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The compassionate ripple effect

Orphaned baby grey squirrel at Wildwoods. Small acts of compassion at Wildwoods can positively affect our community and the world we live in. (Photo by Vrieze Photography)

"Saving one animal won't change the world, but for that one animal, the world has forever changed." — Unknown author

Perhaps you have heard the above quote at one time or another. Here at Wildwoods, it is an idea that resonates deeply with all of us. We are committed, devoted and wholeheartedly invested in the lives of the animals brought to us. We mend them when we can, raise them when they are orphaned and, when all else fails, give them a dignified end to pain. We do this work not only because we love and appreciate our wild neighbors, but also to assist the people in our community. No matter how small or common an animal may seem, we treat them all as if they matter greatly because to us and those who care enough to bring them in, they do. Their importance and significance in the world goes beyond their place in the ecosystem. They become a touchstone, a symbol of our compassion and our humanity.

It can be distressing to find an injured, sick or orphaned wild animal, and we are here to walk people through these unfamiliar predicaments. Ultimately, we are here to resolve the situation for the human and to get the animal the help it needs. Interestingly, what we find more often than not is that there is a significant change in the lives of the people who have participated in the rescue of an animal. That is perhaps the most powerful and visible ripple effect of what we accomplish.

When a fellow creature is in distress and in need, we are given the opportunity to show compassion and give aid. We have found that people will drive hours, brave treacherous situations, carefully assemble makeshift nests and patiently set humane live traps to bring injured animals in for treatment. This happens because they have the ability and desire to make a difference, no matter how insignificant it may appear. We frequently receive inquiries from concerned people about how an animal they brought in to us is faring. A connection is formed because they have invested in this creature's survival. Many enthusiastically participate in the successful release back to the wild after rehabilitation.

We also often get follow-up calls from people we have guided over the phone, who excitedly inform us that the window-strike bird they had been tending finally flew off or that a mother bird came back to a renested baby. We are so pleased to share these victories and triumphs with those we have been assisting. Many of these kindhearted people join our Facebook community, become financial supporters or volunteer their time at our facility.

When the stories of these actions are told to friends, shared on social media or documented with pictures, it brings to the forefront the knowledge that we are all empowered to demonstrate compassion and that we have choices available in our actions. This concept, and the unique experience of impacting the life of a wild animal, can bring about a desire to learn more about them and the environment they live in. It can start a discussion on when to trim trees, the dangers of lead and poisons and even the need to crush empty plastic yogurt containers. We can all bring about change: one baby squirrel, nesting bird or injured eagle at a time. One action, one conversation, one contribution at a time.

Perhaps a more fitting quote is, "Saving one animal won't change the world, but for that one animal, its rescuer and the community, the world has forever changed." — Unknown author and Tara Smith

Tara Smith had spent 10 years as a pastry chef on the East Coast. She is now back in Minnesota working with wildlife, her lifelong passion, at Wildwoods of Duluth.

Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth. For information on how you can help wildlife, including volunteer opportunities, visit, call (218) 491-3604 or write to P.O. Box 3161, Duluth, MN 55803.