Stephanie Gratton is a dedicated individual who works tirelessly to rescue and care for wildlife in Elkhart County. As the owner of Branch Animal Rehabilitation, one of only three wildlife rescue organizations licensed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Gratton has been instrumental in rescuing and releasing nearly 300 wild animals and birds this year alone. Her organization serves as the sole wild animal rescue agency in Goshen, and she currently has forty animals under her care.
Despite being licensed by the DNR to care for wild animals and holding a federal license to care for birds, Gratton receives no reimbursement for her efforts. She has willingly devoted her own personal funds towards providing the necessary care and nutrition for the animals, supplying them with 50-60 pounds of food daily. Her commitment to these animals is driven by her love for them, considering it a labor of love.
Gratton finds joy in witnessing the healing and growth of the animals under her care. The satisfaction of releasing them back into their natural habitat brings her immense happiness. Branch Animal Rehabilitation opened its doors just before the pandemic hit, making the challenges of starting a wildlife rescue agency even more daunting. Gratton had to fulfill several requirements, including working with another rescue agency for a year, obtaining a letter of recommendation, passing a test, and passing a DNR inspection. Additionally, she had to secure a local veterinarian, which Goshen Animal Clinic agreed to fulfill.
Most of the animals Gratton rescues do not require veterinary care; they simply need time to grow. Many of the animals in her rescue are young, including baby squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and birds. This responsibility requires her to wake up every two hours to feed and nurture them, similar to a new mother.
When the animals are ready, Gratton releases them into private lands with permission from their owners. Neither the DNR nor the city allows these animals to be released in parks. Each species has specific guidelines to follow during the release process.
Gratton rarely turns away animals in need, with the exception of geese due to their need for more space than she can provide. She emphasizes the importance of coexisting with nature and not attempting to overpower it. Gratton explains that when one animal is removed from an area, another tends to take its place. For example, trapping and relocating groundhogs may lead to skunks moving into the vacated territory.
If you encounter an injured or helpless baby animal, Gratton suggests contacting the DNR, who will then refer you to the nearest rescue organization. It is important to handle injured animals with caution, placing small animals in a box with a towel and keeping them warm and in a quiet place. Gratton also advises against relying on information found on Google, as it may not always be accurate. Certified rescuers should handle the care and feeding of animals.
Gratton has had countless unforgettable experiences during her rescue missions, including instances where she has been bitten. She fondly recalls the heartwarming sight of a baby raccoon tightly gripping her fingers while being fed. She firmly believes that all animals deserve care, respect, and the opportunity to live, which fuels her determination to continue her rescue efforts.
In conclusion, Stephanie Gratton’s unwavering dedication and love for wildlife have made her an invaluable asset to Elkhart County. Her selfless actions have saved and improved the lives of numerous animals, making a significant impact in her community and beyond.
Q: How can I contact Stephanie Gratton for assistance with an injured or distressed animal?
A: If you come across an injured wildlife or a baby animal in need, it is recommended to contact the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who will provide you with information on the nearest rescue organization.
Q: Can I find information on animal care and feeding on Google?
A: While Google can be a helpful tool, it is advised to rely on certified rescuers for accurate information on animal care and feeding. Google may not always provide reliable or safe advice.
Q: Are there specific guidelines for releasing animals back into the wild?
A: Yes, each species has different rules and guidelines for release. It is crucial to strictly follow these guidelines to ensure the best chance of survival for the animals upon their return to their natural habitat.
Q: Can Stephanie Gratton care for all types of animals?
A: Stephanie Gratton primarily focuses on caring for wild animals, as she is licensed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for this purpose. However, she may not be equipped to handle certain animals, such as geese, that require more space and specialized care.