Injured animals take up residence in Carole Linguanti’s living room

| 27 Feb 2012 | 04:07

    Introduce us to the wildlife inhabiting your living room. This eastern painted turtle had a hook in his face. A fisherman found him and removed the hook. I got him in late September. He needed antibiotics and food, and by the time he healed up it was too close to hibernation time to let him go. I had him in a 50 gallon trough but he wasn’t sunning himself, so I moved him into a substrate of peat and moss and I give him water and food in separate containers. And these are frogs that came out of my ornamental pond. The pond is only a few feet deep so it’s hard to hibernate. The frogs come stay the winter. Why’d you become a rehabber? This is my second chapter. I have four sons, two almost out of college. I always wanted to do rehab work, but with kids it was too much. I think as you get older you really need to give back -- and I don’t want to work with humans . What creature do you get the most calls about? Gray squirrels. The first year I had maybe 25 baby squirrels. It was a really good baptism by fire. I was feeding all the baby squirrels every two to four hours, depending on the species. I couldn’t do anything else. I had two litters of red squirrels this year. A lot of nests got blown out of trees during Irene. The first litter of four died. The day after that, we got a litter of five young with their eyes still closed. They thrived. Sometimes I still see my squirrels coming to my bird feeders. My five little girls, wild and free. Before, they liked each other. Now they fight over territory. So you don’t mind when squirrels eat out of your birdfeeders? I feed ‘em. I decorate the little crabapple with sunflower seed, pinecones and corn on the ground. It’s for the birds and squirrels. My sister visits from Maine and when she sees the squirrels she bangs on the window. ‘Get out of here!’ It’s like, what’s your deal? You buy birdseed, who cares who eats it? It’s funny, people with their wildlife. You’ve chosen turtles as your specialty. Why turtles? I’ve always loved turtles. My dad was one of the “bad ones”; he’d bring box turtles home where we lived in suburban Long Island. I found them fascinating. My first pet was a turtle, when I was eight years old. Peewee. An Asian yellow pond turtle. I had him for 28 years. I had seven little children here and they left the door open . I was heartbroken. Turtles are relatively easy. Once you clean somebody up and get them going, they don’t need the same kind of extensive care as, say, baby squirrels. But you might have a turtle for two years. Also, when you save a turtle it’s of so much more value than just a squirrel. It takes one turtle 40 years of life to replace itself. Squirrels are hawk food. Of all animals, wood turtles pull hardest on your heartstrings? I find them highly intelligent. I think they recognize people; they’re shyer around strangers. I believe they can tell your face. They’re so calm and serene and trusting that we’re not going to do anything to them. Unfortunately that’s not always true. It’s magical when you find them in the wild. I feel the same thing every time I come upon one – elation. Despite being pro bono, animal rehabbing is a full-time job. How do you juggle it with work? I took a fawn to work. It spent a couple days running around the office, making this noise until I transferred it to another rehabber who does deer, to be raised away from people. The wood turtle went on vacation with us to Arcadia National Park in Maine, because what was I going to do? We’d stop the car, walk the dog, make sure the turtle was comfortable. I’d put her out on the deck in the sun. How do you feel when you lose an animal? It depends. If it’s inevitable, you detach. I had a chipmunk that dogs must’ve played tug of war with. You make sure they’re comfortable and let them pass away. But if it’s something you’ve been working with awhile, it feels pretty bad. Especially when it’s like, if you had known something different… But then there’s the next phone call. You have to move on. And you gave it a chance. If you didn’t do that, it would never have had a chance.