Days after the snow descended, cleanup and repair work continue at Indian Trail’s Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.
The snow in the area Christmas night weighed down the facility’s netting, causing it to collapse and injuring several animals. Now the group, which takes care of injured birds from around the region, struggles to rebuild and juggle the continuing stream of animals with rent, utility and repair bills.
“We’ve torn pallets apart to get wood. We’ve disassembled cages to get parts because we honestly don’t have the money to go out and get stuff,” Director Jennifer Gordon said.
Holes in the netting are no more than two inches in diameter, to prevent predators like red-tailed hawks from swooping down and grabbing a bird perched near the top. Gordon thought the flakes would fall through, but instead, they stuck on top, bringing portions of the entire structure down. A volunteer came out that morning to feed the animals, then called Gordon about 8 a.m.
Most of the 150 birds were uninjured, with some just suffering from frostbite. One goose healing from a fractured wing re-injured himself, and the operation’s mascot, Marmalade the rooster, took a hit on the head.
“He almost died twice,” Gordon said of the rooster, who’s still recovering. “When we found him, he was covered in blood. The collapse was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat.”
The rooster is something of a rock star among fans of the operation, complete with his own Facebook page labeled Marm A Lade.
The rescue operation is home to other animals as well, from herons to seagulls and swans. There’s Fuzzy, a goose who was brought in two weeks ago from Michigan, where he was going to be euthanized due to some developmental disabilities. Now the group is working to help teach the young goose how to survive. There’s also Emily the duck, who has a prosthetic bill after hers was torn off. The staff raised money for her surgery and now she stays around the barn area, as Gordon said it’s hard to find someone who will adopt a duck with a prosthetic.
Three days after the incident, volunteers had erected a patchwork system of netting, using plywood to jury-rig a scaffold.
“We still have a ton of stuff to be done,” Gordon said. “We had panels blow off (the aviary) that need to be fixed, cages to rebuild. We need to brace the whole aviary system to distribute the weight. There’s stuff anybody can do.”
The day after the collapse, Gordon said she had more than double the usual amount of volunteers, but the numbers have dwindled. During the winter months especially, volunteers rarely visit on Wednesdays and Thursdays, leaving just Gordon to handle the work.
“We had a lot of people the first day (after), a few the next day and here on the third day, it’s just me,” Gordon said.
Donations also have been slow in coming. On a good month, Carolina Waterfowl gets less than $900 in donations, not enough to cover the $1,000 rent at the 220 Garmon Road location. Add in $250 in utility bills and the cost of repairs, and things get pricy.
“We’ve all been pitching in to help cover the costs,” Gordon said.
Gordon herself was recently laid off from her job at Wells Fargo and now has to juggle job hunting with taking care of the animals.
The operation’s website is carolinawaterfowlrescue.com, and call at 704-668-9486.