Weaverville – Nancy Vergara is the person to call if you’ve got a bunny problem. The self-described “bunny whisperer” is a NC state licensed small wildlife rehabber. This includes rabbits, mice, squirrels, chipmunks and possums. When wild animals are hurt, trapped or endangered, Vergara says its best for a professional to handle the job—her services are free of charge.
The Alexander resident always had a unique love of animals. When her children went away to college, they encouraged her to follow her passion through volunteering.
“My youngest son said, Mom, you always loved animals, you’re always picking up animals on the side of roads that are injured. So, I looked into volunteering, and I started with Appalachian Wildlife Refuge,” Vergara says. “That’s where I decided I wanted to get my wildlife rehabilitation license. So, I got my license, I still volunteer with them, but I do have my license now for the for the state.”
Vergara’s license allows her to rehabilitate small mammals at her house. It’s unlawful for anyone to have wildlife in their possession unless they have a license, so many people contact Vergara to assist injured animals they find through Western North Carolina.
“So many people will take a squirrel that they found and try themselves to rehabilitate it and turn it loose. The trouble is it’s dangerous for them because they don’t know what disease, what condition that animal might pass on to them or their family and pets. They also don’t know their proper nutrition or have access to the medicine that that animal may need. So, we put laws in place to protect both the people and the animal,” Vergara says.
Though Vergara is only licensed for specific animals, she takes courses and seminars on other species to know how to transport them to the correct rehabbers. Vergara often receives calls about birds and other animals—she then catches and brings them to the best trained individuals to treat them.
Many citizens of Weaverville can recall the injured blue heron that resided at Lake Louise. For months, Vergara received dozens of calls about the injured bird, who had a lure in its beak.
“The blue heron was another story that was a sad story. [For a long time] I could not get closer than 10 feet and he would fly away from me. The public got really involved, and it’s nice to get the public involved but it becomes dangerous because they’re not sure what they’re doing. [Some said,] ‘oh we’re gonna throw a net,’ but you have to be careful because if you throw the net improperly, you could drown the animal,” Vergara says.
The heron got spooked and moved to Beaver Lake for a few weeks. When he returned, Vergara was finally able to capture him.
“It was horrible, he had this lure in his beak. It was encrusted all the way and his condition was so sad. I took him to the Carolina Waterfowl [in Charlotte] for them to treat him. It was a sad story because they ended up having to euthanize him it was such a bad case—that lure was so embedded in his beak that there was no way of saving him,” Vergara recollects.
Vergara spoke to the Weaverville city council at their May meeting and encouraged wildlife signage at Lake Louise to prevent animal harm.
“It’s really sad to see all these animals with injuries that really can be prevented, they’re all inflicted by us not cleaning up after ourselves not having a place to dispose of our fishing equipment, things like that.
I see people feeding bread to birds, but bread has no nutrition for them, and it also pollutes the lake. Anytime I’m there and I see these kids feed them bread, I tell them, ‘Buy fresh peas or buy frozen peas.’ It’s more nutritious for the animal and it will not pollute our lake,” Vergara says.
Signs encouraging the disposal of lures and cleanup after fishing are essential, Vergara says. Such lures are also dangerous for pets and children.
If you are in need of Vergara’s services, contact her at (828) 273-0068, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook: facebook.com/Nancy.Bunny.Whisperer