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She’s mother hen to injured wild songbirds

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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The first thing you hear entering Lola Elliget’s yard is the call of an old turkey that has made her yard his own. Unlike most of the birds in her care, “The Colonel” is a domesticated fowl that Elliget adopted. Elliget is a volunteer involved with Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife. Elliget is one of more than 30 members rescuing area wildlife, and she is the songbird rehabber for the group. Last year Elliget turned the sunroom off her house into a bird rehab center and donated its use for bird intake. People finding wild birds, injured or abandoned, can bring them to a safe haven for attentive care. The goal, as it is with all the animals in Gold Country Wildlife’s care, is to nurse and nourish each critter back to health and release it into its proper habitat. Elliget cares for the songbirds and in the spring when the bird center gets really busy, this can sometimes mean a 10- to 12-hour day. In the spring many of the birds coming to the center are babies that have had their nesting interrupted by humans and need to be hand fed until they grow enough to make it on their own. Elliget hand feeds and hydrates the birds. Nursing them back to health with medicine in the bird center, she then puts them in a larger flight cage for a few weeks to adjust before releasing them. Elliget admits she has ended up with a few keepers, birds that for some reason will no longer make it in the wild. “Sometimes they come back, they get used to living here and I let them stay for a while longer and then shoo then away,” Elliget said. “Doves and pigeons are very easy to imprint. When you care for their every need they begin to see you as their mother.” Currently she has a wild mountain pigeon that can’t be released and two ring-neck doves that were escaped pets and have stayed around her yard. The birds make their way to the bird center in Loomis for many reasons — most of the songbirds have been injured by cats or other predators, many have been hit by cars, or fly into windows. Some birds are just escaped pets. “The center and our rehabilitation work would not be possible without the help of individuals that find the injured birds and care enough to take the time to bring them to us and be rescued,” Elliget said. Elliget’s own association with the group began five years ago when her cat uncovered a nest of cottontail rabbits in her yard. She called Gold Country Wildlife Rescue. “I thought I would like to be able to save my own wildlife. I asked how I might get involved,” she said. “I took the beginning two-hour bird rehab class, and started volunteering.” Elliget’s knowledge of birds and their care has increased tenfold as she works with the injured creatures. She loves the days when she releases them and they fly away healthy, but says there are many days when she cries over a bird that doesn’t make it. “You get very involved, physically and emotionally caring for the birds, some days you cry a lot,” Elliget said. She estimates the group rescues about 50 percent of the birds that come into the bird center, and so far this year over 500 birds have come through. Some are cared for by members who specialize in other species. Retired for many years, Elliget has found a place to apply her energies, along with the many volunteers at Gold Country Wildlife Rescue who believe injured wildlife should be returned to its natural habitat. ---------------------------- Gold Country Wildlife Rescue (530) 885-0862