A new group has formed to rehabilitate the many species of wildlife — be it a black bear or songbird — that are regularly injured in run-ins with people in Jackson Hole and Teton Valley, Idaho.
Area residents Renee Seidler and Lindsay Jones are heading the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, three years in the making. The 501©(3) nonprofit is on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar home where it will be able to take in an array of battered creatures to rehab and eventually release back into the wild.
The center will rehabilitate only native wildlife injured by human activity, said Seidler, a biologist specializing in pronghorn who also works for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“We believe in the natural process of predation,” Seidler said. “If a prey species escapes a predator but it’s injured, we’re not going to take that in. We think that’s part of the natural ecosystem. Our main goal is to contribute to the healthy ecosystem in terms of the wildlife in this region.”
Other than the Teton Raptor Center, which focuses solely on birds of prey, there are no large wildlife rehabilitation centers in the region or even in Wyoming. The nearest similar facility is an eight-hour drive away in McCall, Idaho, Jones said.
“There’s a couple of other smaller mom-and-pop, species-specific and nonreleasable facilities,” Jones said. “But not anything else. There’s really nothing.”
Although they are still some way from starting operations, Seidler and Jones have already been in discussions with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, which must grant them permits for their work.
“Both agencies are very supportive of what we’re doing and what we aim to do,” Seidler said.
The rules on rehabilitating wildlife are not always straightforward.
In Wyoming, for example, it’s illegal to keep in captivity big game or trophy game, classifications that include species such as mule deer and mountain lions. But it would be legal, Seidler said, to take a big game or trophy game animal that was injured in Jackson Hole, rehabilitate it in Idaho and then release it back where it came from in Wyoming.
The Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center hopes some day to manage facilities on both sides of the state line.
“We need to start somewhere, and likely that somewhere will be Teton Valley,” Seidler said. “We presume that will be easier to get a hunk of land and get things built, but we would be delighted actually if we could start in Jackson Hole.
“It’s such a perfect place,” she said, “in terms of the demographics of the humans, the demographics of the animals and the number of human-wildlife conflicts.”
Like the Teton Raptor Center, the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center plans to make education and outreach a big part of its operation.
“We’re hoping to educate people on what not to do and how to reduce these human-wildlife conflicts,” Jones said.
For information on the new rehabilitation center, visit TetonWildlife.org.