Episode 3 – Cassandra Pio-Stoflet

In this episode we talk with Cassandra who is a licensed animal wildlife rehabilitator.  Cassandra shares her story about her start in wildlife rehabilitation and discusses how rewarding it is to save animals.  Cassandra also explains how to get started as a rehabilitator so you too can save animals.  You can learn more about Fierce Hearts Wildlife Rehabilitation by visiting them on their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/fiercehearts/


“Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue really transport. Now on with our show. Hi, Welcome to the program. Today we’re talking with Cassandra Piau saw Flipped. She’s 27 loose from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. She studied English environmental education in captive wildlife before leaving school to pursue opening her own wildlife rehabilitation facility. Cassandra’s trying to provide exceptional care to the wildlife that is brought to her facility. Israel is compassion for the community members you find while back to me. This is Cassandra’s fourth year working in wildlife rehabilitation and her first years in advance licensee under the Wisconsin do in our wildlife programme. Cassandra’s, the founder of Fierce Hearts Wildlife Rehabilitation, which is now in its second years, a nonprofit organization starting the animals in the community where she lists Well, thanks so much for joining us today. Tell us a little bit about fierce hearts. Sure. So I started fierce hearts, wildlife rehabilitation in 2014. We are located right in the middle of Wisconsin on. And I started it because there was kind of a sort of a vacuum in the center of the state. There were a couple home based rehabilitate er’s who do a really great job what they do. Um, but they only covered a few species. So what I was hoping to do with great kind of a central hub in the middle of the state that would be able to guide community members towards the help that they needed to get whatever wildlife situation that they found themselves. That’s really cool. She only started a couple of years ago. Yeah. Yep. This year, I was granted my advanced license on you. Need two years of experience is a basic wildlife rehabilitation licensee. Before you get your advance. So this is my fourth year working in wildlife rehabilitation, and we’ve been established for three now. Wow. Congratulations on that. How exciting. Thank you. So how did you get into this? This isn’t something that you know. Maybe as a kid, you went Oh, my goodness. This is what I want to do with my life. I mean, tell us how you got into this. Yeah, and it’s a talk, and they don’t have ah, like a specific story. It sounds corny, but it’s sort of like a It almost feels like a calling. I don’t really imagine myself doing something else, and I can’t really think about specific instance where I realized, like, Oh, this is exactly what I wanna do with my life. Um, I was always the kid who was saving the baby rabbits from the barn. Cat bond. Um, trying to feed a bird that I really shouldn’t have been trying to feed that, um, and and I’ve always there’s there’s that path where you’re wondering, should have you veterinarian or a technician, um, dabbled in English group in a while, but it just seems like the best way that I could help animals do what animals they’re supposed to do. That’s really awesome. So it was one day back in 2014 you went Oh, my goodness. I need to establish this. How did how did fierce hearts come about s o? I was attending school at u w Stevens point. Um, and we had a job here, as one does. Um, and there were boots and boots and boots for forestry and water technician and different D. N R stations and very, very few for wildlife rehabilitation facility. There’s a few really established centuries, very far up north and some really great centers very far south and very far East. We have baby wildlife sanctuary and nothing right in the middle. Andi realized that if I wanted to live where it always say and then living and say in central Wisconsin as well as you know, just I just feel that bass where there was just nothing, that I would have to do it on my own. Wow, that is so cool. So is this your full time thing? Is this a passion project for you? Tell us more, some of both. So if not, we’re a non profit organization. And at this point, we are not quite to the stage of self sustaining. So during we have heavier seasons and slower seasons and baby season, which would be early spring Thio early fall is our heaviest season. Okay, I’m so during that period of the year, it’s my full time job you’re up at, you know, feeding at eight in the morning, all hours in between There. If you’re lucky, your last meeting is at eight. At night. If you’re not lucky, you have to our feedings and you’re going throughout the night as well. So it’s a full time gig during baby season. Uh, the rest of the year, I work part time jobs elsewhere to try toe fill those monetary gaps that you’re trying Thio flies. But yet during the year, the baby season section of the year is my full time gig. So what kind of babies I was? I was really fascinating when I looked at your Facebook page. You’ve got such great photos of all sorts of different animals that you’ve taken care of. Is there