Why Do We Rehabilitate Wildlife?

By Sue Hammer
SACRAMENTO, CA—I’m sure many of you have said, “Why bother to save it, it’s just another bird (or animal)?”

Wildlife rehabilitation can probably best be described as the undertaking of caring for injured, orphaned or displaced native wildlife with the expectation of returning them to the wild to live their lives free and wild.

Others might see it as an attitude whereby we can validate accountability for preserving an adequate ecosystem. Conceivably, it just may be a therapeutic way for ourselves to minimize our impact on nature.

Wildlife rehabilitation is not just a hobby because we have nothing better to do, but a worthy vocation. Take a moment and just think about it … we literally hold the welfare, health and care of these creatures in our hands.
We devote our precious time and resources to this new and accepted profession and as such dedicate ourselves to do the very best we can.

These are living beings and when they come to us for care we control everything–their social, psychological, emotional and physical needs. We not only have the power to control their lives but all too often their deaths as well.

The vast majority of the critters treated are as a direct result of questionable activities caused by humans. Motives for these injuries are: hitting windows, encounters with power lines and fences, domestic pet attacks, trapping, shooting, pesticides, poisoning, automobiles and orphaning. Did you know that more critters are killed on the highways in just one night than are released by rehabilitators in one year?

Now, ask yourself, “Are we interfering?” You betcha, in this situation, rehabilitating our wildlife neighbors is a compensation rather than butting-in.

Caring for injured or orphaned wildlife is merely a minuscule part of what we do, even though it does take most of our time. Education has become an intrinsic role in rehabilitation. Therefore, wildlife rehabilitation can no longer exist without education.

We need to give up unreasonable fears and learn tolerance. By becoming involved with nature, people can learn to develop a respect and understanding of what goes on around us. It is time for people to acknowledge the impact that they have on the environment as well as the consequences associated with these attitudes and actions.

For in the end, we will be judged not by the progress we have made but by what we will allow to endure.

Education, either with each other or in groups and one-on-one with the general public, affords us the unique opportunity to learn from the animals. With each creature we treat we learn new medical procedures, natural history, husbandry protocols and we learn about ourselves.

If one person comes away learning that baby birds don’t get milk or cereal, how to reduce vehicle/ wildlife encounters, that it’s better to keep pets away from wildlife or that we should let mother nature take its course, then rehabilitation has been successful.

Wildlife rehabilitation itself has its own rewards. There are no words that can express the feelings one has when the broken or orphaned critter that came in is now taken back out and released into its own natural habitat.

So why then do I do rehabilitation? Simple … I’m only trying to make right what went wrong and give our wildlife neighbors a second chance. –Ledger-Dispatch