Helping Injured, Potentially Orphaned, or Distressed Wildlife in the Time of COVID-19.

Animal Help Now (AHNow) is in a unique position in the world of wildlife rehabilitation. The very nature of our work gives us more access than anyone to US wildlife rehabilitators.

Today we approached our focus group – a diverse cross-section of the country’s rehabilitators – asking them whether or not the coronavirus pandemic is affecting them; if so, how; and what changes, if any, they have made to their daily routines.

Their responses were reassuring. First and foremost, they seemed in agreement that the virus was not adversely impacting the US public’s willingness to assist injured, potentially orphaned, or distressed wildlife. This is good and right, as there is no known coronavirus transmission risk for people safely handling wildlife anywhere in the world, let alone the United States.

Of course, members of the public should always practice universal precautions for handling wildlife*, for the safety of both the human animal and whatever animal the human is helping.

The respondents pointed up the need for wildlife rehabilitators to be cautious when interacting with a member of the public who brings an animal to a facility. States rehabilitator Judy P: “[W]ildlife rehabilitators [may designate] only one small area for intakes, which can be disinfected after each use; have the public use hand sanitizer upon entering the premises; etc.” Judy adds, “I will be doing intakes on my porch – I work at home – and won’t let people inside the house.”

Rehabilitators at Nature’s Nurse have added (and recommend) the following safety measure for babies: “We place a carrier with a heating pad under it on our porch. We ask the finder to place the babies in the carrier and take all boxes and towels with them when they leave, and then immediately text or call, at which point we will come out and grab the babies.”

Rehabilitator Arianna M states, “We’ve doubled up on deep cleaning and routine cleaning of our center.”

As to the risk of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.”

Which is to say, with what we know now, and in accordance with what you’ve been told, the human animal is the threat.

We’d be remiss to not end this piece with a reminder (verbatim from Johns Hopkins): Prevention involves frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow, and staying home when you are sick.

With hand sanitizer in high demand, you might benefit from this DIY guidance.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers additional information, particularly with regard to protecting domestic animals, in this guide for veterinarians and these FAQs.

* As to universal precautions on handling injured, potentially orphaned, or distressed wildlife, AHNow advises:

  • To protect yourself from disease and injury (1) never approach or attempt to rescue an animal who is behaving abnormally (circling, staggering, etc.) or shows signs of disease (salivating, discharge from the eyes or nose, etc.) and (2) always wear thick gloves whenever handling wildlife.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling wildlife.
  • Especially when respiratory risk is high, such as during this pandemic, wear a mask and protect your eyes when handling wildlife.
  • Exercise caution and good judgment and consult with the experts we’ll direct you to before handling, transporting, or otherwise disturbing a wild animal. Refer to our resources page for more information.

Beyond Name-calling: How Smarter Advocacy Can Better Serve Our Animal Friends

The Opossum Dropin North Carolina pits rural folks against people in urban and suburban communities. Advocates would be wise to keep this in mind.

Millie being lowered during the 2018 opossum "drop"

I understand that a human being can be OK with capturing a wild animal for a few days, putting the animal on display, and then releasing the animal back into the wild. I am not OK with it, and very likely you are not OK with it, but I understand that some humans are.

So when a group of people in Brasstown, North Carolina, get together every December 31 to celebrate the new year by hoisting a live opossum in a plexiglass box above a public stage and then lowering the animal at midnight (a la the Times Square ball), even though I’m completely opposed to the activity, I can see how they view this as harmless if not good clean fun.

Those of us who oppose such activities need to understand – there’s a lot at play here.

There’s the empathy gene thing, and we advocates are well served to always keep it in mind, because some people will never, can never “get it.” But a lack of individual empathy doesn’t explain Brasstown. It doesn’t explain dogfights, cockfights, horse racing. And it doesn’t help us stop them. Our efforts must be informed by a constant awareness that such activities are closely associated with culture and community type.

But first, a little background.

North Carolina’s Be Cruel to Opossums Law

The North Carolina legislature legally sanctioned the live opossum “drop” – there’s only one – in 2015 when, after a lawsuit effectively ended the event, state legislators passed a law that suspends protections for opossums from December 29 or each year to January 2 of the subsequent year.

