Author Archive > scwc


» 04 October 2014 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Hibernation


The Nuts and Bolts of Hibernation

by Ed Grabianowski

Hibernation is mainly controlled by the endocrine system. Glands in the body alter the amounts of hormones being released and can control just about every physiological aspect of hibernation.

  • Thyroid – gland that controls metabolism and activity levels
  • Melatonin – hormone that controls the growth of winter coats
  • Pituitary – gland that controls fat build up, heart rate and breathing rate, as well as metabolic functions
  • Insulin – hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) needed by the animal

When a mammal enters hibernation, it becomes somewhat like a cold-blooded animal. Its body temperature will vary depending on the temperature around it. However, there is a minimum temperature, known as a set point. It’s just like setting the temperature on your thermostat at home. When the mammal’s body temperature reaches the set point, the metabolism kicks in and burns some fat reserves. This generates some energy, which is in turn used to heat things back up above the set point. Larger animals have a higher set point. If they let their temperature drop too low, it would require an enormous amount of energy to heat back up again.

Several other things occur when an animal is hibernating:

  • Heart rate drops to as little as 2.5 percent of its usual level. A chipmunk’s heart rate slows to five beats per minute from the usual 200.
  • Breathing rate drops by 50 percent to 100 percent. Yes, 100 percent. Some animals stop breathing entirely. A few reptiles go their entire hibernation period without breathing, and even mammals have shown the ability to survive with drastically reduced oxygen supplies.
  • Consciousness is greatly diminished. This varies by species, but many hibernating animals are completely oblivious to their surroundings and are nearly impossible to wake up. If you were to wake up a hibernating animal midwinter, you would be effectively killing it. It would use up so much energy warming itself up in order to awaken that it would have no chance of making it to spring even if it could re-enter hibernation.

Body fat, which is packed with energy, is burned off to provide the energy necessary to maintain these minimal levels of body functions. This can be very efficient — Arctic ground squirrels live entirely off of stored body fat for as long as nine months. Some species are unable to store enough body fat, so those animals have a lighter hibernation, allowing them to awaken periodically for a snack.

If an animal is burning fat or snacking on stored nuts all winter, what happens to all the waste? No fecal matter is produced because nothing is passing through the digestive tract and intestines. But the body is always producing urea, the waste product that is the main component of urine. Hibernating animals’ bodies are able to recycle the urea. Bears don’t urinate all winter, but they break the urea down into amino acids. Even though they don’t drink, they don’t get dehydrated either. They’re able to extract enough water from their own body fat to stay hydrated.

Continue reading...

Sometimes they choose you.

» 17 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Sometimes they choose you.


Our family continues to grow. We treat our educational ambassadors just like family… maybe better.

Of course our goal is to try to release all animals that come in to us. We release 99% of all viable animals back into the wild where they belong. Only twice did an animal choose to stay with us: once with a dear opossum named Big Boy, and recently with a skunk named Cash. (We do not name the animals that get returned to the wild.)

Cash came to us as a tiny, lone neonatal who had been attacked by a dog. Cash was very scared after his trauma and was quite “stand-offish” with us. He often “poofed” (a baby skunk odor that is emitted on purpose or by accident) and protested about his misfortunate of landing in a rehab center. Of course we had to handle him to formula feed him. Even being with 3 and then 5 other skunks, he just always stood out and never seemed as “skunky” as the rest. He was a bit larger then the rest and was fed from a separate bowl (so the others would get their fair share) so maybe that had something to do with slight distance from the others. In any case, we did not handle him much more than the others.

When it came time to move all the skunks outside to get accumulated to the weather, forage around for natural foods, and for them to go through “Be Wild 101”, I wondered how Cash would do and if he should go. We’d always make room for an animal if he/she had to stay or find appropriate placement. He was placed outside with the rest of them. He stuck out like a sore thumb… being intimidated by the ones half his size, being pushed away from food bowls and not standing his ground to eat, not sleeping with the group, etc. I pulled him back in. Either way, I experienced a Mother’s guilt: guilty for making him struggle outside or possible depriving him of his right to be free in the wild. After pulling him in for one night, I placed him back outside for more observation time and time for his instincts to kick in.

