Let The Wild Be Free

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

cases, in fact, nature should be left to take its course, however cruel it might seem.

The Conservation Department encourages people to leave wild animals in the wild. This is especially true with young animals that may appear to have been abandoned. There are exceptions, of course, mostly dealing with endangered species. The Conservation Department has strict regulations concerning wildlife rehabilitation and although Lakeside has been granted permission, it rehabs out of necessity, not by design.

"Let the wild be free!" is the Lakeside battle cry emblazoned across T-shirts and sweatshirts that volunteers sell and wear at the facility. Although the facility has a handful of birds, snakes and other assorted critters around for educational purposes, its mission is to send all of its patients back out the door. If an animal is too badly injured to make it on its own in the wild, it is humanely euthanized.

"Some places where I've been around the country will never put injured animals to sleep," said Hogan. "But we look at a quality of life for these animals. If I were a bald eagle and had been flying free and suddenly I was missing a wing, I don't think you'd be doing me a favor by putting me in a pen and having people come look at me."

The patient list runs the gamut: rabbits to robins, squirrels to screech owls, coyotes to 'coons. And since Lakeside is located within the heart of Kansas City's heavily forested Swope Park, it also gets bobcats, snakes, foxes, hawks and even an occasional endangered species such as a peregrine falcon.

If Hogan, Bray, Bascom and the veterinarians are the hands of Lakeside with their rehab work, then the Friends of Lakeside Nature Center are the heart of the operation.

With several thousand animals coming in annually, Lakeside co uldn't possibly keep up. Sharon Goff is a charter member. Annually, she alone will nurse between 30 and 40 animals back to health · from her own home.

"Right now I've got three 'coons and four squirrels," she said. "Why do I do it? Putting it simply, it's something I can really put my heart into. I'm also a teacher, and this is something I can do for my students on an educational basis.

One of the first times my kids saw a raccoon, one little boy asked if it was a squirrel. Isn't that sad that some of these kids haven't had more

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