Carolina Waterfowl Rescue & Sanctuary: The Wildlife Rehab of Our Dreams

One woman made it her mission to help needy, neglected animals. Now this wildlife rehab is helping animals thrive every day.

Published November 5, 2023
Wild Canadian Geese Walking on Gravel Trail

For sixteen years, I’ve lived practically next door to the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue & Sanctuary (CWR). I’ve grown used to the goose honks that accompany me pruning my rose bushes, and they’re the first number I reach out to when I see an animal that may need some care.

They’re a unique animal rehab set up on one last vestige of the American wilds, nestled in between subdivision after subdivision. CWR is so much a part of my community, and I’d like them to become a part of yours. So, here is their story.

Meet Carolina Waterfowl Rescue & Sanctuary

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue & Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rescue nonprofit that provides resources, rehabilitation, and medical care to all kinds of animals. Located in Indian Trail, North Carolina, they’ve been servicing the Carolinas and beyond using an extensive volunteer and rehabber network for years. 

How the Organization Was Born 

CWR’s Director of Marketing, Anantika Khindaria, was kind enough to give me the scoop on how the charity got started. Jennifer Gordon, the nonprofit’s founder, has been an animal activist almost since birth. A move to North Carolina as an adult pushed her to connect with the area through volunteering, and it was during this time that she embarked on her first rescue.

She found a discarded rouen duck and her nest and went to check on them the next day, only to discover a half-eaten wing perched over the eggs. "Jennifer believed [the mother's] last, dying breath was to place her wing down to protect them and keep them warm."

Those babies thrived under her care, and with time, research, and trial and error, she learned enough to build a rehabilitation center that could support the "neediest, neglected, and just unwanted" animals around. Thus, CWR was born.

The Animals at the Heart of It All 

There is a plethora of incredible success stories thanks to CWR's efforts. Now, this is probably the perfect time to grab that box of tissues.

Rooster Rescue, Anyone?

In 2022, a delightful little rooster was abandoned in a parking lot and rescued by CWR volunteers. They were able to transfer him to another rescue, The Pipsqueakery in Indiana, and he's thriving! 

The Goose That Made a Difference

Just a few months ago, a goose became trapped in a deterrent wire stretched over a local pond. Thankfully, the goose was able to get the care they needed, heal from an infection and the wounds to their wings, and reunite with their mate. And thanks to their story, the deterrent wire was removed, and the State Employees Credit Union donated for the goose’s care.

CWR’s Star, Casper the Goose

My personal favorite success story is Casper the goose. Some time ago, Casper had his entire beak and most of his tongue ripped off by a snapping turtle. But just in the way that humans persevere, with CWR’s support, he was given the environment he needed to adapt.

In the wild, this injury would be a death sentence. But thanks to CWR, Casper found a lifelong mate, has goslings every so often, and built a beautiful life for himself. The fact that he’s able to leave of his own accord and yet always returns to CWR speaks volumes about how they don’t just help the animals that come into their care, they make a home for them.

Unbreakable Bonds 

The volunteers at CWR form unbreakable bonds with the sweet animals they help. Melissa Patera, longtime volunteer animal care coordinator and shift leader, shared, "There are so many favorite moments and animals that I have had since I first began volunteering in 2015 ... From lil Zeke the chicken who has been here since I've started ... to Willis the best turkey ever who passed away a few years ago ... My greatest joy was raising [Forest] and now loving and caring for them and spoiling them as much as I can." 

Although it can be challenging work, those who serve at CWR find tremendous joy in connecting with and helping the animals that come through their doors. 

The Organization Fills a Special Niche

CWR fills a unique niche in the world of animal rescues. The animals they see come in the most often are the Carolina wren, Canada goose, American robin, mallard, house finch, domestic chicken, mourning dove, northern cardinal, European starling, and northern mockingbird.

Animals Admitted Percentage of Admission 
Carolina Wren 8%
Canada Goose 7%
American Robin 5% 
Mallard  5%
House Finch 5%
Domestic Chicken 4%
Mourning Dove 3%
Northern Cardinal 3%
European Starling 2%
Northern Mockingbird 2%
Need to Know

Though they serve many bird species, if you’ve stumbled across an injured or sick raptor, CWR will transfer your rescue to another certified institution that’s equipped to handle them. You should also direct those stray cats, dogs, and bunnies to one of the many other rehabbers in your area.

What a Day at CWR Is Like 

At CWR, the name of the game is chaos. If you’ve worked in any medical facility or rescue organization, you know that you never know what the day’s going to bring. But Anantika sums up the daily operations nicely. "Our day-to-day operations consist of four crucial components."

  1. Administering medical care to new intakes and ongoing patients
  2. Caring for residential animals
  3. Overseeing rescue maintenance
  4. Fundraising
Need to Know

Along with the daily work, some really special moments come with being part of the organization. Dillya Harlow, longtime volunteer animal transporter and staff rehabber, shared, "One of my favorite moments at CWR is when a crow came in unable to stand or walk. We were all so hopeful the sweet crow would recover. The following week, I came in and the crow was standing up. I was overwhelmed by happiness."

It's a Unique, Community-Driven Organization

The beauty of how CWR runs its organization is that it’s completely community-driven. On many occasions, I’ve come across wild animals whose behavior has given me pause. So, I’ve texted their outreach hotline (704-286-6330) with information about myself, where I saw the animal, and a few pictures of them. Despite inevitably countless notifications, I’ve never had to go longer than 20 minutes without having a volunteer reach out to me.

From there, volunteers in the area are dispatched to assess the animals. If they need medical care or rehab, they’ll be safely picked up in makeshift animal ambulances, transported, and cared for at the CWR home base. According to Anantika, "trained rehabbers are onsite and available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day" to attend to such cases as "wing and leg breaks from car collisions, gaping body wounds from predators, or glue/sticky pad entrapments."

The volunteer "shift" crew are the people who tend to each individual animal's needs. Think about just how much work taking care of your fluffy pet is and multiply that by hundreds. Picking up produce, managing the transport network, and feeding baby songbirds every 15 minutes from April to October are just some of the many tasks these volunteers do to see that every animal gets the care it deserves.

Need to Know

Education is also a part of how CWR helps the community. Naomi Mitchem, staff adoption coordinator, data entry specialist, and community produce coordinator said, "One of my favorite moments was back in April when we did the live auction and presentation about animals! I got to teach people about domestic rabbit care, and people asked questions and I just really enjoyed dispelling myths and also letting people know that rabbits are definitely not beginner pets!"

YOU Make It All Possible!

CWR is 100% donation-run. If you don’t work in the nonprofit sector, then you might not realize how incredible this is. They don’t get any state funding or grants, so every dollar you donate goes to keeping the lights on. Per Anantika, "The only way we continue to operate is through fundraising efforts and charitable contributions from the public."  With more than 80% of CWR’s workforce being volunteers, donating your time is just as valuable as your money!

Facebook subscriptions have made up a large portion of their donations, but they've lost a significant amount of this funding because of changes to the platform. So, they're urging old Facebook subscribers to shift to other donation methods. If you’d like to donate, send an email to Or to donate directly head to CWR's donation website, CWR's Patreon, or send money via Paypal to @waterfowlrescue. 

If you’re in North Carolina and are interested in volunteering in one way or another, send an email to

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue & Sanctuary: The Wildlife Rehab of Our Dreams