by Lisa Wolling, Executive Director
Aahhhh, October. Thoughts turn to the weather finally cooling down, pumpkins and fall leaves, and maybe even enjoying a hot beverage for a change. Speaking on behalf of a wildlife rehabilitator in Texas, this is also the time of year when I usually “hit the wall”. Having literally been caring for critically injured and/or orphaned baby animals non-stop since mid-January, exhaustion is my middle name.
As wildlife rehabilitators, we always expect to be caring for animals that are injured, year-round. In addition, wildlife babies follow a fairly-regular schedule here in Southeast Texas. In early-to-mid January, we begin to see baby squirrels and large raptor hatchlings. Moving into February, we have baby opossums and rabbits as well as mid-sized hawk and owl hatchlings. Then we progress to songbirds, raccoons, skunks, and the smaller birds of prey. All through the summer months we deal with fawns, wading birds, songbirds and raptors of various sizes and ages, and other “straggler” babies. Just about the time of year you’d think it would “slow down”, fall baby squirrels begin (August through October generally), along with some later baby raccoons as well. Believe it when we say, as rewarding as it is to care for these animals, we are burned out by October. But in addition to trying to coordinate care for the thousands of wildlife animals we take in annually, there are other concerns and demands as well…mainly raising enough funds to continue to keep our doors open.
Most people probably never really think about wildlife rehabilitation until they find an animal needing help. Only then do they usually discover that finding help can be challenging. What would you do if you found an injured or orphaned wildlife animal? “Let nature take its course”? Truth is, many times these animals are orphaned or injured due to some type of human impact (habitat destruction/tree removal; attacks by domestic pets; hit by vehicle; poisoning). Veterinarians are generally not willing to treat wildlife animals, even if rescuers are willing to pay for treatment. Federal and State agencies (U.S. Fish & Wildlife or State Parks & Wildlife/Game Wardens) have no ability to treat or rehabilitate animals. It is illegal in most states for the general public to keep or care for wildlife animals or birds, even short term.
The sad truth is that it is usually nobody’s job to help or care for injured or orphaned wildlife animals. There are very few wildlife rehabilitation centers that are funded in any way. Therefore, the care of injured and orphaned wildlife animals is almost always undertaken by UNPAID, UNFUNDED, VOLUNTEER rehabilitators. Individual rehabilitators often set themselves up with non-profit status so that they can ask for donations, but generally the costs of caring for the animals they assist are borne out of pocket. Even when rehabilitators can ban together to maintain a small, local non-profit rehabilitation center (as is the case with Friends of Texas of Wildlife), these groups subsist solely on donations and fundraising, with many of the costs of caring for animals still being paid out of pocket by individual rehabilitators. We are not allowed to charge anything for our services. Although we have veterinary partners who assist us with discounted services, we still are charged for veterinary care. We spend tens of thousands of dollars every year on species-specific formulas to feed orphaned baby mammals, rodents to feed orphaned and injured birds of prey, insects to feed reptiles and songbirds, medications to treat infections and parasites, vaccines to help prevent disease, and the list goes on and on…
Therefore, we pose this question: do these animals deserve a second chance? Our answer, of course, is a resounding YES, and we will continue to do our very best to continue to care for these animals. But we cannot do it without the support of the community. While we do ask for donations when animals come in to our center, not everyone bringing an animal is willing or able to donate for its care. And while we appreciate every donation we receive with an animal upon intake, these donations alone are not enough to keep our doors open.
If you love animals, including wildlife, please consider supporting your local wildlife rehabilitators. Monetary donations are critical to our mission, of course. Perhaps set up a monthly donation through Paypal or another giving platform? Or remember us with your year-end giving. Support our fundraising efforts by coming out to one of our events. All monies raised at these events goes directly back to support the animals we care for. Check out our wish list, posted at www.ftwl.org/node/72, for items we need most often, and perhaps donate some supplies. Consider volunteering! We don’t bite (although the animals might lol). Not everyone is able to help hands-on with caring for animals, but we really could use some help on some of our support teams (fundraising, education, transportation, or grounds maintenance). If you would like to find out more about volunteering, go to www.ftwl.org and fill out the volunteer information. Without the support of the community, we would not be able to keep our doors open, and many, many wildlife animals would not have their second chance at life. We hope we can be there when you need us, but we need your help!
To learn more about what we do and view pictures of many of the animals we assist, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SavingTexasWildlife. Our educational visitor’s center is open the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., located at 29816 Dobbin Hufsmith Road, Magnolia, Texas, so the next open house date will be Saturday, October 13. Come on out and visit us, learn a little more about local wildlife, do some fun activities and a craft, and meet some of our non-releasable educational animals. We also host birthday parties and educational presentations. If you’d like to help us raise some much-needed funds and have a great time in the process, join us on October 13 for our “Nibbles and Sips” Dessert Tasting fundraiser. This event, to be held from 6-9 pm at the Spring Chateau, will feature dessert tastings paired with a variety of wine, beer, sparkling cider, and mulling spices as well as an awesome silent auction (advance ticket sales only at www.ftwl.org while supplies last; no tickets will be sold at the event). For more information about events, birthday parties, camps, or educational presentations for scouts or school groups, please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many ways you can help support our efforts, too. Details can be found at www.ftwl.org, and then click on “How to Help”.