Carolina Waterfowl Rescue seeks donations, volunteers

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Carolina Waterfowl Rescue is a nonprofit wildlife focused on providing sanctuary, rescue and rehabilitation for wildlife, farmed and exotic animals.

A baby songbird getting its feet fixed. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue..

Currently located on just under a dozen acres Indian Trail, CWR was started over twenty years ago by Jennifer Gordon.  Then a volunteer at Carolina Raptor Center, Gordon saw a need for a rescue center that would address the needs of other animals, birds and wildlife.

CWR works to rehabilitate and release injured wild animals, like this robin fledgling who was attacked by a cat. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

In the two decades since its foundation, CWR has grown from a waterlife and domestic waterfowl rehabilitation center into an important resource for addressing the needs of a wide array of wild and domestic animals.  CWR takes in an impressive span of injured wildlife – all wild birds and reptiles as well as some wild mammals like squirrels, rabbits and opossums – with the goal of rehabilitating these animals and releasing them back into the wild.  

This baby hatchling turtle was orphaned. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

CWR also accepts a range of domestic animals who are dumped, surrendered or rescued from abusive or hoarding situations.  “About any farm animal you can think of we will take in,” says Office Manager Julie Brown. CWR sees a bit of overlap between “wild” and “domestic” animals – geese, reptiles, birds and rabbits, for example, can be either domesticated or wild.  CWR works hard to adopt rescued domestic animals into loving homes.

CWR also helps abandoned domestic animals. This domestic pigeon was found at a gas station. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.
CWR also accepts owner surrenders and attempts to re-home them. This bearded dragon was surrendered by its owner. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

As a nonprofit 501c3, CWR receives no federal funding and depends 100% on donations and volunteers to stay up and running.  “We always need money,” says Brown simply. “We don’t get any funding except from the public.” CWR maintains an Amazon wishlist stocked with supplies they need and use on a regular basis.  They also publicize bigger physical needs – say, cages, aquariums, refrigerators – on social media.  

Volunteers are the heart and soul of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

One of CWR’s most pressing and costly needs is a new facility.  The reasons for the impending move are numerous. In part, they’ve simply outgrown their current space.  However, they need not only more space but better space.  Many of their current structures are quite old, and upkeep on them is difficult.  Moreover, their current location in Indian Trail is increasingly being crowded out by development.  As more neighborhoods pop up around the Rescue, it becomes increasingly difficult to release rehabilitated animals nearby.  Recent road construction has struck a critical blow, eliminating the center’s only available parking area for volunteers.  

As a 501c3, CWR depends on volunteers to staff the center. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

In addition to the lifesaving help CWR provides to local wildlife, they also try to educate the public on living in harmony with their ecosystem.  For example, while animals in the wild can certainly be injured or orphaned, not every baby animal you find in the wild needs help – “rescuing” it may actually be kidnapping!  A new space would allow the center to expand and to obtain permits so they could be open to the public, have an adoption center and do more educational programming on site.

Not all volunteers have to work with animals! All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

One of CWR’s other pressing needs is volunteers.  “We have little manpower for the amount of animals,” says Brown.  “We’re always begging for volunteers, more volunteers.” Brown admits that volunteering at Carolina Waterfowl can be a difficult and dirty job, but she encourages that there are many jobs volunteers can do that don’t involve working directly with animals.  Washing towels and sheets, washing dishes, preparing produce, and transporting animals – volunteering for tasks like these frees up people who are more experienced and comfortable with the animals to work with them.

Volunteering for tasks like washing towels, sheets and dishes, frees up volunteers who are more experienced with animals to work with them. All photos courtesy of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue helps thousands of animals a year, but recent financial and physical challenges have forced them to suspend anything other than bird intake.  Your donations of money, supplies, and time can make a difference in helping CWR get back on its feet and eventually move to a new space where they can make a bigger impact.  

To learn more about how you can help, follow CWR on Facebook @cwrescue or visit their web site ( and click the “How to Help” tab.  

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: