LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — The year 2021 will be remembered at Raven Ridge Wildlife Center as the year the population bomb went off.

“We’ve been very busy this past year,” says Tracie Young, the Raven Ridge rehabber. “We’ve had a record number of fox kits, a record number of baby skunks, and baby great horned owls.”

How many? Well, there were 35 fox kits, about 30 baby skunks, which are known to be a bit-Ahem!-trigger happy (“So you had to be very quiet and very careful,” says Young), and 25 baby great horned owls. At least for the owls, the humans had some expert help.

“Pharaoh, who is our great horned owl, who’s also an ambassador, but he’s also a foster parent. So he raised twenty-five baby great horned owls.”

And it wasn’t just great horned owls. Birds of prey of all types crammed the cages.

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“We had a rehabilitator in the area retire, and she had been doing birds of prey for over 30 years. So now Raven Ridge has picked that up,” says Young. “This bumps us up to around 17 counties we’re covering for birds of prey.”

It got so crowded Raven Ridge had to send some animals to other rescues.

“You have to keep in mind when we’re taking on a fox kit, or a baby skunk,” explains Young. “They’re going to be here with us, and they’re going to need to transition from the incubator to the crate, to outside, to release pens until we release them. So we have to think ahead, are we going to have the space for all these babies to grow until we can release them.”

As to why so many foxes and skunks came in, Tracie notes that animal population levels seem to change every year; lots of bunnies one year, lots of groundhogs the next. But she thinks one reason she got such a large uptick in animals brought in this year is that Raven Ridge is becoming better known-which can be a relief to people who find a sick or injured animal.

“They’re making phone calls, nobody can help them, they’re afraid of the animal, they don’t know what to do with the animal,” says Young. “So a lot of times what they’re hearing, and what they come to, is just let nature take its course. ‘I don’t know where to take it, I don’t know what to do with it.”

“Raven Ridge Wildlife Center is one of thirteen in the state-licensed to rehabilitate rabies vector species,” she says. “When the public is aware of a facility like ours, that is able to take in rabies vector species such as foxes and skunks and groundhogs, they know where to take the animals.”

As summer progressed, the time came for the happy endings-watching the injured and orphaned, successfully healed or raised to maturity, being released to the wild. This included some of her favorites, a group of foxes they dubbed the Six Pack.

“They were six different fox kits, that came from six different areas in the state, and each one of those foxes had such severe injuries, it was just unbelievable, but we were able to heal them all. And we got all six of them together because we knew we were going to release them together. So we put the Six Pack together, and they all accepted each other. “

Right now, most of the indoor cages are empty. About the only occupants are the long-term residents, who serve as animal ambassadors at educational programs.

In one of the outside cages, there’s a bald eagle, less than a year old, who has a wing injury and can’t return to the air. But he’ll have a permanent home at a facility in Kansas, once they finish filling out all the government paperwork. Call this a semi-happy ending.

Volunteers are working on the outdoor cages, which their occupants did their best to trash during the summer. Energetic young animals in cages with time on their paws spend a lot of time trying to find a way to escape. It’s hard on the fixtures.

“So we’re fortunate enough that it’s been a mild season right now that we have some people coming in to help fix the flooring, fix the door, tighten up the door handles and that,” says Young. “So this is our time that we can go through the caging, really look it over, are there holes, is there something we’re missing, do we need to replace doors, anything like that.”

“So this is the time of year when it’s a little quieter for us. But we’re still very busy. Trying to close books for the end of the year. Supplies, stock up on supplies, house cleaning, and we’re already starting to book programs for next year.”

“I anticipate this spring will be the busiest we’ve ever had,” Young concluded.