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The Challenges of Wildlife Rehabilitation

The importance of knowledge, proper care and community support

By Kathleen St.Clair - McGee, Founder and Board of Directors President

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation

There is an excitement when we think about our wild native neighbors. When we see one in need, we want to reach out and help. Too often our hearts jump into action without engaging our brains. This can be dangerous for both the wild animal and the human. We have a simple yes/no checklist on our website to help you determine if you should become a superhero.

To paraphrase the wise words of a recent good Samaritan rescuer, “It is intimidating at best when considering how to care for a wild animal.” There are many factors to consider, and if you reside in an area where professionals operate, contact them right away. Minutes matter when there has been any type of trauma, including being orphaned. The wrong housing, temperature, food, time intervals, medications, rehydration are all reasons for demise. American Heritage Wildlife Foundation volunteers have been doing this for almost 20 years. Our volunteers are real superheroes with compassion as their superpower. Will you join our team of warriors and visionaries for wildlife?

Wildlife rehabilitation is determining the mystery of why this animal is requiring care. It is about having all the resources necessary to provide care. It is about love and loss and educating our neighbors. It is wonderful, wage-less, interesting, frustrating, rewarding, exciting, demanding, heartbreaking, intense, thrilling, challenging, tiring, invigorating. It requires lots of patience, knowledge and cleaning. It is paying attention to minute details at all times and networking with 5,000 professionals.

When you find a wild animal, thank you for reaching out with your heart. Now engage your brain and remember AHWF. Be aware of your surroundings and the animals you would normally see. Hesitate before you approach any wild animal. Watch for signs of distress. Follow through with appropriate actions. Professional licensed wildlife rehabbers are not the wildlife police. They are devoted to this calling—it is not just a hobby. There are so many areas to pay attention to, and there is not the benefit of having the patient tell you what they are feeling nor the ability to run assorted medical tests.

The most heartbreaking experience as a professional rehabilitator is when a rescuer finds a wild animal in need and brings the animal in too late to help it. A wild animal is caused greater distress due to the time delay from initial trauma and patient intake. Your heart breaks when this happens. The vocalizations of many more patients in need shake you from this sorrow and force you to continue on providing the best for those who demand attention. The greatest moment is when a patient has fully recovered physically and mentally and is released. Wildlife rehabilitation is a profession which demands respect just like doctors and lawyers. It should not be attempted by untrained people. This is why there are requirements and laws requiring permission. You want your doctor to have a medical degree and lawyer to be licensed. Let the legally permitted rehabilitators do their job.

If you want to get involved with wildlife, simply ask to join the team of volunteers at your local community wildlife rehabilitation facility. Duties are not just cleaning or feeding. We need taxi drivers, event planners, outreach coordinators and knowledgeable nature lovers.

Go to the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation website to find important details regarding our native neighbors and how you can give so they can live. Please give time, talent or treasure to keep Idaho wild. No one can do everything, but everyone can do one thing.

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation is 100 percent community supported! This means when you give, they live. We must have volunteers. More than 3,000 are given annually. We must be financially supported. Our operating budget (without salaries) is $18,000. Find AHWF online on May 7 during the one day of giving Idaho Gives. Our duty is to present the present as a present for future generations, so this place called North Idaho remains the same amazing native neighbor-filled habitat we all love and cherish.

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation Inc.

Highway 200

Clark Fork, Idaho 83811


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