Clearwater Sanctuary A HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE AND PEOPLE Story and Photos by Donna Bush Sponsored by: It all started when an injured raccoon with a huge swollen leg wandered onto Nancy Torcson’s deck looking for anything it could find to eat. It was easy to see that it wouldn’t survive long with the horrific injury: unable to climb trees, forage for food or fend off predators. Nancy asked her husband’s opinion. “I’d put him in the hospital on IV antibiotics.” Nancy thought that was a pretty good idea but acted on it a bit differently by taking antibiotics from her house, stuffing them inside a grape and rolling it across the deck. The injured and starving raccoon quickly and gratefully gulped it down. The next day when he stopped by the deck, his leg was half the size! And thus an idea and a mission were born. With a passion and compassion for wildlife, Nancy has always desired to help eliminate suffering. It dates back to her days with the New Orleans Public Schools Administration Office when the Louisiana Nature Center at Joe Brown Park enlisted her aid in raising money to support their Wildlife Rehab
We hope you enjoy this installment from award-winning outdoors photographer and writer, Donna Bush. Inspired by life... Curiosity seeker... Inviting all Slidell Magazine readers to join her. 28
program. Nancy waited late into the night to plead her case before the School Board to receive permission to bring The Nature Center’s animals into the school rooms for education purposes and request the children to donate nickels, dimes, quarters, whatever they could contribute to the care and rehab of the wildlife. They didn’t raise a lot of money, but it was a start and it planted the idea of caring for wildlife in many young children. Nancy decided that she wanted to help wildlife when she retired from the school system. She trained at The Nature Center under Jennifer Coulson and at The Audubon Zoo under Jamie Primm, received her own license and began her own rehab operation. She formed Clearwater Wildlife Sanctuary in St. Tammany Parish as a 501c3 in 1989 with 20+ acres and a small building allowing for both indoor and outdoor rehab. There are many ingredients to wildlife rehab, as I learned first-hand by attending the initial 3-session training. Topics covered included state and federal requirements to become a wildlife rehabilitator; health, safety, zoonotic diseases and animal care basics. Once the basics are covered, a volunteer will then work one-on-one with a staff member. The Sanctuary takes in all ages and species of animals, with the exception of alligators, bats and deer, with a goal of complete recovery and return to the wild.
I spent my one-on-one time with site supervisor, Jesse Long, who has been with Clearwater just over a year and a half. Nancy describes Jesse, “He is an employee, but so much more. He always goes above and beyond to help the animals and the volunteers.” I can definitely attest to this! It was easy to visualize Jesse’s love and appreciation for the wildlife and people. He shared every detail and more with me. He shared his diagnosis of PTSD and how he has received and is receiving healing from both the wildlife and the people at Clearwater Sanctuary! Jesse has found his sanctuary and his healing through meditation and caring compassion for wildlife. He carefully attends to every need all day and frequently throughout the night. Jesse shares, “My favorite was the barred owl with the broken wing, splinted in a purple cast. His eyes pierced into your soul! It was like he could read your mind! After his cast was removed and he was placed in an outdoor flight cage for rehab, he would follow me with his eyes as I took care of the other animals in the area. When release time came, he took flight out of his cage heading to a close-by tree perching on a high limb. Eventually he ventured off to explore his new surroundings.” What do you enjoy most about your job? “The daily privilege of being able to peer into places you don’t normally get a chance to