An East Tennessee woman has been on a mission for the past four decades. She rehabilitates animals and releases them into the wild.
Lynne McCoy's backyard has become a wildlife sanctuary. Her commitment to helping injured and orphaned wild animals started about 40 years ago when she volunteered at an animal shelter and they couldn't convince an owl to eat.
"And I said well what are you feeding it? And they said birdseed. And I told them that owls don't do birdseed. They're meat eaters. And it was like oh, will you take it? So I did and everything mushroomed from there," she said.
Now she takes in 600 to 800 a year.
"That's birds and mammals and toss in a few turtles and a couple of snakes," she said.
Lynne McCoy is certified and permitted in just about every aspect of wildlife rehabilitation. She does it for free at her home. The ones that stay there simply could not survive on their own.
It's important to Lynne to take those animals to churches and civic clubs and especially schools to teach a technical generation about nature.
"If you see one of these little critters one on one, like right here, you connect. And that connection is never broken," she said.
Those animals are the exception. Her goal is to rehabilitate and then release.
Empty structures on her property will be full of orphans and injured animals this spring: opossums and squirrels and birds and critters. She treats the injuries she can but if the animals need x-rays or surgery then she takes them to some veterinarian friends.
"We release them in an area where there's no roads, or just an old country road or something, plenty of food, and a source of water," she explained.
She says she releases about 76%.
"When they're babies they stay in with me because I have to feed them constantly. The baby birds have to be fed every 20 minutes dawn to dark. Baby mammals every two to three hours around the clock," she said.
Her busy season usually starts mid- March.
"This crazy weather is affecting everything. It's going to be an interesting year I can tell already," she said.
And it just gets busier.
"About May to June they'll just be filled up. And then again the whole idea is to raise them up and get them released again back to the wild," she said.
It's hard work. Why does she do it?
"I can't not do it," she said.
But she can't do it forever.
"I would like to see a whole 'nother generation of wanna' be rehabers get serious about it and come up because we need them. We need them very much," she said.
Just like those animals need Lynne McCoy.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Lynne McCoy at:
Editor's Note: Officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency want to stress that wildlife rehabilitators do need to be permitted by the state and that caring for wild animals without training or the proper permits is both dangerous and illegal. For more information on the requirements to get a permit, click here.