To abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing and public health guidelines, Willowbrook is working with minimum staff and no volunteers, which limits the number of orphaned wildlife it can safely care for at the center.
“Unfortunately, this is our new normal during the pandemic,” said Dr. Sarah Reich, staff veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitation and research manager at Willowbrook. “We are entering our busiest season with one-third the staffing.
“Please don’t force us to make decisions about who to save simply because you want to tear down an old shed or dead tree in your yard or don’t want a family of raccoons under your deck,” Reich said. “Now is actually the time to leave these things in your yard so native animals have a safe space to raise their young.”
The public can help by allowing native wildlife to shelter on their property, checking for eastern cottontail nests before mowing, watching their dogs in their yard, and keeping domestic cats indoors.
Prior to bringing in spring babies, people should first check the Willowbrook webpage
to see which animals have reached capacity at the center. If the animal is still being accepted, they should then call the center at 630-942-6200 to arrange for a no-contact curbside drop-off. The center accepts wildlife patients every day 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Willowbrook’s visitor center, outdoor exhibit and nature trails, and surrounding forest preserve are closed to allow staff to safely provide core animal-care services.
Willowbrook still welcomes donations of supplies, food and gift cards to accommodate the influx of wildlife babies during the busy spring breeding season, but is not accepting in-person donations at this time..
A list of needed items is on the Willlowbrook webpage
; people are encouraged to donate through the center’s Amazon Wish List
. The Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
also has ways to donate, including adopting an animal and buying a commemorative brick. Donations are tax deductible.
“We’re all in this together,” Reich said. “It’s important that people understand the role they play in helping native wildlife thrive in their communities and the consequences of taking away shelter from animals.”
The center treats more than 9,000 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians every year. It is the only publicly funded wildlife rehabilitation facility in DuPage County and one of the few in northeastern Illinois equipped to treat native and migratory birds.
In 2019 Willowbrook treated more than 3,000 orphaned spring babies. On average, it costs between $150 and $300 to raise an orphaned songbird or mammal to its release. At $350, insect-eating songbirds are one of the most expensive spring babies to raise. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 60+ forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, blog, Facebook, Twitter
and Instagram pages.