City board shuts down wildlife rehab center

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A woman can no longer rehab wild animals in her Cedar Rapids home after neighbors protested her efforts. The woman Rachelle Hansen, operated the wildlife rehabilitation facility out of her home. It's near Navajo Park in the 2700 block of Worthington Drive Southwest.

The city says wildlife rehab isn't allowed in a residential area.

Hansen says she has had up to 20 baby raccoons and four deer here at one time, nursing them to health until they can be released into the wild.

But, more than 50 of her neighbors petitioned to shut her down, saying that refuge sent critters wandering the neighborhood.

"It brings down property value. It's a nuisance," said Neighbor Doris Henry. "She would put them in the house at night, take them out in the morning, shake out the quilt from their droppings and put them in the pen. As they grew, she would put them in another pen."

"Them" being raccoons, deer, birds and squirrels. Hansen says she volunteers to care for these animals that would be left to die in the wild.

"We try to enrich them with some of the toys they might find. Rocks and sticks and maybe shells in the case of some of the raccoons. We give them things that they will encounter later because that's what play really is all about," said Hansen.

Hansen says she's been doing this for decades and knows how to do it correctly.

"This is my home. Rehabilitators aren't funded. They're all volunteers," said Hansen. "In order to do this, we have to do it from our home."

But from Hansen's home, Henry worries about the proximity to hers.

"The deer get loose, the coons get loose," said Henry. "I have had seven coons in my front yard tree."

"You can catch one in a trap," said Hansen. "It's going to growl, it's going to carry on like any other raccoon would but they are no different than the rest that are out in the city," said Hansen.

Hansen says you can find raccoons and other animals in most neighborhoods and the risks around her home are no different.

"What if? What if it would happen? Well, it could happen with everything that's already out there," said Hansen. "Only those mothers don't have access to the things we do to be able to be sure that they're healthy."

The city says it blocked Hansen's work because she is in a residential area. She could run a wildlife center in an industrial or commercial area. Hansen says most of the wildlife has already been released while a few baby squirrels are still in containment.