Anyone living in Denton knows the area is teeming with wildlife. There are normal woodland critters like squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and skunks. There are uber-cute creatures like wild bunnies and deer. More dangerous animals roaming the Denton area include coyotes, bobcats, and snakes. And let’s not forget about the tremendous amount of birds Denton sees throughout the year, from small songbirds to soaring birds of prey.
With so much wildlife around us, sometimes Dentonites stumble upon an animal in need. Maybe you happen upon a baby bird who has fallen out of a nest and is injured. You find a nest of baby bunnies with no mother to be found. Or you find a snake in your garage and can’t figure out if it’s venomous or not.
For assistance with these types of situations, here’s a look at three individuals who make it their personal duty to help those in Denton — and even throughout North Texas — when wanting to aid the wildlife in their community.
Rabbits & More
When Diana Leggett started WildRescue, Inc. in Denton back in 1999, her primary focus was on rescuing wild rabbits. Now Leggett averages helping about 1,000 animals a year of many different species.
“My phone does not stop ringing literally from probably six in the morning until almost 11 at night,” Leggett says. “This time of year I get more than 100 calls a day.”
This is all in addition to Leggett’s day job as a paralegal.
And those calls are from all around the DFW Metroplex from concerned citizens calling not only about wild rabbits, but all kinds of wild animals. Leggett uses her wildlife expertise to respond to questions via text and will provide instructions for how Detonites can get wildlife to her center, which is also her home here in Denton.
“If you go to my Facebook page, every post is educational and I do that quite deliberately,” Leggett explains. While there’s a “cuteness factor” to the page, she also includes information on frequently asked questions she receives such as what to do if a storm is coming and there’s a nest of baby bunnies. Or what to do if you find a baby deer or baby owl.
Welcome to the Nuthouse
With a name like The North Texas Nuthouse Wildlife Rescue and Rehab, there’s no guessing Amber Cagle started her center in her South Denton home thanks to a squirrel in need.
Cagle grew up in Southeast Louisiana through traditional Native American ways as her father’s family is part of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. “We believe that mankind has dominion over animals and that’s a great responsibility,” she explains. “It means that you are also responsible for taking care of them.”
In 2013, a close friend of Cagle’s came across an orphaned squirrel on a job site. “He contacted me and said can you help him and I said, yeah, bring him to me, and he did,” Cagle recalls.
After raising the squirrel back to health, Cagle and her husband decided to pursue the necessary certifications and permits required to rehabilitate wildlife in Texas.
In addition to squirrels, The North Texas Nuthouse Wildlife Rescue and Rehab also takes in rabbits, opossums, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and coyotes. Cagle also works with other rehabbers and wildlife organizations throughout Texas for aiding birds of prey and deer.
Cagle also offers assistance to Dentonites for snake relocations. “I love reptiles, I love snakes, and so I offer that for free when I’m available — I have a lot of folks nearby that call me regularly,” she adds.
If Denton community members have questions about wildlife, they can call or text Cagle on her rescue line for advice on what to do. And if she can’t help them, there’s a good chance she will know someone who can. “(I have a) network of rehabbers that I have become friendly with — I have people all over North Texas and I actually have contacts as far south as Houston and as far north as Oklahoma that I can direct people to,” Cagle says.
What Snake is That?
Although Nature’s Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue is located in Fort Worth, founders Brandi and Mario Nickerson service not only Denton, but all the way up to the Oklahoma border, into East Texas, and as far south as Waco. Brandi Nickerson says this is mainly because of the types of animals they take in — such as fawns and birds of prey — that not all rehabbers are certified for.
“There are not many rehabbers in this area for certain species, like birds of prey,” she explains. “There’s only a couple of rehabbers in the entire North Texas (area) that take fawns, so that’s another one that we get a lot from Denton County… Our organization takes in between 2200 to 2500 animals a year, (including) wildlife and pet reptiles. Most rehabbers take in maybe 200 or 300 a year, and that’s a lot.”
Nickerson has been working in wildlife rehab since 2000 and opened Nature’s Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue in April 2012. Nickerson and her husband — who also works a full-time job in addition to working at the center — run the center out of their home.
Animals brought to the center are rehabbed and cared for until they can be placed in their outdoor facilities. And then once the animal is ready, it is released back into the wild.
In addition to caring for animals, Nickerson also runs the “What Kind of Snake is This? North Texas Educational Group” on Facebook. Originally started in 2013 by Mark Pyle, president of the DFW Herpetological Society, Nature’s Edge was asked to take over the group as its administrators. Today, the Facebook group boasts over 176,000 members with photos of snakes from all over North Texas posted daily as people look for help in identifying a snake to see if it’s venomous or not.
“Usually you can get an ID, especially when it’s busy right now, within a couple of minutes,” Nickerson says. ” Somebody’s usually going to be on there who can ID a snake for you so you know if it’s venomous or not. If it is something venomous, we do have people that will volunteer to come out, if available, and relocate some of the venomous snakes that are found in neighborhoods.”
How You Can Help
Because all three of these wildlife centers listed are located in someone’s home, hands-on volunteering with animals is not normally an option.
However, volunteers can certainly help from afar. For example, Leggett says she is looking for volunteers to help maintain her website and post on social media. She is also looking for a graphic designer to help her create a series of “what do I dos” with graphic content.
Additionally, community members can foster to adopt domestic rabbits through WildRescue, Inc. Leggett says those interested can apply online. “I’m foster to adopt, so you’re not going to walk in my house and get a bunny,” Leggett explains. “You’re going to foster it for a week, I’m going to walk you through the process, and you’re going to let me know how it goes. And if it’s if you think it’s going to work and the world’s good, you can adopt it.”
Cagle urges community members to look out for GoFundMe opportunities and look for ways they can donate needed supplies. “We’ll put out a list of things and items that we need right now,” she explains. “So if you want to donate, just grab an extra pack of paper towels next time you go to the store. Or we need this kind of meat — we have a hunter that will bring us meat scraps that we can turn around and grind up and give to our animals. We have people drop off things for us quite often.”
At Nature’s Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue, Nickerson says they have an Amazon wishlist people can make donations through. And she also says they have even had kids ask for donations for their birthday instead of presents or canvas the neighborhood to collect supplies the center needs.
“Blankets, sheets, pillowcases, towels, dog pads — we can always use stuff like that,” Nickerson adds. “There’s always something that people can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money to help. If people take an animal to (a) rehabber … take a couple of rolls of paper towels or if you had some sheets that you were going to get rid of anyway, take those along. There’s always stuff that you can find around your house if you’re going to take an animal to a rehabber that you can take and help them out.”
The North Texas Nuthouse Wildlife Rescue and Rehab can be reached by calling 940-230-2363 and visiting their Facebook page.