Two years ago tonight – on the eve of 2019 – an #opossum with a broken and severely infected leg was hoisted up in a plexiglas box from a #NorthCarolina stage in a thunderstorm, while a band played raucous music to a raucous crowd, then lowered at midnight, continuing a sick tradition in the vein of diving mules and bicycle-riding bears.
Millie was rescued after the event, but she lost her leg – it couldn’t be saved. In the time since, she has recovered through loving care at The Opossum’s Pouch Sanctuary, Rescue and Rehabilitation and has learned to trust humans again. Sadly, though Millie’s caregiver and The Opossum’s Pouch director, Beth Sparks, tells us this gentle survivor is nearing the end of her life, with late-stage congestive heart failure.
Recurring claims, including recent ones from trusted animal organizations, that opossum “drops” have been outlawed in North Carolina are unfounded.
So much hatred is directed toward opossums. There’s a lot to unpack around that. Efforts led by Beth, (ItsMe)Sesame, and others are making progress, but it’s up to all of us to go to bat for these shy and gentle animals.
Animal Help Now, The Opossum’s Pouch, and our partners will continue to fight for the abolition of this anachronistic “tradition” again in 2021, with, as she is especially today, Millie in our hearts.
Help! There’s an injured or possibly dead opossum in the road. What should I do?
If you can safely do so, it’s generally a good idea to stop when you find an animal in the road, whether the animal is dead or alive. Helping a live animal off the road and getting the animal into care – even if the only care option is euthanasia – is the right thing to do. Moving a dead animal out of the road will decrease the chances that animals scavenging the body will themselves become victims of a vehicle strike. (It’s important to always have sturdy gloves in your car for just this need.)
Opossums present a special case, as they are marsupials. In fact, they’re the only marsupial in North America! As such, an injured or dead opossum may be a mother with babies in her pouch.
If the opossum is in the road, move him/her to the shoulder.
If the animal is alive, get him/her into a box or other carrier and use Animal Help Now’s wildlife emergency service app to find the nearest emergency assistance.
If you are uncertain whether or not the animal is alive, gently touch the animal’s back feet and eyes and face, check for any movement as you do so. If the animal is alive, get her into a box or other carrier and use Animal Help Now’s wildlife emergency service to find the nearest emergency assistance.
If the animal is dead and has a pouch, check for babies in the pouch. You can do so by gently lifting up the skin on the pouch and peeking inside. If there are babies in the pouch, you will need to take the mom’s body as is to a rehabilitator.
Note: If for some reason taking the mom’s body is not possible, you can transfer the babies to a warm container or carrier with a towel or blanket, but this is an extremely delicate procedure.
We suggest keeping an animal rescue kit (https://ahnow.org/kits) in your vehicle.
Animal Help Now makes finding a wildlife rehabilitator easier than ever. AHNow’s wildlife emergency service is available on the web at www.AHNow.org and as a free smartphone app (iPhone and Android).
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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
A big ethical issue in rehab is the killing of one animal to support the rehabilitation of another.
As far as I can tell, not a lot of people are talking about this, but I think it’s something each of us has to at least acknowledge, if not reckon with.
A classic example is raptor rehab. Although I’ve been behind the scenes in one acclaimed raptor rehab center, I don’t know much about day-in, day-out practice of helping prepare raptors for their introduction to life in the wild, or their return thereto. I do know that live animals are used in rehab in teaching young raptors to hunt.
For a human who values one animal life as much as another, this of course presents an ethical dilemma.
This dilemma likely will be influenced by whether or not one values ecosystems, in that placing high value on healthy ecosystems may make it easier for one to justify the taking of one life to support another.
Of course, one doesn’t simply value ecosystems or not value ecosystems. One might value an ecosystem that is rare and endangered over an ecosystem that is more common and not endangered. One might value an ecosystem that is relatively pristine (such as a remote Brazilian rainforest) over an ecosystem that is characterized by human activities and impacts (such as a Chicago suburb).
If one places no value on ecosystems, is it a slam dunk to decide whether to kill one animal to save another? No quail shall be bred to be fed alive or dead to a raptor. Perhaps it is.
There’s also the issue of whether to value the educational and inspirational aspects of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation? If the story of a successful rehabilitation of an orphaned raptor educates and inspires, say, a group of schoolchildren, what if any value does this inspiration hold?
And what may it hold? Increasing appreciation for and attention to wildlife rehabilitation may well result in the development of technologies and approaches that minimize the “need” for the use of live animals in learning-to-hunt situations. It’s readily apparent that the development of cell-cultured animal flesh will eventually save lives in the everyday rehabilitation of omnivores and scavengers.
I rely, perhaps too heavily, on the adage that human-created problems often defy elegant solutions. Nutria. The killing of “unwanted” dogs and cats in shelters. Climate change. Examples abound.
To be sure, what’s under discussion here is not whether or not to save a bunny from a hawk attack. What’s under discussion is whether or not to save a hawk who has been hit by a car. Few animal rights people would say, don’t save the hawk, but few too would be willing to put a live quail in an aviary as part of the hawk’s rehab effort.