We call this statute North Carolina’s Be Cruel to Opossums law because it not only enabled the Brasstown “tradition” to continue, it also opened a five-day window each year that completely removes legal protections for opossums statewide.

Note: The recently passed federal animal cruelty law does not apply to the opossum “drop”. You’ll find details on this here.

Effects of the Opossum “Drop” on Opossums

Opossum experts, including veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators, have testified about the harm done to the opossum before, during, and after the opossum “drops.” They state that stress cardiomyopathy, capture myopathy, and stress-related dermal septic necrosis are common in opossums and can be fatal. We know from the opossum “drop’s” history that the event almost invariably causes one or more of these conditions in the trapped opossum, who are by nature shy and timid animals and are afraid of humans.

Millie, post surgery to amputate her leg.

Community Type: The Locals Problem

We also know from experience these facts don’t compel your average Brasstown reveler. (Stressed? Traumatized?! You gotta be kiddin’ me!)

No surprise here. It’s a self-selecting group, after all. And perhaps no surprise really that there’s little apparent local opposition to the event. This is a small and somewhat isolated rural community in the Appalachian Mountains.

A recent PEW Research Center study offers valuable insights into how rural life differs from suburban life, and how each of these differs from urban life – alarmingly, in many ways these differences are increasing. Whether political, demographic, religious, or perceptive, such differences can create massive challenges when urban meets rural meets suburban meets urban.

Consider this finding from the PEW study:

About six-in-ten rural residents say the values of urban dwellers don’t align with theirs; 53% of urban residents say the same about the values of those in rural areas.

That’s a rough foundation upon which to build meaningful dialog on a divisive issue. Nevertheless, we tried last year when the event was held in nearby Andrews, but ultimately talks broke down.

Still, the town won’t be hosting another opossum drop anytime soon. Opossum “drops” are, under the best scenarios, bad for opossums; in Andrews last year, we saw the worst.

Millie’s Story

The opossum we now call Millie was injured and sick when she was hoisted into the air in the town’s Heritage Park at 10 pm on December 31, 2018, and dangled for two hours above the raucous Andrews crowd, while music blared and fireworks were set off. After she was haphazardly lowered to the stage at midnight, she was whisked away by two caring locals who had been promised by the event’s founder and organizer, Clay Logan, that they could take her. (Score a very small point here for Logan. Fun fact: he’s a county commissioner.)

Left untreated by her “handlers” before the event, Millie’s injuries led to an infection so severe that the rescuers reported they could smell it on the stage well before they even reached the box.

The veterinarian who treated Millie after the event stated that her injuries were consistent with those caused by leghold traps and snares. She had suffered both prolonged loss of circulation to her left front paw and a broken bone in her left front leg.

Amputation was necessary to save Millie’s life.

She is learning to get around on three legs, though you can still see her left shoulder joint at work in its futile attempt to move her phantom limb. (Click here for non-graphic video.)

Ending North Carolina’s Opossum “Drop”

An effective approach to fighting animal cruelty is to marginalize it. This shouldn’t be hard with the opossum “drop,” as it was already in the margins before the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) ill-advisedly legitimized it. The NCGA isn’t exactly a bastion of progressive politics, but animal cruelty – at least the non-institutionalized variety – is condemned by Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.

Just as roadshows featuring diving mules and chimpanzees on rollerskates have been pushed to the margins and off the page, so must and so will opossum “drops.”

This is not a Brasstown issue. This is a North Carolina issue, and surely a majority of North Carolinians will recognize their representatives should correct the mistake made by the General Assembly in 2015 and repeal SL 2015-73. Millie is going to help us in this regard. She is surviving proof of the injustice of this ridiculous law.

What You Can Do

First, keep in mind that name-calling won’t get us anywhere. We may never see eye to eye with people who have little respect for animals, but insulting and berating them is not going to help, and indeed it may result in their treating animals even worse.

Second, click here for a list of actions you can take to honor Millie and to relegate opossum “drops” to the dustbin of history.

