Wildlife Rescue Know-How

Basic procedures: caring for, rehabilitating, feeding and releasing injured or orphaned wildlife.

| July/August 1984

Wild animals are among earth's treasures, fellow creatures in the great web of life. It's a part of our human responsibility to care for them in spirit and in fact.

Every day, all over the United States, thousands of wild animals of various species are struck by cars, shot, trapped, poisoned, attacked by domestic pets, or otherwise maimed and injured by the lethal substance and debris of civilization. Additional wildlings are orphaned when their parents are killed or captured, and others are abandoned when their human owners are no longer willing or able to take care of them.

Some of these animals survive; others die. Some who die do so in agony and only after prolonged suffering.

Many of these animals could be saved if concerned people knew about wildlife rescue. Helping injured, sick, abandoned, or orphaned wild animals consists of several main steps: [1] removing them from a dangerous or unsuitable area and taking them where they can receive medical attention, shelter, food, and warmth; [2] raising them or restoring their health; [3] training—or retraining—them to be fully functional and independent in the wild; and [4] releasing them in a suitable wilderness area to continue their lives.

Although good-hearted people often try to medicate and raise wild animals they've rescued—and some are successful—steps 2 through 4 most often require the attention of trained, experienced veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators if the animals' best interests are to be met. Often, painful decisions must be made. What should be done with an animal that's minus a limb, an eye, or one of its normal functions? How long should one try to help a seriously injured creature? The expertise of experienced and compassionate professionals is needed for such judgments ... but the whole process begins with the first step: reporting the animal, or picking it up and getting it to a place where it can receive further help.

For information on these basic procedures, MOTHER EARTH NEWS contacted several organizations and individuals who are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and—whenever and wherever possible—release of all species of wild animal. Among these were Jeanne Milewski of the American Wildlife Rescue Service, Rosemary and George Collett of Felicidades Wildlife Foundation, Dr. Richard Brown of the Carolina Raptor Center, J. Davies of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Jim Roche of the Western Carolina Nature Center, and Susan Kelly of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Council—all of whom were extremely knowledgeable, caring, and cooperative.

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