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Penn Hills wildlife center receives honor

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Patrick Varine | Penn Hills Progress
Wildlife center rehab assistant Anna Coleman of Penn Hills and volunteer Chrissy Canje of Monroeville work with a Pekin duck.

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recognized the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Penn Hills last week for its dedication to Pennsylvania's wildlife resources.

It's a mission that director Jill Argall and the staff take seriously. The center treated more than 3,000 animals in 2013 and released 67 percent of them back into the wild, a figure that is more than double the national average of 33 percent.

Argall said she is very proud of the physical therapy work that center staff and about 70 volunteers do with animals.

“We also have a large number of outdoor cages, and getting the animals back outside helps reduce disease transmission and helps to get them more exercise,” Argall said.

Many volunteers also serve as “fosters” and are allowed, under permits from the game commission, to take certain mammals home to care for.

“We foster out rabbits, squirrels and opossums,” Argall said. Fosters “get special training, and then we provide the equipment to help them give specialized care in their homes.”

Depending on the type of mammal, fosters care for animals for three to 12 weeks. The primary reason behind fostering is that rabbits, squirrels and opossums require overnight feeding when they are very young.

“When the animals are old enough that they really need those outdoor enclosures, we'll swap them out with infants,” Argall said.

While the center is officially permitted to work with native Pennsylvania species, Argall said, they don't turn anything away.

“We do get an occasional alligator or pig dropped off,” she said. “It's not what our permits are for, but if there's a situation where the game commission needs assistance, we'll try to help.”

Game commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Dan Puhala, who presented center officials with an art print and plaque on April 24, said they go beyond the call of duty.

“To have a place to take injured wildlife to and refer people to, they've been a valuable resource,” Puhala said. “They're also very helpful when we confiscate illegal wildlife from someone.”

Last year, officers confiscated a group of silver foxes from a homeowner. Center staff built them a permanent enclosure, where they will be able to get exercise and live out their lives.

“I like spreading the word and letting people know about them,” Puhala said.

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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