Wild animal infirmary found in home

It was easy for Nancy Laird to make the transition from taking care of humans to taking care of injured animals.

Laird, who runs the Wild Animal Infirmary for Nevada, was a registered nurse for 20 years before she decided to make the switch from people to animals.

And her training with humans, she said, was all she needed to nurse injured animals.

"Human nursing is the same as what we do here. The patients are only smaller," she said.

"They're just different. With a bird you get what you see. With humans they'll embroider the truth. You're not getting an accurate picture when you deal with humans."

Veterinarians give the animals the care they need, like surgery, but Laird gives them a place to stay until they are fully recovered and can be returned to the wild.

The infirmary is funded by donations and grants. It recently received a $10,000 Anonymous donation.

Once a year the infirmary hosts an open house so the public can visit and see what she does.

At Sunday's open house visitors wandered between the cages, taking a peek at the birds and visited the infirmary in Laird's house.

Six cages and a recently purchased incubator from the 1950s occupy Laird's converted garage. Laird purchased the incubator, once used for human babies, on eBay a couple of months ago for $177. A newer model would have cost her between $5,000 and $6,000.

"I worked with these when I was in nursing. They're perfect for our needs," Laird said.

The large fenced cages outside Laird's house hold various hawk species, owls and kestrels. One cage held young California quails and a chicken.

The chicken was placed in the cage with the quails to act as a mother figure. Young quails need an older bird to show them how to eat and drink, said Nancee Goldwater, a volunteer at the infirmary.

"They would huddle up and just parish (without the chicken)," she said.

Goldwater works full time at the Carson Valley Animal Shelter and makes trips to the infirmary three to five times a week to deliver recently injured species.

She also participates in outreach programs in public schools that educate children about wildlife in the area and what the infirmary does to help injured animals.

"The kids are just awesome," Goldwater said. "They go from wanting to shoot everything they see to wanting to save everything."

She also tries to teach people about the consequences certain actions, like using insecticides, can have on wildlife. Birds of prey, she said, often fall victim to a homeowners overuse of poisons. If a bird eats a rodent that has been poisoned, the bird will also die.

To make sure the birds will be fit for survival when they leave the infirmary, Laird and her volunteers put mice into a large metal container that the birds must catch themselves for food. The cages at the infirmary are also designed to allow the birds to fly around.

"We don't give them names or try to handle them much so they can go back to the wild," Goldwater said.


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