NORTH ADAMS -- The beginning of Tracy Litchfield's wildlife rehabilitation journey began three years ago when three baby squirrels were found in a Dumpster at Williamstown Commons, where she worked at the time.
"I had to go and see them," she said, explaining how she took one out and noticed it had knuckles and a nub where the thumb would be. Litchfield, fearing they would be killed, made sugar water to keep them hydrated while she was at work and then handed them over to Greylock Animal Hospital.
Before this encounter, Litchfield, who is now in her third year as a rehabilitator, didn't even know there was such a profession as a wildlife rehabilitator.
She educated herself for two years on the subject and now runs All Nestled In, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center operated by herself at her home through donations and her own contributions.
"I just love animals," she said. "It seems like a lot of animals need more help these days."
Litchfield works with reptiles and any type of small mammal, and has trained for a federal license to work with birds, as well. This past year, Litchfield encountered 75 animals and 75 percent of the animals she received recovered.
"It was a crazy year," Litchfield said, before listing a few of the animals, including eleven Virginia opossums, eight white-footed mice, nine cotton-tailed rabbits, two painted turtles, two European Starlings, seven American robins and one blue jay.
Litchfield receives animals from animal hospitals, other rehabilitators who have no room, local people and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, where she is licensed. Animals come to her as orphans or with broken wings, broken legs or gunshot wounds.
Although she doesn't have many supplies, she does use syringes and incubators, and her techniques include weighing the animals every day and keeping a nice, quiet environment. The animals are released back into the wild after treatment.
"It's really hard to let them go sometimes," she said. "But I do, because it's better for them."
This past year, Litchfield had the experience of releasing a newly recovered Canada goose gosling into an entirely new flock. After a couple who found him in Charlemont came to her and Greylock Animal Hospital said he would have to be euthanized if he didn't get better in two weeks, Litchfield was determined not to have to put the bird down.
She treated the bird and when she took him to Cheshire Lake to find a group of goslings, all the geese with their babies instantly welcomed him.
"He ran towards them and they ran towards him," she recalled. "It was awesome. It worked out so well."
Litchfield, who is also a paraprofessional at Clarksburg Elementary, is working toward further establishing All Nestled In as an organization and would like to get her educational license so she can run educational programs.
And she has continued to see many squirrels, the animal that started it all.
Litchfield welcomes volunteers, and those interested in donating can go to the donation button on the All Nestled In -- Wildlife Rehabilitation Facebook page, or contact Litchfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.