CEDAR RAPIDS — Vesta bounds across her cage, stopping to bite down on an empty milk carton. She picks it up and eventually tosses it aside, taking a break to raise her nose at the baby raccoons squealing in the cage beside hers.
Her eyes never focus much on any particular point, but as Amber Oldfield speaks, Vesta’s fiery brown eyes size up her latest visitors.
Oldfield, a Linn County wildlife rehabilitator, has many scars from her more than 10 years on the job, with stories to match. She does not own animals, but for however long an animal needs her, she serves as its caretaker.
“I think of it as a gift,” Oldfield said.
For more than a year, Oldfield has provided care for a red fox she named Vesta. The fox is named after a Roman goddess of the same name — the goddess of fire, home and hearth. Vesta needed a name that fit her story, Oldfield said, and fire plays a part in both.
In March 2017, a farmer had a bunch of down trees that were accumulating. He wanted to burn them down, but he knew some foxes were living nearby. When he checked the following day to see how the burning was going, he found Vesta up against a tree, and knew she was burned.
Once the farmer met up with Oldfield, she knew immediately the fox needed medical care.
“I knew that I could not sit and visit with him,” she said. “I needed to go. I needed to get her home as fast as possible.”
Oldfield had never seen an animal burned so badly and still be alive.
Vesta’s whiskers were gone, her paw pads were enlarged and much of the skin down her back and legs was exposed. She also was coughing frequently from smoke inhalation.
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After taking Vesta to see a vet, over the course of several weeks, Vesta began to eat better and grow.
“It’s about supporting the animal, and that’s what I look to do every time I get an animal,” Oldfield said.
Vesta underwent surgery for an infection in May 2017, Oldfield said, and once again, the little fox was nursed back to health.
Normally, Oldfield focuses on getting animals released back into the wild, but that’s not the case with Vesta. She has become an educational animal.
Once each month, as required by the state, Oldfield takes Vesta to places such as the Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Road SE, They will be this Sunday afternoon, to teach the public about wildlife and educate them about Oldfield’s role in helping animals.
“This is a lifestyle,” Oldfield said. “If an animal is in need, that’s where my focus is right then.”
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