Welp, we have a new educational ambassador. Our decision was affirmed over and over. He clearly is more comfortable inside and around people. All he wants to do is be next to us or on our laps. In a very anthropomorphic statement, I bet he is relieved he gets some love instead of us avoiding him outside. We do love him. How could one not love such a gentle soul? His chances of surviving throughout the first winter outside would be slim, especially by exerting 20% more energy by denning by himself. That’s okay, little buddy, we won’t make you go. We just need a bigger center so you can have a better home. We’re working on it…

Welcome home, Cash.

Continue reading...

Should the general public be allowed to rehab?

» 22 February 2014 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Should the general public be allowed to rehab?

Drop the squirrel and back away…..

Posted on February 21, 2014by 


Aww, look, a baby squirrel! He’s all alone, and he’s so cute! Why don’t we take him home and raise him, then we can let him go when the kids go back to school in the fall?

The state of Indiana is currently soliciting comments for a bill which would make the above scenario legal, creating an uproar among those licensed to care for injured and orphaned wildlife.

Wildlife rehabilitators have to jump through hoops to get our licenses. I live in New York, where in order to rehab mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and non-native birds (starlings, house sparrows, pigeons) you have to pass a test covering the natural history of all local species, as well as their emergency care, nutrition, restraint techniques, wound management, parasitic infections, epizootic/zoonotic diseases, and release criteria.


In other words, even if you only want to take care of squirrels, you still have to know everything about turtles. Are we tired yet?

If you want to rehab migratory birds, the hoops triple. After passing the state test you have to write an autobiographical summary of your avian experience, including the length of your apprenticeship with a licensed rehabilitator. You have to submit diagrams and photographs of your facilities, specify where you will be obtaining species-specific food, and gather what seem like thousands of letters of recommendation.

Indiana has proposed a bill which would allow the public to bypass all this and wing it for 90 days, which is when the finders would have to hand whatever unfortunate creature they’ve taken in – if it were still alive – to someone with a license, or else simply take it to the nearest field and give it the boot.

So far this would apply only to mammals, but it’s a slippery slope. And if it were to become law, other states could follow.


Every rehabber has horror stories about the birds/animals they’ve received from John Q. Public after he’s kept them for awhile. The fledgling hawk fed nothing but hamburger, whose bones are so brittle from lack of calcium they break when she tries to stand; the young deer who just loves the whole family, including the dog, but who has now started jumping over the backyard fence and roaming the neighborhood; the baby raccoon who has been sleeping with the kids but is now sort of sick, so can somebody fix her and give her back to us, please?

In each case, the finders receive their warm fuzzies at the cost of the animal’s life. Metabolic Bone Disease is normally irreversible; and if the hawk can’t stand, she certainly can’t fly. The imprinted, soon-to-be-hormonal deer has no idea he’s a deer, or that most humans and large dogs are not so friendly. The raccoon – as the parents are always horrified to learn – might have rabies, so she has to be euthanized and tested.

Moral of the stories: get thee (and thy critter) to a rehabber.

Many adults credit their love of wildlife to childhoods spent disappearing into the woods and returning with all kinds of injured/orphaned wild things, even though the wild things usually went belly up within a few days. A generation ago, however, both wildlife rehabilitation and regulation were in their infancy. Knowledge (and the ability to share it) has made a quantum leap. Wildlife rehabilitators are no longer isolated, well-meaning individuals doing the best they can out of their garage; we’re professionals who work closely with skilled veterinarians, share our hard-won expertise with each other over the internet, and on occasion, take credit for helping to restore an endangered species.


We know our limits (and how to feed nestling pigeons so they don’t up like this). Shouldn’t the public?

“We in Indiana have all worked hard to help the public see us as a resource, and work with us to improve the situation for wildlife,” says Patti Reynolds, President of the Indiana Raptor Center. “We don’t need our hard work undone by ignorance and pie-in-the-sky laws.”

So what do you do if your six-year-old finds a baby bunny, and she can’t bear to part with it? Or what if it happens to you, and you’re forty-five?

Six is not too early, and forty-five is not too late, to learn that you can’t always get what you want. (I want a 1972 Ferrari 246GTS, but odds are I’m not going to get one.) Explanations are simple: only a mother rabbit or a highly trained rehabilitator has a chance of raising and releasing a healthy wild bunny. And just like humans, if a wild animal is injured it needs to be treated by a licensed medical person, not a well-intentioned accountant, plumber, or six year old child.


But then, how do you get your wildlife fix?