Breaking a Habit of Abuse — The campaign to end the “Possum Drop” in western North Carolina

Co-Authored with Kathleen McCurdy, Concerned North Carolina Citizen and Member of Team Millie. Team Millie is a cooperative effort led by Animal Help Now and The Opossum’s Pouch Sanctuary, Rescue and Rehabilitation, seeking year-round protection for opossums in North Carolina.

A young, wild opossum spends hours suspended in a box above a group of New Year’s Eve revelers in a small town in western North Carolina. It’s still a few hours till midnight, at which time she will be lowered to the stage, in a misguided attempt to add a local flavor to New York’s Times Square “ball drop” tradition.

She is no doubt stressed from the cold and rainy weather, the loud music and fireworks, and most importantly the festering wound in her front left leg. According to a veterinarian who later examined and treated her, she would be in this box on this miserable night with a snapped bone in her leg, with blood flow to her foot severely restricted, and with an infection growing in the accompanying flesh wound. Rescuers who later that night got the opossum to safety said they could smell the infection from several feet away.

Although North Carolina law normally prohibits such treatment of wildlife, what is happening to this opossum is legal, because it is the New Year holiday. See, the North Carolina state legislature passed a law several years ago stripping the species of all protections over the New Year, all so that one family could have the go-ahead to continue profiting from a sad and cruel little western NC tradition called the “possum drop.”

It’s almost a year now since the injured and sick opossum was left dangling in the noise and cold for hours above that stage. Thanks to caring people who attended the event just to help the opossum, she received urgent veterinary attention shortly after her ordeal. The shy and gentle animal we now call Millie survived the abuse, though she will never recover from her injury. Her leg was amputated 10 days into the new year, despite her veterinarian’s every attempt to save it. 

Millie is learning to get around on three legs, though you can still see her left shoulder joint at work in its futile attempt to move her phantom limb. Click here to see the sad, but not graphic, video of Millie in recovery.

Millie also is slowly learning to trust her caregivers, which is important, as she will live out her life in a wildlife sanctuary, unable to ever return to her woodland home.

It’s worth noting here that publicity for the event states it’s OK for people to enjoy themselves because the animals aren’t harmed. Right.

“‘Possum Drop” promotional poster with “zone of lawlessness” making light of suspension of cruelty protections. The organizer’s website prominently proclaims, “We just want to let you know that we do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to harm the ‘possum.”

Compassionate people and animal advocacy organizations have been working for years to put a permanent end to this practice, either legislatively or by convincing the organizers to abandon their anachronistic “fun.” The event has alternately traumatized, injured, and killed animals throughout its 25-year history. The fate of most animals will never be known, because after they’ve been captured, held, and subjected to a raucous crowd, they tend to be simply tossed back into the wild. Some have surely not survived and likely suffered prolonged deaths, including the one who was blinded in one eye during the five-day ordeal before being discarded. 

Millie may change all of that. She is the proverbial smoking gun. She is living, surviving proof that what happens at opossum “drops” is anything but good, clean fun.

We are hopeful that Millie’s experience will help North Carolina legislators come to their senses and ensure that what happened to Millie will never happen to another animal. Certainly the appalling treatment of Millie is the reason more than one 150 thousand people signed the petition calling for the repeal of the state’s inane “Be Cruel to Opossums” law.

In the meantime, a member of the Logan family has communicated to us that there will be yet another opossum drop this year in Brasstown.

How You Can Help

Visit www.JusticeForMillie.org, and see the suggested action items at the bottom of the page.

Euthanasia: The Quiz.

It’s time for a new term. Malthanasia, perhaps?

Euthanasia is defined as a kind death, generally applying to animals outside our own species, mostly to our animal companions, whom we deem to no longer have (or to soon no longer have) an acceptable quality of life, due to injury, illness and/or advanced age. Euthanasia is mercy killing.

Another “eu” word is euphemism, defined as the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.

Euthanasia is often used as a euphemism. An example of the euphemistic use of euthanasia is when a dog or cat is killed because an animal shelter is at capacity. Another is when a black bear is killed for rummaging through human garbage. And another is when a perfectly healthy raccoon or squirrel is killed because (for whatever reason) the animal cannot survive in the wild. (Most US states require wildlife rehabilitators to kill such animals.)

