Carolina Waterfowl Rescue group is in the midst of an old-fashion “barn-raising” thanks to a $60,000 grant from Petfinder.com Foundation.
The volunteer effort comes after months raising money for a barn and several carport-like structures on its latest site in Indian Trail.
The most injured of the hundreds of geese, ducks, swans, turkeys, herons and other water birds on the site will have a dry, clean site in an infirmary, and the nonprofit group will have more space for storage.
Construction on the 24-by-60 foot barn kicked off Jan. 1 and will continue through the month until completion.
“We applied for the grant after we had severe storm damage over the summer right after we moved to the new location. It was a mess,” said Jennifer Gordon, director of Carolina Waterfowl Resource, an all-volunteer group. “The grant was specifically for storm damage so we were one of only a few applicants that qualified.”
Now 25 volunteers from the Petfinders.com Foundation are on site working with other rescue volunteers to build the barn. The foundation workers are also building four 16-by-8 foot carports with feeders to shelter outdoor animals, and putting in fencing and a gravel driveway.
The Petfinder.com Foundation helps support thousands of animal welfare organizations that are members of Petfinder.com. The foundation provides money so that thousands of shelter and rescue workers can better perform their jobs.
In May, the Carolina rescue organization moved from western Union County Indian Trail. The 11-acre parcel of land with a house was purchased for the group by an anonymous donor.
About two months after moving into the new facility, a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes damaged many of the makeshift pens and cages, causing volunteers to scramble to make repairs to wire fences, chicken wire pens and their covers.
“We knew all along that we needed a large, stable building to keep the waterfowl safe against predators and to keep them there overnight,” said Gordon, 42. “We are entirely volunteer-based so things kind of go slow here. It’s been a lot of work and sweat.”
Those birds include nearly 26 hatchery-born baby turkeys who fell off a truck in Union County in late November and were brought to the shelter, and a Chinese goose missing a leg who is scheduled to get a prosthetic leg in Durham soon. There’s also Ray and Dizzy, two blind Canada geese – one blinded by human abuse – who share a kiddie swimming pool in a pen, a starved female back swan and an injured blue heron.
Gordon, who got her start in rehabilitating birds volunteering at the Carolina Raptor Center, also points out 10 pigeons.
“Not all are homing pigeons and will starve to death,” she said. “The white ones get let go at weddings and go off and are hungry because they don’t know how to fend for themselves.”
The rescue group’s is separated into four areas. There is an indoor infirmary for sick animals overseen by the house bird, a Canada goose named Mr. Fuzzy who has imprinted on Gordon and sees her as his mother.
Outside in the main yard, Mr. T, an enormous full-grown turkey has also imprinted on Gordon – and visitors – and follows along closely on tours. He also visits area schools or Discovery Place at part of the group’s educational program. Rupert, a white duck, with a collar also thinks he is a person. These two birds rule the roost in a pen of healthy animals that may need additional attention.
A second spacious yard, complete with a makeshift pond, is for injured birds who have stabilized and are recuperating. Most of these animals go inside at night for protection, and will make good use of the new barn.
The largest yard is filled with ducks, seagulls, chickens, roosters and geese and includes a large pond. This is the area where the barn is under construction.
“We have about 200 mallards who come here nightly to rest and feed, then fly away,” said Gordon. “They know it’s hunting season and this is a safe haven at times.”
There are also six resident goats who provide natural poison ivy control on the property and save wear on the group’s mowers.
“We are thrilled about the barn progress and know that we have so much more to do,” said Gordon. “When we got the property we had to install new plumbing and electricity. We are still hoping to raise money for outdoor lighting. We had one well built, but ideally we need a another well near the new barn.”
The group receives bins of fruit each day from a nearby donor to help feed the goats and waterfowl. In return, all of the chicken and duck eggs are gathered daily by volunteers and delivered to a local food shelter.
Carolina Waterfowl Rescue was started in 2003 by three experienced wildlife rehabilitators, including Gordon, who saw a growing need for waterfowl resources in the state and along the Eastern seaboard.
Last year, the group helped more than 2,000 injured and abandoned birds. Of those, 53 percent were domestic and non-native birds including swans, white ducks, pigeons and Muscovy ducks. The remaining birds were migratory representing close to 40 species of birds. Seventy-five of the migratory birds were waterfowl, with the next largest group including herons and egrets.
“We are so blessed to be able to build this barn. Now we can provide basic shelter during bad weather or heat, have a real hospital and a place to store hay,” said Gordon. “We are just so lucky to have the land and now the barn. It’s going to be great.”
Conroy: 704-583-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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