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New $4.75 million Nebraska wildlife rehab center will help injured animals go home
special report

New $4.75 million Nebraska wildlife rehab center will help injured animals go home

The Nebraska Humane Society is holding a sale on adoption fees that will extend until further notice, as they try to get as many animals into homes as possible before any potential shutdown due to the novel coronavirus. And because of the statewide 10-person limit in rooms, wait times are longer than usual. Photographed at the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

It’s not often you see a baby beaver frolicking in a bathtub.

Sassy is adorable, said Nebraska Wildlife Rehab Director Laura Stastny, but the youngster needs a bigger pool to really get the exercise she needs to return to the wild.

Dirsko the bobcat, twice hit by a car, is named after the surgeon who repaired his fractured leg. But visits to the vet are hard.

“Sometimes the stress of travel for medical treatment can kill wildlife animals,’’ Stastny said. “It really is impactful to survival rates.’’

After flooding ravaged their previous home, the rehabilitation organization is making do with a house and several garages and storage units on private land near Fort Calhoun until its new facility can be completed at 96th and L Streets in Omaha.

About $2.75 million has been raised for the project and the property has been purchased, but an additional $2 million is needed.

“We are hoping to open by the end of the year,’’ Stastny said. “That will depend on us getting the additional funding through our capital campaign.’’

The Baldwin Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Hubbard Family Wildlife Hospital will help Nebraska Wildlife Rehab treat the 7,000 animals it typically handles in a year. That number will be even higher in 2020, with the volume of calls already 30% ahead of pace.

Wild animals require specialized facilities, diets and other husbandry for proper care and to be successfully returned to the wild. The planned new facility is specially designed to meet those needs.

It will include a full-service veterinary clinic, with X-ray, laboratory and surgical suites, volunteer training and meeting space, offices and 16 nurseries for animals like Sassy and Dirsko, who will be released back into the wild this summer.

Funding will also cover pre-release facilities in Fort Calhoun.

In addition to the facilities for animals, technology will allow the staff to observe the animals and to share that video footage with students and the public.

With animals now in some garages and food and supplies in others, it has been difficult for the staff of 16 full- and part-time employees to give the hurt and injured animals the proper care.

“We have about a quarter of the space that we need,’’ Stastny said.

Staff has had to socially distance and take extra precautions to keep cats like Dirsko safe from the virus. That has meant wearing masks, gloves and gowns every time they visit the bobcat, who has been at the temporary facility since November.

The new lab will allow Nebraska Wildlife Rehab to do blood work and take X-rays to track trends in emerging wildlife diseases and detect environmental toxins like lead.

Stastny and crew can’t wait to move in. She says it will be one of the best facilities in the country.

“The new building, it’s pretty amazing,’’ Stastny said. “It not only allows us to do everything very, very well, it also allows for some growth.’’

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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Her street is quiet. "Too quiet," she writes, "like the total silence after an exceptional snowfall." A retired professor of plant biology at the University of Bologna in Italy, Anna Speranza hasn't witnessed the ravages of covid-19 firsthand, but like everyone else, she reads the news, the daily Civil Protection reports, the anguished posts on social media. Once an active volunteer at the local prison, she now spends her days at home in eastern Bologna, watching the blackbirds and the blue tits come and go from her balcony above the street. Naturally optimistic, she's always scouting for the bright side, but in the midst of a pandemic, in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, "the feeling of uncertainty and anxiety is always present," she writes.

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