one particular kind that is more prevalent? I focus a mammal rehabilitation. Hopefully, our eventual goal is to be able to do every mammal in the state of Wisconsin, But our Big Three are squirrels, cottontail, rabbit and raccoon on. That’s a combination of what species are most common just in general and what species people are most likely to encounter. So if you live in the middle of town. You’re pretty likely to see a raccoon, but you’re a lot less likely to see something like a Fisher. Hi, Martin. Should the raccoon is the one that someone is gonna stumble across and try to find help for? Okay, so now are their organization like yours across the country? I mean, tell us a little bit more. I’m not as familiar with the wildlife rehabilitation side of things. Yeah, So there’s a lot of different rehabilitator scattered across the state on there’s generally home based rehabilitation and center based rehabilitation, and the centers are the ones that have staff generally and ours that they’re open and taking hundreds and hundreds of animals throughout the year. And home based rehabilitate Er’s are people who usually focused on a small number of species and take in generally less than 100 of those species, um, and and reason to release, just like the centuries would, but on their own or with a very small number of volunteers across the country, I’m not as familiar with I know that every state has different wildlife rehabilitation laws that people have to abide by. So I’m very familiar with captain and left familiar outside of our states. Sure. Tell me a little bit more about how does it work in Wisconsin? So you mentioned obviously two different types. Are you more of a home based or you more of a, ah center based and say evolving from home base to send your beast, um, to have volunteers, you need to have your advance lights on. So this is the first year that fierce hearts could have off site and on site volunteers through this. It’s so last year we had around 100 and tapes, and this year, with the extra manpower, we can take him that many more animals just through hours that you have to contribute to each animal. There’s a limit that you have. Right now. We’re kind of in a middle stage where we’re accepting more species. We added on five new species this year that last year so kind of moving in the direction of center based. Yeah, that’s really cool. So So what is your goal? Like, what is your mission? What is what is your What is your vision for this? Yeah, my goal is is really just to kind of create that central hub on be able to take in. As I said, the all mammal species in the state of Wisconsin. I think there’s a lot of avian based facilities and birds are fantastic. But I think there Mitch is sort of filled in our area. But the mammals really need a lot of a lot more help in a lot more assistance throughout our county’s. I’m the only person accepting raccoon within a five county region right now. So I figure, really focus on the mammals evil, except more and more of them. We increased from one pre release enclosure to six in the last three years. So really, in a big growth and expansion phase, but yeah, in 10 years time, I hope to be able to accept as many animals as need assistance in our area. That is really awesome for you to be thinking 10 years out, So s so. So tell me a little bit about your facility. I mean, you mentioned some of the number of enclosures you have, So give us a perspective kind of walk us through what your setup is like. Sure, So it all kind of based around the need for your friend rehabilitation um we accept orphaned, injured imprinted and hill animal on orphans are really the bulk of our patients. So you start out in our nursery, we have two separate nursery. One of them is our general small mammal one on me except a squirrel. Woodchuck must grant pathum rabbit, porky pine. Probably forgetting one t o in that nursery. And then our other inner three is exclusively for raccoon. And that’s just to create a separation between any kind of transmittable diseases Come. So you go from the nursery’s. We also have a quarantine section for any animals that are indicating that they have some kind of symptoms that you don’t want spread out to everyone else. And outside of that, you have your release. Enclosures are pre release conditioning enclosures. Um, and those are kind of one of the big stepping stones to create in a rehabilitation facility. Is you need those pre releasing soldiers and what happens in there? They’re the big occasions you can usually imagine seeing. No, just the high wall and life of mesh and an animal digging swimming line doing whatever it needs to do that it would typically be doing outside. And what What they’re in, therefore, is just to kind of create that separation between the nursery, where they’re very dependent on human interaction and watch the human create the meals and interact very closely to a person. Thio going out to that released conditioning enclosure and learning how to be a wild animal so they’ll only see a person one or two times a day, and they kind of re while or learn how to take care of themselves. So they’re a really, really important part of wildlife rehabilitation that people don’t normally think about. But it’s always there. How big is