Janet Kinser’s mission began with three orphaned squirrels and a sick raccoon named Annie. Now, 25 years later, this animal defender takes in more than 3,500 critters annually from across nine counties. As the founder of Keeper of the Wild, she has dedicated her life to preserving our state’s indigenous mammals, including deer, opossums, rabbits, and otters. “We rehabilitate animals so they can return to the wild,” says the full-time volunteer, who works day and night bottle-feeding the babies, tending cages, visiting veterinarians, and fielding emergency calls.
Through an ambitiously recruited network of vets, specialized rescues, government programs, and fellow nonprofits, her small crew cares for creatures who are sick, injured, orphaned, or displaced. The circumstances that bring animals to the St. George facility vary—from forest fires and downed trees to trapped mothers and highway accidents—but Keeper of the Wild’s objective remains constant. “The greatest gift we can give a wild animal is its freedom,” stresses Kinser. “They aren’t puppies and kittens to be made pets.”
To that end, the 98-acre center provides natural habitats, including trees and pools, where rescues can build up the muscle and the know-how to survive on their own. And the nonprofit offers programs to educate community groups and school kids about wildlife conservation. “As far as I know, we haven’t been issued another planet. I want to teach children how to be good stewards of what we have.”
To learn more about Kinser’s organization, call (843) 636-1659 or visit www.keeperofthewild.org.