by Laura Kintz
Oklahoma wildlife faces a world of challenges daily, many of which only exist because of human interference. Their habitat is destroyed; they are hit by vehicles, trapped, relocated, hunted, poisoned, attacked by the domestic and feral cat and dog population, and otherwise disturbed. The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council reports in its Feral Cats and Dogs Position Statement that an estimated 1 to 4 billion birds are killed by cats in the United States each year.
We have a responsibility not only to protect our natural world, but also to make an effort to repair what we have harmed. When we are injured, we go to the emergency room, and when our pets are not feeling well, we make a trip to their veterinarian. Wildlife in need is deserving of the same level of care.
If a nest of infant cottontails is found in the yard while mowing, what is the best thing to do? If there were an injured turtle on the road that had been hit by a car is the bystander equipped to help? Today could be the day that nature calls upon us as a first responder in a wildlife emergency. Wildlife rehabilitators can help prepare the “everyday Joe” to respond with care and confidence.
Wildlife rehabilitation is the professional medical treatment and temporary care of injured, sick and/or orphaned wildlife by licensed individuals or organizations. Animal Help Now (AHNow.org) is a new website and mobile application that can help efficiently locate the nearest available wildlife rehabilitator or other animal emergency service provider.
WildCare Foundation is a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in Noble, Oklahoma, that has been in operation and licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation since 1984. WildCare’s mission is to provide a place for people to bring wildlife struggling to survive, with the goal of releasing healthy animals back to nature.
With an average of more than 5,000 new patients a year, it is the largest licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility in the state, and has cared for more than 60,000 animals in the last 30 years. WildCare has also been licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with migratory birds since 1991. In addition, along with Grey Snow Eagle House of the Iowa Tribe, it is one of only two facilities in Oklahoma that is federally licensed to rehabilitate eagles.
WildCare is open to provide wildlife emergency advice and admit new patients every day from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Injured or orphaned wildlife may also be dropped off at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter,
where they are picked up daily and transported to WildCare.
The following are some tips to prepare as a wildlife emergency first responder:
Be prepared on the road with a wildlife emergency kit.
It should include a secure container to put an animal in for transport to a licensed rehabilitator along with the contact information for that facility. It should also contain a pair of durable leather gloves and a thick towel to aid in safe capture of the animal. Other items that may be helpful are a flashlight, net, safety glasses, heating pad and multi-tool.
Always contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to get professional advice before disturbing an animal.
A large percentage of “orphaned” wildlife brought to rehabilitation centers have been accidentally kidnapped by caring individuals. Understanding the natural history of different species can help avoid this common mistake. As long as he/she is healthy and uninjured, reuniting a baby with his/her parents is always the best option. Professional rehabilitators will also be able to provide instructions for capture techniques that are safe for both rescuer and animal.
Warm, dark and quiet.
These are the three words to remember when an injured or orphaned animal is found. Handling and talking to a wild animal is stressful for him/her and should be avoided. Always transport the animal to a
licensed rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Do not attempt to feed injured or orphaned wildlife.
Professional rehabilitators are trained, licensed and equipped to provide the best treatment, housing and diet available. Every species has unique dietary requirements in order to grow, heal and thrive. Providing the wrong diet can in a very brief time create irreversible physical damage, especially in young animals. For example, the protein and fat levels in mothers’ milk varies drastically between dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, etc., and feeding the wrong type can easily cause conditions such as metabolic bone disease. Licensed rehabilitators are able to provide species-specific formulas that closely
match the natural makeup of each species’ milk.
Laura Kintz is the community liaison and resident photographer at WildCare Foundation. She manages the volunteer program, release program, admissions and public communications.
The WildCare Foundation is located at 7601 84th St., in Noble. For more information, call 405-872-9338 or visit Facebook.com/WildCareOklahoma.