Wildlife: How Bloomington’s Animal Rescuer Became Our Local Tarzan

Chase Cavalera wears open-toed shoes that slip for a reason.

Cavalera is a volunteer wildlife rescuer. Over the past six years, he’s become Bloomington-Normal’s unofficial assistant to those who spot an injured squirrel in their backyard, a baby rabbit trapped in a chain-link fence, or a pregnant opossum in a dumpster.

And when he gets a call, Cavalera appears on the scene in his slip-on shoes.

“It keeps my negotiating skills in check. Because if my little pigs are hanging out, and I have a raccoon on the floor, she might want to bite off one of my toes. It keeps my tone and my movements in check,” Cavalera said. “It goes with the whole Tarzan theme anyway.”

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Tarzan Local Wildlife Solutions

To rescue a rabbit stuck in a backyard fence, Chase cut down a small section of the fence to free the animal, who appeared to only suffer minor injuries and managed to escape.

Yes, Cavalera refers to himself as the local Tarzan. At 6-foot-3 with long blonde hair, the name is apt. Cavalera customers and animal rehabilitation partners say it fills an important gap in the community—needs that are not being met by McLean County Animal Control, commercial hunters, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. (And yes, Cavalera says he plays by the rules. They’re all volunteers, and he says he’s got an IDNR Wildlife Control Annoyance permit.)

The 49-year-old from Bloomington grew up as an animal lover — constantly finding himself in strange situations with wildlife that might not add up to much for someone else.

Wild animals kept finding him. About 20 years ago, he found a Cardinal with a broken wing while riding his bike to the first day of work at Bloomington Animal Hospital.

“These creatures don’t have an owner or a human friend to give them help. They don’t have the power to ask. They can’t conceive of going to the vet. I would say they are voiceless, although most of them have some kind of noise they make,” Cavalera jokes. . As a Darwinian, there are limits. survival of the fittest. But it is a human problem. We have created less and less space for them to live. And some of our games cause problems (animals) get into them.”

Our Wildlife Rescue Group

His animal rescue work really began about five years ago, when a Facebook group called Save Our Wildlife formed in the Bloomington-Normal and surrounding areas.

“Chase is the kind of person who gets things done,” said Mary Roberts of Lexington, one of the Facebook group’s administrators. “He’s almost fearless, and it can be intimidating. But he’s also very smart. And everything he does he does skillfully and thoughtfully.”

Roberts said Cavalera is pretty much the only person in the group that the members refer to as rescues.

“It’s much-needed work. If there’s a puppy or kitten out on the street, you’d have all these people and rescues lined up to help. But if it’s a squirrel or a raccoon, what do you do?” said Roberts.

What they do is call or text Cavalera. He documents many rescues with a body camera and posts videos to YouTube.

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Chase Cavalera of Bloomington documents his animal rescues on his YouTube channel and Facebook page, called Local Tarzan’s Compassionate Wildlife Solutions.

“I can jump through the manhole and pull myself out too, or get into certain scenarios where most people are like, ‘No, I don’t go a quarter mile down the street for a duck.'” “Yeah, I’ve done some stupid things before.”

Sometimes stupid, but not reckless. Earlier in his animal rescue career, he’d put on those shoes and run out to a job as soon as someone called.

“Now, 90% of what I do is educate. Talk them through the situation. The truth is, a lot of this stuff is just a misunderstanding of what’s really going on and what can be done.”

Sometimes, his hands are tied.

“For example, swans. They’re not indigenous to this area. People own ponds and put swans in the pond to scare away the geese. If something happens to the swan, I’m in a really weird position—because it’s not native wildlife, so that’s not really in my purview.” Nobody claims a swan, but if it’s sick or injured, what do I do with it? Because vets would be like, ‘Hey, that’s someone’s property.’ You’ve crossed a line here, Cavalera said.

Despite the name, he does not hunt animals. It’s not Uber for animals.

“Ultimately, the best solution is to try to work things out on the yard, in that animal’s environment, with a little bit of contact and harassment from me. If it’s not a serious injury, something that can heal on its own, you’re doing it a disservice by trying to catch it, and put it in a box.” , dumping him in Tahoe, driving him all over central Illinois, and putting him in another crate (for rehab).

hard work

Often, no intervention is required. Sometimes it is.

That’s when Cavalera brings injured animals to places like Raccoon Ridge Rehab near Chenoa, where owner Judy Ellinger nurses them back to health.

It’s not an easy feat, Ellinger said. She took in about 90 raccoons this year, and she couldn’t save them all. She hates this part of the job. She and Cavalera often talk about the emotional toll of that job, which leads to burnout for much of rehab.

“People think it’s a fun job. That we just sit around and feed cute little kids. No, this time of year I get adults. Yesterday I got a mutilated one at Interlake, a big plant in Pontiac. We had to kill it. That’s the hard part of it.” That. But you can’t just take the happy moments. You have to take everything. “It’s heartache, a lot of it,” Ellinger said.

“You can’t just take the happy moments. You have to take everything. It’s heartache, lots of it.”

Jodi Ellinger and Coon Ridge Rehab

Cavalera remembers the day he caught a young raccoon that had fallen several stories from a building. The raccoon was a little salty and bit it. However, the rescue operation took a dark turn, as Cavalera discovered that the entire raccoon family was infected with a virus known as tuberculosis. They died within a week or two.

Cavalera is optimistic, but says they are all about to give up. Cavalera comes home to his girlfriend, but he doesn’t like dumping those stories on her either.

“Embrace the suck,” he said.

Given the work, it’s no surprise that Cavalera is so eccentric. He sometimes rubbed people the wrong way, and people like Roberts jumped to his defense on social media.

“Chase is a different kind of guy. I love him to death,” Ellinger said. “He’s a good kid. His heart is in the right place. Do people get angry? He certainly does. But it does go with territory sometimes.”

Earlier in his life, Cavalera dabbled in the private investigation business – which became useful to Tarzan’s hobby. Today he makes money as a rental property owner in Bloomington-Normal. He and his business partner, Bradley Scott, run a media production company called Cavalera Evolution Entertainment out of a storefront in downtown Bloomington.

Cavalera’s animal rescue work is voluntary. Customers do not charge. He creates a GoFundMe each year, looking to raise $6,000 to offset expenses like gas and equipment.

In a place like Florida, this could be a (serious) paying job. Here in Illinois, it’s a hobby. Cavalera said Illinois is kind of boring in terms of the wildebeest breed. Back in October, when he heard that a mountain lion was loose in Springfield, he was kind of excited.

Finally, something serious! He said.

Eventually, wildlife officials calmed down the cougar on Springfield’s West Side after it stopped and appeared to become comfortable in a residential area. He is now a resident of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana.

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