ST. LOUIS, Missouri––Wildlife rehabilitator Sandie Konopelski, 58, was on May 20, 2015 posthumously honored with a leaf on the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals “Tree of Life” at the PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.
Reported Leah Thorsen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The leaf’s inscription was written by her husband Marc Konopelski and reads, ‘In loving memory of Sandie Konopelski, the critter helper.’ She rescued nearly 500 animals in the last year alone and was a ‘formidable force of compassion in her community,’ PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement.”
Konopelski, a longtime volunteer for Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois, was on April 24, 2015 killed by a MetroLink commuter train while responding to an 8:00 a.m. call about an opossum who was apparently caught on the tracks and unable to escape, somewhere between the Swansea and Belleville stations.
Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois president Angel Wintrode told Thorsen and Kim Bell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, they wrote, that “Metro had called her nonprofit frequently for help removing animals from the tracks, but she did not know if Metro had made the call about the opossum.”
Eulogized Wintrode, “Konopelski came to the Wildlife Hotline after hearing about us online, and through a mutual friend. We were elated to have her. Sandie had been rehabilitating wildlife on her own, out of her home, in Metro-East Illinois for 20+ years all alone. She felt isolated except for a few friends here and there, but she wanted a family. We were so lucky to have her become part of ours. She fit right in immediately, and loved being able to talk to a huge group of people that also talked incessantly about poop, blood, and gross things that ‘normal’ people steer clear of.”
“Her wildlife knowledge was worth more than any amount of books, seminars, or classes,” Wintrode continued. “She had a way of mentoring new staff members and training them to follow our protocols with ease. She ran herself ragged every day going to get animals from all over Illinois, even after we tried to set up some people to do transporting for her.
“We know that Sandie had been called out before by MetroLink,” Wintrode added. “She’d rescued a red fox kit, a juvenile eagle, multiple opossums, a deer fawn – all from Metrolink’s rails. Every time she would go on these calls, she would first go to the ‘station house’ to let someone know that she was there and to have someone show her where the animal was. Often Metrolink would walk with her to where the animal was, or they would drive her over to it, depending on how far it was. She had done this many times before. We may never know what exactly happened,” to cause the fatal accident.
Konopelski was also active with the House Rabbit Society.