Bear rummaging through garbage left out.

These are not mercy killings. They often are done as humanely as possible, but they are not mercy killings.

People are using euthanasia as a euphemism so often that now we’re starting to see the term humane euthanasia. Please. No.

I’m almost more saddened by humane euthanasia than by the euphemistic use of euthanasia. Almost.

To the quiz. Do the authors of the paragraphs below use the term correctly?

Raccoons are listed in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “furbearer” category, along with red/gray foxes, otters, beavers and bobcats. A permit is required from ODFW in order to capture and euthanize any of these animals on your property. Homeowners can also contact a licensed wildlife control operator to remove and euthanize the animals. Excerpted from What to do about uninvited diggers in the garden.  

The bobcat, who’d been wounded in an encounter with a vehicle, was later euthanized humanely by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which then used the story as a Twitter reminder of how not to let your best intentions get in the way of your common sense. Excerpted from Bobcats in Back Seats and Other Bad Choices Around Colorado Wildlife.

As soon as it can be determined that sick or injured wildlife is not likely to recover within 180 days, it must be euthanized, unless prior Division approval is given for extended care, provided further, however, that the Division may authorize the transfer of any raptor determined by the Division to be recovered, but non-releasable, to any person in possession of a valid federal permit issued for the express purpose of conducting conservation education. Excerpted from an exemplary (in the second sense of the term) state wildlife agency regulation.

Life was good for everybody until she broke into that building. Who knew there were rules? Humans. Grizzlies have been protected since the 1970s. We have rules about keeping our properties clean, but nobody holds us accountable. “Windfall” paid the price because this time, we didn’t. Our bear resistant garbage cans weren’t locked. We were too proud to install electric fences so Windfall would have been wary. What were we thinking? On the day that officials euthanized Windfall, we cried. Some of us are still crying. Excerpted from Swan Valley residents mourn loss of grizzly bear family.

The rate of cats and dogs euthanised in RSPCA shelters has dropped by about two thirds since 2000. Excerpted from Cat and dog euthanasia rates slashed as rescue culture and ‘fur babies’ on the rise.

Quiz Answers: Not one of the above uses the term correctly.

Just the same way we can speak up when we hear humans use animal references to insult one another – They say, So-and-so is a pig! We respond, I’ve never met a pig I didn’t like! –  it’s important that we keep ourselves and others honest and mindful about what is a mercy killing and what is not.

Let me be very clear. As a rule, the people who are tasked with the actual killing of healthy animals are not at fault. Shelter workers, wildlife rehabilitators, and veterinarians, among others, end up with the terrible task of killing healthy animals because they’ve stepped forward to do their best to help any animal they can, and they’ve done so in a society that treats animals poorly.

The shelter workers, wildlife rehabilitators, and veterinarians, the sheriff deputies and other law enforcement officers who must shoot the injured deer by the side of the road because they have no options: they are to be thanked and honored, they are to be treated compassionately, they are to be supported, they are to be given access to mental health professionals who can help them deal with the stress and trauma of their work.

Societal changes are required and overdue. We need to value other species much more than we do. We need to treat all animals with respect. We need to work harder to eliminate anthropogenic threats to animals. We need to direct more resources to wildlife rehabilitation, animal shelters, and rescues.

And we need a term for the kind death of an animal who shouldn’t have to be killed. I don’t know what that would be. Humane killing, perhaps? Situational euthanasia? Malthanasia? Dysthanasia? At least according to my dictionary, the term is definitely not euthanasia in and of itself.

When euthanasia is used euphemistically, it is almost always hiding the “unpleasant” fact that human action or inaction or incompetence led to the killing.

Until we face this fact, until we call this spade a spade, the inexcusable killing of healthy animals due to a lack of political will or resources will not receive the public attention it so desperately deserves. It is only through such attention that we will eliminate this gross injustice.

A hidden crisis, an abundance of opportunity

(They’re safe.) 

