When local police, fire or animal control officers come across an injured wild animal, their first call is often to Spofford. He gets calls from private citizens, as well.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little friendly help. A couple of years ago, for example, he freed a coyote stuck in a fence at a Salem home. He arrived to find the animal with its two hind paws sticking through the top of the fence while it stood on its front paws in the snow. He checked the coyote for injuries and then knocked off the top of the pickets. The animal yowled and scampered away.
Fellow firefighter Russell Lewis was part of a recent duck rescue at Northshore Mall when six ducklings took a 15-foot plunge down a grate. Spofford wasn’t there, but Lewis said that after firefighters rescued the ducks and turned them over to the animal control officer, the first thing she told them was she’d take the ducks right over to Spofford.
He called the station later to confirm that the ducklings had arrived safely.
Spofford became involved with animal rescue 20 years ago and assisted others for several years before becoming licensed himself last year. Despite state certification and licensure, the job is completely voluntary. Spofford pays the bills for food and medical care. It costs him $150 to $200 a week for the raccoons’ milk.
Right now, he has 25 raccoons, 10 squirrels and three or four cottontail rabbits down in his basement. He also has five cats and a Flemish giant rabbit, but those are pets.
Once the animals are ready to transition to the second stage of care, they move to larger cages in his backyard before finally heading to a friend’s farm in Peabody. At that point, the animals are placed in prerelease cages, where they slowly get acclimated to nature.
When they’re ready, he said, “they go climb a tree, and we walk away.”