The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Summer-Fall 2012 Issue
Wildlife Rehabilitators (And
By Joe Miele, President of C.A.S.H.
[As this article is quite critical
of the game agencies that license rehabbers, to avoid problems, all rehab
photos are from UK sites.]
Though hunters like to portray themselves as expert sharpshooters, able
to kill animals with a single shot, the truth is that many victims of
hunting are wounded and left to fend for themselves. While these animals
will most likely die of infection or will be attacked and killed by
predators since their weakened state affords them no chance for escape or
self defense, a tiny number of them somehow end up in the hands of licensed
wildlife rehabilitators who do their best to return the animals to health
and release them back to their natural habitat.
"Woodpecker being fed grubs
are licensed animal care givers who help injured, orphaned, or sick
wildlife. The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to provide food, housing
and medical care to wildlife in need before returning them to the wild when
the animals are ready to be released. Rehabbers do not turn the animals into
human companions, they care for them as well as possible, while still
allowing them to retain their ďwildĒ instincts and behaviors. Wild animals
are often transitioned from a hands-on situation (such as bottle feeding
orphaned babies) to an enclosed area with little human interaction other
than routine watering, feeding, and observation before they are released
back to the wild. In some cases they are taught to hunt or find food in
Animals are brought to rehabbers by game agents, animal
rescue groups, and the public. Though they are licensed by the state hunting
agencies, they receive no compensation for the work they do. All expenses
are covered by the rehabilitators themselves or through public donations.
Sometimes rehabilitators will come together to establish wildlife rescue
centers, but most often they will act on their own.
rehabilitators often specialize in the kinds of animals they will care for.
There are mammal specialists, avian specialists, reptile and amphibian
specialists, etc. They will often speak to schools and civic groups about
the importance of wildlife and the kind of work they do, sometimes bringing
a fortunate but unreleaseable animal with them as a living example of their
In this article, weíd like to highlight the work of
wildlife rehabbers who selflessly subject themselves to sleepless nights,
scratches and dangerous bites, zero leisure time, financial hardship, and
more emotional ups and downs than a roller coaster at Six Flags. C.A.S.H.
reached out to wildlife rehabilitators through our Facebook page and heard
from two rehabbers who were kind enough to answer our questions. Their names
have been changed to protect their identities, something that is necessary
because the agencies that license them are the same state hunting agencies
responsible for animal suffering. If rehabbers speak on the record
negatively about hunting it could jeopardize the work they do for the
We are thankful to these wonderful people for doing such
difficult work on behalf of wildlife. Keep in mind that the thoughts and
opinions stated below are those of the rehabber themselves and not
necessarily those of C.A.S.H. or its officers.
C.A.S.H.: We have a few questions for you. Which species do you
Mike: I work with coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons,
skunks, squirrels (tree, ground, flying), moles, voles, gophers, wild rats,
wild mice and bats. No birds.
Nancy: Small mammals, mostly opossums,
squirrels and fawns and birds that are not covered by the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act (because I do not have a federal rehab license).
has hunting affected your rehab work/affected the wild animals?
am located in a major metropolitan city so there is no real hunting where I
live and work. The hunters were trying to make it legal to use dogs to tree
bobcats and bears in other areas of the state and fortunately we fought that
and it didnít pass. If youíve ever seen videos of dogs ripping raccoons
apart while they are still alive, it is gruesome. A rehabber friend of mine
has major problems with hunters. Some have trespassed onto her property and
killed her sanctuary animals. Sometimes hunters will not make a kill shot
and just maim the animal. The rehabber then has to patch them up. She also
has problems with fur trappers. Peopleís dogs or cats are accidentally
trapped and killed in the traps. Itís a constant battle where she is.
There is a problem in the city with illegal ďhunters.Ē They are probably
just young men or kids shooting them with guns and bows and arrows. I canít
tell you how many bbís, darts and arrow tips Iíve pulled out of wildlife.
