Local wildlife is as vulnerable to the effects of a storm as we ar — and dozens of seabirds and small mammals are expected to be displaced or injured by the hurricane.

Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary will be open throughout the storm and able to receive weak or injured wildlife.

“There’s gonna be a huge variety of wildlife that’s going to be affected by Hurricane Matthew. An awful lot of seabirds will be blown off course and found all along the shore. Expect to see a lot of the seabirds that can’t even walk on land like lunes and cormets washed up along the beaches,” Toni O’Neal said, founder and director of Possumwood Acres.  

High winds could knock bird nests from branches, endangering mourning dove fledglings and baby squirrels, which are the last to leave nests at this time of year.

“The animals and wildlife can sense the storm is coming and may act strangely. They could be very needy, for example,” said O’Neal. “Snakes and those wildlife that are on the ground will be driven to higher ground, probably where people are which is a safety concern. Always look before reaching for something or before you step.

“This always happens following flooding.”

Pregnant opossums are also at risk. According to O’Neal, female opossums will likely have a pouch full of babies and are in danger of being struck by a car or having flood waters wash their young from pouches.

“We’ve already had problems with ants too. They dislike water and will begin to build huge mounds on higher ground. They’re bad already and it’s only going to get worse as they start coming into structures. Spiders will be doing the same thing,” O’Neal said.

To avoid ant or spider bites, be mindful of what you’re grabbing, and shake out your boots before you put them on, said O’Neal.

As strong winds may blow birds into windows or trees, it’s likely that residents may encounter an injured animal.

“If you come across an animal, it may have been tumbled around and weak, if not injured. Dry it off and keep the animal on standby. Place it in a box that is warm, dark and quiet,” O’Neal said.

Any injured or weak animal may be taken to Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, located at 119 Doe Drive in Hubert, anytime over the weekend.

The staff of the wildlife sanctuary will be available to receive these animals, even if the phone lines are down or if no one answers the phone.

“Also remember pets will need protection from the storm,” O’Neal said. “And while most pets are indoor animals, you’ll want to provide shelter for farm dogs and outside cats. Pets may freak out if there’s a lot of thunder. Try whatever you can to reassure the animal, some use thunder jackets or a Benadryl. You can also keep yourself calm, which will also help your pet stay calm.”

For more information or to drop off an injured animal, call 910-326-6432 or stop by the facility.