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March 2014

A message from Mona!
Details of our new critical financial crisis!
Please read and pass on to someone you think
may be able to help keep our doors open!

Back To The Wild is now facing the most serious situation in our 24-year existence. Our source for rodents that we rely on to feed all our injured wildlife and permanent residents is gone. For over 20 years, a Pharmaceutical Research Lab in Portage, Michigan called Charles River Lab, raised rodents for medical research for hospitals, universities and places all over the country. They literally had hundreds of thousands of clean (i.e. no chemicals in them) rats and mice daily that they euthanized and had to dispose of, so they donated truckloads to zoos, rehab and nature centers all over. The drive to pick up these rodents each way was 3-4 hours, done by volunteers, and each trip saved our center thousands of dollars. Facilities in over 5 states used this facility to supply their animals with this food source. In February 2014, it was announced this plant is closing for good and 84 employees with management positions are losing their jobs, which is a terrible loss for those families. We truly feel badly for them. The situation has also dramatically affected all the rehab centers, zoos and nature centers that relied on them for a source of rodents to feed their wildlife. The situation is so serious that some wildlife centers have already had to close down for good; have given up their treasured hawks and owls that they used for education for years, and turned in their long-worked-for Federal and State Permits. It's a tragic scenario playing out.

Our center alone will now need an additional $80,000 each year to keep our doors open, just to purchase the rodents we need. I just placed an order to fill our ten freezers, costing the center over $4,000. These won't last long and we will again have to buy thousands of dollars worth of rodents or literally turn away injured animals and even give up our permanently disabled animals used in our educational programs that reach over 70,000 children and adults each year!

Everyone's answer is to raise our own rats and mice, but in the 20 plus years I have been rehabbing and attending conferences and seminars, it has been proven that it costs more to raise the quantities you would need than it is to buy them. It would take initially a million dollar investment dedicating three large buildings to just raising the rats and mice we would need. We would have to hire a full time staff to do the job of daily cleaning, disinfecting and taking care of the breeding programs. These buildings have to meet USDA codes for venting, air-conditioning and heating. It would be impossible to raise the numbers we need. There simply are no volunteers able to come in on regular daily shifts and hardly anyone has the luxury of giving an organization an 8 hour day, 7 days a week for no pay, making it necessary to hire a staff. We can barely afford our staff of three full-time employees now, who are overworked just with rehab and education duties. My staff are amazing, dedicated people with a passion to carry out Back To The Wild's mission! Many of you have met them when bringing in an injured animal or attending one of our programs and leave wonderful comments about them!

So we are in a position of buying rodents from now on. Each night, we set out over 250 to 300 rats and mice to feed the wildlife in our care. Each rat costs $1.45 and each mouse costs 35 cents. Some birds, like a Great Blue Heron, will eat over 20 mice in one night. Buying smelt and other fish is just as costly. Many wonderful, local fishermen drop off fish for our Eagles often, saving us a great deal of money!

I have no intentions of closing this center down. I am an eternal optimist and will do whatever it takes to find the necessary funding! If this center ceases to exist, the "real" result is that the public will no longer have a resource to go to when they find an injured wild animal. It is illegal to care for a wild animal without permits and a licensed, approved center to go to, so the animal has to be left to die. It is the law! No nearby centers could absorb the over 2,500 injured animals Back To The Wild admits each year! We do not interfere with the natural world and nature taking its course. Remember, 90% of the injured animals admitted to rehab centers, are due to human-related injuries, like fishing line, lead, mercury and chemical poisoning, hitting power lines, vehicle collisions, oiled and poisoned animals, and a great deal due to loss of habitat! That is not nature and that is why and when we intervene. Other losses to our community, if we cannot find funding to meet our needs, is that over 70,000 children and adults who attend our educational programs each year, will no longer have our center to visit for school field trips, day camps, scout and other youth groups, nursing homes, senior centers and more. Each year, over 20 college interns and high school students earn credits, gain hands-on experience, earn merit badges, and do research projects here. Each summer, Back To The Wild offers two "free" week-long nature camps to under-privileged children. We have also done every possible type of fund-raising out there from Open Houses, to Silent and Live Auctions, to Poker Runs, Walk-a-thons, Bingo's and Quartermania's, On-Line Matching Grants through employee's businesses, using Good Search and other opportunities and are involved with Kickstarter and other video promotions. You can even recycle a used vehicle and part of the money will go to Back To The Wild. We get percentages from items purchased on-line and more! We attend fund-raising seminars to help us find ways to keep our doors open and try anything legal!

Closing Back To The Wild down truly would be a great loss to Ohio, as schools visit our center from all over the state and even schools from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania attend. Thousands of visitors come to this center from all over the country each year, as well as international visitors, helping to raise funds for this center. Many ask us to direct them to nearby hotels, restaurants or stores and other areas of interest locally.

I founded the center 24 years ago and started from scratch with no funding of any kind, except for the kindness of caring visitors who would leave an occasional donation. Still, 24 years later, there is no funding available from any government agencies, no tax monies, nor any other funding other than private donations. My work is a "labor of love" and driven by my passion and deep belief in its mission. I never did any of this for any kind of award, but am deeply honored by the years of support and recognition from our community. My husband and I are overwhelmed by the center that you, our supporters have helped to build! I am mostly touched to know that our work has been recognized as something of value to our community, by so many individuals, our local community foundations who have helped to make our facility handicap accessible and helped to build many educational exhibits, local church groups, schools with penny drives, businesses, even children who have offered up their birthday gifts in the form of donations to help feed our animals, or had garage sales, lemonade stands and jars out to collect money for our work!


