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Wildlife rehab center hosts 'A Toast'

| Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Cathy Oskin poses with a fox at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the The Animal Rescue League's 'A Toast to the Untamed' in Verona, October 11, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A curious fox at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the The Animal Rescue League's 'A Toast to the Untamed' in Verona, October 11, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

It's pretty rare when the sight of a skunk or porcupine elicits a collective awww! of admiration from anyone who crosses its path.

On Thursday, the Animal Rescue League's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center opened its doors for A Toast to the Untamed, where guests were loving the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals of the less domestic variety.

“We'll take anything except deer, because we don't have the space, and poisonous snakes,” offered director Jill Argall.

Board prez Joe Burgunder, Cathy Oskin, Joseph Vater, Frank Tallarico, Isabella Alexandratos, Helen Fallon, and Steve Elliott were among those meeting a wide array of critters, including Ray, an American crow whose claim to fame is mimicking human voices (and repeating private conversations) and Dante, the ball python who paints — and sells — original works of art.

The largest center this side of the state, the facility has treated 2,500 animals so far this year, with the help of volunteers whose 13,000 donated hours include round-the-clock care for quail, possum, owls, snakes, hawks, ducks, vultures, squirrels, wild rabbits and everything in between. Focused on rehabilitation, the center has a strong commitment to re-releasing as many animals as possible back into the wild, although they provide much TLC to those in need of a permanent home.

“This really is the diamond of the shelter,” said Animal Rescue League executive director Dan Rossi.

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