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This was taken from the Prescott Valley Tribune dated July 5, 2000
Wild animal rehabilitator offers second chance to injured and orphaned.
Injured wild animals have little to no chance of survival. They face either a lingering and painful death, or a quicker but equally grim fate in the jaws of a predator. While many would say that's just the way things are, a few others are willing to extend injured animals a second chance at life.
Two of those persons are Alie Amato and Francois de Martini of Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Association.
Well-hidden off the dirt road to Crown King, the association has a few acres on a former ranch,where Amato and de Martini have built fenced enclosures and erected small buildings dedicated to animal rescue and rehabilitation. Though their goal is to release orphaned or injured wild animals after rehabilitation, over the course of years the Association has permanently adopted a number of animals that cannot be returned to the wild. Many
of these animals help Amato and de Martini as visual aids
in their public education efforts.
Goal is re-release
The Association takes on animals of all descriptions. Several permanent residents are exotic species not found in Arizona. But the main thrust of the program at Bradshaw is to rehabilitate wild animals for re-release.
"I used to do predators; fox, lions, bobcats," de Martini said. "Then I got a deer fawn in 1996 from Game & Fish. It had a broken leg and didn't survive the night. But ever since then I've been known as 'the deer man.'
"I've got 15 deer that first year, and I learned how to keep them alive. For a while I had deer living in my living room," he said. "I got about 50% survival rate, and most of those went to a 'free roam' drive-through place in New Mexico."
De Martini said he found that deer fawns seemed to do better when placed with does.
"Obviously the does don't give milk ,but the presence of a 'surrogate mother' helps," he said. "Since I went to a surrogate mother program the fawn survival rate went up to 90 percent and all of those we released."
Several released deer sported ear tags de Martini attached for study reasons.
"We hoped it would provide us with a way to know whether they learned to find natural foods, deal with predators, and deal with people," he said.
De Martini lists human beings among deer predators. Though clearly disappointed in losing one of his released bucks to a legal hunter, he is more fatalistic, or perhaps pragmatic, than angry.
"What am I going to do? They have to learn to deal with people like they would with a lion or any other predator," he said.
Problem is "imprinting"
One of the problems in caring for wild animals intended for release is that they can lose their fear of humans, and even come to associate human beings with food.
"You're walking a fine line, especially with orphaned animals," de Martini said. "They've got to trust you to feed them, to not be terrorized, but you don't want them to get imprinted.""
Once imprinted, animals lose their fear of humans.
Perhaps surprisingly, de Martini said deer can be as dangerous to humans as predators. Mule deer bucks, he said, are fully capable of self-defense against predators when flight isn't an option, but they can actually be quite dangerous to humans during the rut, too.
"I've worked a lot with predators, but an ungulate during the rut is more dangerous," he said. "All they want to do is to fight and have sex. I have a non-releasable buck here who is really pretty mellow, until the rut. Then I can't get near him."
De Martini pointed to areas of the deer enclosure's chain link fence that bowed outward. "You can see where he throws himself against the fence during the rut, trying to gore me with his antlers," he said.
Immature predators are actually easier to care for than young prey species animals, de Martini said.
"Predators may bottle feed for weeks; a deer will bottle feed for months," he said. The longer a young animal associates with humans the greater the likelihood of imprinting, he said.
"But after release ,the longer they stay in the wild, they tend to get wilder, especially if they quickly hook up with their own kind," he said.
Cruelty renders some animals unreleasable
Among the association's unreleasable animals are a fox with a permanent hip injury, a box tortoise mauled by a dog, an iguana and a monitor lizard, two burros, two raccoons, three bobcats, and a monkey known as a crab-eating macaque.
"Cricket's owner amputated her tail so it would be easier to put diapers on her," de Martini said of the macaque. "Now she has a poor sense of balance and I can't let her climb too high, in case she falls."
De Martini said Cricket enjoys watching tapes of animal programs on her own tiny TV set and that she clearly responds to the facial expressions of chimpanzees on her favorite video-tape. She also enjoys grooming the housecats. I've got the cleanest cats around," de Martini said.
Non-releasable animals have lost freedom
The non-releasable animals at Bradshaw live in some comfort. The animals have frozen water bottles in their dens and water misting units installed in their enclosures to help alleviate some of the desert heat.
"These animals have lost their most precious commodity - freedom," de Martini said. "We try to make up for that with good food, medicine, and a clean place to live. No animal deserves to live in filth, and they deserve interaction with their own species, if they want it."
Formerly a sound engineer with rock bands Tesla and Warrant, de Martini quit the profession to explore his interest in wild animals. He worked several years at Gator Jungle in Florida, three years handling big cats and then four years with Out of Africa in the Phoenix area.
He met Amato, and the two decided to form the Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Association.
'Perfect,' private place is home for animals
The Association is set up on former Cordes family ranch property, replete with a house built in 1910. The 15-acre facility is surrounded by National Forest. It is well off the road to Crown King and unmarked in order to not attract attention.
"We looked all over before we found this place," de Martini said. "Then we got a Special Use permit from Game & Fish to do the rehabilitation. This place is perfect. There's no people, and it's very quiet."
De Martini said the association's relationship with Arizona Game & Fish Department is only one of communication.
"We don't work for them, but we are licensed by them. We cooperate with their managers and supervisors and we let them know what we're doing." De Martini said.
The association depends entirely upon donations and volunteer work.
"Paycheck,'vacation,' and 'days off' are not in my vocabulary," he said. "We are desperate for
volunteers right now. This is just too big to be a part-time thing. If I'm not rescuing animals there's maintenance, feeding, building and running back and forth to the vet in Prescott."
De Martini is presently trying to carry the entire load himself because Amato is on tour with the rock band Metallica as their wardrobe manager.
"The band has been good to us, allowing Alie to do a little fundraising on the tours," he said. "In fact, rock& roll has been very good to animals in general. The industry gives a lot of money, and gets animal programs a lot of attention."
At the ranch de Martini said he needs help building new enclosures, maintaining the property, preparing the animal's food, working with computers, writing newsletters, helping with education programs, and assisting with releases. "I need adult volunteers. I'm willing to train people and share all of my knowledge of wildlife," he said.
"We need donations of money, too. I'm really grateful to Dr. Fischer at Mile-Hi Animal Hospital in Prescott for all his donated help. There's no way we could do this if we had to pay for a vet every time."
To help with volunteer work or offer a donation, or to report an injured wild animal or request an educational presentation, call Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Association at (520) 632-9559.