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.

The Height of Injustice? Animals Saved From Death Summarily Killed

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.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officers with a fawn and elk calf at For Heaven’s Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, © 2017 KING-TV

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.

Following a raid at For Heaven’s Sake Animal Rescue, WDFW transported these sedated fawns and elk calf in the back of a trailer before killing them because they deemed them too friendly with humans. © The Chronicle

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 Fletcher Glaze:
AHNow Hero of the Month

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.

Any US Wildlife Emergency – from Anywhere: The Long Arm of Animal Help Now

The Dallas/Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition Hotline receives dozens of calls every day. While the hotline volunteers can handle most of those, they do receive numerous inquiries from outside their service area. After all, people find the hotline through web searches, and so the calls do come in from Portland to Portland, and points in between.

Sometimes the hotline staff can dispense with such out-of-area calls quickly: “Because the fawn’s mother is close by, and the fawn is not in obvious danger, you should leave the fawn alone.”

Other out-of-area calls require more work. And when a hotline staffer needs to find a rehabber in another area – say Portland, Maine – he or she is trained to use Animal Help Now to do just that.

It’s easy. The staffer simply opens AnimalHelpNow.org, enters the caller’s address in the You Are Here box, and clicks Wildlife Issue.

YouAreHere

Of course, if the caller has web access, the hotline staffer can simply give the caller the Animal Help Now web address.

As with other hotlines and many rehabilitation centers, the DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline provides the Animal Help Now URL on its outgoing message.

Pretty nifty. Especially when compared with the alternative.

Now we just need to get this tool into as many hands as possible.

Please help us spread the word. Share this post with your neighborhood vet clinic, any municipal or county officials you know, and of course with your area wildlife rehabilitation centers. We’ll take care of the rest.

Animal Help Now’s referral functionality is covered in its webinar for animal emergency professionals. The next scheduled webinar is December 7, 2015. Click here for more information. To view previously recorded webinars, visit our YouTube channel.