By TATYANA NYBORG
DR. PAUL WELCH
Photos by TATYANA NYBORG
Several wild animals recently were brought to Forest Trails Animal Hospital, located at the intersection of 101st Street and Sheridan Road in Tulsa, including six baby birds, three little rabbits, a small opossum and a young owl.
All of the animals were found by Tulsans in their yards. The owl flew into a wired fence and cut his wings. The others had apparently been separated from their mothers.
Forest Trails Animal Hospital is one place in Green Country where lost or injured wild animals can find help. The owner of the hospital, Dr. Paul Welch, and members of his staff are licensed to care for such critters and have done it for many years free of charge. Dr. Welch says, “If we do not do it, nobody else will. We are lucky to have many volunteers.”
It takes much knowledge to treat and feed wild animals. For example, baby birds can eat dog food soaked with water, little rabbits use puppy milk mixed with cream, and later they need grass. Small opossums and raccoons eat milk, which should be prepared by special formula. Indeed, during the time of our interview, Dr. Welch fed the baby birds (four of them had shut eyes, but big mouths) with the soaked dog food and the birds were pushing each other in order to catch the delicious meal.
The personnel of Forest Trails Animal Hospital helped the young owl to treat his cuts, and soon he will be back in the wild. The hospital provides treatment and medicine for wild animals, and then gives them to licensed specialists for raising. “One lady likes to work with opossums, another—with ducks, and another—with squirrels,” Dr. Welch says. When animals are ready for life on their own, they are released into the wild in non-hunting areas.
Wild animals are also brought to the animal hospital by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife from different places in greater Tulsa. There were opossums and raccoons from Brookside, wild turkeys from 91st Street and Yale Avenue, and also foxes, eagles, turtles and bobcats from throughout the region. “In the spring we see many babies,” Dr. Welch adds.
Many hawks and owls were hit by cars and their wings needed to be fixed. “Once we had to cut off the wings of two eagles. We had to put them to sleep, because they would not survive on their own, but we were lucky to find Indian tribes which adopted them with a purpose of getting feathers for their ceremonial costumes,” Paul Welch said.
When asked if wild animals can create problems for people in the city, Dr. Welch answered, “We only have problems with coyotes. They have to leave their places when people develop a wild area, and they look for food in the city. Coyotes eat cats and smaller dogs. And sometimes hawks will eat small animals, such as chickens.”
Dr. Welch added an important statement: “Many people rescue wild animals that do not need to be rescued. Sometimes a bird leaves a nest with babies to teach them to fly, but people think that the mother abandoned them, and steal the babies away. A mother-rabbit feeds her babies just once a day. People may think the little rabbits are abandoned, but it is not so. The little rabbits are spending time on their own, and they do not need be rescued.”