your facility? Because you described a number of different enclosures and transitions? I’m just curious how, how much space do you have? Great. So we have about an acre and 1/2 Um, and everything is just sort of first out to very carefully create separation between the other animals and all political Um, right now, like I said, we’ve got the two nurseries and six pre release enclosures and every enclosure kind of size differently to accommodate the animals that it houses. So our record ones, they’re obviously significantly larger than the squirrel one. So how many animals at any given time. Like how many animals do you have right now? Oh, bash. Um I have to count, have all the paperwork, but I’m a doctor, and I have it. It changes so fast. Right now we have 18 raccoon and care. A squirrel. Three a possum, One chipmunk in six and two. That is amazing. How do you even have time to be talking to us? Very carefully. About half an hour before the started, and I’ll feed an hour and 1/2 effort and wow, it never You must get no sleep at night. It very carefully scheduled leave. And like I said, I’m lucky right now. Um, I don’t have any to our feeding animals. So everything is between 8 a.m. in the P. M. Sure. That is really cool. So? So I just have to ask, Why are you doing this, Cassandra? What is it that motivates you to want to do this? I know it’s hard to say Data day. Sometimes I ask myself the same like that question at this point, the number of animals that I have helped I can project into the future of how many animals I’m going to help. And if I weren’t doing it? I don’t know who would. That is really cool, though, that you’re constantly looking to the future and saying, What else can we do? And how do we grow this? So I have to ask, How did the name fierce hearts come about? It’s a very cool name. Oh, yeah. Thank you. Um, So we had my first very, very first, uh, intake to release a patient with a 13 lined grounds world who didn’t have a name, her intake number with nine. So she was nine. And it shocked me what a tough little squirrel she was. I mean, she weighed under 20 grams, just this tiny little thing, you know, lighter than a bar of soap. And she was tough. If you put your hand on her closure, she would jump right on it and try to wrestle it. Um, Thio attacked grasshoppers like a lion attack in the antelope. She was just shocking with how intense she was. And there’s a Shakespearean quote from a Midsummer Night’s dream though she be but little shoes years and it just it just kind of stuck, you know, though they be. But little. They’re very fierce. And I just wanted to convey that, you know, people look att, funnies and squirrels on dhe little ground hogs. And it’s just a cute the little woodland creature. But they’re tough, and they do what they have to do to get by in the world. That is an awesome story. It’s such a great name, um, to carry on what it is that you’re doing. So that’s really cool. So you have. So if somebody is listening, I mean, you know, you kind of knew like you said, it was like you’re calling, But if somebody is listening to this, they’re going, Oh, my goodness, this is what I want to dio, right? So give us, Give us Cassandra’s. All right, here’s your need to start. Here’s the lessons you need to learn. Help, help somebody else to get started. Yeah, and that such a feeling everyone have to have their own individual passed to getting started. But as far of boxes to check. I do think that people working in rehabilitation should have enough of a background in research and the ability to do research that they can do their own, Um, of a is the founder owner, operator of a wildlife rehabilitation facility. You have to create your own protocols for how you’re going to treat animals and what medications you’re going to use. And you have to be able to justify to yourself your method. So you need to be able to go into the wide world of the Internet and find method and agree to yourself whether or not they’re going to work. So you need to be able to understand, um, academic papers. Um, you need to be able to understand other people’s evidence for what they’ve done and whether or not you believe that that will be effective at your site. On that doesn’t necessarily mean a four year degree to me. Um, I think a lot of people have a innate ability. Thio look into research and understand it on their own. I’ve had high schoolers asked me what I would recommend, and I really actually think that a technical degree of some kind would benefit someone just as much as before your degree as far as getting into the field, but you would have to, and it depends on if you want to start your own facility, or, if you wanna work at an established one with every established facility, is going to have their own requirements for what they’re wanting an employee to have as faras starting your own facility. If you want to go out and create your own hub for rehabilitation, you need to look into your state law initially and find out what every State Department is going to require of you. So in the state of Wisconsin, you need to. I have a consulting vet who agrees to treat care for provide medication for your patients. You need to have a sponsor who is somebody who’s worked in wildlife rehabilitation field and