Rehabbers always need help. If you fall in love with the bird you’ve rescued, deliver him to a rehabber and ask if you can volunteer. Work. Learn. With luck, you might get to see your bird released back to the sky, instead of spending his shortened life in a box in your bathroom, improperly fed and in pain. Bring your child to fundraisers, to sanctuaries, to demonstrations with trained education animals like Xena, above. Teach your child to do the right thing even if it makes her a little sad, because help without knowledge is no help at all.


“Trust me,” says Kathy Uhler, co-founder of the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Stroudsburg, PA. “I know nothing about kids. If I found a child wandering around the mall and tried to take him home and care for him, I’d release him in much worse shape than I found him.”

Continue reading...

Helping a raccoon cross the bridge

» 12 January 2014 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Helping a raccoon cross the bridge

I received a phone call five days ago. It was from a man that spotted a raccoon with a broken leg. I returned his call about thirty minutes later, but the raccoon had run off by then. I didn’t hear from this man again until yesterday. Yesterday’s call put me in definite  rescue-mode. The same raccoon was spotted again….only this time he had been washed downstream during the prior night’s storm and ended up getting stuck under some roots.

I dropped what I was doing, gathered some towels, gloves, a crate, an a catch pole. Off I went. I arrived at this man’s house about fifteen minutes later to find that this man is a rescuer himself. He was able to contain the cold, wet, and scared raccoon. He was laying under a towel on the garage floor shivering and making some heavy breathing sounds similar to pneumonia. Not even needing gloves as this raccoon was in such dire condition, I placed him in a crate and brought him indoors.This raccoon was given SubQ fluids as he was dehydrated. She was given antibiotics as she had infection. The infection came from a broken leg and compound fracture of her ankle. She was also given some pain medicines as I’m sure this poor girl was in pain. Most concerning, was her hypovolemic shock and hypothermia. I had to slowly warm her before feeding her and doing anything else for that matter. I held her for a few minutes before placing her in a larger cage for recovery. She was placed on a heat pad as well and sandwiched in between two heat sources. Her intense shivering slowly decreased as her body warmed. In the next few hours, I continued to hear clicking and raspy breathing. I’m sure with the surge of water and panic mode from trying to escape the roots, liquids had entered her lungs.

She was fed a meal of Pedialyte, second dose of antibiotics, pain medicines, and baby food through a tube. She made some sounds of contentment. She was allowed to rest. Within the next few hours, it became apparent that she was likely not going to make it. I wanted to wait at least until morning to see if I saw any signs of improvement before making the decision to humanely relieve her of her suffering. She ended up making my decision easy as she crossed the bridge on her own.

Why did this raccoon give up the will to live after fighting so hard in the sub zero temperatures with injuries? I firmly believe it is because she felt at peace and safe in our protected environment. I feel that she was finally able to let her guard down that instinctively is there for survival in the wild. She was warm, comfortable, taken care of, pain-free, and not hungry. She chose to cross the bridge as it was safe to cross. She felt relief. Because this man chose to care, she was given the relief that she needed.

Continue reading...

Overfishing Causes Damage

» 10 December 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Overfishing Causes Damage

Most of us enjoy seafood and some cultures depend on it. How can this be bad for all of us?

Everything in nature has a delicate balance and depend on each other. If you remove one thing, it will have a trickle down effect to others. Think of this balance as a recipe. If you were making a cake and left out the eggs, it would not turn out right. Everything in one ecosystem does have a special niche.

Fish are the same way but on a greater scale. Fish, or lack of, can even raise the temperatures in oceans. This is not good because water holds in heat very well. This is a contributing factor to the speed at which temperatures increase on our planet. One example of this heating process was discovered by two scientists off the coast of Africa around 2005. They stumbled upon the fishing problem when the original inquiry was why they were not seeing any mammals in the grasslands of Africa….no lions, no elephants, no warthogs, no wild dogs. They discovered it was because the locals needed to find another food source. The fish population had dramatically decreased, so they had to turn to “bushmeat” for their protein source. All the above listed mammals, in addition to others such as fruit bats, were being slaughtered and sold at roadside markets. This is when the scientists went to the ocean for answers. There were “dead zones” where thousands of fish were dead. They also noticed a foul odor in these areas. It was toxic gases like sulfur that they were smelling. Why these dead zones? So many sardines had been overfished that their food source, phytoplankton (microscopic plant-like organisms), had boomed in numbers. There was not enough fish to keep this in balance so the phytoplankton died and lay on the ocean floor. Their decomposition omits a toxic gas called methane. The methane was killing even more fish. In fact, the methane helped contribute to some small explosions that released even more toxic gases. These explosions expanded to a 1000 mile radius along the coastline and is documented through satellite photography. Why else is methane so bad for our entire earth? Methane is 60 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat! Dare I use the controversial term, “global warming”? Too much methane will alter the entire marine ecosystem to the point of irreversibility. This is only one incident!

