Featured CWR

Catherine Greenleaf

Rehabs at St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital in New Hampshire

CWR since 2015

  1. How long have you been rehabilitating wildlife and what led you to become a wildlife rehabilitator?

I have been rehabilitating wildlife for nearly 20 years. I started volunteering at the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key in the Florida Keys, assisting with sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. But the turtles were too heavy for me to lift, and I was worried I would injure my back. Then one day the director handed me a heavy, damp towel and asked me to transport it to the bird hospital up the road, which was the Marathon Wild Bird Center. I opened up the damp towel, and sitting inside was a Magnificent Frigate Bird. It was love at first sight, and I ended up switching over to the bird hospital, where I cleaned out a lot of stinky bird cages. The director there was very kind and allowed me to shadow her and ask questions. That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue avian rehabilitation.

  1. What is your favorite animal you work with?

The one I’m holding! Honestly, it is very difficult for me to choose a favorite. They are all my favorites when I am working with them. But if I had to choose it would definitely be hawks and owls. I love working with Broadwing Hawks, Red-Tail Hawks and Barred Owls. We get a lot of them into the center in New Hampshire.

  1. When did you know you wanted to work with wildlife?

My mother claims that when I was a little girl, around six years old, I was constantly bringing home injured pigeons, sparrows, robins, frogs, and toads that I had found injured in the road. I don’t really have any memory of this, but apparently I tried to nurse the animals back to health. It wasn’t until I was married and turned age 40 that I started to feel a yearning to help wildlife. My husband I were living in Massachusetts at the time,

and I can remember finding an injured swan by the side of the road. I tried to help it and made phone call after phone call asking for assistance for the bird but there was no one available. I felt so helpless. The swan didn’t survive and being so close to such a beautiful animal and seeing it suffer really had an effect on me. I knew at that point I wanted to do something to help wildlife. It wasn’t long after that I signed up to volunteer at the Turtle Hospital.

  1. What is an animal you dream to work with?

I really love owls. I am totally entranced with the Burrowing Owls in Florida. I would love to work with injured Burrowing Owls. Their numbers are dwindling. They like to build their nests in empty housing lots filled with sand, so each time a lot is sold and built on they lose one more area for raising their young. I would also love to work with Gopher Tortoises, another Florida animal.

  1. Do you work with other rehabbers or do you work independently?

I run my own center, St. Francis Wild Bird Center. I am the only rehabilitator. I have a small but loyal group of volunteers who help me each year, especially with all of the neonates. Each summer, I train two interns for six weeks. These are usually young people who are studying Wildlife Biology and plan to help wildlife in some way during the course of their careers. Some of the interns want to become wildlife rehabilitators. In New Hampshire, all of the rehabilitators help each other. We all take in and stabilize animals and then get them transported to the rehabilitator who specializes in that particular animal. For example, I get a fair number of fawns each year that I stabilize and then send up north to our state’s fawn rehabilitator.

  1. Do you work with all species, if no, which groups of animals do you concentrate on?

I work primarily with birds of all species at the center. However, in recent years we have had several mammal rehabilitators in the state of New Hampshire retire, so I am now also taking in baby squirrels, chipmunks and opossums. I am also taking in quite a number of Snapping turtles and Painted turtles that have been hit by cars.

  1. Do you have any pets?

We have two sweet, little rescue dogs – Diva and Kensey. They are Chinese Cresteds and are completely spoiled. They are our children.

  1. What are some of your hobbies?

I love being in nature. I really enjoy hiking and swimming. I also like taking really long walks. I find walking helps me work through my problems and concerns. It also keeps me fit, which you really need if you’re going to be a rehabber! I have also become involved in native gardening, which is planting native trees and plants to benefit the birds and other wildlife. I think it’s really important to have a balance between work and play. While rehabilitation is extremely gratifying, the work can be grueling and you run the risk of burn-out if you’re not careful.

  1. Do you volunteer for other organizations?

Yes, I started volunteering this year for the Harris Conservation Center in New Hampshire, helping salamanders and frogs cross the roads safely on rainy spring nights. Many are run over by cars, so we go out at night in our raincoats and flashlights and shepherd the salamanders and frogs to the other side of the road.

The community has really become very involved in this endeavor in the last several years, which is great to see.

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world specifically for wildlife sighting, where would you go?

I would love to go to the Galapagos Islands and see the giant tortoises.