In Bullitt County, wild animals ranging from baby squirrels to armadillos find care and kindness at Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
“We take in injured and orphaned wildlife that’s native to Kentucky,” says founder and director Brigette Brouillard. “Our goal is always to try to release them out into the wild and those that are not quite healthy enough to survive become our education ambassadors.”
Brouillard says that the center takes in about 300 animals for rehabilitation each year, and of those, about 80 percent will be able to return to the wild.
“Once you see those animals return to their environment, to where they’re supposed to be, you just kind of breathe a sigh of relief, and go, this is what I’m doing this for,” says Kelsey Courrier, a longtime volunteer at Second Chances. “Because it is rough, and it’s a hard few months of hard labor. But it just makes it all worth it.
“You do kind of get attached even though we’re careful not to baby talk them or to handle them too much,” Courrier admits. “You’re feeding an animal at least twice a day on a shift. Every single week you see them and you do go home if they’re not doing too great, hoping that next week you see them again and that they’re going to be OK. You are sad. And you just really care about every individual. I think that’s how most volunteers feel here.”
In addition to rehabilitating wildlife, Brouillard and her organization’s volunteers provide education about animals and the local environment through visits to schools and at the Second Chances’ on-site education center.
“Sometimes animals come to us just in too dire of condition to make it back out into the wild,” says Brouillard. “The ones that become our education ambassadors are licensed through the USDA.”
Currently, the center’s educational ambassadors include raccoons, flying squirrels, opossums, skunks, a groundhog, an armadillo, and a beaver.
“I am an educator by background, so when we bring our animals out with us, this is not necessarily a show and tell,” Brouillard explains. “We meet state standards. We meet the new generation science standards. What is important about our animals coming to these classes is that forms a connection with the students and the environment. When they can get excited to see these animals in a different setting than they normally do, they’re amped up, they’re excited, they’re going to go out and make better choices not only for our wildlife but for our environment as a whole. And that is a huge goal for us. It is not just the rehabilitation, it is for people to think about the decisions they’re making that affect wildlife and our environment.”