We are excited to introduce our newest licensed wildlife rehabilitator and educator!! Kate Harrell has been one of our apprentices for approximately two years, and completed the application process with the TWRA in late February. Kate spent the past year preparing a written account of her experience as an apprentice and designing a triage area and nursery for neonate mammals. The final project before applying for her licenses with the TWRA was constructing a large release cage this past winter; this will be a place for rehabilitated animals to acclimate to the outdoors and give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the local animals.
The construction of the release cage began by surveying the property for a spot that was relatively level, far away from noise, and surrounded by trees. The dimensions of the cage had to be large enough to accommodate two adjacent “rooms”, so that there could be animals on each side. Mitchell Kohlmann, of St. Elmo, measured and set the corner posts in concrete and then built the framework to accommodate a floor, roof and center wall. It took several people to then wrap the framework with ¼” galvanized hardware cloth. Mitchell then built a 4’x4’ double entrance around the doorway on the exterior wall. The frames from three salvaged doors were used to make cage doors. With the centers of these old doors removed, Kate stapled hardware cloth to the wooden frames. All seams on the doors and the cage itself were covered by 1”x4” pieces of lumber so the sharp edges from the hardware cloth would not injure little paws. After installing some squirrel-size doors, feeding trays, and shelves, natural materials like leaf litter and tree branches were added to provide plenty of climbing and caching practice.
Kate is very excited to continue volunteering with Happinest; her favorite part of rehabilitation is seeing a happy animal on release day. “You really can see how joyful they are,” she says, “and that makes all of my efforts absolutely worthwhile.”
Kate will specialize in squirrels, chipmunks, and opossums.