Did you know that 80% of our earth are oceans? Despite constant gain of knowledge of oceans, they contribute a great deal to our overall health and well-being. Around 50% of all the Earth’s species live in the ocean. What an amazing example of biodiversity.

So…back to fishing. I wish I could remember the exact numbers here, but I’ll just get real close….around 2008, it was said that if we continue to fish as we are right now, by the year 2040, we will have depleted almost all fish in the ocean! Scientists estimate that we have removed as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and cod from the world’s oceans. We just fish and don’t low time for reproduction. Thankfully, decision makers saw that this was indeed a reality and have placed she restrictions on commercial fishing. Limits are set on the amount of fish companies can take, the use of technology and monitoring have been implemented so fisherman do not catch (and kill) unwanted fish in their nets such as dolphins and crustaceans, and important habitats are being protected. These habitats include coral reefs, spawning and nursing grounds of fish, the delicate sea floor, and unique unexplored habitats. Aquaculture, or fish-farming, is also a growing industry. In 2005, we consumed 95 million tons of fish from fisheries: 86% from marine fisheries and 9% from inland fisheries. Another 50 million tons came from fish farms. In 1980, less than 10% of our fish came from fisheries!

All these things are a great start, but in order to restore and maintain balance, we, too, need to make some good decisions. Some companies follow guidelines better than others. Certain types of fish still need time to replenish. How can you know what to do? Most importantly, be informed. Secondly, spread the word. Lastly, know what you eat. You might be surprised that what is good for the ocean is also better for your health. Click here for a great color-coded list of good fish versus bad fish.

Continue reading...

What is Benny thankful for this year?

» 26 November 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on What is Benny thankful for this year?

I am thankful for really small toys that crinkle. I love to roll around with them. Sometimes Mommy rubs my belly when I am playing and I like that! I am thankful for crumbs left on the floor because I always find them. I am very thankful for Mommy’s soft and warm sweater that she leaves on her bottom shelf. I pull it out and snuggle inside. I can even hide inside! I am thankful that just because I only have three legs that work and couldn’t be placed in the wild, someone still loves me. I love her too. I am mostly thankful for her lap after breakfast time. All I have to do is stand at Mommy’s feet and she picks me up. I give her licks of love and fall asleep on her warm, safe  lap. Sometimes I stand at the baby gate and cry for her when I want more love. I am thankful that she always picks me up and lets me snuggle under her chin. Sometimes Mommy thinks I might bite her ear so she hides it.  Did I say I was thankful for food? I am. I love all sorts of food any time of day. I really love almond slices. Mmmmmm…..


Continue reading...

A letter of thanks from Milton

» 25 November 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on A letter of thanks from Milton

Dear Turkey Fairy,

Thanksgiving is almost here and I wanted to tell you what I am thankful for this year. I am most thankful that someone found me and brought me to Second Chances. Even though I couldn’t be returned to the wild, someone kept me and loves me anyway. I call her Mommy. I am thankful when she picks me up and puts me on the couch. I love to snuggle in her legs with a warm blanket on top. I am also thankful that when “it’s time to go Nite Nite”, she carries me up and puts me in the bed with her. I am the only education animal that gets to do that! I am special. I am thankful when Daddy forgets to put away gum, when Molly leaves her backpack on the floor and it has treats inside. Mommy doesn’t like when this happens though. One time, even Kyle left his backpack n the floor and I know how to unzip things. I am thankful that I am so smart that I can unzip zippers. I am thankful when Mommy sprinkles cheese or peanut oil on my  vegetables so they taste better. I am thankful for carpet because it’s fun to play on. I am thankful that Mommy doesn’t let people touch me when we teach classes together because that scares me. I am thankful that people think I’m so cute, though, because that might save some of my cousins’ lives. When other skunks visit, I am glad that Mommy doesn’t let them in the house and especially not my bed! 




Continue reading...

Why trapping and relocating wildlife does not work

» 14 November 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Why trapping and relocating wildlife does not work


Just yesterday, I had 2 calls wanting us to take a raccoon that was trapped on their property. This is where educations is the most important key we have.

