People aren’t the only ones feeling the stress of the heat this summer. It also affects wildlife, which is where the likes of Brandi Nickerson and her husband Mario can help.
They are the founders and directors of Nature’s Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue (NEWRR) near Lake Worth. For over two decades, including the past 10 years with NEWRR, they have been working with wildlife in a rescue and rehabilitation capacity.
“This summer has been very tough for larger insectivorous birds, such as Mississippi kites and herons/egrets,” Brandi said. “Mississippi fliers are primarily insectivores and herons/herons eat a lot of insects and fish during the baby season. The drought and high temperatures have made it very difficult to find food as insects are scarce during the day, ponds dry up and fish in deeper water hide from the heat.”
Nature’s Edge has landed record numbers (for them) this summer. They had brought more than 300 herons and egrets and more than 100 Mississippi kites to them in less than two weeks, Brandi said. They even had to stop taking in smaller mammals like squirrels and opossums.
“The heat and lack of food makes babies literally jump out of the nest. Mississippi fliers normally won’t feed babies on the ground, so a baby on the floor will most likely need help,” Brandi said. “Herons and egrets will also not feed babies on the ground. In a normal colony for herons and egrets, the trees and undergrowth allow the babies to climb back high enough for the parents to still eat.
“In neighborhoods where we’re seeing more and more colonies due to habitat destruction, the trees are pruned and there’s no undergrowth for babies to climb, so if they hit the ground, they need help too.”
The Nickersons operate Nature’s Edge, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, from their home, which Brandi says is the case for 95% of wildlife rehabilitators.
“Wildlife rehabilitators do not receive funding, so we do this out of pocket and donations. Most of us don’t have the money to buy land and build big centers,” she said.
“There are only two real rehabilitation centers in the DFW area. We do what we can with what we have available. My husband has a full-time job, helping fund the rescue, and I look after the animals full-time. When he gets home from work, he jumps in and starts helping me.”
The passion of life for a couple
Brandi attended Texas A&M University and completed a degree in wildlife ecology and management when she learned about wildlife rehabilitation. She started volunteering at a local rehab facility in Bryan and became addicted.
“This is really my passion in life. My husband has always had a passion for birds and reptiles, both of which grew up as pets,” Brandi said. “He rescued reptiles and also worked with raptors for over 20 years, so we decided to officially launch NEWRR in 2012.”
Nature’s Edge rehabilitates a wide variety of wildlife, but primarily focuses on raptors (hawks, owls, vultures, etc.), waterfowl (ducks, geese, herons, egrets), and predatory mammals (bobcats, foxes, and coyotes).
“We also adjust the animals we include based on numbers. We don’t rehabilitate skunks or raccoons because we have a limited amount of space,” said Mario. “We’re also a pet reptile rescue, so we take in unwanted pet reptiles, make sure they’re healthy, and then adopt them back in just like a typical dog/cat rescue/shelter.”
Animals are usually brought to Nature’s Edge. Mario said if they brought in that many animals it would be nearly impossible to retrieve them, so if someone finds an animal they ask if they want to secure it and bring it to them.
“We can explain to callers how to catch an animal if they need to,” he said. “If people find wildlife that they think may need help, they should contact a rehabilitation physician. Put the animal in a box with a lid, no food or water, and keep it warm. It is very important to never give food or water.”
Both came from a family that loved animals.
“I’ve always had pets growing up and a love for all animals. I would play outside and find snakes, frogs, etc. and want to keep them all,” Brandi said. “Same goes for Mario, he grew up with exotic birds, reptiles and dogs as pets.”
“Our families think we’re crazy,” Brandi said with a laugh. “No, seriously, our families know we are passionate about helping animals and they always support and encourage us.”
Nature’s Edge relies solely on donations and adoptions of their reptiles to help fund the rescue. They have Facebook fundraisers, have a donate button on Facebook, along with PayPal, CashApp, Omella, and Venmo.
To donate or for more information, visit newrr.org or call 682-463-9453.