ROSEVILLE (AP) -- Two swans, a wild turkey and a nearsighted cormorant now make their home in Roseville's Central Park. A starling with a broken wing recently moved in, too.
But you won't find them on a trek through the woods or near the ball fields.
These critters are among the dozens of wild animals recuperating from injuries at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which moved this winter from its longtime home at the University of Minnesota, and is now up and running in a new building in the Roseville park.
The swans share a semiprivate room near the rear of the center; each has its own kiddie swimming pool and plenty of room to maneuver. The tundra swan was shot in the wing and the trumpeter swan has no left eye. Both were found near Fergus Falls.
DNR officials often bring injured animals to the center for treatment.
"The swans wouldn't survive in the wild anymore," said Phil Jenni, the center's director. "When they're ready to leave here, they're going to a Wisconsin nature center to be used as breeding stock."
The center treats any wild animal native to the area, Jenni said. That means no exotic snakes, lost tigers or crocodiles, or pets of any kind. But since 1979, the center has treated thousands of wild birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians from 168 species.
In the summer, hundreds of orphaned or abandoned baby birds are raised at the center; volunteers feed each one many times a day until they are able to live on their own.
When the animals can be saved, they are usually released into the wild near the spot where they were found.
Squirrels from the Twin Cities area, though, are released in northern Minnesota, because it is hard for them to re-establish a territory in the crowded Twin Cities squirrel community.
The center was founded by veterinary students at the University of Minnesota who wanted to treat wildlife, rather than the usual array of domesticated dogs and cats, or cows and horses. For many years it operated as a student organization.
In 1997, the center was reorganized as an independent nonprofit group, and having outgrown its musty quarters at the university, began looking for a new home.
An arrangement with the city of Roseville allowed the center to build its 13,500-square-foot animal hospital on park land. Animals were moved to their new quarters in December and the facility is now fully operational, although the rooms designated for surgery and X-rays still need equipment that won't be purchased until more money is donated.
The center operates without state or federal tax money, relying instead on donors, including those who bring animals for treatment.
"The good news is, we aren't facing cuts because of the (state's) budget problems, but it does take a lot of $5 and $10 and $20 donations to reach $350,000," the center's annual operating budget, Jenni said. There is also a separate fund-raising drive to pay for the new building and equipment.
"We get dollar bills in the mail and someone regularly sends us a money order for $4. It's very humbling to see how people help us," he said.
A blue jay flies to the window of a bird treatment room, checks out the human activity in the hall, then soars back toward a fir tree set up as its harbor.
A wild turkey in the same room yaps like a puppy. Its wing injury has healed, aided by medication, and it will soon be released.
Not so with the blue jay. It has become socialized and wouldn't survive on its own, Jenni said. So while the staff continues to treat it, the jay serves as a surrogate parent to other baby birds, helping them learn to fly.
"We don't name the animals, as a rule, because we don't want to get attached to them," Jenni said. The jay is a rare exception, because it's been around more than a year: They call it B.J.
Feeding the animals is a major undertaking; in the kitchen you will find grubs, minnows, rabbit trail mix, game bird chow, pigeon mix and other tasty morsels.
Many thousands of crickets are ordered from The Bug Company in Ham Lake. Its slogan: "Plump juicy morsels in stay-fresh exoskeletons."
The tundra swan's chart calls for this nutritious meal: one cup waterfowl mix, five crickets, and water with greens -- an aviary lettuce smoothie of sorts.
A special woodpecker feeder was made by drilling 18 holes in a piece of wood. Grubs and worms and other woodpecker delicacies are put into the holes, so the bird can find its food as it would in the wild.
The cormorant and other waterfowl are fed minnows, served up fresh and alive in a small pool. Freed from his cage for a meal, the cormorant swoops around the room, landing occasionally atop cages and the counter. It can eat 100 minnows in 30 seconds, its handlers say. But its vision is faulty and as it flies across the room, its wings graze the head of a slow-moving observer.
The cormorant was found near Forest Lake with a wing wound. Because its sight is poor, it won't go back into the wild, so center officials are searching for a home at a nature center or zoo.
Jenni, who came to the center a year ago after 16 years as a policy specialist with the Citizens League, gives many speeches about the wildlife work, and is often asked: Why bother to save squirrels? Aren't there enough of them already?
"We're a wild-animal hospital and we treat everything that comes to us," he said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.