Drought hits animal rescuers hard as mice prices soar

Mouse and rat suppliers pass on cost of feed

LINWOOD, Kan. - J.W. is a Swainson's Hawk who got his name because he walks with John Wayne's limp.  He calls a shelter near Linwood home.

J.W. is typical of the animals housed at Operation Wildlife. Rescuers believe he was hit by a car.  Operation Wildlife director Diane Johnson said a lot animals get injured that way. 

"They fly into windows, they get caught by peoples' pets, they get shot illegally, they have accidents," she explained.

Operation Wildlife brings in volunteer vets to treat and rehabilitate the animals so they can be released into the wild. Some, like J.W., have permanent injuries and are kept indefinitely.

But keeping the animals is getting more expensive thanks to the drought. Most of them feast on mice and rats. 

The shelter breeds some rodents to feed its residents, but it's not enough. Johnson said O.W.L. has to buy packages of mice and rats from out-of-state suppliers to keep pace with her animals' appetites.

Those suppliers have doubled their prices in recent months because they raise the rodents on grain-based feed. The drought has sent the cost of that feed soaring. The mouse and rat suppliers have passed those price hikes on to customers like Johnson.

"We don't have anybody else to pass that increase on to," Johnson said. "We're the end consumer, and we have to come up with the funds to pay for it."

Johnson is counting on O.W.L.'s donors to pick up the slack. They're the group's only source of income. She said Operation Wildlife is also seeking volunteers to assist with animal care.

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