Waterfowl rescue celebrates its 10th anniversary
Ten years ago, Jennifer Gordon could not have imagined the few baby ducks she fed in her garage would turn into one of the only bird rehabilitation facilities of its kind in the Southeast.
I thought I would working out of my house the rest of my life, Gordon, executive director of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, said.
At the time she was volunteering at the Carolina Raptor Center, having recently moved to the area from California. She also fed some ducks in a pond near her home. A predator killed one of the ducks and Gordon found the babies left behind and took them in to take care of them. Soon, word spread that she was rehabilitating waterfowl.
“Before too long, I had a lot of animals,” she said.
Gordon said the organization happened “by accident” as she looked across the hundred of ducks, geese and swans currently under their care at the permanent facility on Poplin Road.
She is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for many different animals. She is licensed through the state fish and wildlife department. The licensing and permitting process required Gordon to travel all over the east coast to take different classes and then working under someone who was rehabilitating the species.
“It’s really not an easy process,” Gordon said.
Over the past 10 years, the rehabilitation center has had four different locations. The current, permanent one features a large pond, a barn for baby animals and sick animals and lots of land for the various ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens, gulls, pigeons and other creatures to recover and live.
Gordon said they take in about 2,000 birds a year. Half of them are wild and will be released after being treated, the rest will find homes or stay at the center.
The center adopts 500 to 600 birds a year. Usually to someone with a pond or someone interested in having chickens for eggs, Gordon said. She said the animals basically have to be pets.
Keeping chickens for eggs has become more popular recently and Gordon said they have received more chickens in the last six months than they had in the past 10 years.
As a result, the center has a lot of eggs to spare. A large portion of the eggs are donated to the Union County Common Cupboard, while the rest are used for food for other wildlife.
Every year, the “baby season” is the most stressful time of the year for the shelter. This year, they dealt with flooding and other setbacks, making the baby season harder than usual. Gordon said they learned from that and are rearranging a few things for next year.
The organization is run entirely by volunteers with no paid staff members. Gordon said they have about 20 volunteers and about three of them come everyday. However, she said, they are nearing a turning point where they will have to bring on a staff member due to the size of the center.
Gordon spends almost all of her waking hours dedicated to the center, either releasing birds, helping at the center or driving around to pick up birds.
She joked that “no sane person” would agree to it, if they knew how much time and work went into the job she has undertaken.
For Gordon, releasing the birds is the most rewarding part of the job. They release the birds back into the wild on a large piece of land outside of the state.
“Just to see them soaring and happy and able to be free again,” Gordon said. She said she likes seeing them get to be free, knowing they could have been dead without the work of the volunteers at the rehabilitation center.
The closest comparable centers are in Delaware for wild ducks and Connecticut for domestic ducks, Gordon said. Apart from private, home rehabilitators. Many birds are sent to Carolina Waterfowl Rescue by the state.
The operation has grown immensely since leaving Gordon’s garage. They have helped countless birds and as they look to the future, the group of dedicated volunteers works to improve their facility and expand to help more birds to come.