Helping Wildlife During Hurricane Michael and Beyond

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.

Great Blue Heron killed in Hurricane Harvey.
Many shorebirds seeking shelter in local wetlands, like this great blue heron, were devastated by storm surge in Hurricane Harvey (Port Aransas, TX). Many of those who were found alive and rescued were taken to the Texas Sealife Center for medical attention and rehabilitation. Photo: Tim Tristan.
Rescued green sea turtles.
Green sea turtles transported to the Texas Sealife Center in Corpus Christi after Hurricane Harvey. More than 50 sea turtles were housed and cared for at the facility. Photo: Tim Tristan.

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.

Inundated factory farm.
Millions of chickens and thousands of pigs suffered terribly and died during Hurricane Florence. This is about as close as cameras are allowed. Photo: USA Today.

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.

Brown pelican.
Through the unparalleled devastation of Hurricane Harvey, some animals remained resilient. Here, a surviving brown pelican. Photo: Tim Tristan.
Bunnies orphaned during Hurricane Harvey.

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.

Use Animal Help Now (website, iPhone app, Android app) to find assistance right now for injured or distressed wildlife.

Beware what you share! “Cute” videos are often cruel.

Guest Blogger
Jill Bielawski
Editor and Social Media Director, Animal Help Now

Cute animal videos have long been an internet sensation, and many sites have profited from their popularity. But much of that “cute” footage actually features animals who are being harassed, abused or otherwise placed in harm’s way. We at Animal Help Now sometimes see our friends and colleagues sharing videos and photos of animals who, upon close inspection or investigation, turn out to be in distress.

We all know that a wild animal whose head is stuck in a discarded yogurt container is no laughing matter. But what about a dog dressed up like a pirate or a bear playing with human toys in someone’s yard?

Before liking or sharing an animal photo or video, it’s important to view it critically and ask yourself whether the animals are part of the fun or in fact apart from it.

Your red flags should be raised, for instance, when you see:

  • Baby animals in a human’s environment. More than likely, baby animals are the result of humans breeding them. With few exceptions, it’s detrimental for humans to breed other species.
  • Wild animals in human,  nonrehabilitative environments or recorded in a manner that by all accounts would not be possible by a caring human who respects the animals’ wildness. Some wild animals cannot for various reasons live in the wild, and some thrive in human company. We need to do our best to determine whether or not what we’re viewing is OK.

There’s an extensive history of animal abuse in film and video – see this short piece by one of our co-founders, written 26 years ago! Since then we learned that The American Humane Association’s definition of “harmed” is different from ours. We are so relieved that CGI is now replacing live animals in many productions.

A loris being tortured. Click image for associated ABC News feature, including expert commentary on "cute" animal videos.
A loris being tortured. Click image for short ABC News feature on “cute” animal videos, including expert opinions.

Nearly two million people have viewed a bear video shared on the Animal Kingdom & Wild Life Facebook and Instagram pages (screen cap shown in this blog’s featured image). But in this and another video of the bear, it appears she is performing and may lack teeth. It’s common practice to remove the teeth and claws of wild and potentially dangerous animals to more easily manage them and force them to perform. Although thousands of people have shared this video for its “cute” factor, we and others question why the bear appears to lack teeth and consider her likely to be leading an unhappy and unhealthy life.

Examining rabbit videos alone, a couple that have gone viral in recent years include a rabbit being bathed (rabbits can become hypothermic when submerged in water) and a baby rabbit named “Wheelz” who was left in freezing temperatures, injured and then attached to a handmade skateboard by farmers raising rabbits for slaughter.

Yet another shows hundreds of domestic rabbits chasing a woman who bears food on Japan’s “Rabbit Island.” The viral video incited tourists to flock to the deserted, barren island to feed the hungry bunnies, causing a population boom that harmed both the rabbits and the ecosystem. The video also promotes the myth that domestic rabbits can thrive in the wild, teaching people that it’s OK to dump rabbits outdoors – where they quickly fall prey to predators, illness and the elements.

It can be difficult to discern the difference between cute and cruel, but any person who loves and/or respects animals knows they are never the same.

The next time you see a video featuring an animal, consider the source and whether it truly advocates for animals. While the Dodo and One Green Planet are sensitive to this issue, sites such as Bored Panda and Buzzfeed promote videos depicting cruelty to animals even after abuse has been shown.

Try also to discern the circumstances. Abuse isn’t always obvious. If anything looks suspicious, it’s wiser to play it safe and not share it. Sharing “cute” videos of animals in harmful situations rewards and teaches irresponsible behavior. Instead, leave a comment asking probing questions, or if you’re certain the video depicts abuse, call it out wherever it occurs and ask that it be taken down.

For information on what to do if you see or suspect cruelty to animals, visit Animal Help Now’s Resources page.