Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Support Your Local Wildlife Rehabilitators

A 3 day-old Porcupine at Woodhaven Wildlife Center
Over the last 30 years or so, I’ve brought scores of injured wild animals to licensed wildlife rehabilitators. One rehabber in particular has received most of them –that would be Judy Cusworth at Woodhaven Wildlife Center in Chadwicks, New York. The animals that I’ve brought to Judy include beaver, woodchuck, opossum, porcupine, raccoon, bats, geese, gull, owls (including a regional rarity –Great Gray Owl) and even a Scarlet Tanager.
A beaver kit "Willow" is fed from a bottle at Woodhaven
For those of us that care about wildlife, having the ability to actually do something to help them when they’re hurt is a necessity. Yet, rehabbers often have to scrounge for funding to provide their important service. Food, medicine, cages and pens –and many of the other essential tools of their trade are expensive. More than anything else, it’s these realities that limit the number of working rehabbers in any given area.

A Merlin that came in from Downtown Utica - probably injured by one of the resident Peregrine Falcons
A juvenile Eastern Screech Owl at Woodhaven
The amount of dedication needed to rehabilitate wild animals is truly astounding, and it’s hard to keep it up year after year. In fact, most rehabbers burn out after only a few years of service –not just because of the expense, but because of the difficult demands on their time and the overall ingratitude of communities that readily take advantage of their volunteer services, but fail to sufficiently support their operations.

A very young Short-tailed Weasel being fed from a syringe
Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation often refer people with injured wildlife to wildlife rehabilitators even though the rehabbers receive no public funding.

One of the signs up at Woodhaven
As you might imagine, new challenges arrive through the door all the time, and a rehabilitator is regularly faced with animals that they’ve never seen before. I occasionally get called in to identify –or to confirm the identity of some mysterious injured creature.

An Upland Sandpiper that I recently came to confirm the identification on
Through my association with Judy, I’ve learned that some species are more common in the area than I thought –species like the incredibly secretive Long-eared Owl has showed up a few times at Woodhaven, even though encountering them in the wild around here is about as rare as finding a gold nugget in your backyard.

The only known Nelson's Sparrow found in Oneida County
A new species for the County showed up at Woodhaven last year in the form of a Nelson’s Sparrow. Unfortunately, that sparrow’s injuries proved fatal. Its welcome to Oneida County was to be glued to death along with several other sparrows, when a particularly cruel anti-sparrow campaign –likely involving glue-strips, was instituted by one of our local businesses. In that case both the DEC and the Federal Fish and Game folks were notified. I wish I could say that they did some good.

A batch of Woodcock chicks come in after their mother is run over by a car
If you are able to make a donation to your local wildlife rehabilitator, please do. You don’t have to wait until you actually have an injured animal to bring in –that is unless you bring in more than 1 a month like I do.  
An immature Green Heron waits in its cage to be fed

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