The police donít even realize that itís illegal so they donít do anything
when we complain. Most mammals are protected as are most birds. With some
species itís a $20,000 fine to harm them. With endangered species itís up to
We do have a problem with fishermen. They get upset when a wild
animal such as a pelican takes their catch. Few years back someone was
killing pelicans for this reason. Fishermen also hate seals for the same
reason. They were putting explosive bait on the line. The seals and sea
lions would take the bait and their mouths would explode.
animals come in with wounds caused by hunting or trapping. The huge problem
with trapping is, besides being plain cruel, is that it is indiscriminate
and non-target animals suffer. I am still haunted by the image harbored in
my brain of the Red Tail hawk who was caught in a leghold trap. She had
obviously been stuck in that snare for a very long time. Her leg was
necrotized and the foot hanging by tissue. You could see in her eyes that
she had accepted death. I had to euthanize her. I still cry over it. Every
year, I get called for at least one goose impaled by an arrow. I find it
frustrating that hunters are often looked at as the gurus of wildlife and
their positions are more valid than mine and people often consult a hunter
in regard to a wildlife rehabbing issue. Somehow, there is a perception that
the hunter knows best, which is not the case. I have taken orphans that
almost didnít get saved because a hunter said the mother will retrieve them,
which was not so with this species.
C.A.S.H.: Are you impacted by pest
control services or animal damage control trappers? How so?
Mike: We are
indeed. At least with hunting you canít take an adult female during the time
she would normally have babies. Pest control operators can set traps or kill
mothers any time and they leave orphaned babies behind. This happens mainly
with raccoons and squirrels. We get inundated during baby season with
orphans to the point we have to turn them away. Weíre trying to lobby for a
new law to make it illegal to take mothers during baby season. Most of the
animals we get in are orphans.
Nancy: I often get called to remove
ďnuisanceĒ animals though I am not licensed to do this. The so-called
ďnuisanceĒ experts rely on propaganda and fear to motivate customers to buy
their services. Because of this, it is difficult trying to re-educate the
public in regard to wildlife control strategies. Many times an animal will
just leave on her own without further intervention. This is especially true
of mothers with young who have taken up residence in a tree, under a porch,
or under a shed. I try to convince people to wait out baby season before
taking any action against the animal and if they canít, to at least get them
to use non-lethal environmental modifications that will discourage wildlife
from taking up residence. I also point out the good that animals do and how
they are beneficial to the environment. I am happy to say that most people
are receptive to this approach and most do not want the animals harmed. But
sadly, every year I see either non-target animals caught on glue traps, snap
traps or birds of prey that succumb to rodenticide after ingesting prey that
has eaten rat poison. Very sad and unnecessary.
Internet photo from:
C.A.S.H.: How does the
game agency affect rehabbers/rehabilitation efforts?
Mike: All wildlife
rehabilitators are licensed by the state wildlife agency Ė the same one that
sets hunting seasons and bag limits. My state has a rehabilitator
coordinator who oversees all rehabbers. We have to pay for a permit, must be
inspected and follow a long list of rules and regulations. We are no longer
allowed to rehabilitate large mammals such as adult bears, mountain lions,
deer or wild boar. They believe itís too dangerous. We can rehab baby bears,
mountain lions, and fawns if we have the proper permits.
Nancy: In my
state, they require licensing to rehabilitate and a special license to
rehabilitate what are considered Rabies Vector Species (bats, raccoons,
skunks - RVS). I have been told by a high level agency official that they
really donít even want us rehabbing RVS. It was felt that people would rehab
anyway, so they put the license in place and at least there would be some
monitoring of RVS. The state game agency does not support rehabbing. They
offer no education, training, or funding. The agency does not do any
physical monitoring of rehabbers, and their practices and any policy of
acceptable standards is lacking, for example, there are no caging
requirements for non-RVS species. They have also prohibited rehabbers from
using public land to release rehabbed animals.
C.A.S.H.: Which species
are most affected by hunting?
Nancy: This is hard to determine. Every
year, I see at least 2 waterfowl that are injured because of fishing line
left in the water. It is very difficult to catch waterfowl and by the time I
am able to do so, the bird is debilitated to the point beyond any help. I
picked up a goose whose feet were entwined with line. One foot fell off. He
had to be euthanized as federal law prohibits the release of a goose missing
a foot. The opossum, whose full name is the Virginia Opossum because it is
indigenous to the State of Virginia, was brought to my state by hunters
because they were bored with indigenous wildlife - they wanted something
different to kill. The Virginia Opossum is not native to my state or climate
and therefore does not do well in the winter, often succumbing to frostbite
or starvation. Until the 1990s, rabies was almost unheard of in my state,
until hunters illegally imported raccoons from Florida. It was believed that
Florida raccoons were hardier and therefore more of a challenge to kill. Now
we have a problem with the raccoon strain of rabies in my state. Cats and
dogs are now required by law to be vaccinated against rabies.
