Kaili Stalling Submitted photo

TURNER — Kaili Stalling has been rehabbing and rescuing animals, in one way or another, since she was 8 years old, and in that time, she said she’s learned that rehabbing animals is like being in the mob: “Once you get in, you don’t get out.”

Stalling, a licensed clinical professional counselor, has spent the last several years as assistant director and foster coordinator of the nonprofit HerpHaven Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary, an organization run 100% by volunteers.

Before Stalling joined, HerpHaven didn’t have an official foster program. Since then, the number of foster families volunteering for HerpHaven and helping take care of reptiles has jumped to more than 60.

Name: Kaili Stalling

Age: 30

Hometown: Turner

Can you explain what HerpHaven Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary is and what you do there? HerpHaven Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 rescue organization dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, education and adoption of reptiles. We are Maine’s only nonprofit reptile rescue and sanctuary, staffed 100% by volunteers. I am the assistant director and foster coordinator for the rescue, which means I help coordinate with our volunteers and fosters, I recruit new fosters and, together, the director and I do a lot of the behind the scenes work to make the rescue run.

How did you get involved with HerpHaven?

I was actually the first foster for HerpHaven and helped to create the foster program. When I was doing in-home counseling, I realized a lot of my clients didn’t properly take care of their reptiles, which made me wonder if there was a reptile rescue in Maine. I grew up living on a lake and loved reptiles and amphibians my entire life, so I started checking the internet for rescues. I stumbled upon HerpHaven, and started talking online with Denise Cieri, founder and director of HerpHaven, then met her for coffee. I started by recruiting friends I knew to foster, and now we have over 60 foster families that work with us all over Maine.

How many reptiles are you personally fostering right now? What kind of work does it entail? A good majority of the reptiles that come in to HerpHaven are sick, injured or disabled in some way. I currently take care of 30 reptiles. Most of them have special needs and permanently live with me as long-term fosters, while others are just temporary fosters. Taking care of 30 reptiles is definitely a lot of work. I frequently need to check their water to make sure it’s clean, feed them, give them soaks to help with hydration and shedding, and clean up any soiled areas in their enclosures. I often take turns bringing them outside for natural UVB (type B ultraviolet rays) when the weather allows for it, as well as taking them out of their enclosure for socialization (with me) and exercise.

What’s something about reptiles that people might be surprised to learn about? That they have very specific requirements and needs and they can live a very long time — and can even outlive you. Some of my tortoises can live to be 130+ years old. Their care is constantly evolving and it’s important to keep up to date on current practices and husbandry. Unfortunately, there is a lot of incorrect information about reptile care out there.

You’ve mentioned on Facebook recently that there are certain requirements that need to be met before people can take on reptiles. Can you talk a little bit about that? We travel all across New England picking up rescues as well as bringing reptiles to their forever families. People considering adoption need to be able to show they can properly care for the reptile they are interested in adopting. Our adoption application has specific care questions about diet, humidity, temperature, lighting requirements and medical concerns for the species a prospective adopter is interested in. To foster for HerpHaven is a bit different, because we teach everyone what they need to know about the reptile they are caring for. We also have a foster-to-adopt program for those who feel they need more experience before committing to adoption.

Other than HerpHaven, are there any other organizations, nonprofits or companies that you volunteer for or help out with? I’m part of Community Cat Advocates and do a lot of the cat trapping to get feral colonies and stray cats/kittens off the street. All of the cats we trap get fixed and vaccinated and then we adopt them out or return them to their caretakers so they aren’t contributing to the overpopulation problem. I also partner closely with Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. They take in a lot of the friendly cats that I rescue from their towns. I also have worked closely with Jennifer Marchigiani at Misfits Rehab in Auburn. She’s a wonderful wildlife rehabber who has taught me so much. I have gotten to help with rehabbing foxes, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, groundhogs, porcupines and all sorts of large birds and wildlife. They are a second family to me.

Have animals always been a big part of your life? How many animals do you have at home? My entire life has always been about rescuing animals. When I was 8 years old I have pictures of me rescuing baby squirrels with Melody Echo Thurlow, who is a wildlife rehabber in Maine. Twenty years later, I met up with her to do some volunteer work. She’s still doing rehab to this day. I always say animal rescue is like the mob: once you get in, you don’t get out. I currently have 30 reptiles I take care of, seven small dogs, five cats and a foster cat with kittens.

What did you do for work before HerpHaven? I’m a licensed clinical professional counselor and I worked at Pathways doing in-home counseling with children and families for four years. Before COVID happened, I planned to go back to work as a counselor. I am looking at Telehealth and other counseling opportunities at this time.

What sorts of things do you do in your spare time, when you’re not rehabbing animals or rescuing them? I have always been a big fan of nature and the outdoors. I love hiking, photography and exploring the beautiful landscapes that New England has to offer. I also love traveling and took a road trip to the Southwest with my boyfriend, Julian, to visit as many national parks as possible. I’ve combined my love of photography with animal rescue, to help fund raise for local rescues and increase adoptions through fun photoshoots.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: