A Sweet Partnership

Every day is Earth Day for us at Maple Valley Cooperative and we couldn’t be happier to be partnering with another organization that feels the same way. Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center in Madison, Wisconsin provides specialized care and treatment to thousands of injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals every year with the goal of releasing healthy animals back to their natural habitats.

Each sugaring season Maple Valley Cooperative supplies fresh maple sap (which is then frozen into ice cubes to preserve it) to the Wildlife Center to be used by staff and volunteers to feed injured birds during their rehabilitation. Songbird volunteers thaw out the frozen sap ice cubes as needed so that the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have fresh food to eat.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are a common species in the state of Wisconsin, often presenting to wildlife rehabilitators during the spring and fall migrations. They are specialized birds that spend more than half of their days tapping “sapwells” of various trees, such as maple or birch trees, looking to eat the yummy nectar that’s inside. Pure sap from these trees contain up to ten percent sugar, giving them much needed energy for flight and fat storage.

Dane County Humane Society volunteer, Carol Pope (L) and Maple Valley Cooperative founding farmer, Cecil Wright (R), meet during an early March visit. Carol traveled from Madison to Cecil’s woodland in rural southwest Wisconsin, where gallons of fresh maple sap were collected to feed injured Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Last summer Jacqueline Sandberg, Wildlife Program Manager, shared a video with us of a sapsucker as it was hand held and drank sap from a feeder dish. The bird had spinal trauma and had trouble with being able to grab onto a log, so it was in the early stages of rehabilitation until it could feed on its own. More recently, another sapsucker collided with a window and was brought to the Center for care. See the photo below of new volunteers and interns assisting in the feeding of this bird.

Our farmers are sustainable forest stewards working hand in hand with nature. The care and maintenance of their sugarbush is guided by certified organic regulations and their passion to ensure the maple woodland understory stays intact, this provides habitat for abundant and diverse wildlife and prevents soil erosion. Supporting the rehabilitation work of the Wildlife Center is a natural partnership for us and is one we plan to continue for years to come.


Photo (from left to right): Intern Xavier, Volunteer Morgan, and Intern Kaitlyn

Header Photo: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, held in an adult songbird recovery cage indoors at DCHS’s Wildlife Center.   |  Photo credit: DCHSWC volunteer Lesley Haven



Check out these links for more information:


Found an injured or ill wild animal? Here’s what to do.

Found an orphaned wild animal? Here’s what to do.

Become a wildlife supporter. Donate now or host a fundraiser.

Behind the Numbers: Wildlife Center’s 2022 Annual Report Data