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A hospital with a wild side

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Nancy Laird feeds a red-shouldered hawk a raptor diet at the Wild Animal Infirmary during an open house on Sunday.
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For the last 30 years, Nancy Laird has worked to rehabilitate and release wild animals. She spent 20 years doing it in Michigan and then a decade ago moved the Wild Animal Infirmary to its present location in Washoe Valley.

The infirmary accepts injured or abandoned animals, including birds and mammals, from across Northern Nevada and attempts to care for and eventually release them back into the wild.

“We mostly get birds now, with the development around here the mammals have all moved on or been buried,” said Laird, who operates the infirmary.

Currently the infirmary is home to numerous species of owls, several types of hawks and falcons, a pelican and two eagles, one of which has been in their care for more than a year.

The eagle was found by a fireman fighting the Six Mile Canyon 2 fire in Storey County in 2006. It had been released by another organization but was not adapted to the wild and wasn’t eating. The eagle is scheduled to be released next month in a wildlife preserve in Fallon.

Infirmary assistant Suzette Feilen said many of the causes of injuries are related to human activity, including development into new areas.

“You may have an area where the birds have their nest in the same tree year after year, well now there’s a housing development there and there are more people around,” Feilen said.

One of the biggest problems occurs in a two week fledging period, when the baby birds are ready to leave the nest, but not ready to fly. The birds will go to the ground and stay there, learning how to fly over a period of weeks. During this time the adult birds will bring food to the baby.

However, because the bird is on the ground and unable to fly, it can be easily harmed by other animals, especially dogs. Many people, mistakenly believing the bird is hurt, move or attempt to care for it.

“The best thing to do is just leave it alone,” Feilen said. “It’s illegal to keep any raptor as a pet and that’s for the safety of the raptor.”

While the infirmary is traditionally not open to the public, for one weekend a year it opens its doors to introduce some of its patients to anyone interested.

The infirmary has an annual operating budget of about $50,000, all of it obtained through donations.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

You can help

Donations for the Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada can be sent to 2920 Eagle Street, Carson City, NV 89704. For more information go online to http://www.waifnv.org