1. You could be making babies become orphans. Mom could have a nest somewhere where you don’t know.

2. Sometimes you think you are trapping one animals, but you end up trapping another one. Unless you see it being trapped, you have no way of knowing for sure.

3. Trapped wildlife gets extremely stressed and can injure themselves trying to free themselves.

4. Dropping off an animals in an unknown area leads to starvation and then death. They just don’t know where the food and water sources are. Raccoons have been recorded dying around two weeks after the release. Would you like to slowly starve to death?

5. You help to spread diseases.

6. When you drop off an animal somewhere. more than,likely, others have already staked claim on that territory and can be very aggressive towards the newly “relocated” one.

7. Once you have relocated an animal, you have made room for a new one to come in. You have eliminated the food and and housing competition.

8. Most importantly, unless you find out WHY certain animals are visiting your house, you will continue to have this problem….over and over and over and over…

There are ways to live humanely with your wildlife neighbors. There are certain things that you can do to deter wildlife from visiting you. We have ideas on our website and we are available to consult with you to find solutions.

Continue reading...

Endangered animals in Chinese herbs

» 25 October 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Endangered animals in Chinese herbs

Are Endangered Animals in Chinese Herbs?

By Dr. Narda Robinson

If you’re like most animal lovers, you care about animals around the globe in addition to your own. This probably extends to those kept in cages for life and exploited for their bodily fluids, or wild animals that are being hunted by poachers for their bones, horns or fur.

You may seek to live sustainably and purchase locally grown products when possible. You may even pursue holistic or integrative medicine for your dog or cat, which may involve Chinese herbs, in order to reduce the synthesized drugs he or she ingests and the negative impact of some pharmaceuticals on their bodies and the planet. If so, I have some questions for you to think about.


Q: Does your holistic veterinarian sell Chinese herbs and, if so, do you realize that they may contain endangered species, worms or insects?

A: If not, you also might have missed that Chinese folkloric herbal prescribing has traditionally involved heavy metals and toxins. Even if you buy them from your veterinarian, many traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) “herbal” products made and sold in the U.S. and abroad have violated CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) rules. These have been instituted in order to prevent threats to the survival of wild species of animals and plants.

One would think this would worry certain “holistic” veterinarians who routinely sell Chinese “herbs,” but TCVM folkloric practices have become big business in the U.S. and Europe, nonetheless. What’s worse, TCVM veterinarians are trained to sell proprietary products – that is, mixtures prepared by a traditional Chinese medicine “master” that contain secret ingredients – despite having little information about safety, mechanisms of action, interactions, side effects, manufacturing standards, ecological risks or public health concerns.

Q: Considering the Food and Drug Administration scrutiny that compounding pharmacies receive for the drugs they produce, how can anyone in the U.S. compound and sell pharmacologically active, even toxic, mixtures, not disclose their contents, and base the recipe on whatever plants, mammals, worms, insects or toxins he or she sees fit to include? How is this practice ethical or wise? 1

A: Sorry, I cannot answer this, as I cannot even figure this out myself!

Likely, your veterinarian either doesn’t know or may prefer to ignore the fact that the traditional Chinese medicine “master” that he purchases products from not only often places problematic ingredients in them but also keeps the amount of them secret. This flies in the face of good medicine and ethics. If someone becomes ill as a result of the so-called herb, how should an emergency doctor or veterinarian treat that patient? How can a veterinarian anticipate interactions with medications when the contents are unknown?

You should not tolerate this. In fact, you should inform your veterinarian that these matters concern you and you will not purchase products with anything but plants that have been tested, proven safe for your animal and whose quantities appear on the label with complete disclosure of their sources.E

Q: Would you approve of your dog or cat ingesting scorpions, earthworms or toxic plants such as strychnine? What about sea horses, dog penis, tiger bone and rhino horn?

A: Likely not. You would also probably be concerned if the bile in the so-called Chinese herb came from a bear that lived his entire life in a small cage with a tube in his gallbladder, in egregiously inhumane conditions. Most of these horribly treated individuals die from chronic infections or cancer of the liver.


Q: What non-botanical ingredients appear in the pills, capsules and powders called Chinese herbs?

A: Species considered “vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered” include Asiatic black bear (used for their bile) and Saiga antelope (targeted for their horns), along with tiger, rhinoceros and sea horse, to name just a few. Some harbor parts from fur seal, musk deer, dogs, cows, goats, water buffalo and other domestic animals.

