Keeper of the Wild announced some hard news earlier this month: The organization’s lease on its property in St. George was ending, and it had until the end of January to find a new home.
But now the nonprofit rehabilitation center for orphaned, injured, and displaced animals is getting a little relief. The S.C. Forestry Commission, the state agency that owns the 100-acre tract, is giving the organization up to a seven-month grace period to relocate.
Doug Wood, a spokesman for the Forestry Commission, says the agency will work with Keeper of the Wild on a month-by-month basis after the non-renewable lease ends in January, an arrangement that he says “allows them more time to make arrangements and get in another facility.”
Janet Kinser, founder and director of Keeper of the Wild, says that even with the extended deadline, she’s looking urgently for a new home. “We’re trying to do it as quickly as possible, get where we’re going as quickly as possible, because when baby season starts, we don’t have time to even speak to each other — we’re just going nonstop,” Kinser says.
According to Kinser, baby season can start as early as late January during a mild winter and can last as late as October. Starting in the spring, the facility sees an influx of baby squirrels, otters, and raccoons in need of veterinary attention. Keeper of the Wild takes in animals from veterinarians, Highway Patrol officers, police, and private citizens all over the Lowcountry, and Kinser says the season is always a hectic time.
“I’m on the road 12 to 14 hours a day, and that’s not counting babies that need to be fed through the night,” Kinser says. “Some of the babies go with me because they need to be fed from a bottle.”
While the organization looks for a new piece of property, Kinser is trying to raise money to fund any relocation and property purchasing costs. Ideally, she says, Keeper of the Wild will find a spot that can be placed in a permanent trust. The group is asking for donations on GoFundMe and via PayPal on its website, keeperofthewild.org. Checks can also be mailed to Keeper of the Wild, 181 Tree Farm Road, St. George, SC 29477.
As for the future of the St. George property, Wood says the Forestry Commission’s plan involves “active forest management” and reforestation. The property, which Keeper of the Wild moved onto 10 years ago, was previously the site of a Forestry Commission nursery.
“The tract of land contains trees that are in need of serious rehabilitation,” Wood says. “The forest land that this occupies needs rehabilitation, and of course that reforestation means everything from timber harvesting, prescribed burning … really rehabilitating the site for active forest management.”