Hi, my name is Diana Oliver. As you probably figured out, I’m a huge fan of animals of all kinds. In fact, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love animals.
When growing up, at one time or other, we had a variety of animals that stayed with us for a while: guinea pigs, pigeons, goats, sheep, calves, horses, and of course, dogs. And there was a string of wild animals, too. I caught little creatures like lizards, salamanders, crawdads, and those little brown snakes that hide underneath logs that I later learned are called rough earth snakes. Somehow, I had the sense to know that the wild animals didn’t like captivity, (probably because they tried so hard to escape) so I only kept them a day before releasing them.
We had a fair share of mammalian wildlife in captivity, too. It’s illegal as heck nowadays, and for good reason. Wildlife belongs in the wild! But I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and times were different. My brother once bought an adult wild raccoon from a store. Every day, after school, I would sit beside its cage and experiment to see what sorts of food it liked. I was not familiar with the word omnivore yet and was fascinated that it liked virtually everything I offered it. Meats, fruits, the crawdads I caught, even Kool-Aid. Fortunately, for its sake, it escaped one day when it tore a hole in its cage. I found it in the barn digging up grubworms. I got a shovel and helped it, keeping my distance so as not to frighten it. I didn’t tell my brother that I’d found it, to give it the opportunity to go back into the wild where it belonged. I guess he’ll find out if he reads this.
We once caught an armadillo we were going to keep for a pet. We had it one night. Maybe only one hour. It dug its way out, probably before we had even gone to bed. Who knew they could dig their way out? Obviously, we didn’t.
One summer, I found a baby monkey on the ground when I was exploring a dry creek bed. At least it was a monkey till my dad came home from work and told me it was a baby squirrel. In case you’ve never seen a baby squirrel that’s barely covered in hair, they look remarkably like baby monkeys before their tail becomes furry, especially to an 11-year-old. I wanted so much to help it survive but didn’t know how. It died during the night.
A lot has changed since I grew up. My love for animals seems even greater now than then. Maybe my love has matured as I’ve learned to respect them and develop an appreciation for their point of view. Somewhere along the way, I learned that keeping wildlife as pets is purely self-serving and selfish. Indeed, they belong in the wild. Domestic animals, on the other hand, make fantastic pets. Even chickens. Some of mine remind me of miniature portly velociraptors in their pursuit of bugs or snatching food away from each other.
I spent 6 years rehabbing wildlife. That’s very different than a keeping a pet. Diets need to be strictly adhered to, human contact is limited, and they are released as soon as possible. In this photo, I’m holding a mother opossum that was attacked by a dog. She had fully recovered, and this picture was snapped the day we released her. I had never held her or any other adult opossum in my arms before this day without heavy gloves and long sleeves. But, I had just learned opossums don’t bite. Well, most of them don’t bite. About 90 percent don’t bite. You can tell which ones bite by the snarling, hissing, and screeching that the other 10 percent do. But most opossums, like this sweetheart, are very meek, submissive, and just open their mouths wide hoping their scary-looking teeth will frighten you away. I’ll be writing a book about opossums as soon as I can. They’re incredibly fascinating. An hour after this picture was snapped, she and her mouse-size babies were free again, far from dogs, cars, and foolish people that kill opossums.
Rehabbing was rewarding. And I learned a ton. But, I decided what I really want to do is write about our native wildlife to educate people about real life situations that so many of us come across. Things like: what to do when you find a baby bird or squirrel on the ground. I want to dispel myths. I want to make a difference – not only for animals but for people, too. We all share the planet. And so, Wild About Animals was born.