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Penn Hills 'green' cemetery will serve as release site for Animal Rescue League

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 10:21 a.m.
Submitted photo
Above, one of eight Virginia opossums released July 12 at the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park.
Submitted
This was one of eight opossums released into the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park on Friday, July 12, 2013. The park has partnered with the Animal Rescue League's Wildlife Rehabilition Center on Verona Road to serve as a release site for rehabbed animals.
Submitted
Stephanie Buckley from the Animal Rescue League's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Verona prepares to release a yellow-shafted flicker, a type of woodpecker, on Friday, July 12, 2013.
Submitted photo
Stephanie Buckley releases a species of woodpecker on Friday, July 12, 2013, at the Penn Forest Natural Burial Park.

The Penn Forest Natural Burial Park on Colorado Street is a future site for environmentally friendly interments.

But as of mid-July, it is also home for a group of recently rehabilitated wild animals, thanks to a partnership between the park and the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Verona.

The burial park's 26 acres are an ideal home for a variety of wildlife, including the flying squirrel, three gray squirrels, yellow-shafted flicker (a type of woodpecker) and eight Virginia opossums that were released onto the property on July 12 after completing their rehabilitation at the wildlife center, located off Verona Road. A group of 14 skunks was released on July 18.

Center Director Jill Argall said the park is one of three sites in the Penn Hills and Oakmont area where rehabbed animals are released, and she is looking for more.

“We're soliciting people for our release list,” she said. “We send out a questionnaire asking people the size of the property, if there's water, are there fully grown trees, what kind of traffic the area has, the local dog and cat population, those types of things.”

The center's release list includes about 15 sites, she said. In some cases, animals being released do not require rehabilitation at all.

In the case of the Virginia opossums, their mother was brought to the center after being struck by a car. She was discovered to be pregnant, and gave birth to the litter of eight “joeys” at the center.

“She was able to care for them, and she was released about three weeks ago, then the joeys were released separately at about four months old,” Argall said.

Cemetery manager Pete McQuillin said his neighbors won't have to worry about animals becoming a nuisance, however.

“We can hide a lot of animals on 32 acres,” he said.

“The only animals (neighbors) don't want released are groundhogs, because we have a lot of those already. But most of them won't be going into neighborhoods. They'll hopefully be staying in woods.”

The opossums that were released, McQuillin said, prefer to be near a water source, and wildlife officials released them near Plum Creek, far down the hill from adjacent neighbors.

“I think it's a natural fit,” he said. “I think it's going to be great for both of us.”

To have a property considered as a release site, contact the center at 412-345-7300.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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