Another baby/busy season is well under way, and again we at Animal Help Now are deluged with reminders that even in an age of increasing appreciation for wildlife, the critical work of wildlife rehabilitation remains woefully under-appreciated, under-supported, and underfunded. 

You’re a young raccoon in the State of New York (not that you’d call it that), and you’re out for the night with your mom and sibs, learning to find food. You come upon a roaring river, but there’s no water. Just a lot of lights and dark masses zooming by. Mom is being extremely cautious in getting you across. She waits and waits, and then she goes. But – no! – she shrieks and is violently taken by a dark mass that roars by so close you could touch it. You see her far away. She is struggling to move. She’s crying. You and your sisters go to her even though it’s not safe. But the dark masses keep coming and they strike. They strike your sisters. They strike your mother. And now none of them are moving. Mom is not moving.

She is gone. They are all gone.

You stay close, by the side of the road. The violent masses continue to roar past. You’re filled with fear, you’re dizzy, disoriented. You stay there hoping somehow something will change. You have never felt alone or scared, and now this is all you feel.

At some point the sky lightens and one of the masses slows to a stop. Something scoops you up, bundles you, and then you are carried off on a roar for who knows where, … 

If you’re this raccoon – again, this is just a very small sample of what’s happening around the country and world every day – the chances right now are very good that your life is over, that you may feel a few loving hands, but eventually you’ll hear soft voices, and then you’ll feel a short sharp pain and then your world will end.

Every day right now in New York perfectly healthy orphaned raccoons are killed not by motor vehicles, but by people who are trained to save lives. That’s because the facilities that are equipped to rehabilitate these youngsters – preparing them for life in the wild and then releasing them when they’re ready – are almost all at capacity. They cannot take more animals. And that’s because of (a) human activities result in so many wildlife injuries and deaths and (b) wildlife rehabilitation is under-appreciated, under-supported, and underfunded.

Some people will use the term euthanasia to name the killing of a healthy orphaned raccoon under these circumstances. I won’t. Though it is better to have the animal killed than to release her into the woods to fend for herself.

These are terrible options, and they exist only because wildlife rehabilitation gets short shrift while wildlife agencies focus their attention on the hunting and fishing dollar.

The two babies pictured here? Let’s call them lucky, with an asterisk. And the asterisk is the two loving hands they landed in belong to Diane W. Diane is a former wildlife rehabilitator, and she’s more resourceful and diligent than most of us. 

When Diane ended up with these guys, she accessed AHNow to find help. None of the nearest rehabilitators could help her. They either were full, or they weren’t equipped/trained to accept raccoons. She used our animal filter, selecting Small Mammal, which removes from the results all rehabilitators who don’t accept small mammals and also extends our app’s search radius. Again, everyone she called was either full or, despite being able to accept small mammals, was not equipped/trained to accept raccoons.

Diane had pushed our service pretty close to the limit. What she really needed was a list of all raccoon rehabilitators in the State of New York. (For what it’s worth, transferring raccoons across state lines is illegal in most if not all states.)

Diane did the smart thing and contacted us directly. We want the public to contact us if they need us, but only after they exhaust the excellent self-service options we provide.

We produced and provided Diane with a list of rehabbers in New York that may be willing and able to accept baby raccoons.

Diane found one, and these little ones are now in good hands.

At AHNow we’ll be taking a close look at Diane’s experience as we develop our next generation user interface.

One more thing. Diane’s no longer rehabbing. She is terminally ill. Doctors have given her just a year to live.

We’re hoping Diane, like the little ones she saved here, defies the odds. We are so grateful to her and so many others like her who do or have done their best to leave this world better than they found it.

If you care to help cover the costs of transportation ($200), please click here. (Enter “raccoon” or “Diane” in the Donor Note.) Anything we raise above that amount will either will go toward something to thank Diane for all she has done and continues to do for our wild friends or will be donated at Diane’s direction to support wildlife emergency services.

High-Tech Wildlife 911

This article was originally published in New Mexico Vegan.

Think fast. Your neighbor’s cat has injured a bird. You’ve managed to scare off the cat, and now it’s just you and the bird, who’s dazed and bleeding slightly.

