Hearing a shot in the woods, a couple of boys went to investigate and found a coyote dead and a small bundle of fur sitting by her.
“They weren’t really sure what he was,” said Elise Bauer on Saturday morning as she opened a small crate that resembled a den to allow the soft fluff ball to come out.
About a month old now, the coyote pup “is growing and eating like a little machine,” Bauer said in a recent post on the Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation Facebook page.
Bauer hopes to soon transfer the pup to Pine View Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center in Fredonia, where he can continue his journey to being released back into the wild.
“That’s the goal — to release them into their natural habitat,” said Bauer, who also is caring for raccoons, a rabbit and squirrels at the moment.
To focus more on that work, the lifelong animal lover plans to leave her job as executive director at the Eau Claire County Humane Association in the near future.
“I think I just want to focus on the wildlife,” said Bauer as she gave a tour of her rehab operation.
Bauer launched Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation at the town of Seymour farm she shares with her husband, Dan, their dogs, chickens, cows, a donkey and pigs in summer 2010. Before then, she knew she eventually wanted to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, but the closing of White Pine Wildlife Rehabilitation near Fall Creek in April of that year provided the push she needed to make her vision a reality.
“That hit me … because there was no one else, no place else for people to take animals,” Bauer told me in September 2010.
Back then, Bauer was working at the ECCHA as its agricultural humane officer. She eventually landed the facility’s top job, and on occasion over the years, she brought some of her wild charges to work with her, so she could feed them.
Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation is licensed by the state to care for chipmunks, foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, waterfowl, weasels and woodchucks.
“I really enjoy seeing the different animals come in,” Bauer said Saturday as she showed the animal intake area — her husband’s former childhood playhouse — where the coyote pup and multiple young raccoons and squirrels of different ages were kept in different cages.
Some of the squirrels and raccoons hadn’t opened their eyes yet, but others, including four female raccoons from Clark County, had and were quite active — and vocal.
“They want their milk,” said Bauer as she held one of the masked furry critters, which sucked on the end of her finger. (She’ll eventually train the raccoons to use a litter box.)
In the cages of the older squirrels, Bauer had placed chunky peanut butter, unsalted mixed nuts and peanuts, blueberries and carrots, along with squirrel nesting boxes.
As the animals get older, Bauer will move them outside to one of the many pre-release cages, where they will stay until she determines they are ready to be released at one of multiple release sites she uses.
On average, Bauer figures Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation takes in 20 raccoons a year, along with 40 to 50 rabbits and 80 to 100 squirrels. In 2017, the facility had about 20 ducklings.
Bauer uses intake forms to keep track of each critter that her nonprofit takes in. The forms include notes about the animals’ condition and where they came from. The bulk of the wildlife she cares for comes from Eau Claire, Dunn and Chippewa counties.
“I’m always surprised at the end of the year how many animals I take in,” she said. “We put so much effort into the babies, so seeing them thrive makes it all worth it.”
Even though she is excited to focus all of her energy on Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation, Bauer admits it will be bittersweet to leave the ECCHA.
“I love it, I love the staff, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done at the shelter,” Bauer said. That work has included opening the Community Pet Pantry, where people in need can find food for their cats, dogs and other pets, along with supplies, and launching a barn cat program.
But she is ready to turn her full attention to Chippewa Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation. As a nonprofit, it doesn’t receive financial support from the state, so Bauer relies on the community for donations. Later this year, she is hoping to hold her first fundraiser.
“I’m really excited to see where this will all go,” she said.
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