To the Rescue: New Mid-South wildlife rehab will treat squirrels, foxes, and more

In the Mid-South, there are numerous resources and rescue organizations dedicated to helping a cat or dog in need. Some kind-hearted individuals may even grab a down-and-out pooch or tabby off the street to give it a home or nurse it back to health.

But when wild critters like opossums and squirrels are hurt or orphaned, nearby options are scarce. The newly opened Out of the Woods Wildlife Rescue and Rehab is working to give these furry friends a second chance at life too. 

“I’m licensed for class two wildlife. So I’ll be taking in mostly raccoons, opossums, squirrels and foxes. I can also accept some rabbits and some birds,” said founder Sami Harvey.

Anyone who'd like to support the new nonprofit or those in need of help with an animal can call (901) 340-6534 or email [email protected] 

For a $100 donation, they'll name a rescued squirrel after you.

Harvey is a Mumford High School and University of Memphis graduate. She was furloughed by Hilton in the pandemic but now works for Eventbrite while launching Out of the Woods.

“There have only been two licensed rehabbers in this area for the past several years,” said Harvey, who rescued her first squirrel at eight-years-old. “I realized I had the perfect opportunity to fill the gap.”

A 16x28 structure was recently delivered to Harvey’s property in Shelby Forest with over 500 sq. ft. of space for enclosures, enrichment areas, and a small kitchen. There are also outdoor enclosures and pre-release cages to house animals in the last stages of their rehabilitation.
Sami Harvey rescued her first squirrel at eight-years-old. Sami recently opened the Out of the Woods Wildlife Rescue and Rehab on her property in Shelby Forest. It's a haven for small native critters like raccoons, foxes, squirrels. (Submitted)
Currently, 10 squirrels and four raccoons are under Harvey’s care. 

To learn the ins and outs of rehabbing, Harvey trained under her mentor Claire Haslwanter. Together, they raised and released several raccoons and squirrels. The former can require up to four months of care.

Like an infant, raccoon kits start out being bottle-fed around the clock. As they age, time between feedings increases and solids are introduced to their diets. They also spend time outside every day.

“It’s a lot like going through infancy to kindergarten in a season instead of five years. And instead of kindergarten, it’s college, and you never see them again,” said Harvey, who is also mother to two daughters.

Now licensed following the inspection of the facility, she plans to mentor others interested in rescuing animals.

“I’ll be able to train others to get their licenses, so we can have an expanding network of trained volunteers who are able to help Tennessee’s native wildlife,” said Harvey.

Vintage scout badges inspired Out of the Woods’ logo design, which features the outline of a raccoon face with the organization’s name arching over and under the art.

Graphic designer Laura Horn designed Harvey’s logo and is also a hands-on volunteer. She's moved furniture and appliances to set up the center, donated handmade play pieces and crates for the animals, helps fund-raise, feeds animals, and more.

“I’ll help out as long as she lets me! It’s such a necessary and brilliant thing she’s putting together. I want to be a part of it however I can,” said Horn.

The nonprofit is still in its infancy. A vet in Collierville helps with injured wildlife, but Harvey has no formalized partnerships. Volunteer help is much needed. Currently, Harvey’s kids, partner, and friends are happy to help.

A GoFundMe campaign was started with a goal of reaching $15,000. To-date it’s raised just over $5,500. Harvey said she’s raised around $10,000 total, including t-shirt sales, since fundraising began. An online silent auction is slated for November.

First year costs are expected to run upwards of $18,000. So far, Harvey has spent $13,000 to get the facility up and running, which includes the purchase of the structure, equipment, and feed. Average monthly expenses are estimated to be around $1,000.

She's already planning improvements for next year, like bigger enclosures with more enrichment areas.

“It’s small now, but I have hope that it will grow over time,” said Harvey.

Read more articles by Jim Coleman.

Jim Coleman is a freelance writer, covering a variety of topics from high school sports, community news and small business. He has written for different news organizations over the past 20 years, including The Commercial Appeal, Community Weeklies, Lexington Herald-Leader and The Albuquerque Journal.
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