Weiser woman specializes in wild baby critters

Badgers are just one of the many wild baby animals that arrive at the Animals in Distress Association (AIDA) rehabilitation and education facility in Boise from around the state on any given day. In Weiser, resident Georgia Hites volunteers time to the organization by taking in local animals and caring for them until Annex resident and AIDA volunteer Lauri Marshall transports them to Boise. Marshall is a vet tech at Boise Bench Hospital. Above, AIDA’s Michelle Rice shows Matthew Janquart, brother of Signal American editor Phil Janquart, a baby badger that recently came to the facility. It was found near Mountain Home. Photo by Philip A. Janquart

Weiser resident, Georgia Hites, volunteers her time to helping injured and baby wild animals. Most people know her by word of mouth and know they can count on her to provide squirrels, foxes, coyotes, skunks and other animals the proper care until they can be taken to a facility in Boise. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hites
Philip A. Janquart

Georgia Hites has cared for a wide range of animals throughout her lifetime

It all started when she was 14-years-old.

 Weiser resident Georgia Hites, who grew up in Boise, was given a baby squirrel to care for. 
 Her mother, Patricia Sasenbery, managed the Idaho Humane Society beginning in the 1960s and into the ‘80s. On the side, she would care for wild baby animals who had somehow lost their way and found themselves alone in the world, hungry and with no shelter.
 “There was no wildlife rescue back then, so my mother brought them home,” Georgia explained. “My dad would raise the owls and release them, and my mother raised the little squirrel babies.”
 She took the responsibility of caring for the squirrel that was handed off to her seriously and, in time, was able to successfully release it back into nature.
 Later, when she was a mother herself, her children would come home with various animals, Georgia unable to turn them away.
 “My kids started bringing me little critters they found, and I’d take care of them,” she said.
 Meanwhile, an organization dedicated to rehabilitating wild animals and releasing them back into the wild was formed. 
 Animals in Distress Association (AIDA) was founded in 1987 by Toni Hicks and Mady Rothchild. The nonprofit’s operational funds come 100 percent through donations. 
 Georgia joined the group about 30 years ago. Today, she is the contact point for Weiser area residents who find injured animals or babies that don’t appear to have a mother.
 She has dealt with everything from foxes to skunks, coyotes to birds of prey, but has a special knack for squirrels.
 “I was a newborn feeder for baby squirrels that were no bigger than a piece of cooked macaroni,” she said. “I never lost a single one. I’m really good at it. The most I had at any one time was 26, and 13 of them were newborns, but 26 is my limit.”
“They have to be fed every hour because the mother stays with them around the clock for about the first 10 days. It’s really grueling, but I’m a chronic insomniac, so it works out great because I wake up all the time,” Georgia chuckled.
 Many people in Weiser are familiar with Georgia, mostly through word of mouth.
 “A lot of people know me because I’ve been up here for 21 years, helping out and doing what I can,” she said. “I’ll have people, in the middle of dinner, pull up and open up their trunk with baby skunks, raccoons, and foxes and usually, I’m thinking, ‘Well, there goes dinner!’”
 Georgia takes the animals in until Annex resident Lauri Marshall shows up. Marshall is a vet tech working for Bench Animal Hospital in Boise. From there, they are transported to AIDA where volunteers care for them, ultimately releasing them back into the wild.
 Marshall picks up animals on workdays, Monday through Thursday. If something comes in after 6 a.m. on Thursday, Georgia keeps the animal until the following Monday.
 “Lauri does all of the transports for Georgia,” said Michelle Rice who, along with Mady and a few volunteers, takes care of Boise’s animals at AIDA’s mammal center. 
 “They both volunteer all of their time and they really deserve a lot of recognition for what they do,” she said. “Georgia is the only one rescuing animals in Weiser and the surrounding area.”
 Marshall makes special trips, too, sometimes even as far as Moscow to retrieve animals from a smaller rehab facility. Along with her group of volunteers, Michelle effectively handles most of the wild animal rehabilitations in the state. She is currently caring for a baby badger that was found somewhere near Mountain Home.
 Michelle, who has been a full-time volunteer for seven years, stumbled upon wild animal care in much the same way Georgia did.
 “I found a baby squirrel in my front yard and took it to Toni and she kind of reeled me in,” she said.
 Last year, volunteers took in hundreds of baby squirrels.
 The number and species of wild animals coming out of the Weiser area varies. Overall, AIDA has taken in an unusual number of foxes this year.
 “We are calling it the year of the fox,” Michelle said. “Last year was a raccoon/coyote year.”
 Georgia said the number of birds of prey needing help have increased the last two years due to unusually high temperatures. Birds of prey, however, always end up in the capable hands of retired wildlife researcher James McKinley who rehabilitates and releases them.
 “I do this to give back to the community,” said McKinley, who lives in Middleton. “I have a state and federal permit to rehabilitate all birds. I specialize in birds of prey so when Georgia gets them, she routes them to me.”
 Interestingly, McKinley said that all birds are protected under state and federal law except species that are not native to north America, such as pigeons, starlings, English house sparrows, and Eurasian collared doves.
 AIDA rehabilitates non-birds of prey through its Rush Melichar Bird Center.
 Georgia said that she loves helping wild baby animals and accepts just about every species. Her favorite, however, are baby skunks.
 “When I was a little girl, a toddler, I was in love with the movie ‘Bambi’ and I had a stuffed skunk called ‘Flower.’ I packed that everywhere and every time somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be a skunk,” she giggled. “Little did I know that when I became an adult, that would become my favorite animal to rescue. Those little, tiny babies are so sweet, so playful, and funny.”
 If you have a wild animal that needs care, call Georgia Hites at (208) 741-0166. For more information on AIDA or to make a donation, visit their website at www.idahowildliferescue.org or call (208) 367-1026.



Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
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