On a mission for wildlife: Busiest year’ yet

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 23, 2001

Wildlife rehabilitator Becki Bolm, feeds a pair of young Mississippi kites Sunday at her home on Fort Hill Drive. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/23/01] Becky Bolm got her first patient when she was 6, after her brother had knocked a sparrow out of the Greenville sky with his new BB gun.

Too injured to be helped by Bolm or anyone else, the tiny bird succumbed to its wounds.

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Since then, however, Bolm has more than balanced out her initial failure. From her home on Fort Hill Drive, the former school administrator runs a rehabilitation service for injured and abandoned wild animals, 157 of which have been through her back yard since January.

“It’s been our busiest year, by far,” said Bolm, 48, who has been licensed by state and federal wildlife agencies since 1998.

Currently, Bolm and her husband, George, a former hunter who has hung up his rifle since marrying, are caring for six squirrels, four deer, two raccoons, two kites and a bat. They get the animals from veterinarians, wildlife agencies and other people who find abandoned or injured wildlife in the woods.

The deer, all of which are about three weeks old, are typical patients, Bolm said. The mother of one was killed by a car, and Bolm said the others were simply abandoned.

More unusual was the pot-bellied pig from Campbell Swamp that limped into the Bolms’ backyard with a skinny, dehydrated appearance not at all in keeping with its name. Bolm thought it would take months to rehabilitate the hog. She was wrong.

“By the end of a week, he was ruling the roost here,” she said. “He was fat in no time.”

Though she said she appreciates people who bring in animals, Bolm, a Vicksburg resident since 1981, said compassion sometimes gets the best of potential Good Samaritans.

“A lot of times, people see animals alone in the woods and think, Oh, it’s mother has died,’ or, Oh, it’s abandoned,'” Bolm said. “That’s not true, and people need to know that. If it’s a bird alone on the ground, for example, its mother is probably trying to teach it to fly.”

The Bolms keep most of the animals in a fenced-in part of their back yard, next to a section reserved for Weisa, a 14-year-old cocker spaniel named after the character in “Steel Magnolias.”

“It’s really a full-time thing,” said Bolm, who owned the Montessori School until 1998. Bolm is also a docent at the Jackson zoo, teaching visitors about wildlife.

Her primary enterprise is not profitable. Kites like three meals of 40 crickets every day, so Bolm and her husband have to order the insects by mail in packages of 1,000. The same goes for raccoons and bananas, fawns and milk.

“We spend a lot more than you’d think,” Bolm said. “But somebody’s got to do this.”

One other Vicksburg resident Betty White operates a wildlife rescue service. Bolm said two Jackson veterinarians also have wildlife rehab licenses, but “they have so much on their hands, so it’s hard for them to really get into it.”

The Bolms don’t foresee similar commitment problems.

“We’ll be doing this for a while,” George Bolm said. “I’m just a helper, but we love it.”