by Eric A Thomas
When our pets need help because they are sick or injured, there are veterinarians to visit. What if you discovered an animal in the wildlife that needs that same care? One local lady has been on the front lines of wild animal rehabilitation for the last five years.
Meet Tabatha Morris. She established Poor Farm Wildlife Rehab from her desire to help those animals get better. Operating a home-based rehab just northwest of Jacksonville, Morris specializes in small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and possums. She has worked with other animals but the aforementioned are her more frequent customers.
This sort of work all started when she was a volunteer at the Treehouse Wildlife Center, located in Dow. She maintains a good working connection with the people at there, saying: “If it is an animal that I cannot keep due to injuries or species, I transport it to them.” Morris started volunteering with Treehouse previously because she had an injured animal and was referred to them.
Continues Morris, “I have always loved animals. The people at Treehouse were very helpful and they have been a great mentor in my work.”
Poor Farm Rehab receives injured animals from individuals and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The rehabilitation center also works closely with Morgan County Animal Control. When contacted, these organizations will refer people to Morris. Her work is the only operation of its kind in Jacksonville; however, there is a network of rehabs, like hers, throughout the state that are listed on the DNR website.
The animals Morris attends to are either found injured or orphaned. Once the rehabilitation is finished, they are released back into the wild. Recently she had finished rehabbing an owl and was releasing it back into its environment. Morris laughs, “I learned my lesson on this one. As I was releasing the animal, it flew back into my vehicle. I need to remember to always close my doors.” Ultimately, she did successfully return the owl to its natural surroundings.
In Illinois, a wildlife rehabilitator is licensed by the state. It is a constantly changing profession, so Morris attends wildlife symposiums to stay on top of the latest innovations. She also offers some advice when finding or dealing with injured wildlife or abandoned wildlife babies, saying that if a person finds an injured or orphaned animal, please call a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. People mean well, but sometimes take in animals when they don’t need saving. Also, one should never give a found wild animal anything to eat or drink; one can kill a wild animal the quickest by giving it the wrong thing to eat or drink.
Her final piece of advice is to never trap and relocate wild animals. It is illegal and a death sentence for them and possibly their babies. When confronted with an unwanted animal, call a rehabilitator for the next steps to humanely evict them. The key is do not relocate a wild animal — leave that up to the animal professional.
Everything that is done regarding the care and feeding; veterinarian care, if needed; shelter/housing, or transportation and release of animals comes out of Morris’ own pocket. Fees are never charged, so any donations are appreciated. You can reach Morris at Poor Farm Wildlife Rehab by calling 217-473-7187 or contact her via her Facebook page, “Poor Farm Animal Rehab.” Morgan County Animal Control can also put you in touch with her.