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With baby animals in need, Wildlife Rescue Center opens its doors to the public

The Wildlife Rescue Center in Ballwin is opening its doors to the public for the first time in three years. The center's annual open houses were suspended, along with other public events, at the end of 2019 due to stormwater damage to the building that required extensive repairs.

“We had a very serious storm, one of these once-in-1,000-years type of situations,” Executive Director Kim Rutledge told St. Louis on the Air. “Our volunteers came in and found about three inches of water in the lobby, office building and classroom. We decided to forego our usual fall event in 2019, thinking that we would be able to have our spring event in 2020.”

Of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans to resume public events in spring 2020 did not work out.

Two young squirrels climb the side of their cage, quite close to each other, and look directly into the camera.
These young squirrels are accustomed to being fed by humans. Executive Director Kim Rutledge said these squirrels climbed up the side of their cage expecting the photographer to offer them a snack.

Then, earlier this year, an outbreak of avian flu caused the rescue center to further postpone public events.

Kim Rutledge is the executive director of Wildlife Rescue Center in Ballwin. She is standing in a painted cinderblock rehabilitation room with squirrel cages lining the perimeter. She feeds two squirrels formula through small syringes. The squirrels have climbed the side of their cage to be fed.
Avery Lea Rogers
Kim Rutledge feeds two maturing squirrels in their cage. These squirrels have outgrown the need to be handled during feeding. When squirrels begin nesting in their enclosures, that is a sign that they are ready to be released into the wild.

“When [avian flu] first started, it was the very beginning of the busy baby season when our phone was just absolutely ringing off the hook,” Rutledge said. “Anytime someone would bring in a bird we had to put on full gear to keep ourselves protected and make sure that if they were sick, we were able to keep that contained. … We worked with the local USDA and Department of Conservation to come up with new protocols so that we could continue to take sick, injured and orphaned animals.”

Now that things have calmed down at the Wildlife Rescue Center, the public is invited to witness behind-the-scenes operations at an open house this Saturday. The goal is to bolster community outreach and revitalize fundraising efforts that took a hit over the past three years.

Visitors will be able to witness the rescue center’s operations, explore a nearby nature trail and visit with other local community organizations.

“[Visitors can] come into the building and see the lengths that we go through to help wild animals get back out into nature [after] the injuries and illnesses they encounter as a result of living around humans,” Rutledge said. “It's the impact that we make on their environment that causes them to get into trouble.”

Related Event
What: Annual open house
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 10 (registration required)
Where: 1128 New Ballwin Road, Ballwin 63021

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Avery is the Production Assistant for "St. Louis On The Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.