BOUNTIFUL -- Out in the wild, cute-looking animals are easy to spot. Some people even think they might make great pets.
Such was the case with some bushy-tailed pack rats recently plucked from their nests. However, the person who rescued the pack rats quickly learned that the animals would no longer eat out of their natural environment.
The pack rats were brought to Anna-Maria Fouad, owner of Hope Farms in Bountiful, on the brink of death. Since bushy-tailed pack rats are such specialized animals, they could not be returned to the wild, so Fouad provided proper care for them and found scientists who had the ability to take care of them.
The situation with the bushy-tailed rats is just one of many cases handled by Hope Farms, which was set up four years ago by Fouad as a foster program for animals that need rescue or rehabilitation.
Fouad coordinates with a number of volunteer families who take care of animals until the right home can be found for them.
Since starting, Hope Farms has placed more than 300 animals. While that may seem like an insignificant number to some, to Fouad it means 300 animals that would have died on the street or been euthanized were rescued.
Too often, Fouad talks to rescuers who bring in animals from the wild they think can become domesticated pets.
"If they think they are cute or exotic, the best thing they can do is leave them be and observe them," said Fouad. "By removing and attempting to domesticate them, we unintentionally kill them."
Other times, Fouad receives exotic pets from people who have purchased them at pet stores or on the Internet.
Fouad said those buyers typically think it will be fun until they realize the amount of specialized care pets like ferrets, reptiles and birds require.
Those pets all need to have the correct heat, nutrition, and size of home, she said.
"I've experienced close up what happens to animals who are neglected when pet owners are not educated about (the animals') needs. So I've been committed, in whatever way I could, to helping those animals who have no choice in the matter," Fouad said.
One family in Bountiful has fostered about 50 animals during the last few years.
Linden Schmid and her two teenagers have taken in just about everything from kittens to dogs, rabbits, chickens, bearded dragons, gerbils and even mice.
The most memorable animals the Schmids fostered were sugar gliders, small squirrel-like animals with long tails that were kept in cages that were too small for the animals to jump and glide.
As a result, the sugar gliders would not allow anyone to touch them and would bite anyone who tried, Fouad said.
When the owner decided to get rid of the gliders, Fouad placed them in the Schmid home where they were able to tame the animals by spending enough time with them and giving them enough space to jump and glide.
Eventually, the animals were tame enough to be adopted by another family.
"There are so many animals out there that need homes ... I don't mind taking a little bit of time and love helping Anna-Marie out," said Schmid. "I know that if we don't do it, the animals will be euthanized.
"So if we can turn them around and find them homes, that is one less animal that has to be euthanized. We haven't encountered an animal yet that we can't turn around."
Hope Farms is unique because it helps foster and find adoptive homes for animals that may not always be welcome at local animal shelters, such as reptiles, bunnies, birds, pigs, goats, horses and even mice.
"Sometimes I have been teased for saving baby mice, but I just believe in the value of all life," Fouad said.
"This is just one of the areas in the world where I can walk the talk. I have the ability to save these animals and get them into safe places as best as I can."