Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday for many of us in the United States.
We like the gratitude part, and the getting together with friends and family.
And the feasts.
The celebrated slaughter and gluttonous consumption of tens of millions of birds, though… For many of us, that doesn’t sit well at all.
What’s the adage… Tradition will accustom one to any atrocity?
We’re also uncomfortable with the holiday’s origin in this country. It paints an idyllic picture of harmony between colonists and indigenous people, a breaking of bread, a collaboration.
Native Americans have not fared well in this relationship in the intervening years. Thanksgiving also was founded at the same time the first ships were arriving on the eastern shores with kidnapped Africans.
At Animal Help Now, we value nonviolence. We value life. And we love and respect turkeys, whether wild or domestic.
And we love our friends. And we love food. We recognize just how important it is to be grateful for all we have.
So, yes. It’s a tricky holiday. Happy… #TrickyDay?
A report today from the Missouri Department of Conservation confirms: The Missouri boys who recorded videos of themselves enthusiastically cornering and beating to death with baseball bats several raccoons in what certainly qualifies for felony prosecution have been given… a good talking to.
Because the perpetrators of this vicious attack were juveniles, the Putnam County Court is unable to divulge the exact penalties levied, but Animal Help Now was able to confirm the boys were ordered to take a hunting education class, and that… appears… to be… about… it.
The boy who posted the video on social media just posted an image of himself with an animal he killed this month. So one presumes his hunting and social media privileges weren’t revoked.
This likely means he also didn’t lose his trapping privileges – a dreadful thought, considering many of these animals will be alive when he shows up, with no one around, to “dispatch” them.
The same is likely true for his buddies. A good talking to. If that.
A desperate chorus rises each year as spring turns into summer, and wildlife rehabilitators across the country approach or reach capacity.
It can be nearly impossible in many parts of the United States to find help for wildlife emergencies at this time of year (wildlife baby season and migration). This is tragic for the animals who need help, and it’s tragic for the good humans who are trying to help them.
A familiar refrain of frustration returns to social media, email inboxes, and voicemail messages from the would-be rescuers: Nobody cares!
We created Animal Help Now specifically because of the difficulty of finding wildlife emergency assistance in the United States (though, to be sure, it’s a planet-wide problem). With our app we have solved the problem of finding the closest and most appropriate help for wildlife emergencies – and conflicts! – but that doesn’t mean more help is available. It doesn’t mean this country has suddenly developed an appreciation for wildlife rehabilitation. It doesn’t mean wildlife agencies are making it easier to rehabilitate wildlife. It doesn’t mean government funding is available to support rehabilitation centers and hotlines.
It doesn’t mean our communities have come together to develop systemic approaches to mitigating the ubiquitous anthropogenic threats (cat and dog attacks, window strikes, motor vehicle strikes, poorly executed “nuisance” wildlife control, etc.) that result in millions of wild animals getting injured and killed in the United States every day.
Wildlife ambulances should not be the stuff of science fiction.
As your stomach turns and you jump into action after hearing the dreaded thump of a bird hitting a window, seeing a bleeding and broken-shelled turtle in the road, encountering your neighbor’s outdoor cat with a bird in her mouth, you know instantly that you will need help as quickly as possible. And it is gut-wrenchingly tragic (to the empathetic among us) that sometimes there simply is no help. When no help is available, when your only option might be to find a veterinarian who will euthanize the animal, you are rightly anguished, sad, angry….
And you may lash out. Nobody cares!
But of course that’s not true. You care. The hundreds of people looking for help for another animal in need in some other place but at the exact same time you are – they care. The volunteers who do the work to get licensed to rehabilitate wildlife and who often work out of their homes, covering their own expenses, doing their best to get phone calls returned between feedings, having compromised sleep for months on end – they care. The paid staff and volunteers serving wildlife rehabilitation centers, rescues, and hotlines care. The veterinarians who are willing to stabilize wildlife care. Many wildlife and law enforcement agents care.
AHNow’s volunteers, paid staff, and financial supporters care.
It may be fair to say that more people care than do not!