To be more accurate, what’s under discussion here is the need to confront and come to terms with unpleasant truths. In the absence of elegant solutions, what is important first and foremost is that those who care enough to explore the ethical implications of carnivore (and probably omnivore) rehab recognize that there’s no one pure ethical stance.
With Hurricane Michael hammering the Florida Panhandle and surrounding areas, we’re facing yet another harsh reminder of the fragility of life. We know you join Animal Help Now in our hopes that those in the hurricane’s path can make it to safety and ensure that their dependents do, too.
Sadly, we were reminded just last month that many animals are simply left to die, including not only dogs and cats, and fishes in aquariums, but also and on a much, much larger scale, pigs and chickens and other “food” animals, whose anonymity dooms them.
As to wild animals and wild places, even with their millions of years of evolutionary toughening-up, many can offer no contest to the violence of today’s storms.
The climate is changing, and the impacts are larger and coming at us faster than almost anyone predicted. As the International Panel on Climate Change reported last week, we need to act now, as in now, as in right now. Today.
As to today: at Animal Help Now, we recognize the huge role that human food systems play in climate change. Choosing to eat lower on the food chain is perhaps the single most important thing a person can do each day to positively impact the climate. When we farm to feed humans directly instead of farming to feed cows and pigs and chickens to then feed to humans, we use less fossil fuel and we require less farmland. I can almost hear a rainforest saying, Thank you.
What’s that, coral reef? Plant-based diets also benefit coral reefs, not only from a global warming perspective, but also by rejecting factory fishing and its concomitant destruction of marine biodiversity.
Discarded fishing line and nets alone are reason enough for Animal Help Now to exist.
But the maelstrom of human misbehavior has much larger consequences, as we are now witnessing in the Gulf.
This week Animal Help Now has been busy ensuring our list of wildlife experts in and around the Florida Panhandle is up to date so we can best serve people who encounter wildlife in need as the storm moves through.
Of course, most area wildlife rehabilitators have rightfully left for higher ground, serving as a final jolting reminder that each of us needs to act today to mitigate the severity of storms of the future. If we don’t, we’ll all soon find ourselves in a constant state of retreat.
Yesterday on my way into Boulder on Highway 36 I noticed a person with a net looking through deep grass off the road’s shoulder. I figured she was looking for an animal of some sort, so I stopped to offer my help.
And there was my friend and fellow advocate, Nicole. And sure enough, she was looking for animals – specifically, ducklings. She had been on that stretch of road earlier in the day and saw a mother with eight or nine babies, walking along the shoulder. By the time she could turn around and get back to where they were, the mother and several of the babies had been hit and killed.
Like so many thoroughfares, Highway 36, which links the Colorado cities of Denver and Boulder, becomes a gauntlet of death for wildlife each spring and summer.
No safe wildlife crossings are to be found, and those who attempt to cross must navigate 4-6 lanes of incessant traffic. Even birds and foxes and other nimble animals who have adapted to high speed vehicles are likely to die when faced with the reckless driver traveling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.
At this time of year especially I try not to schedule anything that absolutely positively requires me to be on time. This allows me to keep my eyes open for anyone who has been injured or is trapped along a median, and to stop and try to help when needed.
I’m not virtue signaling. I don’t relish this in the least. I hate that animals who have evolved over millions of years – even dinosaurs, for Christ’s sake – are getting violently injured and killed by the millions on our roads each year. I hate that their deaths are barely noticed, if noticed at all, by their killers and by passersby. I hate that the person who hits a deer is more concerned about the damage to their vehicle than the pain, the death, the injury they caused, or the fact that the mom or dad or sibling or friend who went out that morning will never be seen again, leaving at best an emptiness that humans can and should understand – and at worst dependent young, robbed of their birthright and sentenced to a frightening and protracted death.
I hate that humans have normalized being in a hurry and that our own evolution has led to an insane separation from nature and an all-costs pursuit of comfort and convenience.
Millions of years of evolution will not prepare a vulnerable animal for an encounter with an uncaring human.
Nicole was able to save four of the ducklings, delivering them into the good hands of a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. Because she cares so deeply, she had returned that afternoon to see if she could find any others who may have survived. After a thorough search, she was packing up when I arrived. She hadn’t found any more ducklings, but she wasn’t leaving empty handed, as she’d picked up some recyclables, likely tossed from vehicles by uncaring humans.
Here’s to you, Nicole, and to all with wide and welcoming circles of compassion. You are this planet’s hope.
Notes If you encounter a wild animal who needs your help or if you have a “conflict” with wildlife at home or work, use Animal Help Now to find the nearest assistance.
It’s always smart to have a box or carrier of some sort in your vehicle. Click here to see what Animal Help Now recommends for a full rescue kit.
To support Animal Help Now’s work, please visit www.AHNow.org/donate.php.
Until Google develops a better system of communicating to Android app users about the various ways that apps interact with a user’s list of contacts, Animal Help Now is pulling its “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality from its Android app. We are doing this because a few of our users have expressed concerns about Animal Help Now invading their privacy.
This, despite the fact that Animal Help Now cannot access their contact lists. All we can do is add a helper to their contacts – at their behest.
