Nobody Cares! … or do they?

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:

  • Respect wildlife
  • 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.

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, enters the caller’s address in the You Are Here box, and clicks Wildlife Issue.


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.

“There are lots of snakes.”

This was 1998 or so. At the time I had a half hour commute between my home in Boulder, Colorado, and my workplace in Golden. Highway 93 provided a relatively quick shot between the two, with just three stoplights (where now there are eight).

Still, the highway holds on to a bit of its wild feel, as it runs parallel to untrammeled foothills, with much of the in between land set aside as open space.

But this was 17 years ago, and I was on my way home, northbound on the two lane highway, in the valley south of the quarry…

I am minding my own business. I see a coiled up rope in the southbound lane. And then as I get closer the rope becomes a snake. A big snake. Big.

I am not one to not help an animal in distress. I immediately pull over and run over toward the snake, thankful for the lull in southbound traffic. She doesn’t welcome my approach. A raised head. A rattle.

I am H.I. in Raising Arizona after knocking Leonard Smalls off his Harley. Sick with the sudden reality of my situation. Over my head.

Today – with much more traffic and with much less patience among the commuting public – a person probably couldn’t get away with what I did next.

I step into the southbound lane and wave my hands at the oncoming traffic. The first car stops, and so do the cars behind it. “What is it?”, the driver of the lead car asks. A snake, my reply. A pause. “There are lots of snakes”, his eventual rejoinder.

Yet he is willing to keep his car parked in the road while I attempt a rescue.

Back at my Subaru, I hurriedly and ineffectively duct tape two golf clubs together. (According to the internet, rattlesnakes cannot jump, but they can lunge – about half the length of their bodies.) But it’s 1998, and I don’t know much about rattlesnakes. I wouldn’t believe they could jump, but I don’t know if I can outrun them. I approach warily.

A northbound car slows. “What’s up?”, the driver asks helpfully.

“There’s a rattlesnake in the road.”

Prairie Rattlesnake, Tom Spinker
Prairie Rattlesnake, Tom Spinker

“Oh. OK.” And away he goes.

Deep breath. To my right, the cars coming to a stop in a long and growing line. A honk. Another. To my left, curiosity slowing and occasional screeching tires.

A foot closer. A slight prod of the snake with my flaccid implement. No response. Another, and then a rattle. And me there, with barely controlled terror, trying to formulate thoughts. Looking back, I probably could have taped several more clubs together. There would have had to have been more overlap, to avoid the arcing effect…

And then – a helper! Misery’s company. “What can I do?”, he yells, his car pulled over on the shoulder behind mine.

Oh, thank you! I ask him to try to warn the northbound traffic to slow down. He grabs a large piece of cardboard from my open trunk and starts waving it.

To some effect. Probably because people are trying to read what is taped to it: A poster reading, “Would Jesus be killing prairie dogs today?”

I’m an animal advocate, in case you didn’t already know.

Nevertheless, he’s doing his job, standing on the center line, waving his sign, and I’m in the southbound lane yelling at the snake, pounding my feet, waving my arms and the golf club thing.

Long story short. I can’t compel the snake to move off the road. The guy in the lead car says, “Can we just go around on the shoulder?”

I say, that’s not going to work. I’m at wit’s end.

And then as if on cue the snake slowly uncoils and slithers off the road, to the west, into the open space, toward the foothills where she belongs. And the three of us watch, mesmerized.

And the guy in the lead car smiles and says, “Wow. That’s beautiful.”

Every Animal Deserves Access to Emergency Care

It’s a beautiful morning in the summer of 2008 and I’m driving with a friend and her two dogs on Highway 12 into Crested Butte, Colorado, after an overnight at the Lake Irwin Campground.

There’s activity in the road ahead, in the shadow of overhanging trees. I slow down. It’s animals. Birds. Small ones. On the road.

Reaching the scene, I see two young birds flitting about the flattened bodies of three others.

I pull over, grab a towel from the trunk and quickly survey the situation. Two of the dead are adults – likely the parents. The other is young and, like the survivors, probably the offspring of the adult pair.

The pummeled bodies indicate this scene has been playing out for several hours. The fledglings are panicked and exhausted. They’ve been dodging the vacation traffic for some time, moving back and forth from the side of the road to the bodies, their parents the only touchstone they have ever known.