What do you do?

Many of you know the answer. And not only do you how to get to your local wildlife rehabilitation center, you also have the center’s phone number on speed dial, just in case.

But what if you’re out of town and away from your known resources?

Or what if you’ve encountered an animal that your local center won’t accept – say, an injured bobcat, perhaps?

Animal Help Now is the country’s first wildlife emergency application. It’s available for free on the internet at www.AnimalHelpNow.org (www.AHNow.org, for short) and as both an Android and iPhone app.

Think of Animal Help Now as a high-tech wildlife 911.

Injured Wildlife

You open the app and tap Wildlife Emergency. The app quickly lists the contact information for the nearest wildlife emergency professionals. You tap a phone number, and you’re on your way. It’s that easy.

The list of helpers includes state-licensed wildlife rehabilitators, federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife rescues and hotlines, and – in many states, including New Mexico – government agencies that may assist with wildlife emergencies. (If you see orphaned ducklings frantically running along a highway, for instance, you will want a sheriff or state patrol.)

Some of you at this point “get it”. You’ve encountered injured or distressed wildlife, and you know that at that moment nothing is more important than finding the right help right away.

You may be like me, in that animals in need tend to throw themselves into your path. I’ve helped scores of injured and distressed wild animals, especially since moving to Colorado in 1991. Rattlesnakes, pigeons, geese, mice, voles, prairie dogs, … Even a red-tailed hawk.

I used to carry a golf club to euthanize animals whom I could not otherwise help. A snake with a broken spine on a long, hot stretch of eastern Colorado road comes to mind. I didn’t know what else to do.

I actually still carry the club, just in case, but I no longer struggle to find assistance if it is indeed available. I’ve used Animal Help Now dozens of times since we created it. The club? Not once.

It was not just my personal experience that revealed to me the need for an easy-to-use animal emergency app. (And, yes, in its first incarnation and actually up until last year, Animal Help Now could also be used for domestic emergencies – including cats, dogs, cows, chickens and pigs.) My professional experience clearly confirmed the need. As long-time executive director of Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, a now-defunct (but very effective in its time) Colorado-based animal rights organization, I saw day-in and day-out that people who encounter animals in need do not know what to do to help. They just don’t know.

And even my colleagues and I in the RMAD office would often have to do a lot of legwork to help out if people were calling us from outside our Front Range comfort zone.

Some significant anthropogenic threats to wildlife, such as catastrophic climate change and conversion of wildlife habitat to human use, are essentially outside the purview of Animal Help Now. The animals we are able to help are those who people encounter in their day-to-day lives: the bird who hits a window, the baby rabbit injured by the neighbor’s dog, the raccoons by the side of the road whose mother has been killed by a car.

Here are some startling statistics, though we do note that the second and third figures are the subject of significant variation:

  • One billion birds are estimated to be killed in window strikes in the United States each year. A billion is a hard number to imagine, so, as difficult as it may be to believe, a billion a year is 30 fatal window strikes per second.
  • About four times that many are killed by cats and dogs.
  • About a half billion are killed by motor vehicle strikes.

The number of animals injured from these same causes is likely in the billions, as well.

It is no wonder that usage of Animal Help Now has doubled nearly every year since we launched. Last year we assisted in an estimated 26,000 emergencies.

Animal Help Now is but one component of the field of wildlife emergency response and treatment. This community includes wildlife rehabilitators and veterinary professionals, and the people who support them, including donors, administrative staff and others. In some areas, the wildlife emergency community it includes in-the-field rescuers and wildlife transporters.

Several parts of the country are served by volunteer-based wildlife hotlines. The Dallas/Fort Worth area has an excellent one, as does (jointly) Missouri and Illinois. Many of the coastal stranding and entanglement hotlines are run by volunteers or government agencies. Animal Help Now lists these helpers to users in those areas. If you use our app on any coast anywhere in the United States, you will be given quick access to whichever marine animal hotlines serve that coastline, just in case your emergency involves a sea turtle, a stranded dolphin or even an oil spill.

