A day with WERLA: how an unique local organization rescues wildlife that no one else can


SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Have you ever come across an injured or abandoned animal that you wanted to help but did not know how?

Well, a local organization is making sure wildlife is safe by coming to their rescue.

I spent some time with them to find out more.

From cute little baby possums found orphaned to majestic Bald Eagles found with injuries unable to recover without help, the organization WERLA is making a difference in lives both big and small.

Their name stands for the Wildlife Education Rehabilitation of Louisiana and their mission is just that. They rescue injured wildlife of all types, rehabilitate them at their private care facility in Shreveport, and bring them back to health before being released back into the wild.

“Everybody tells me that release is their most fun part. When they know they’ve pulled this animal through,” Dr. Gia Morgan said.

Doctor Morgan is the veterinarian behind WERLA and has 30 years of experience working with wildlife. She started the organization because she saw a great need in the Caddo-Bossier Parish area.

“Lots of phone calls. We get calls every single day. A squirrel in my yard, a herring in my yard, an owl on the side of the road, a hawk on the side of the road. The shelters call us, we had a hawk brought in, or a possum, or a raccoon in a trap. So we are constantly on the go besides taking care of what is here,” Dr. Morgan said.

When her team gets a call, they go out to the location to pick up the hurt animal. WERLA responds to calls from the general public along with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.

The day I was there, the Caddo Parish Animal Shelter called them about a possum who got hurt in a fight with a dog.

It’s just one of many individual stories you’ll find at their care site. From owls with broken wings to raccoons brought in with broken legs. The team runs their own medical site performing X-rays on the animals. WERLA serves as our local conservation effort to keep native species intact.

“The numbers start dwindling. Different species start dwindling. So we push it back the other direction,” said Christie Chapman, WERLA Education Coordinator.

Chapman is a part of Doctor Morgan’s dedicated team.

This fearless group of women grabbed life by the talons. Especially staff member Lois Robertson who is no stranger when dealing with wild birds.

“I’ve seen so many hawk and owl releases and they’ll go get on a branch then turn around and it’s like ‘thank you,” Robertson said.

They showed me how to feed the hawks and get their wing strength back to fly again inside an enclosed training area.

WELRA focuses on native species but does not turn any animal away. Including one special iguana and a giant tortoise who likes his head petted.

They welcome people to volunteer and said anyone can come fill water bowls or even feed a baby squirrel.

Summer Banzet started volunteering six months ago.

“They all have very unique personalities. So it’s always fun to come in and see something new. I like to go home and tell my kids about some of the animals that we’ve taken care of,” Banzet said.

The groups said it can be 24 hour job caring for the various needs of the wildlife. Especially in the springtime when babies are born.

But they said it can be a magical experience bringing an animal back from the verge of death to healthy again to live.

“It’s a lot of dirty work sometimes. But when you see them fly off or run off, that’s the pay off,” Chapman said.

You can even ask their patients about the impact WERLA is making in our community.

WERLA wants to expand one day to a public facility so families can come tour the site, see how the animals progress, and learn more about wildlife.

The non-profit organization operates solely on donations from the community. You can donate to their website or to their Facebook page.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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