Veterinary proprietary TCVM products routinely contain bee, mantis, earthworm, turtle, scorpion, silkworm, cicada and a host of plant toxins, including herbal strychnine (yes, and in undisclosed amounts). 3

Q: Is there any scientific evidence that animal and insect products used in Chinese mixtures do any good for the individual ingesting them?

A: Very little, if any. 4


Q: Is there any hope that these practices can be stopped?

A: Fortunately, yes. New methods of investigation and environmental protection have come about as genetic tests become available that can detect and identify contents in traditional Chinese medicines. 5 This will help expose when a mixture contains a toxic or endangered species product. However, the economic forces driving wildlife poaching and unethical farming are daunting. We have to take a stand against these practices!

Q: How can I help?

A: Consider supporting organizations such as TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, or other wildlife groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund. Don’t accept a prescription of Chinese herbs from any veterinarian without fully understanding the source, amount, safety and proof of effectiveness of the product.


Sustainability in medicine, whether human or animal, should become a guiding principle for health care providers, in addition to serving patients with the utmost ethics and informed, scientifically based health care. 6 We must not forget the impact of our health care choices, even the “holistic” ones, on the planet and its sentient as well as botanical inhabitants.


1. American Veterinary Medical Association website. Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the AVMA. “It is unethical for veterinarians to promote, sell, prescribe, dispense, or use secret remedies or any other product for which they do not know the ingredients.” Accessed on 05/30/13.

2. Feng Y, Siu K, Wang N, et al. Bear bile: dilemma of traditional medicinal use and animal protection. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009;Jan 12;5:2. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-5-2.

3. Xie H. Chinese Veterinary Herbal Handbook, 2 nd edition. Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine, 2008. (A description of products sold by Jing Tang Herbal Company.)

4. Still J. Use of animal products in traditional Chinese medicine: environmental impact and health hazards. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2003;11:118-122.

5. Coghlan ML, Haile J, Houston J, Murray DC, White NE, et al. Deep Sequencing of Plant and Animal DNA Contained Within Traditional Chinese Medicines Reveals Legality Issues and Health Safety Concerns. PLoS Genet. 2012; 8(4): e1002657. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002657.

6. Lin JH, Kaphle K, Wu LS, et al. Sustainable veterinary medicine for the new era. Rev Sci Tech. 2003;22(3):949-964.


Continue reading...

What is wildlife rehabilitation?

» 14 August 2013 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on What is wildlife rehabilitation?

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to provide professional care to sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals so ultimately they can be returned to their natural habitat. Wild animals that sustain injuries or illnesses preventing them from living successfully in the wild usually are euthanized (have their suffering ended in a humane fashion). Occasionally, individual animals that have recovered from their injuries but are not able to survive in the wild are placed in educational facilities.

Wildlife rehabilitation is not an attempt to turn wild animals into pets. Patients are held in captivity only until able to live independently in the wild. Fear of humans is a necessary survival trait for wild animals and every effort is made to minimize human contact and prevent the taming of rehabilitation patients. Often wildlife rehabilitation is an elaborate and time-consuming process.

Wildlife rehabilitators work with veterinarians to assess injuries and diagnose a variety of illnesses. Due to the important differences between wild animals and domestic animals, rehabilitators need extensive knowledge about the species in care, including natural history, nutritional requirements, behavioral issues, and caging considerations. They also need to understand any dangers the animals may present to rehabilitators. Rehabilitators must also be able to administer basic first aid and physical therapy, and understand any dangers the animals may present to rehabilitators.

Almost all birds are protected by federal law; state laws protect most other kinds of wildlife. To work with mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, wildlife rehabilitators must be issued special permits from their state wildlife agencies. Before receiving these permits, individuals must meet various requirements such as specialized training, participation in mentorship programs, facility inspections, and written or oral exams. Rehabilitators who wish to care for birds also must get permits from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Once they receive the permits, conscientious rehabilitators continue their education by attending conferences, seminars, and workshops, keeping up with published literature, and networking with others in the field. 

Because of their training, wildlife rehabilitators can help concerned people decide whether an animal truly needs help. Young birds and mammals should be returned to their families if at all possible; even well trained rehabilitators are not equivalent replacements for biological parents. Rehabilitators can provide instructions on how to reunite wildlife families, keeping the safety of the animals and the rescuers in mind, and they can suggest humane, long-term solutions when conflicts arise between humans and their wild neighbors.

Written by NWRA

Continue reading...