back.”
“It’s personally rewarding,” Stevens said. “What’s better, going home to pet a dog or this?”
Stevens is officially licensed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Her organization can be reached at 513-376-2445. She said she receives about 20-30 calls a day regarding birds, squirrels, bats and more. But she said she doesn’t do birds or skunks.
In her regular life, she works for AT&T as global account manager, which allows her to work from home and affords her the flexibility to save animals.
Earning Eagle Scout
Started in late August by Hugenberg, who lives in Anderson Township and his fellow scouts, the enclosure was his way of becoming an Eagle Scout.
“I was pretty much just looking for a project and the fox enclosure was right up my alley,” Hugenberg said.
That’s because he enjoys mapping and measurements, but also because it was challenging, he said.
Eagle Scout is the highest honor and rank for a Boy Scout to achieve and it looks good on college resumes, Hugenberg said.
“The eagle project is the toughest thing to get through,” he said.
But it helps to have a really good troop and community, he added.
Hugenberg has been a scout since he was six-years-old, but it’s been an incredible experience, he said.
The most challenging part of the enclosure seemed to be doors, something Hugenberg said they had to think a lot about.
It’s also meant some family bonding with his dad, as he’s also helped on the project.
“We made a rough sketch and Amy helped us finish,” he said.
Supporting the park
On Halloween, the Spencer Park Aviary and Wildlife Center was set on fire reportedly by local teens, Stevens said. A few of the animals were killed, set free to save them from the fire or missing. Others still were injured during the blaze.
Hartnady said that they are taking donations to put towards vet care and damage. Those interested in donating can do so through their website: http://www.spencerparkaviary.com/donate.html.
Stevens said they are looking to get a benefit concert organized later this month to help the park.