** The pre-digital analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You ask, do you have their card? We hand it to you. **
We are saddened that governments, for-profit corporations and even some non-profit corporations have violated the public trust, that public trust in general is evidently eroding as we move further into the 21st Century and that these dynamics together are making the world even more dangerous for the most vulnerable in our society, including our animal friends.
** The pre-digital, post-truth analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You say, I’d ask for their card, but then you’d insist on seeing my Rolodex. **
It’s enough to drive us mad.
Here is the letter we are submitting to Google (purveyor of Android) in response to this debacle:
Our nonprofit organization helps people with wildlife emergencies find the nearest professional help. We recently added a feature that allows users to add a wildlife emergency professional’s contact information to their contacts.
We are now hearing from the public that they will not download our app because Google is telling them we need “Access” to their contacts and they do not trust that we will not violate this access. If Google were to make it very clear that the access we need is “write only” and that we cannot see the users’ contacts, we likely would not be losing users and users’ trust.
Further, if Google were to allow a person to download the app while exempting the contact access, this would also solve the problem.
As it is, the existing solution is untenable and, unfortunately, in this age of distrust, indefensible. One must, as has been said, avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST (3/30/18)
Animal Help Now received an email today from Mike M, who wrote: I like your app, but I won’t be using it any longer or recommending it because the latest upgrade wants to access my contacts. Respect user privacy.
I can see where Mike is coming from. He went to update his Android app and saw that we now request access to his contacts.
After all, why on earth would the Animal Help Now Android app need access to Mike’s contacts? Before your imagination gets on a plane to Russia, allow me to give you the quick and complete answer.
The Animal Help Now app needs access to Mike’s contacts because we now offer a new feature that allows Mike to save a wildlife rehabilitator’s contact information in his contact list (see image).
This does not mean we can see Mike’s contacts. We cannot.
Let me say that again: We cannot see Mike’s contacts.
We added the “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality because we want to make it as easy as possible for Mike and our other users to contact his area wildlife rehabilitators today, tomorrow, anytime.
That’s what we do.
Unfortunately, Android doesn’t give us the opportunity to explain that we are not asking for permission to access our users’ contacts, unless the person downloading the app happens to read the “What’s New” section in our store.
What’s worse, it’s an all-or-nothing thing. If Mike doesn’t want Animal Help Now to be able to his contacts helpers of his choosing, Android won’t let him upgrade his app.
Thankfully, Apple takes a more reasonable approach. The company doesn’t even ask for your permission to let Animal Help Now add a helper to your contacts until you try to do so, and it certainly doesn’t require you to give us this access before downloading our app.
Recent events have heightened privacy concerns. Facebook and so many others have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. As a result, people seem warier than ever about others’ intentions.
Animal Help Now’s December Animal Hero award goes to Jasmine Fletcher Glaze, director of A Soft Place To Land in Graham, Washington. Jasmine has been working with animals since the age of 14 and rehabilitated 300 – 350 mammals a year at her home-based facility … until now.
Last month, a WA wildlife rehabilitation facility that Jasmine respects suffered a seizure of animals by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW). A former volunteer at For Heaven’s Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation (FHSARR) told WDFW that the deer and elk being cared for at the facility had been exposed to excessive human contact, which caused them to become habituated to humans.
WDFW officials visited FHSARR Nov. 9 and tranquilized a young elk and three bottle-fed fawns onsite, then took them to another location and killed them. Officers also tried to capture 11 additional deer as they fled into the woods. The agency will evaluate these animals for release by March.
Jasmine notes this was not an isolated incident and that the agency has taken and killed animals from other wildlife rehabilitation facilities. WDFW declares that the state owns all state wildlife and is charged with managing them. Others state that wildlife belong to the public and that the agency is mismanaging them.
Jasmine knew she would be devastated if the state ever killed the animals in her care, and the fact that officials can take such drastic action without due process was too much to bear. She wanted to effect change in WDFW, but like other rehabbers around the country, she knew the agency could act with impunity and without what a reasonable person would consider to be due process.
Jasmine figured out a way to be heard. She took the bold step of closing her facility when the last animal was ready for release and requested WDFW deactivate her wildlife rehabilitation permit, effective Dec. 1.
Jasmine is now working with state officials and commissions while raising public awareness of the regulatory and due process challenges faced by rehabbers nationwide. In a letter to the agency, she wrote, “My concerns are that there is not an official process for a fair hearing or a review board for wildlife rehabilitators who have been accused of violating the standards of wildlife rehabilitation.”
As Jasmine told us: “Once we establish effective oversight, I’ll be right back to rehabbing. I don’t want to stop. I just don’t want to worry something like that could happen again – to me or any other rehabbers. I’m hoping if we can get Washington to change, other states will change as well.”
We encourage the WA public to request an overhaul of the agency’s approach. The WDFW Commission is meeting Dec. 8 and 9.
Jasmine’s sacrifice and efforts could have enormous implications. We don’t want the FHSARR elk and fawns to have died in vain and hope WDFW will agree to allow release of the 11 remaining deer it has targeted come spring. We support and commend Jasmine for speaking out as we award her Animal Hero of the Month.