He’s a friend of injured wildlife

  • Dr. Robert Schmitt receives a standing ovation from wildlife rehabilitators during an awards ceremony at Tufts University, March 4. Contributed photo/Bette Schmitt

  • Dr. Robert Schmitt receiving an award at Tufts University, March 4. Contributed photo/Bette Schmitt

Recorder Staff
Monday, March 20, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Dr. Robert Schmitt and his team at South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic have been recognized by the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Massachusetts (WRAM), a statewide nonprofit organization, for their efforts helping injured animals and birds.

Since opening in 1973, “even (while) running an extremely busy small business and being frequently on the road with farm calls, Doc and his staff always make time to work with the wildlife and wildlife rehabilitators to provide professional services without compensation,” reads a nomination for the award submitted to WRAM, dated Feb. 4, by Bernardston’s Dawndale Farm Wildlife, Inc.

Schmitt received the award at WRAM’s annual meeting, hosted March 4 at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. On its website, WRAM advertises itself as a “nonprofit organization that has been committed to the professionalism of Wildlife Rehabilitation in Massachusetts since 1992.”

Sitting in his office at 30 Elm St. on a recent day, Schmitt said, “I started when I first came here — (Wildlife Rehabilitator) Tom Ricardi and I have been doing it ever since. We try and do the straightforward things — you’ve got animals hit by cars, fix a wing — if it’s anything extensive, like with an eagle, we send it to (Tufts University). They have money put away.”

“I just do the patching up, he does the rehabilitating,” he added, referring to Ricardi’s raptor sanctuary in Conway.

Over those 44 years, Schmitt, a graduate of Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in science and doctorate in veterinary medicine, has helped or saved countless injured wild animals and birds. In the practice, which serves both large and small animals, Schmitt said he’s treated everything from a fawn that lost an eye, to bears and turkeys during state initiatives, circus elephants, camels, a yak previously owned by Michael Jackson, and various types of injured raptors brought in by rehabilitators.

Earlier in the day, an injured dove was brought in, which, “must have run into a window. Swelling on one side of the head,” Schmitt said, adding that South Deerfield Medical Clinic is the only veterinary clinic in the area to treat injured wildlife.

“We’ve had crows, we’ve had cormorants — animals, everything from fisher cats to squirrels, to porcupines. Who would ever want to rescue a porcupine?” Schmitt asked. He said he treats porcupines “very carefully. I usually throw something over them to pick them up.”

As far as procedures offered by the clinic, South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic offers radiograms and diagnostic services, preventive medicine and surgery, and many other procedures. And in extreme cases, when injured wild animals are beyond saving, the office provides euthanization services to alleviate suffering.

Dr. Karen Burand

Schmitt noted the work of Dr. Karen Burand, a veterinarian at the clinic, who has treated injured wildlife without compensation for 30 years, saying, “we don’t get paid for it. She does quite a few of these wild animals.”

For long-term care, the veterinarian said medications are offered to rehabilitators at a discounted rate. And for procedures that aren’t offered locally, “we have a lot of good referral clinics. There are some surgeries that you don’t do enough of,” Schmitt said.

In a speech before the award was given earlier this month, Kathleen Bordewieck, a wildlife rehabilitator at Dawndale Farm Wildlife, said, “one of our jobs as wildlife rehabilitators is to speak for the wildlife who don’t have a voice. So, for those wildlife you have helped over the years, I speak for them when I say ‘thank you, Doc, from the bottom of our hearts.’”