HERRICK, Ill. (AP) - As rain pours down on a small farm outside of Edgewood in June, wildlife rescuer Anne Eddings looks for a fawn. It was supposed to be on site after the man who had kept the 1-year-old deer on his property without a license had been cited by the conservation police.
The fawn was nowhere to be found. Eddings said if the deer was found, she could bring it to be rehabilitated. Unfortunately she expects the worst. The fawn, which was to be named Jane Doe, was intended to join a herd of deer in Herrick, some of which the Eddings have already rehabilitated.
"I wasn't there to steal a deer," she said as she left the property. "I was there to rehab a deer and that was going to be a long process."
Anne and her husband, Ron, run Herrick Wildlife Rescue, a nonprofit organization which rehabilitates animals taken from abusive or domesticated situations and reintegrates them back into the wild. While most of the time, individuals contact the Eddings when they have an animal that needs to be taken care of, other times, the couple works with conservation services to locate animals that need to be rehabilitated, which they have been doing locally for four years.
It's certainly not the first time and it won't be the last someone attempts to domesticate a wild animal. Eddings said she has taken care of an uncountable number of raccoons that have been in people's homes illegally without a license. She has spent eight to nine months rehabilitating them before sending them back into the wild.
Eddings isn't certain why people take the animals out of their natural environments to care for them as pets but suspects many don't realize the permanent damage they're doing.
"They take them, and they think they're going to love these animals," she said. "They're still wild. People don't know, but if they really loved them, they'd leave them to go free."
At the Eddings' home in Herrick, animals go through a two-step process before being released back into the wild. First, the young animals are brought into the house where they're fed and cared for until they're able to feed and take care of themselves. From there, the raccoons, squirrels and more are taken to enclosures around the barn, where they adapt among their kind, readying them for their social unit in the wild.
For now, the animals have taken over an entire room of the house. Twenty raccoons jostle each other in their cages next to rabbits, squirrels and an otter named Otis.
"Some people in Vandalia drove over a bridge and thought she was a puppy," Eddings said while bottle feeding the still young river otter as it lay on its back. "They took it to the vet, who told them it definitely wasn't a puppy."
The newest animal to arrive is a young fawn, similar to the one Eddings had hoped to pick up in Edgewood. The animal was found dehydrated near Lake Taylorville after its mother had been killed. It, however, won't be the newest animal at the rescue. Eddings plans to pick up a 30-pound raccoon from Springfield soon.
Even after the rehabilitation process is complete, Eddings said animals occasionally come back to the barn or come up to the house, not quite ready to re-enter the wild they were away from for so long. Eddings said she works to get them ready to enter the wild again, spending another few days before trying to send them back into nature. It's a difficult process, for both human and non-human alike.
"It's hard to see them go," Eddings said. "To rehabilitate an animal, you have to really love it."