will agree to guide you through. Um, and you need to pass an inspection through the state that’ll look at the facility that you’re going to hold an animal thing. Sounds like a lot of work. It is a lot of work, and beyond that, I would say that you really need to look into yourself and think about whether or not you can handle the ins and outs. There’s a lot of joy involved. There’s a lot of, you know, animals that you bring back from the brink and It’s very satisfying and fulfilling. But you also have to breathe in a lot of heartbreak at the same time. I can imagine. Is there a particular story that comes to mind? One that really touched your heart? I’ve got a couple and I’ll start with a really bad one. I had a young man found a gray squirrel in a trap in a ditch on the side of the road, and it was probably late at night. Very, very early spring. He wasn’t his trap. It was on his property. But it looks like it had been tossed from a vehicle of sometimes on the boil inside with very, very hypothermic. They’re very still. Wasn’t reacting much anything around her. And he brought her in during emergency hours, um, to try to treat her. And unfortunately, you know, you provide fluid therapy, you provide heat therapy. Uh, she didn’t not to make it through the hour. The best that we could save for her was that we provided her with as much comfort as we possibly could at the end of her life. But there’s just heartbreaking things that you see people do that just really dig down deep into you. Um, unfortunately, she was also a nursing mother. So somewhere out in the world, she had babies that were just kind of waiting for their mom become a home, and she never made it, but just heartbreaking things like that. But at the same time, you get to help people who deeply, deeply want to assist in animals and just don’t know any other way to do that. We’ve had have actuated raccoons, which is a rec room that typically race alone. People will find them on the roadside next to their deceased families, usually sold survivors of some kind of car interaction and take them in. And if they don’t know where to go, they’ll raise the baby rec room in their families. Um, and after a certain time, it becomes clear usually people that the record is not going to be a very good family member, and they’ll end up here That will take in these raccoons who think that their people and have been raised with these really wonderful families who just couldn’t help, and it’s really heartbreaking. You’ll see people crying and and just really loving this animal that they wanted to assist, but being ableto watch that animal go from a scared baby who will think that it’s families just abandoned it to a flourishing wild animal, learns how to be a raccoon from the other animals that we have. Um, people will come back after bringing their animals here. Haven’t been totally heartbroken. And that was being when they see their animal actually interacting in a wild betting that has to be so rewarding. And those were really great stories. I appreciate you sharing. I I was looking at your website and I was looking at the frequently asked questions, and you talked a lot about Where do you get your animals from? And more importantly, what do you do with them? Tell us a little bit more about what is your ultimate goal with these animals? Yeah, it really confuses people. Sometimes if they haven’t personally brought us an animal where the animals actually come from, um and is orphaned, injured, ill or imprinted, usually orphaned, and people will find them in all kinds of circumstances. Finding a baby raccoon alone on the road is very, very common. People will witness ah, animals get struck by vehicles in front of their homes and days later find litters of baby animals. And we get those guys. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of pet interactions of pet dogs, and pet cats will interact with a rabbit, and then people will find the baby animals. And we’re just a compassionate solution. Rather than having to let nature take its course of people will say we enable nature to flourish under human care instead of failing as it would, it just allowed to die. So that’s where they come from. People just They just stuff little pumping Walking outside in their suburban neighborhood in city streets, people will find wild animals that just need help. And people have always always released very, very few animals flourish and the captive setting, especially wild animals. They’re just very wired to be outdoors and be living free lives. So the goal is always to get them back into the natural setting that they would normally live their life out in. That is a really awesome goal, and it’s really amazing the work that you’re doing and the aspirations that you have for what fears hearts is gonna D’oh! Thank you. You shared a lad and you shared some really great stories. So thank you so much. I appreciate your time is really amazing toe. Learn what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And just to share some of the lessons and the stories that you’ve got and how people can get involved. So thank you so much for your time. Thank you for having me. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.”

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