Back in the years before 1990, Bill and Mona Rutger purchased several acres of land to build their home and family. When Mona first gazed upon the barren, abandoned cropland, she didn't see dirt and mud, she saw potential.
Long before Back to the Wild began, Mona was already hard at work planting trees (over 2,500 of them!), gardens, and more to attract and shelter Ohio's wildlife. How did she begin her life long career rescuing those very wild animals? With turtles! So well known was she in the turtle rescue world that she became known as the Turtle Lady.
As more and more people heard of the turtle lady and witnessed her compassion for injured animals, they began to bring other creatures to her. Over the years, Mona went from the Turtle Lady to the Turtle-Eagle-Owl-Bunny-Squirrel-We're-Running-Out-of-Breath-Naming-Animals Lady. But don't let the catchy nickname fool you, it took a lot of hard work and studying to make Back to the Wild what it is today.
1990 was the official founding of Back to the Wild as a wildlife rehabilitation center. In order to care for all of the amazing creatures in need of her help, Mona had to work hard raising money to build specialized enclosures, purchase foods, and pay vet bills. She also had to study hard! Many of the animals we work with need specialized care and handling. Learning to do this requires a lot of work and hands-on experience. But, as we all know, Mona was up to the task!
What it Takes
Every day we hear people telling us how much we must love our jobs. You know what? They're right! We DO love our jobs! But, well, probably not for the reasons you might think.
Being a wildlife rehabilitator takes dedication, copious amounts of hard (and I mean seriously difficult) work, willingness to work long hours and shed plenty of blood and sweat, and years of experience. It also takes federal and state permission.
One of the biggest requirements of working with wildlife is the ability to put an animal's needs above your own. There are not always going to be happy endings. One of the best ways to give an orphaned animal a chance to be free again is not to coddle and snuggle, but rather to keep your distance. In the end, we want to keep them wild!
Interested in working nights, weekends, and long hours with little pay for animals that would rather bite you than thank you? Check out the OWRA (Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association) webpage for more information!
Who We Are Now
After all of those years of hard work, Mona has created a beautiful safe haven for Ohio's injured and orphaned wildlife. She has trained compassionate staff who are dedicated to conservation and Ohio's greatest natural resources. Back to the Wild is a 501(c)3 which means she did this all with no funding! Everything we do is only possible because of our wonderful supporters and a community that cares about the future of our planet.
Mona may not be able to come out for programs or go on rescues anymore, but she is still a big part of Back to the Wild. As president of the board, she will be here to help guide us for a long time to come.
What are we up to these days? Back to the Wild staff is hard at work helping wildlife and working with our community. Each year, we rescue around 2,500 animals and present educational programs to around 50,000 people! Whew, that's a lot of work. With a skeleton crew of just five full-time staff, things can get hectic but we're here for the long-haul.
Interested in scheduling your own program or tour? Check out our Programs and Tours page for more info! Want to help us continue our work? Consider donating! Your money goes towards helping us care for and feed our patients and ambassadors, pay electric bills, vet bills, staff costs (because it is not possible without them!), and more! And hey, come out and visit while you're at it. You get to see exactly what you are supporting!