Animal Help Now has an added benefit for dispatch operators, animal shelters, vet clinics and other entities that occasionally or frequently field wildlife emergency calls. It is our “referral” functionality, which allows a person in one location to help a person in a different location. So if I’m working for New Mexico Wildlife Center in Los Alamos and I get a call from eastern Arizona for help with an injured coyote, I can use Animal Help Now to point the caller to people in her area who can help.

Animal Help Now is a vegan organization. Our policy states:

Animal Help Now respects and promotes respect for all animals. As such, the organization employs a vegan approach to its messaging and purchasing, including food purchased for meetings and events, and in its receipt of donated goods and services.

But as you know all is not well in the world. And as you also know, even if you haven’t articulated it, human-created problems often defy elegant solutions. (“Elegant” here in the sense of ingenious, clean, simple.)

Just today a person telling me about her use of the app said she felt bad about cutting up mealworms to feed to a Carolina wren she had rescued. I wrote back telling her I feel the same way. And I said it hits even closer to home for me in the case of carnivore rehabilitation.

This is where education and prevention enter the picture. The more we work together to mitigate the threats facing wildlife, the better our world will be.

Animal Help Now has an ambitious education program focused on helping humans be better neighbors to wildlife. For instance, on window strikes, did you know that affixing a bird sticker to a window has virtually no deterrent effect on bird flight behavior? The fix is easy, but it’s not quite that simple. See the Resources page on www.AHNow.org for the full story, and for other useful information, such as how to create your own wildlife rescue kit for your car or home.

This year we also completed the launch of our new functionality that directs people who need help with a wildlife conflict – squirrels in the attic, skunks under the porch, etc. – to humane wildlife professionals who can assist.

I encourage you to download our app (search stores for Animal Help Now) and bookmark our website (www.AHNow.org). Please give us a good review, if you’re so inclined. Check us out on social media. And even though we’re mostly volunteers, please consider a donation. You can claim to have been an early investor in the world’s first wildlife 911 system!

Finally, if you want to work for animals in hands-off ways but you don’t know what to do or where to start, please get in touch with us at Animal Help Now. There are about a thousand things that need to be done.

Watch your step! In 2018 more than ever.

It’s a cold, sunny day, and you’re strolling alone on a sidewalk in an unfamiliar neighborhood in an unfamiliar town. Enjoying the new sights and sounds, you don’t notice the black ice patch until it’s too late. You hear your forearm break as you hit the frozen concrete. You cry out.

The fracture is compound. There’s a new bend just above your wrist. The pain hasn’t yet hit, but you feel sick.

The sound of hurried footsteps offers some relief, as you try to breathe and gather your thoughts.

You look up to see a person quickly approaching. He looks a bit panicked and before you can warn him, he too slips on the ice. Thankfully he isn’t hurt and is quickly back on his feet, but when he sees your injury he gets woozy and takes a knee.

Another person arrives. This one is a bit circumspect. She too kneels next to you, but her countenance is one of calm and concern. She looks you in the eye and asks if you have injured anything other than your arm. Thankfully, you don’t think so.

She then removes her coat and wraps it around your shoulders. She directs her attention to the other person, asks him if he’s OK, tells him to take some deep breaths and then directs him to attend to you while she gets her car.

Now, in case you haven’t guessed, this is a bit of a parable. In the context of Animal Help Now, it can be read rather literally, which is to say if you come upon an emergency, keep your head. But I mean it also in a larger sense.

Person walking with AHNow logo
AHNow: Dispassionate, Considered, Expert.

An argument that the entire world is in a state of emergency is fairly easy to make (wars, famine, ocean plastic, catastrophic climate change, etc.). As to Animal Help Now’s particular corner of the world – the interface between humans and individual wild animals – this argument is easier still. Billions of wild animals are injured or killed in the United States alone every year, from cat and dog attacks, window strikes, vehicle strikes, etc. And as humans continue to leave their mark on the planet, wildlife impacts still do not factor in as they should. Witness this deliberate construction of a bird death trap.

Your broken arm is best addressed through dispassionate, considered, expert care. Helping a bird injured in a window strike is best addressed through dispassionate, considered, expert care. Helping address the myriad and increasing anthropogenic threats to wildlife is best accomplished through dispassionate, considered, expert care.