Does hunting have any effect on release?
Mike: Yes. Rehabbers who live in
hunting areas cannot release animals where hunting is permitted.
Yes. I try to find areas where the animal will be less likely to be hunted.
C.A.S.H.: Is it painful to know that wild animals are being released to
be killed by hunters?
Mike: The rehabbers I know in hunting areas have
cried many a night when theyíve found their released deer shot dead.
Sometimes the wildlife we release probably end up getting killed by cars,
dogs or humans. That is painful enough. We just try to do our best to give
them the best chance at survival.
Nancy: Very much. It is hard to release
an animal and know what you are releasing it to. To know that you helped an
animal to survive through precarious times and it could all be snuffed out
in a second is difficult.
C.A.S.H.: How do you feel about natural
predation (raptors, coyotes, etc.) Ė how does that differ from a human
hunter killing wild animals?
Mike: I can understand a wild animal killing
another animal for food. That is nature. With some species we care for we
must feed them mice and rats. Iím not happy about it, but we must teach them
to survive. Now humans are another matter. There is no need for almost
anyone to hunt anymore. Hunters generally do it for the thrill, I guess. My
dadís a hunter and thatís what I see when he talks about hunting.
Well, I donít like to think about it, but I accept that this is nature and
it serves a purpose. It is different because some animals are obligate
carnivores, meaning they MUST eat flesh or die. Humans at best are, in my
opinion, opportunistic omnivores, not even omnivore. A natural predator
takes usually the least fit to survive, whereas human hunters take anything,
which is antithetical to natural selection.
C.A.S.H.: How do you feel
about pet dogs or cats killing wildlife? Any suggestions for this?
Cats and dogs are doing what comes naturally, but I think it is the
responsibility of the petís owner to make sure their pet doesnít kill
wildlife. For starters I think cats should be indoors. Itís better for the
cat and wildlife. Your cat will be healthier and live longer. I also think
you should walk your dog on a leash for their own safety.
they canít be held accountable, they do need to be controlled. Cats and dogs
we keep as pets are not indigenous to the North American continent and
predation by these species has a negative impact on local wildlife
populations. About 25% of the animals I get in are from cat attacks. They
cause far more suffering than hunting does. This is not an indictment of
felis domesticus - I have 6 cats. Until I saw through rehabbing the damage
that cats do, I let my cats roam outside. No more. They are strictly
C.A.S.H.: Anything else youíd like to add?
Mike: I see no
reason why people should be sport hunting. Why not just photograph the
animals? Why not just hike in nature and enjoying viewing the animals? There
really is no need for sport hunting in this day and age. Iím very happy that
in my state the popularity of hunting is way down.
interacting with people through my rehabbing activities, I have seen there
is a great need for public education regarding wildlife. Most people are
unnecessarily fearful of wildlife. Rehabbing is what keeps me from giving up
on people all together and restores my faith in humanity, when I see people,
grown men included, very emotional over an injured animal and begging me to
HOW YOU CAN HELP WILDLIFE REHABILITATORS:
- Donate. Wildlife rehabilitators receive no funding from the
state agencies that license them. All needed funds are out of their own
pockets. If you cannot donate money, then ask about donating services
such as landscaping, printing, carpentry/plumbing, etc.
- Offer transportation help. Often there are times when animals
need to be brought to the wildlife rehabilitator from people who have
rescued them. Sometimes the rehabilitator can use your help to take
animals to a veterinarian. The rehabilitator will teach you how to
protect yourself. Need to find a rehabber in your area? Check out the
website of your state fish and wildlife agency and if a list of
rehabbers is not online, call them for more information. You can also
call the Wildlife Watch hotline at 877-WILDHELP.
Go on to
First Nations of British Columbia Ban Bear Hunting
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