For as long as he can remember, Robert Yonchak has had an interest in helping the wounded.
The four-legged wounded, that is.
Yonchak has been licensed as a wildlife rehabilitator through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources since the 1980s and says the job is one that he finds extremely fulfilling.
"I think we saw an (advertisement) in a Georgia Farmer's Market Bulletin about wildlife rehabilitation and responded to it," said Yonchak, of Jefferson County.
Yonchak will bring his knowledge to Mistletoe State Park in Appling on Sept. 18 as he presents a program on wildlife rehabilitation. The program will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
"I'm really just going to explain to them what I do and talk to them about what to do and not to do," said Yonchak.
According to Yonchak, the biggest misconception is that an animal has been orphaned and is therefore removed from its location. Most times, he said, people will pick the animal up and take it home.
"Unless you know for sure that the mother is dead, leave it alone," he said. "A mama deer knows where her baby doe is and will come back. And the old adage that if you touch an animal the mother won't come back isn't true."
Yonchak has received calls late at night and early in the morning -- once at 2:30 a.m. -- to come out and pick up a wounded animal for rehabilitation. He said his daughters, ages 11 and 14, are more involved with rehab than he is.
"It's a good learning experience for them," he said, adding that they will assist him during his presentation at Mistletoe.
It might take a few weeks -- sometimes longer -- to rehabilitate an animal.
With a new lease on life, the animals the Yonchaks have nurtured are freed to return to their natural habitat. They are released on the nearly 85 acres the Yonchaks own behind their home.
Recently, Yonchak's daughters spotted a deer they named Buddy roaming the woods near a pond on the property.
"We call his name and he just turns and looks at us," he said. "My daughters know for the most part the animals are going to hang around."
For information on the Mistletoe State Park program, call the park office at (706) 541-0321. Individuals interested in learning more about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator can visit the DNR Web site at www.gadnr.org and click on the online services link.
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