A few of our dearest supporters who have sadly passed on, have left us the kindest, most unselfish gift and legacy they could have left. They bequeathed funds to Back To The Wild, so their support would continue on. We proudly acknowledge their support with plaques and inscribed pavers throughout our facility for all to see.

Sadly, we are still falling far short of our needs, mostly due to the past four years of the economic downturn. We were just beginning to recover from that! One huge problem is that people mistakenly believe we won money from the CNN Hero Award I won this past May. The award was to honor the founders of a non-profit that filled a need in a community that wasn't being met. Although it was a huge honor to be named one of 24 CNN Heroes, we did not receive any money for this title. The Top 10 Heroes of the 24 Heroes chosen, received $50,000 each for their non-profit. Those Top 10 deserved every cent of their win! They have all done phenomenal things that have impacted the environment and community in unbelievable ways! I am thrilled that CNN was able to help those non-profits in their work! We did win $10,000 from the Animal Planet Award in 2006, but we are always shocked to learn that people think we won far more and are still using that money to operate. $10,000 lasts less than two to three weeks to operate our center!

Rehabilitating over 2,500 injured wild animals each year is a very costly endeavor and we are reaching out to anyone who believes in our mission and is in a position to help keep our doors open. I am literally begging our own community, those who benefit the most from our center, whose children visit here each year with their schools, scout groups or attend camp here, to help us continue to exist.

Every cent matters, no matter how big or small, so don't think your donation doesn't matter! Now we desperately need local companies, corporate help to keep us afloat. If just ten (10) companies, or individuals would pledge $10,000 each year to our cause, we could make it. Right now, the only two companies that are doing that are in the Cleveland area, and one wonderful individual! Please consider matching what these companies in Cleveland and she have done for Back To The Wild. If you want to do something for your environment, your community, your children's future, give to a cause from which they will benefit! Our children are the ones who will be making future critical decisions in caring for our natural world, preserving and protecting the habitats of our wildlife and humans who all share this planet!

Today alone, we took in twelve injured wild animals, but that's a slow day. In the spring and summer, we can take in over 30-40 animals each day and every visitor is offered a tour of our center, free of charge. Most do not leave a donation for the animal they brought in ~ they are not required to. 70% of the animals we leave the center to rescue require us to load up the van with nets, carriers, medical gear; drive 40-50 mile round-trips to neighboring counties, to rescue all kinds of animals from a highway, ditch, field, yard, home, attic, garage and more all hours of the day and night. The gas cost alone is overwhelming. Most of the community still do not realize we do this as a volunteer organization. They believe it is our job that their taxes pay for. My husband and I used our own private vehicles for over 18 years to rescue wildlife and to travel to schools and events to do educational programs, absorbing monthly van payments, insurance payments and gas costs and many new tires! All our own equipment was used to build the center, but along with much generous volunteer help! Finally, Back To The Wild owns two vans and we no longer have to use our family vehicles. The center exists on our private property, but is a 501(c)3, non-profit charity. Donations are tax-deductible! We have a small staff of three full-time employees with degrees in Zoology, Biology Science, and Marine Biology. In addition, we have dozens of volunteers. It is almost impossible to run the center with this small of a staff. We are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Never closed. We are often called during the hours after midnight until morning by police and sheriff departments and citizens to respond to wildlife calls.

We realize most people are not able to help, with today's economy, but I have file cabinets filled with heartfelt letters from teachers, principals, students, parents, community leaders all attesting to the positive impact we have made on this community. BACK TO THE WILD's overall mission is to educate and foster in children and adults an awareness, respect and appreciation of our natural world. Our educational focus is to help people become aware of the critical "loss of habitat" to our native wildlife, the need to preserve and protect wild areas, and to understand our own interconnection with all living things. Children especially, are encouraged to become involved in conservation activities to benefit the Earth."

I just can't let this center go down. I know the help is out there, somewhere. Our heartfelt thanks to all who have helped us and continue to help us keep our doors open. We cannot find the words to adequately convey our gratitude to all of you for your support! We do not expect the supporters who have been with us for so long to do even more! We are seeking new supporters who may not know about our work or have not been here to see the scope of what we are doing. Again, please do visit and tour our center, to see the work being done here. We will give you a special "behind-the-scenes" tour and answer any and all questions you might have about our work and mission! Just call ahead to set up a time to visit, so we can be sure someone will be available to provide you with a tour!

Our deepest gratitude to everyone at the Sandusky Register who have done so much to help spread the word about Back To The Wild! We are deeply honored to know the editors and staff at the Register believe in us and have been so generous to help raise community awareness about Back To The Wild over the years!

I can't give up the ship and won't! I know it's possible to find an answer and I am willing to sit down with the corporate management persons, to try to find that help. Please visit our website at or find us on Facebook! Call 419-684-9539 for any questions you may have. Ask for Mona, Bill or Heather!

We have been told Back To The Wild is the best-kept, hidden secret, when discovered for the first time by a visitor. Come see for yourself! We are an integral part of this community ~ please help us stay here!


Mona Rutger

The Back To The Wild home page is

This page was last updated on March 17, 2014.

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