We simply must make this a safer world for wildlife and lift up wildlife rehabilitation where it belongs. Animal Help Now lays it out in its vision statement.
Animal Help Now envisions a world in which humans:
Are familiar with threats facing wildlife and act to minimize them
Are educated about wildlife emergencies and empowered to effectively help orphaned, injured and distressed wild animals
Are educated about living in harmony with wildlife and empowered to effectively and humanely resolve human/wildlife conflicts
Place high value on the services provided by wildlife rehabilitators, humane wildlife conflict operators and other wildlife experts
This is going to take a society-wide effort, from businesses to HOAs to all levels of government. State legislatures and state wildlife agencies and the commissions that direct them, in particular, can and must do better. More than enough people care. More than enough to effect such changes, that is. We just have to be better organized, better directed, and a bit quicker about it.
As we barge through these first decades of the anthropocene – anthroobscene? – we’re getting reminders every day of the damage humans are doing to the planet and to our fellow earthlings. Who isn’t sickened by the sight of a starving polar bear, elephants rummaging through trash, or a crushed turtle in a road left to slowly die?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the melting ice caps, ever-increasing light pollution, the ongoing destruction of rainforests, coral reefs, prairies and other wildlife homes to feed the ever-widening maw of homo sapiens, … These obscenities require COVID-level crisis response. They’re not getting it.
Monied interests of course tend to be quite comfortable with the status quo. Bayer/Monsanto will fight like hell to keep RoundUp on the market. Oil companies will fight like hell to build new pipelines. Plastics manufacturers will go so far as to blame consumers for the plastic that has found its way into the air and indeed into our bodies.
Some of us have the time, energy, and inclination to fight big fights. Some of us do the best we can with limited time, energy, or inclination. Whichever group you’re in, you can be a part of the growing effort to make your trash and recyclables less hazardous to wildlife.
It started with the plastic six-pack rings, of course, when we saw the malformed bodies of reptiles ensnared in them from an early age. Now many of us automatically slice up these rings before discarding them.
And that’s a good thing, unless of course that makes them more appealing meals for seabirds and marine animals, but that’s another story. Either way, we need to do a lot more. Most of us cannot be sure that our trash or our recycling won’t end up exposed to wildlife in a landfill or even in a body of water somewhere. So before you toss anything into the trash or recycling bin, think twice about whether it – like an intact six-pack ring – may pose a threat to wildlife.
Here are some we’ve identified:
Note: The content of this graphic is by no means set in stone. If you have any input on how we can improve it, please let us know!
Limit your purchase of single-use materials! Buy bulk when you can. Reuse bags, boxes, twist ties, and the like.
Finally, we’d be remiss to not mention fishing line. Animal Help Now constantly gets reports of animals, mostly waterfowl, ensnared in discarded fishing line. If you spend anytime near areas where humans fish, be on the lookout. The tool you carry to snip discarded masks may very well help you remove this threat from the homes of our wildlife neighbors. And if you see someone discard a line, either confront that person or take good notes of the time, location, person’s description, license plate, whatnot, and contact law enforcement.
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.
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.
In his or her honor, I’ll humbly suggest we all think hard about how our own behaviors – our private “traditions”, perhaps – might harm others.
Is our own entertainment truly cruelty free? Any circus involving animals is not. Nor is any zoo or aquarium. Any movie involving actual animals likely was unpleasant for them; many have been downright cruel or indeed deadly.
The food that sustains us? Are we eating in a way that causes the least harm, to both animals and to the planet?
Our household products? Are we still buying products “tested” on animals? They’re certainly still being produced!
Our investments? Are we supporting companies that exploit natural resources?
Are we cutting back on plastics? Even just a little?
In a room full of antagonists (say, NYE revelers), the persecuted protagonist (opossum) is easy to spot and easy to sympathize with.
Profound change starts with the more difficult recognition of when we ourselves are causing problems. And profound change can be gradual. A little less meat in our diets. A reusable drink container. A little more attention paid to our animal companion…
We have a whole year to stop the next opossum “drop”. Imagine all the other positive changes we can make during that time!
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.