Why bother with rehabilitation for wildlife?

A former intern with an orphaned skunk patient.

A former intern with an orphaned skunk patient.

By Kathleen St. Clair-McGee

Reader Contributor

Have you ever thought, “American robins and fox squirrels are plentiful, so why bother with wildlife rehabilitation?”

Have you ever said, “It does not take a rocket scientist to raise a baby raccoon or a bird?”

These two statements are not uncommon phrases in the professional network of wildlife rehabilitators. Unfortunately these two statements are also very dangerous.

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation began in 2001. We are a 501c3 nonprofit incorporation. This does not mean we obtain federal, state or county funding. Additionally disheartening is that the grants available for general operating expenses for wildlife rehabilitation efforts encompass less than 1% of all the “animal grants” available. We rely exclusively upon our wonderful community for financial support. The wildlife portion of our budget averages $10,000 annually.

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation also relies upon our community to volunteer. We do not have paid staff. Each year we record over 2,000 hours annually (equivalent to 38.5 hours each week for all 52 weeks of the year).

Between 200 and 250 phone calls are handled. The average patient load was 50 cases. In 2016 the numbers exploded! 4,000 hours of volunteer time (our college intern recorded over 800 hours during May through August), more than 400 phone calls, and 80 cases of patients (121 individual animals of 38 different species). The volunteers that dedicate their time to help the injured and orphaned wildlife must be patient, professional, dedicated and emotionally tough (national survey records release rates are a dismal 30 percent – AHWF has an average of 60 percent).

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation has four focal points the mission of this organization: conservation, education, entertainment and research. AHWF is working to preserve the local wildlife through rehabilitation of the injured or orphaned and community education. There is a plethora of information on the website from articles on how to humanely evict the native neighbor causing trouble to listing the upcoming fundraising events (like the comedy show or scarecrow contest) to our wish list and of course lots of photographs.

Why bother with rehab – nationwide 80 percent of the animals taken in for care are due to some type of human interference: hit by car, window strike, kidnapped youngsters, nest destruction, etc. Many species of animals are showing signs of decline due to habitat urbanization and fragmentation.

It is a myth if you think you can just read an internet article. The AHWF founder holds permits from the USFWS migratory bird department and IDFG bird and small mammal permits. (Large game permits will be processed but we need to finish financing the construction of the enclosures required for the bear cubs and other game mammals.) She is a member of two professional wildlife rehabilitation organizations which provide nationwide networking opportunities. She also has over 20 years of experience at zoos, nature centers, and other animal facilities. If you try to keep an animal and “raise it” you are illegal and you are causing harm to that animal. If you truly want to help, bring the animal to AHWF then sign up to volunteer.

Are you willing to get involved and present the present as a present for future generations? We need board members, event planners, outreach coordinators, grant writers, public relations and social media people. You can also help our native neighbors by keeping an eye on the local wildlife and learning natural behaviors. Share that information with friends and two-legged neighbors. Spread the word about AHWF. Donate your time, talent and treasure to keep North Idaho WILD!

Find AHWF on many of the popular social media sites. Call immediately when you have found a wild animal, one of our volunteers will respond as soon as they are able. If the animal is bleeding and in distress please contact a licensed veterinary clinic (we work directly with two in Sandpoint).

Kathleen St. Clair-McGee is the founder and board president of the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation, which works toward the preservation of all wildlife through rehabilitation and community education. Check out www.ahwf.org for more information.

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