Saturday, July 02, 2005

A conversation with a wildlife rehabber

Last week I spent a few hours at the home of a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator. I earned a ton of interesting stuff from her....some interesting feeding-related things: She takes in various carnivore/omnivores, like foxes, coyotes and raccoons. Since the aim is to keep them wild and release them, she feeds as much wild food as possible, including live animals. She also lets meat and dead animals rot in buckets and develop a good maggot population. Maggots are important food for numerous wild critters, and rotten meat is not a problem. Ditto eggs. She also will not release a baby predator unless it has had at least one live kill under her care. She raises rabbits, captures starlings and mice, even large bugs. If they can't hunt, they'll likely starve in winter.

She has never encountered an animal who is sick or dying from their diet.
Most are brought to her because of human intervention. " Adopting" baby wild animals, (she calls it kidnapping,) shooting or running them over; attacks by dogs and cats. Very few die of parasites unless they are parasites novel to that species. ie, from animals brought into an area who may harbor worms or something from animals outside of the natural geographic habitat.

She feeds kibble and commercial food including baby formula - anything people donate, basically - but only for weaning, or in a pinch. Feeding these things to wild animals doesn't teach them to hunt and forage for their own food, and they won't survive in the wild. Or, they will become nuisance animals by hanging around and raiding garbage etc, and will end up being trapped and killed by the DNR or pest control companies, or be poisoned or trapped by homeowners.

So: Leave all healthy baby animals alone. Even if they look adorable or hungry. Mothers often leave their babies alone all day - don't assume they're abandoned and kidnap them. It's cruel.
Making wild animals "tame" is sentencing them to death, and other animals in their circle of life. Don't put out food except for bird seed in winter. It is ultimately cruel to feed wild animals, or habituate them to humans in any manner. The ones that die provide food for species higher on the food chain, so if a rabbit or bird starves, it provides necessary food for other animals. This is the natural order.

Donate to your local wildlife rehabilitators because they receive zero government funds and have to pay for their licenses and required classes, as well as cages, pens, bedding, food and bedding. I spoke with Carolyn Fell at her home. One of her sub-permittees - another rehabber working under Fell's license - was also there. Neat women, and both of very modest means. I mean, they were poor. They did this because they love animals and cared enough to give back. When the article is published next week, I'm taking several copies to her house along with some big cans of puppy and kitten formula...I found a good price at a feed store.

This was a public service announcement. :)

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