Despite my cautious approach, one of the fledglings keels over, dead. Thankfully, I capture the other and get her safely into my car.

As would be the case with so many of you at this moment, my sadness at the tragedy is matched by my resolve to do my best to help the little survivor tucked into a towel in my lap.

She deserves a chance to fledge, a chance to fly. She deserves it especially because her siblings never will. Especially because her parents likely died in an attempt to save her life.

Especially because this tragedy is the result of a road being built through her neighborhood by my forebears. Because this tragedy is played out a million times a day on roads throughout this country, and people don’t even slow down.

Especially because flying is her birthright, a compact with this planet’s inconceivably complex and lengthy evolutionary history to take her hollow bones airborne, above and through the aspen, spruce and pine. To bask in the warm alpine summers and cuddle up with a partner through the cold white winters. To raise a family of her own.

I spend the next hour in Crested Butte looking for help, which is difficult enough without my traveling companion holding firm to the idea we should have “let nature take its course,” notwithstanding my objections that nature doesn’t build roads through a forest and drive SUVs.

I finally track down a veterinarian at a gym. She probably needs a healing workout as much as I need help with a bird, but she acquiesces and agrees to meet me at her clinic. There, she takes the bird and promises to do her best to care for her. And I drive away.

That was kind of the trigger for me on this whole Animal Help Now thing. I’m one of those people whom injured and distressed animals throw themselves in front of. If you’re one, too, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve probably encountered 60 animal emergencies during my 25 years in Colorado. Ducklings stranded in the median on Highway 36. A prairie dog lost and imperiled in urban Boulder. An injured butterfly on the road in Coal Creek Canyon. A cat on a telephone pole in the alley behind my house. An injured, scared dog running loose for weeks in my neighborhood and the surrounding open spaces. A rattlesnake on Highway 93 near Golden. An injured goose, a poisoned pigeon, a paralyzed squirrel.

Photo of author
Dave and his beloved Sadie.

When I was in or near Boulder, I pretty much knew where to go for help when I encountered these emergencies. Though of course in some cases, you do your best on your own. I’ll tell you the rattlesnake story another time. It has a happy ending.

When I was away from Boulder, however, I had no idea what to do with most of the animal emergencies I encountered. And this little bird in Crested Butte was the proverbial straw.

The lack of an emergency, 911-type service for animals – and for wildlife, in particular – was even more evident at my day job, working with Rocky Mountain Animal Defense. Almost every day we would get calls from people who were trying to help with this or that animal emergency.

And here they were, seeking guidance from the person who’d tracked down a vet in a gym. Sure, it worked for me, but not everyone has that kind of compulsion or time, or luck.

The fact is – and I’m confessing I didn’t know this, despite my position working in the upper levels of an animal advocacy organization – there are a lot of resources available for people who need help with injured ducks and orphaned rabbits, distressed deer, even stranded dolphins. Not enough, mind you, but a lot.

Thousands of home-based wildlife rehabilitators dot the United States from coast to coast, each tending to wildlife emergencies in her or his backyard. More than 250 wildlife rehabilitation centers can be found throughout the country, with one in DC and at least one in 46 of the states. Thousands of veterinary clinics treat at least some types of wildlife. Marine animal hotlines cover the entire US coastline, and well over a dozen wildlife hotlines cover areas ranging from cities such as Dallas to entire states.

So there it is: A massive community of people looking for help with wildlife emergencies, and a substantial community of people who can provide such help, … and no apparent service to connect the two.

Or there it was. Because that’s what Animal Help Now does – It connects people who need help with wildlife emergencies with people who can provide help with wildlife emergencies. Coast to coast. In many cases, 24/7.

In Colorado and Texas, Animal Help Now also covers the full range of domestic animal emergencies, directing you to help when you find a lost pet, need an emergency vet, witness animal abuse, etc.

Animal Help Now also helps you prepare for animal emergencies, determine if an animal really needs your help, properly capture and transport animals, etc.

I’m thrilled to have played a role in creating this service, and I have about 1000 things I look forward to sharing with you in this blog, including:

  • The latest Animal Help Now rescues and updates
  • Tips on living better with wildlife, including making your windows bird-friendly and being prepared for the next vehicle-injured animal you encounter
  • Animal Help Now smartphone app super-user tips

On behalf of the whole team here at Animal Help Now, thank you for reading. We are excited to have you along for the ride.