MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Megan Tetreau walks into the cage armed only with a net and a crate. Hiding among the branches and beams of the large enclosure sat a raptor with rouge plumage and large talons pacing through the branches.
Tetreau wastes no time, before the bird tries to fly away she snags it in a single swoop.
It’s imperative to take the bird quickly; after weeks of captivity, healing from an injury, capture means freedom to the red tailed hawk.
Tetreau, a military spouse and volunteer wildlife rehabilitator at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Hubert, N.C., looks forward to every release, and is prepared to save the life of any animal she can.
“It’s challenging every day,” said Tetreau. “You never know what’s going to walk through the door or what kind of injury you’re going to see.”
Despite military moves, she spent the last four years managing wildlife in some form or another. In her early days she toiled, emptying duck pools a single bucket at a time, re-mulching cages and assisting with the overall maintenance at the facility before caring for resident animals. Day by day she crammed, learning details about animal care.
“When you have information, it gets easier,” she said. To this day Tetreau says she still learns something new every day particularly from the facilities director and her mentor, Toni O’Neil.
Tetreau took classes at a local community college and became a licensed rehabilitator under O’Neil’s tutelage. She remains dedicated to saving animals. She volunteers at the wildlife sanctuary most days, ensuring the thousands of animals that come through the facility a year are safe, fed and on the path to health.
She saw animals come in who, on first glance, appeared doomed, such as a mallard duck shot with an arrow.
When the mallard was brought to the wildlife sanctuary they found the wound was not recent.
“You open the box and think ‘Oh my god, it’s still alive,’” she said “You think about the pain and suffering.”
The bird was lucky, she said. He survived and was released some time later.
However, not every animal survives the wounds they enter the facility with. In such cases they must be euthanized. Tetreau is there for those animals as well.
“You know you’re doing the right thing, but it’s very taxing,” she said. “It never gets any easier. You know it is the best thing for the animal, but it still feels like taking a life.”
For every animal euthanized, many are saved. Some require care at all hours, occasionally Tetreau takes them home.
Tetreau said taking care of animals is all she ever wanted to do. As a child in Hawaii, her parents found she was happy just sitting outside watching native bird’s striking feathers.
She has always felt a connection to animals, she said. As an only child animals were her constant companions. Her love of animals followed her to Washington state where she grew up.
When she found an animal in distress, she made sure to help.
“I was always finding stuff and bringing it home,” she said.
As a teenager she found orphaned fawns and cared for them until she was able to take them to an experienced rehabilitator.
While she knew she wanted to care for animals, she was not sure what path to take; it was chance that led her to Possumwood Acres.
Friends of hers found an orphaned rabbit while hunting.
“They brought it to me,” she said. “I hadn’t been on the East Coast very long and I had no idea what (local) animals needed. As a fluke, I found Possumwood.”
When she took the rabbit in, she applied to volunteer and has not stopped caring for animals since.
Even during a two-year sojourn in Yuma, Ariz., where her husband was stationed, Tetreau brought in a baby wallaby and wallaroo — marsupials in the kangaroo family— to raise for a local zoo.
The wallaby and wallaroo could fit in the palm of their hands when they arrived, said her husband, Sgt. Tony Tetreau, a combat camera production specialist for Headquarters and Support Battalion.
Zoos have a different relationship with animals than wildlife rehabilitators. The zoo wanted the animals to be friendly. When handling wildlife, rehabilitators typically keep their distance to prevent the animal from loosing its instincts.
“Wildlife comes in wild and leaves wild,” said Tetreau. “Spending time with them was much different. Every day we played with them. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
Being a marsupial’s foster parent was odd at first, said Tony.
“But they were adorable,” he added.
They were smart, he said. One would open latches on a baby gate so they could explore the house.
“It was a blast,” said Tetreau. “They were just the most amazing creatures.”
The experience was a favorite on a list of many she gained since stepping into her role as a wildlife rehabilitator; she even has a tattoo of young kangaroos fighting playfully on her leg to remember the experience.
When Tetrau realized being a rehabilitator is what, she wanted to do she became incredibly focused on it, said Tony.
“She went into it head first,” said Tony.
When they returned to the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune area, Tetreau picked up where she left off.
Finding her path was not easy, but following her passion was. Finding a place to volunteer as a young, geographically displaced military spouse brought her true joy, she said.
“I remember what it was like when I first got here,” said Tetreau. “Things were different, and I was thrown into this and didn’t know anyone. It was really difficult for me.”
Possumwood Acres is many things to Tetreau. It’s where she has met people who share her enthusiasm for animal care, where she has pursued her education and trade but more than that she found her passion and happiness.
“This is my happy place. It may be a wildlife sanctuary, but it’s also my sanctuary,” said Tetreau.
For volunteer opportunities or to donate to Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, visit possumwoodacres.org or call 326-6432.