It’s Second Chance Wildlife’s turn at a new start


Jim Monsma, new executive director of Second Chance Wildlife in Gaithersburg, looks over cages with orphan squirrels during his first day on the job. A couple in the Montgomery area gave land they owned to the state Department of the Environment, meaning the rescue center could move out of the deteriorating property it rents, which poses safety risks. (Dan Gross/THE GAZETTE)
January 3, 2013

Second Chance Wildlife is working on getting its own second chance these days, at a new facility and with a new director.

The center learned last October from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission that it would have to relocate because of the deteriorating condition of the current building it rents from M-NCPPC on Barcellona Drive in Gaithersburg, said Frank Howard, head of Second Chance’s board of directors.

“The existing facility [a residential property] they currently occupy is in need of much repair and is not a suitable building for their operations,” said Melissa Chotiner, a parks department spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “The intention always was to relocate to a more suitable facility.”

The nonprofit group, which rescues and rehabilitates injured wild animals, began looking for other facilities after receiving the letter, but for several months the effort “really went nowhere,” Howard said.

That was until a couple in the area gifted land they owned to the Maryland Department of the Environment, he said. M-NCPPC is working out a deal to take over the 16-acre property in northwestern Montgomery County, he said. The move would require that they knock down the decrepit building on that site and build a new one — an option unavailable at the current location, in the Upper Rock Creek Special Protection Area, he said.

Chotiner would not comment on the potential relocation because the deal is still in the works.

The organization expects to move into temporary buildings on the new site by Oct. 1 and build a permanent facility there. Because the nonprofit group will be constructing the building, it has asked the parks department for a long-term lease of $1 annually, Howard said. Second Chance has a building fund of about $200,000, he said, but it has dipped into it in recent years to meet its annual costs — about $288,000.

“For that area, Second Chance is a big deal, we really need them,” said Terry Moritz, president of the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.

The number of rehabilitators has thinned in recent years, as licensing requirements have toughened and four of the state’s rehabilitators have died, she said.

“People are not stepping up to take over for them,” she said.

There are just two wildlife rehabilitation centers in Montgomery County, said Mary Goldie of the Wildlife and Heritage Service of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, who licenses the state’s wildlife rehabilitators.

Christine Montuori, who started the center in 1996 and ran it for 17 years, said Second Chance takes care of about 3,000 to 5,000 animals per year.

She noticed a trend of other rehabilitators working but having to stop because of the workload or family emergencies.

“I didn’t want to let down people who had come to depend on me,” Montuori said.

Her goal, she said, was to create a free-standing center that would always be there for the public and the animals.

“At this point, I feel I’ve done a pretty good job,” she said.

Jim Monsma, who took over at the center this month, said he has been taking care of animals ever since he was a fifth-grader living in the Hudson Valley in New York.

“My dog came home and spit a baby rabbit on my bed. It was covered in saliva, but otherwise okay,” said Monsma, who took the rabbit to his veterinarian to learn how to raise the animal and get it back into the wild.

That was the start of Monsma’s career taking care of wild animals.

Monsma said fundraising also would be a priority in his new job.

“All nonprofits need money,” he said.

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