Thursday, July 12, 2007

Resident finds joy in rescuing wildlife

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Animal rescuer Lori Thiele crawls through an attic in search of raccoons at a home in Fort Washington.
There’s no limit to what Greenbelt resident Lori Thiele will do to return displaced wildlife to their natural habitat. Even if it means using the speakers of her Palm Pilot to play bird noises in the pitch dark of Eastern Market Metro tunnel to capture a Cooper’s Hawk.

‘‘The hawk had been in the tunnel all day so by the time we got there at midnight, it was pretty exhausted from flying from people,” Thiele, 33, said. ‘‘We tried cutting all the lights off but keeping the lights on near the stairwell so the sounds of the birds would lead it to the light. Once it fell to the ground we were able to put a net over it and let it fly away outside.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took note of her efforts and retained the services of Thiele and partner John Griffin’s animal rescue company, Animals Community Environment (ACE) Wildlife Services on May 1. The removal service operates throughout the metropolitan area.

‘‘We are a human wildlife removal business which takes trapped animals from homes and businesses and returns them to their natural environment,” said Thiele, a HSUS field specialist and former animal control officer in College Park. ‘‘We do not euthanize the animals or take to them to a far place away from their home.”

John Hadidian HSUS Urban Wildlife program director, said the partnership could become a model of more humane practices that municipal animal control shelters and humane societies could adopt through educational seminars and outreach.

‘‘We are putting together resource materials. We would be providing a sample business plan for agencies to learn about the practices and techniques used.”Hadidian said.

Griffin, 38, said that Thiele’s passion for animals has assisted immensely in building a strong partnership between the two.

‘‘She is very good at finding and rescuing [animal] babies,” Griffin said. ‘‘She has a great knowledge of animals. This job can be very stressful but like a brother and sister we have a great appreciation for one another.”

Griffin said that he and Thiele have made several unusual rescues over the years.

‘‘About a year ago we were able to rescue a mother raccoon, who had babies trapped in a furnace system, which was not easy,” Griffin said. ‘‘We had difficulty trying to get her out but once we did it was very rewarding because two days later she was able to return and take the babies with her.”

Fort Washington resident Debbie Holland said Thiele’s effort to remove a mother raccoon and her babies would allow her to get needed rest.

‘‘About a month ago I started to hear scratches in the wall.” Holland said. ‘‘Every morning around 4 or 5 my husband and I would hear baby bird like sounds and rumblings behind the wall. I guess the mother would go get food around that time.”

E-mail Marcus Ngbea at