While concern for others is the font of so many good acts and good efforts, untempered it can lead to incautious and inexpert action.

Which is all simply to say, to those of you who act on your concern for others, please join Animal Help Now in our pledge to do our best in 2018. Watch your step! Those “others” are counting on us like never before.

Happy New Year!

There’s a 911 for Wildlife, So Why Aren’t More People Using It?

People who encounter injured or distressed wildlife often don’t know where to turn for help. Some go straight to 911. Some call their vet. Others call a national animal advocacy group or search the web for help.

There’s really only one place to go, though. And that of course is AnimalHelpNow.org (AHNow.org, for short). None of the other options is consistently effective. Not one. (For a comparison of AHNow against other approaches, click here.)

But Animal Help Now is a long way from being a part of the public consciousness the way 911 is for human emergencies. People will be visiting unhelpful websites or calling vets and animal orgs and law enforcement dispatch – and getting unacceptable assistance – for the foreseeable future.

injured squirrel
Every minute can matter during an emergency.

Now, this isn’t an intractable problem. In fact, AHNow educates vet clinics, animal orgs, law enforcement dispatch and wildlife emergency professionals about how to use AHNow so they can in fact effectively assist people who visit their websites or call them about injured or distressed wildlife.

Our latest effort in this regard is a six-minute video showing how to use Animal Help Now as a referral tool. This video is a must-see for anyone who fields wildlife emergency calls.

Do you know someone who works for a vet clinic, an animal advocacy organization, an animal shelter, a wildlife rehabilitation center, or an animal control or law enforcement dispatch agency? If so, please share this post or the video with them.

In doing so, not only will you save lives and reduce animal suffering, you also will help these people do their jobs better and help increase awareness about Animal Help Now among the U.S. public.

Knowing how to use Animal Help Now in a referral capacity is useful even for your everyday average member of the public, especially those of us who care about wildlife, because one day the phone may ring, with a friend contacting you for help with an injured wild animal.

Watch the video.

 

When the Police Do the Wrong Thing

On Monday of this week, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, a police officer stopped at the scene of a wildlife emergency. A mildly injured raccoon stood by the side of the road.

A compassionate person already had pulled over to try to help. Elizabeth had been there for several minutes and was at a loss as to what to do. “The raccoon extended his injured paw to me, as if asking for help,” she said. “I called every number I could think of.”

Her relief at seeing the police officer arrive was quickly replaced by fear, as he told her something to the effect of “raccoons have no value” and asked her to leave so that he could shoot the animal.

She complied with his request. And, according to reports, this mildly injured raccoon, for whom help was available at a wildlife rehabilitation center just 20 minutes away, was indeed killed.

Mercilessly. Unnecessarily. Raccoon babies

And probably leaving behind friends or a mate; possibly also dependent young, who would in turn likely die, and not without suffering. We’ll never know.

Elizabeth was unaware of Animal Help Now when she pulled over to help the raccoon. Now she’s familiar with us, though. And the next time she encounters an animal who needs help, she’ll open the Animal Help Now app and avail herself the best available list of local helpers, giving the raccoon or the squirrel or the bird, or whomever it is Elizabeth is assisting, her best chance of surviving.

As to the powers that be in Fitchburg, we are encouraging people to contact the mayor and the chief of police to ask that all Fitchburg first responders be trained in appropriately managing wildlife emergencies.Fitchburg WI Police badge

Mayor Steve Arnold:
Steve.Arnold@fitchburgwi.gov, (608) 278-7700

Police Chief Thomas Blatter:
Thomas.Blatter@fitchburgwi.gov, (608) 270-4300

We’ve posted a video on this incident on our YouTube channel. It contains no graphic images, but it does contain a 20-second recording of Elizabeth’s voicemail to a local wildlife emergency professional, which some people may find disturbing due to the despair and desperation in her voice.

Click here to watch the video.

It wouldn’t hurt to contact law enforcement and first responders in your area to find out how they trained to deal with wildlife and domestic animal emergencies.