Cost of frozen mice worrying animal rescue group

LINWOOD, Kan. (AP) — The high cost of frozen, euthanized mice is causing some concern for a northeast Kansas animal rescue group, which said its finances could be in trouble if the price doesn't drop soon.

The cost of the mice has nearly doubled from 45 cents at this time last year, said Diane Johnson, executive director of Operation Wildlife, which is based in Linwood and has a satellite center in Shawnee. It is the largest nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation clinic in Kansas, ministering to owls, hawks, skunks, raccoons, foxes and other nondomestic animals.

"Right now, we're OK," Johnson said of the operation. "I don't know if two or three months down the line we're going to be OK."

Mice and rats, which are even more expensive, are in high demand as a main food source for the 4,000 to 5,000 wild animals the center helps every year, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/WNxFZ6). The nonprofit serves nine counties in Kansas and northwest Missouri, treating orphaned, injured or sick wild animals.

OWL has its own breeding colony of mice and rats, but because of limited space, it mostly depends on an Indiana-based supplier to provide the more than 450 mice and 100 rats animals the clinic needs every week, Johnson said.

Besides a national shortage of mice and rats, the continuing drought contributed to OWL's concerns, the center said in a news release in December. The animal rescue group is seeing more emaciated and dehydrated young mammals, requiring more medical services and food. The drought also causes raptors such as owls and hawks to go closer to roads to find water, Johnson said, meaning the clinic is now seeing one or two injured raptors every day instead of the one to two raptors a week it usually sees this time of year.

Grains and other food sources also cost more because of the drought, she said.

Repairs and maintenance on the 20-year-old building, including a needed $20,000 update of outdoor eagle flight pens, also worry Johnson.

The clinic depends on public donations, fundraisers and educational programming fees. A registered veterinarian technician and longtime independent wildlife rehabilitator, Johnson started OWL out of her home in 1987 and moved the operation into a clinic in 1992. The Shawnee receiving center opened 15 years ago.

OWL returns about 69 percent of the animals it treats to the wild every year. Seven veterinarians and 125 volunteers help care for the animals, although Johnson said the operation could use more volunteers.


Online:

Operation Wildlife: owl-online.org

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