Meet Arlington Volunteer Bonnie Forte
By Office of Communication
Posted on July 05, 2012, July 05, 2012

If someone made a reality TV show about Bonnie Forte, a great title might be "Wildlife Rescue 911".

The Arlington grandmother is the founder of Texas Metro Wildlife Rehabilitators, an organization of Tarrant County area volunteers who care for ill, injured or orphaned animals and then release them back into their natural habitats.

"There's really little support in the Metroplex for wildlife," said Forte, who's lived in Arlington for about 30 years. "There's us, and there's another organization I work with, DFW Wildlife Coalition. That's about it."

Forte's foray into the world of wildlife rescue began years ago after multiple discoveries of bunny litters in her yard.

"I had been finding them for years," she said. "We get a lot of wildlife in my neighborhood in Rush Creek. Some would be dead, others would have been orphaned or abandoned .

"I ended up raising two litters for a couple of years," she continued. "But I discovered that when I needed medicine, I couldn't find a vet to work with me. And the animal control people didn't really have any options but to put them down." These gaps eventually led Forte to band with other volunteers to start their own rescue project.

According to Texas Metro Wildlife's website, the organization is made up of state-certified, volunteer wildlife rehabilitators who deal with animals like possums, squirrels, raccoons, bats and cottontails (the latter is Forte's particular specialty) at a rate of hundreds a year.

The group also provides education that helps people better understand the needs of "our wild neighbors" and what to do when encountering an injured or orphaned animal.

"We have people who mentor with us as foster parents until they become licensed," explained Forte. "Public education is very important. It's actually against the law for people to keep or raise wild animals-in fact, 60 percent of abandoned animals have actually been kidnapped.

"I had a man drive two hours to bring me a rabbit one time, though there's not many who would do that," she said. "Some people try to get involved who don't really understand the commitment it takes, and some are animal collectors or hoarders. We want to attract volunteers who are in this for the long haul, who understand that our goal is to release healthy animals back into their natural environments."

Forte said that her group is overwhelmed with requests for assistance, especially during spring or in the wake of extended droughts, when natural food sources dry up.

Anyone interested in helping can offer a cash or in-kind donation of retail gift cards or food. Contributions will go towards food and formula, caging materials, vet bills and transportation fuel costs for volunteers.

"What's so incredible about this work is the bonding that goes on with these animals," said Forte. "As they learn to tolerate our presence, they offer us a glimpse into their world. It's absolutely fascinating."


Bonnie Forte

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