What an excellent letter by Gloria Ryan about Trailside’s valuable history as a local resource for wildlife education and rehabilitation [Trailside should serve residents and wildlife, not political motives, Viewpoints, Feb. 15]. Last summer, my cousins and I witnessed a baby squirrel fall from its nest. Abandon by its mother, we sought help through Trailside and there was none. After countless calls, there were no local resources, no licensed wildlife rehabilitation experts to be found in Oak Park and River Forest or for many suburbs around. We wanted to learn how to bring the squirrel through infancy to release it back into the yard. Up until this experience, I had no interest in squirrels but it was impossible for me to ignore this helpless, tiny, wimpering creature. It seemed important to give it a fighting chance for life. At the same time, it seemed like a good opportunity for me and my cousins to learn something about wildlife rescue.

From the time my brothers and I were little, I remember trips to Trailside. Once, after a violent storm, we found a woodpecker unable to fly. A family trip to Trailside and Virginia Moe showed us that people had brought in 15 or more. She explained that the woodpeckers had been knocked out of the sky while migrating. After a day or so of R&R, she said, they would be fine and she would release them. It was reassuring, and we learned something that day.

Our squirrel didn’t make it. Who knows if it was our amateur care or natural selection. Cheers, one less rodent, some might say, but I do wonder if it isn’t just the romantic notion of animals Americans like, the celluloid Disney animals Ryan mentions in her viewpoint: “Wildlife rehab provides us with hard facts and scientific data on how humans are affecting the creatures that share the earth with us.” Often scientists tell us how frogs are used to gauge changes in the ecosystem. Sometimes, it seems as if the animals around us are like the canaries brought into the mine to see how safe it is. They tell us much about the health of our environment. How dull life would be without them! There must be an interactive way to respect and honor the natural world around us when other species need our help.

Virginia Moe’s 50-plus year history of rescuing animals despite whether they were squirrels (today categorized as “nuisance” wildlife) or birds is what makes so many of us remember her as a naturalist saint. The hourly feedings she did of baby animals is mind-boggling to contemplate. I still picture her standing in the shelter giving information with a dropper in one hand and a baby animal in the other. Today, to hear 80 percent of what is brought to Trailside is euthanized, this is cold.

Alongside Ryan’s view is Victor Guarino’s view [Animal rehab supporters are the ones playing politics]. The reputation of the Guarino family as tireless advocates and workers for the health of our local expanse of Cook County Forest Preserves is remarkable. We are fortunate to have dedicated people like them in our community.

I sincerely hope that a solution for the future of Trailside is worked out so that it continues to be the wonderous place for the next generation of young people that it always was for me and my family.

Maureen Vernon
Oak Park

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