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Welcome to the jungle

If you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, Bob and Char Wrobel’s house on Crooked Lake is not the place to go. And the Wrobels wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Animal lovers and long-time rescuers, the Wrobels home is a haven for animals of fur and feathers. 

“We’ve always had an interest in animals,” Bob Wrobel said. “Even before we were married.”

The couple, originally from Chicago but residents of the Brainerd lakes area for more than 30 years, have always has a houseful of wildlife.

At one time the couple raised guinea pigs and birds for a pet store in Chicago. At that time they had more than 100 animals in their home at once. 

"It just kind of grew," Bob recalled.

These days, the Wrobels stick mostly to birds. There is lots of talking, but mostly squawking coming from all corners of their house. 

“It’s a zoo in here,” Char Wrobel said.

Birds, especially the kinds taken for pets, long outlive their owners, often living well into their 70s. "They get passed down from generation to generation," Bob explained. 

 "Sometimes people don’t want them or just can’t keep them anymore,” Char said. 

In addition to taking care of their collection of wildlife at home, the Wrobels volunteer a great deal of their time with Wild and Free in Garrison.  

Wild and Free is a rescue center for injured and orphaned wildlife that serves to rehabilitate and eventually release animals back to their natural habitat. 

"It's everything from songbirds to bald eagles. Bunnies to bears," Char said. 

Wild and Free is 100-percent operated by volunteers in partnership with the Garrison Animal hospital. The Wrobels said they got involved with the organization upon retirement; Char from teaching and Bob from production and inventory control for various companies in the area. "We always said, 'Wouldn't it be fun to volunteer?'" Char said. "And here we are."

The Wrobels spend their time transporting animals to Wild and Free and educating the community on Wild and Free and the animals they rescue. 

"Whatever needs to be done, we do it," Char said. 

Char said her long-time favorite residents at Wild and Free were always the baby fawns, but she hasecently taken a particular liking to the baby bears that come in. 

"It's like watching 100-pound puppies," Char said. "You'd be surprised how fast a bear can polish off a watermelon." 

The Wrobels said Wild and Free gets four to six bears each year, many of which come in as infants weighing as little as just a few pounds. 

"That's the fun part; to watch them grow," Bob said.

Wild and Free is the only facility of its kind in Minnesota licensed to take bears. 

In June, when a mother duck was killed by a motorist on Washington Street in Brainerd, it was the Wrobels who helped get her five orphaned babies to Wild and Free. 

After six weeks at Wild and Free, the ducklings were released on Crooked Lake near the Wrobels home.

Release hasn't taken the ducklings real far into the wild — weeks later, they continue to find their way back to the Wrobels  "You can tell where they've been on the dock," Bob said with a laugh. "Sometimes when they come back they bring friends. They come with three, four, five more."

"We've had up to 15 (ducks) here at one time."

Bob said seeing the animals they released thrive in their natural environment is the most satisfying part of their involvement with Wild and Free.

"We can't save every animal," he said. "But we save every one we can."

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.