Posted by: Wild Instincts | April 4, 2011

We’re News!

We’ve just been going about our business, trying to get through the zoning redtape and permits and get ready for baby season.  Its always a surprise when someone from the media calls and wants to set up an interview:

From the Star Journal, Sunday, April 3, 2011:

 Area couple opening wildlife rehab center

By Mary Ann Doyle, Associate Editor

A baby squirrel, blind and helpless, desperately clutches Mark Naniot’s hand as he gently lifts it from its plush and warm abode. Its two siblings remain curled up together in the nest, a ball of minute ears, near naked bodies and pencil thin tails.

 Life for these tiny, defenseless creatures was good until the tree their mother had made her nest was cut down. Now these three youngsters are under the watchful care of Mark, and his wife Sharon Larson, who are both professional wildlife rehabilitators.

 There are a lot of similarities between this trio of squirrels and Mark. They have just recently been displaced from a life and routine that was familiar and known. The squirrels are lucky to have this couple at their beck and call, but for the human, well the future is always a little scary when mapping out a new beginning.

 And that new beginning will benefit a multitude of wildlife in the Northwoods if Mark and Sharon have their way. The couple is working diligently to open a new wildlife rehabilitation center which they have named Wild Instincts. It will encompass 16 acres on Apperson Drive off Hwy 47 between Minocqua and Rhinelander. The couple purchased the property earlier this year and area working tirelessly to get it ready for the influx of creatures they know will soon be coming their way.

 “Already we have these squirrels but it won’t be long before baby birds, raccoons and other animals will need our help,” said Mark. “We want to have a facility going by then so we can at least take care of a majority of the animals that will end up here.”

 Mark’s rehabilitation career started on his first day of kindergarten. He got lost coming home from school and knocked on the door of a kindly lady who called his mother to come pick him up. While they waited, the lady, who was an amateur animal rehabilitator, asked Mark if he wanted to see her menagerie. He was smitten with all the wild creatures his new friend was caring for. “That’s when I knew I wanted to have a career with animals,” he said.

 Raised in Green Bay, Mark attended Silver Lake College in Manitowoc and came away with a degree in biology. He had worked for years at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary as a volunteer. This facility is a 700 acre wildlife rehabilitation center and zoo in Green Bay. After graduating he worked at Bay Beach for seven years as a paid staff member and then shortly after meeting Sharon he took a position with the Northwoods Wildlife Center as a rehabilitator. For 13 years he cared for the sick, injured and orphaned animals that came to this facility. But late last fall there were some administrative discrepancies and a parting of ways.

 While he loved rehabilitating wild creatures he also gave some serious thought to a “normal” line of work. “Rehabilitating animals is a 24 hour a day 365 days a year job,” he said. “I thought maybe getting a 9 to 5 job would be nice.”

 And then the fickle hand of fate intervened. A relative of Mark’s died leaving him a nest egg and this started changing his course of thinking with one question always coming into his head. With no licensed wildlife rehabilitator and his former place of employment, who was going to care for the sick, injured and orphaned creatures of the Northwoods?

Wildlife rehabilitators must go through a rigorous process to legally care for wild animals. The program includes volunteering for at least 80 hours under a licensed rehabilitator and a veterinarian. A test must be completed and successfully passed before a “basic” license is awarded. This license allows newly certified rehabbers to care for more common wildlife species like squirrels and bunnies. Two more years of rehabilitation work must be accomplished before advanced certification can be achieved. An animal rehab facility is closely inspected by government agencies and state and federal permits must be attained before advanced rehabbers can care for such creatures as eagles and bears.

 The license to rehabilitate animals stays with the rehabilitator and not the facility and that left a gaping hole for needy wildlife in the Northwoods. Mark decided that hole needed to be filled and took his inheritance and bought the property on Apperson Drive, determined to open his own center. “As far as I know the Northwoods Wildlife Center doesn’t have a rehabilitator hired yet,” he said. “And even if or when they do there are plenty of animals that need help for both facilities.”

 That’s not an understatement. Almost every year Mark has cared for between 800-1000 creatures, especially during the spring and summer months. And if there wasn’t a facility or a licensed rehabilitator in this area, injured and orphaned mammals would have to go to the Bay Beach facility while birds would have to be taken to a facility in Antigo. “It would be different if we lived in an area with hardly any wild creatures,” said Mark, “But the Northwoods is home to a lot of wildlife.”

 Now the couple is working fervently to get their facility up and running before Mother Nature’s youngsters start populating the Northwoods. Their plans are state-of-the-art. Right now they have a small heated outbuilding they have fixed up to house some of the smaller creatures but Mark is eager to start on his new 2,800 square foot facility and getting fencing and cages up for bigger animals like bears and deer.

 But like any construction project there are permits, licenses and other red tape to overcome before everything can move forward. “This coming up week we go to the county for approval and we’re waiting for our non-profit status to come through,” Mark said. “Once that happens it will help a lot as far as donations go.”

 Since both Mark and Sharon have done rehabilitation in a number of facilities, they know exactly what they want in their new center. “It will be totally dedicated to rehabilitating wildlife back into the wild with as little imprinting on humans as possible,” said Mark. “Our location will really help with that. We have plenty of land to do this and it’s more centrally located for people to bring in wildlife if they find an animal that has been injured or orphaned.”

 Starting from scratch can be daunting and Mark and Sharon are hoping they have the support and interest of the entire Northwoods community at their new center. They have created a website that list items they could really use to get up and running and they hope people will call when they see a wild creature that has been injured, is sick or orphaned. “There are people who may think nursing a nest of baby squirrels or any wild creatures is not really worth it,” said Mark. “But to that animal it is and besides the reason most animals end up in a wildlife rehabilitation center is because of man. I think it’s only right that we help these creatures as much as we can. After all, this is their home too.”

 Editor’s Note: The phone number for Wild Instincts is 715-490-2727. The website is The new facility is in need of many supplies to get started and volunteers to help with construction and other projects. The website has a list of items that are needed.


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