Watch a brief video about Wildlife Rehabilitation!
Wildlife Rehabilitation is under appreciated. It is also a dying industry in the United States and desperately needs attention. Within the last few years the number of rehabilitators has decreased; over 50% in many states. The contributing factors include:
1) Stricter regulations made by State Wildlife Agencies (SWA), especially the requirements for becoming licensed, make it increasingly difficult to operate without violating arbitrary rules, most of which lack scientific support.
2) Lack of promotion and recruitment incentives for new rehabilitators on behalf of SWA’s.
3) Costs of care for wildlife, such as food and medical expenses, have soared. These expenses are paid by rehabilitators, not the state. (Washington State is the only state known to offer grant programs.)
4) Economic pressures have reduced charitable donations from the public, which are critical to offsetting the costs of wildlife animal care.
Wildlife rehabilitation appears to exist within State Wildlife Agencies only because they must maintain a public impression that they care for distressed animals. Because every SWA is responsible for state wildlife there must be an active, statewide program for distressed, injured, and orphaned wild animals (not just a few Centers for “appearances”). The state wildlife agency dictates how rehabilitation will operate in their state, how a volunteer must become qualified, how long that will take, what licensing protocol they must follow, what facilities must exist to obtain the license, and how available the rehabilitator must be to the agency and the public. An SWA even dictates what native species might be banned from any rescue. In most states the SWA does not charge a fee for this license, and they decide on what grounds they may take away that license. Countless cases of revoking licenses from invested individuals, along with the confiscation and killing of animals has created a dictatorship and manipulation of these devoted citizen’s. They desperately need a voice, and public support.
Yes, any other institution would be most grateful to such altruistic volunteer services! Imagine our world without anyone to help wild animals in distress? Animals have strict diets and needs, especially wild animals. They require humans that have the knowledge and experience, and are devoted to their best outcome for survival in this world.
Above all, Wildlife Rehabilitation deserves more support from SWA’s. Especially when in contrast, a hunter can purchase a license online to kill wildlife, and a trapper can keep wounded animals for months in deplorable conditions before skinning them. The public (you!) must clearly express to your SWA that you expect their support of helping distressed wildlife and for the citizens who selflessly provide this service for state owned animals. The public deserves and needs rehabilitators as much as our wildlife does.
Money saved is money earned!
Like sportsmen falsely believe they fund their SWA, SWA’s in turn behave is if rehabilitation itself renders no financial gain for the SWA. They often complain that this service is a drain, or distraction of their agendas. In reality, since wildlife rehabilitators fund ALL of the costs to care of our distressed wildlife, which is theoretically the responsibility of every SWA, rehabilitation SAVES a state agency hundreds of thousands of dollars! Rehabilitators are often treated like the "red headed step-children" by an agency that has forgotten their own responsibility for ALL wildlife, for ALL citizens, for all generations to come.
Imagine the chaos that would exist if the SWA’s, and the public, did not have these wildlife specialists available? Everyday, everywhere across the country, Samaritans encounter distressed wild animals and would have no where to turn to without rehabilitators. Already too many citizen's are forced to provide care that can cause further harm, often because of laws attempting to legislate their compassion. The SWA staff that dictates these stifling rules are the same individuals that typically do not have the experience, knowledge or time to devote to our native wild animals, distressed or not. Our wildlife rehabilitators are indeed our paramount wildlife specialists, and they operate strictly as volunteers to the state.
Obviously, Wildlife Rehabilitation is another aspect of State Wildlife Management that direly needs a fundamental overhaul! More of these issues will be addressed in the future, but initially NUWC requests that citizens ask and persist that their state SWA websites include ON THEIR FRONT PAGES a prominent link to information on wildlife rehabilitation, as well as a current contact list of licensed rehabilitators. It should not take the public more than two clicks to find assistance for distressed wildlife. Also, native wildlife should never be banned from rescue - that is a recipe for disaster. Please look at your SWA site soon and see what you can do to garner more support for distressed wildlife in your state?
If you are interested in becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist, or to volunteer for one, this web page will help get you started by locating your state agency and application process.
Without doubt, our state wildlife management system would better represent more citizens and wildlife if they had to compete for funding via how many sanctuaries they permitted last year, how many alternative population control measures they implemented, or how many rehabilitators they licensed -- instead of how many hunting licenses they can sell each year.