Wildlife rescuer Liz Diver unwittingly stumbled onto her career path when she was just 16 years old, working in a pet store. A customer had found a mockingbird with a broken wing lying in his yard and asked for Diver's help.
Not knowing the first thing about wildlife rehabilitation, Diver spent an afternoon in the library learning about animal first aid. She took the bird into her home, wrapped its wing, and cared for it, eventually releasing it back into the wild. "I opened the door and watched it fly off into the horizon," she says. "And I thought, 'This is the coolest feeling. If I hadn’t helped this little guy he’d have been cat food.'" The feeling stuck. "I thought, 'I gotta do that again.'"
Today Diver is the president of Badger Run Wildlife Rehab, a not-for-profit wildlife facility in Klamath Falls, OR.
Badger Run takes in animals native to the state that are sick, injured or orphaned, and readies them for release back into their natural habitat. But not all of them can be returned to the wild, and for those animals, the facility provides a permanent home for them where they can live pain-free, healthy lives in captivity.
"We use some of them as animal ambassadors," Diver says. "And we do about 60 educational programs a year, teaching people about how they can be better stewards of the environment, and what roles each individual species plays in its ecosystem."
Badger Run is currently home to seven animal ambassadors, including several varieties of hawks, eagles, and a raccoon named "Pumba," all of whom were permanently injured in a way that would make survival in the wild an unlikely prospect for them. When Diver isn’t giving educational talks about these animals, she’s rescuing a multitude of others, struck down in fields, caught in trees, or hurt and trapped on a mountainside unable to free themselves.
Diver explains, "Most of what we get in, the injuries have resulted from human cause...typically, they get hit by a car, or shot, or somebody’s killed the parents not realizing that there were offspring. And because my species has caused this plight, I feel that I have a responsibility to try and rectify that."
It's a responsibility she takes seriously. But because Badger Run operates on a shoestring budget and is entirely donation driven, resources are always tight—which means the conservationist and her staff often have to simply make do with what they have.
For instance, for years Diver had no choice but to use her personal truck to shuttle her animal ambassadors and also pick up new animals in need of rescue. With a quarter-of-a-million miles on it, no working heater, and windshield wipers that only occasionally sprang to life, using the truck to drive hours away to remote locations was always a crapshoot. Her vehicle was so prone to breakdowns, she'd scrawled the phone number of her towing company right onto her dashboard.
At least that problem was solved last year when Diver won a new Toyota Tacoma during the automobile maker’s 100 Cars for Good Program. Each year, Toyota holds an online contest where Facebook users vote for the nonprofit organization they’d like to see win a free vehicle.
And while her Tacoma has proven to be invaluable to her, and to the safety of the animals she rescues, Diver says she always has more work to do in order to keep her operation running smoothly—including holding down two other jobs to make sure her facility stays funded.
But it’s a sacrifice she believes is well worth the effort. "It’s that feeling of watching something fly away or run off into the woods that you know would have died had you not been there to help it," she says. "Granted it’s one red tail hawk or one mockingbird or one scrub jay, but it’s really a great feeling to know that you played a part in saving that life."
If you’d like to help Badger Run Wildlife provide care to the animals who need it most, visit their website.
And to find out more about Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program, which is running now through November 19, visit the campaign's Facebook page, and discover other nonprofits that need your vote.
This post is sponsored by Toyota's philanthropy program 100 Cars for Good. Starting October 1 and ending November 19, do your own good deed by voting for your favorite organizations and causes on the 100 Cars for Good Facebook App.