YOAKUM – Raccoons, opossums, rabbits, deer and squirrels are just some of the animals that call Nay Nay’s Wildlife Rehabilitation their temporary home.

Nay Fojtik began her wildlife rehabilitation at her home in rural Lavaca County about six years ago.

“My husband found an opossum years ago and he brought it home,” Fojtik said. “But even before that, when I was growing up, my mama would bring home critters and things like that to take care of them and release them.”

Nay Nay's Wildlife Rehabilitation

Lleyson Fojtik, 11, bottle feeds a doe at his home in Yoakum. Lleyson has daily jobs helping his mom at Nay Nay’s Wildlife Rehabilitation, one of which is bottle feeding the deer two to three times a day. All of the animals get fed specific food made for their dietary needs.

After learning it was illegal to have opossums and getting in trouble for having the one her husband brought home, Fojtik decided she wanted to become legal and get her license.

After getting the equipment she needed and the OK from the Lavaca County game warden, Fojtik never looked back.

“That’s all it took, was one little bitty opossum,” Fojtik said.

Fojtik learned how to take care of these animals through her own experience and research.

“A lot of it is research,” Fojtik said. “If I don’t know it and the vet I work with doesn’t know it, then I’m on it. I’ll sit here until I figure it out.”

Nay Nay's Wildlife Rehabilitation

Kolee Fojtik, 15, sits in a cage with a deer who was hit by a car. Kolee soaked the injured leg in Epsom salt water to clean and flush out the wound.

Fojtik reaches out to wildlife researchers, experts at Texas A&M, deer breeders and anyone she can think of who might have the answers she needs.

A lot of the animals Fojtik takes in have been seriously injured because of incidents such as being struck by a vehicle, stuck in a trap or people trying to get rid of them.

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Fojtik currently has an opossum she named Flaco, who is non-releasable and will live out his life at Nay Nay’s Wildlife Rehabilitation because he is blind in one eye and has no sense of smell.

She received a message on Facebook saying there was an opossum outside a local business that looked like it had been hit with a brick.

“The picture they sent me was this opossum huddled up in a ball with blood everywhere,” Fojtik said.

Nay Nay's Wildlife Rehabilitation

Nay feeds Flaco an afternoon snack mixture of eggs and Cheerios. Flaco is a non-releasable opossum that will live out his life at Nay Nay’s Wildlife Rehabilitation. Someone tried to kill Flaco with a brick, which caused the animal to suffer skull fractures, to lose his sense of smell and become blind in one eye.

Fojtik was not sure whether Flaco was going to make it. He had skull fractures, his nasal passage was crushed, he had jaw fractures and his teeth were knocked out. Flaco’s mouth and throat were so swollen he had to have a tube inserted in his side so he could eat and receive steroids and antibiotics.

“He got better, but this is why I want to educate people on these animals, because these are things that don’t need to happen,” Fojtik said. “Just because you find a raccoon or a opossum or a squirrel around your house doesn’t mean you have to go and murder them.They’re just trying to coexist like we are.”

Fojtik’s main goal is to educate people on the benefits of these wild animals. For example, opossums do not carry rabies and eat potentially dangerous insects such as ticks.

“That’s my goal – is just to educate people. No abuse. That’s unnecessary,” Fojtik said. “If someone was to beat a dog you’d have about 500,000 people ready to take them down. But if somebody beats a opossum or a skunk, well they’re vermin to them. No they’re not. It’s a living, breathing animal. It has a soul, it has feelings, it has a mind, and it has a purpose.”

Nay Nay's Wildlife Rehabilitation

Reiglihn Fojtik, 9, bottle feeds a deer at her home in Yoakum. Reiglihn has daily jobs helping her mom at Nay Nay’s Wildlife Rehabilitation, one of which is bottle feeding the deer two to three times a day with her brother, Lleyson.

Fojtik wants to reach as many people as she can about the benefits of having these animals around.

“I would like to get my educational permit so I can go to schools and take some of these animals that are non-releasable and teach people about what their purpose is and why they’re good to have around,” Fojtik said.

Although Fojtik does not receive help from the state or through grants, she continues to help these animals in any way she can.

“It’s like a full-time job even though it’s not considered a job; it’s more of a volunteer status than anything else,” Fojtik said.

As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Lavaca County and for the surrounding area, Fojtik gets multiple new animals every week that require special formulated food, antibiotics, steroids and specialized wound care, and the cost adds up quickly.

Depending on the severity, some animals have to stay on antibiotics for two weeks and receive probiotic supplements because of the medicine they take for such a long time.

Fojtik also has multiple enclosures with specific amenities to meet each animal’s needs, which she would like to expand when she can acquire more building materials.

But the cost and time is all worth it to Fojtik when she gets to see the animals reintroduced to the wild.

“That’s the best feeling ever. The opossums, when you see them sniffing around, marking their territory, sniffing, climbing and exploring. The skunks start digging right away. The raccoons immediately start hopping around and bouncing and jumping up into trees.” Fojtik said. “The deer, when you open up the pen for the first time and they get to experience the whole big world, they’re playing, their tails in the air. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They’re free. That’s an exciting feeling.”

Kendall Warner is a multimedia intern for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at kwarner@vicad.com or 361-574-1286 or @kendizzzall on twitter.

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