Westport’s Cheryl Aguiar is living every little kid’s dream of bringing home all the stray, orphaned, and injured critters. Her photo album boasts tiny, fuzzball bunnies, baby squirrels napping in the palm of her hand, and even a laid-back raccoon just relaxing in a hammock.

Think back to a simpler time in your life when you were just playing in the yard, found a bird with an injured wing, scooped it up and quickly ran inside your house. You found an old empty shoebox that was just the right size and quickly made a safe place for your injured friend to, you hoped, recover fully and become your new best friend.

Except, sadly, the bird probably worked itself into a heart attack and died overnight, leaving you to find it’s little lifeless body the next day feeling like a total failure.  You tried so hard, and darn it, there should be a place that you can take small animals like to go and get fixed so they can be wild and free.

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Cue Cheryl Aguiar, who is the founder of Westport’s Roadside Wildlife Rehab. She is basically living every seven year old’s animal-rescue dreams, except her mom doesn’t get mad and yell about fleas and rabies when she brings another wild animal home.

Back in September of 2020, after a particularly hard year for her Westport Nail Salon left her with some free time, Cheryl took the opportunity to pursue her life's passion to help the little critters of the SouthCoast.

I have always had a passion for wildlife, since I was a child but what really made me pursue this was when I rescued a pair of Great Horned Owlets after their nest fell to destruction back in 2016.  My husband and I built them a new nest using a wicker basket. That was such an amazing experience for me. That’s when I knew I had to do more. I also wrote a book about the rescue called “Great Horned Owlets Rescue: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way…”

Roadside Wildlife is officially a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to care for orphaned, injured, and ill wildlife with the highest hopes of returning them to the wild. The organization operates out of Cheryl’s home-based facility thanks to generous sponsors and community contributions.

Being a home-based facility, there isn’t room for lots of animals. Her state license allows her to care for mammals including rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons. She is not allowed care long-term for migratory birds, birds of prey, or endangered species. Cheryl works within her network to help find other rehabilitators who can assist in these situations.

One thing I do want to stress for the children is that, YES, the animals are really cute and we all want to hold them and take them home, BUT the place for a wild animal is in the wild. They do not survive in captivity. The best thing we can do for a sick, injured or even a healthy baby is get them to someone who is licensed and knows how to properly care for that animal. That’s how you really save a life. That’s being a hero. That’s being a wildlife warrior… no matter what your age.

You can see all the cute babies as they progress and reenter the wild on the Roadside Wildlife Rehab Facebook page.

LOOK: Stunning animal photos from around the world

From grazing Tibetan antelope to migrating monarch butterflies, these 50 photos of wildlife around the world capture the staggering grace of the animal kingdom. The forthcoming gallery runs sequentially from air to land to water, and focuses on birds, land mammals, aquatic life, and insects as they work in pairs or groups, or sometimes all on their own.

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