If you saw a Mississippi Kite, desperately entangled in fishing line, dangling, exposed and pathetically vulnerable high off the ground between a tree and a house. Would you:
A: Curse the fates, fall into despair and say “There’s nothing to be done!”
B: Wait about 600 years for the fishing twine to break down naturally
Who ya gonna call? Yes, LEARN, Micha rescued the bird with due ingenuity. He is also the man to help reconstruct an injured turtle’s shell and grant it a new lease of life with jeweller’s wire and the Good Lord’s help. Sadly not all cases can be saved, sometimes it is skill in the application of the most humane and contextually appropriate euthanasia that is required.
The process of Wildlife rehabilitation in Louisiana requires certification, is labour and cost intensive, an unpaid, emotional rollercoaster with uncertain outcomes, but the joy of wild lives saved helps off-set the pain of those lost. Animal rescue and rehabilitation is a labour of love, truly.
That’s what we heard last night before the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast third quarter meeting as we listened with wrapt attention to two speakers on the theme of wildlife rehabilitation at the Union Parish Library in Farmerville, Louisiana. The first was Leslie Albritton, who is a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator in the Farmerville area who rescues distressed mammals in northeastern Louisiana. She too has been to Batton Rouge, passed the rigorous certification tests and risen to the requirements in terms of preparation of approved rehabilitation conditions and then saved raccoons, possums, even calves and ponies in distress. Furthermore she has enriched the lives of local care home residents by providing stimulating animal interactions with her wards! She says people who interact with animals generally have improved outcomes. Her wildlife care adventures began with a powerful lesson as a child that rescuing animals from cars, while important, comes second to guarding your own personal safety.
Undeterred by the childhood whooping she received for rescuing her dog from traffic at personal risk, she has gone on to rescue a large number of wild and domestic animals with due care and attention to her own safety. She stresses the importance of this, citing a sad case last year when a local girl was hit by traffic while attempting to rescue a turtle that was crossing a road.
It takes devotion and informed care, baby possums need feeding every three hours, but the love is rewarded when the patient is released. Then comes a brief sense of personal loss from “empty nest syndrome” and prayers that her ward will fare well in the wild.
Micha says it takes faith to rescue, rehabilitate and then release an animal back into the wild when the same dangerous conditions that caused the necessity for its rescue are still clearly present in its native habitat. Fishing line is an absolute menace and kills and injures a large number of animals yearly – please dispose of tangled line responsibly.
Driving with care is very important. We should expect to see wildlife in beautiful country roads, especially near natural areas near water, anywhere you see barriers be extra-alert. Don’t risk your own safety, but where possible, keep your tires clear of the critter. When safely avoided the wildlife can live on and breed according to God’s plans for it. A deer through the windscreen isn’t much fun for us people either, best avoided!
We learned a great deal from the two speakers and I’ll list some key points here:
- An ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure – avoiding injury to wildlife is by far the best course, rescue and rehab is second best
- Wildlife retention and rehabilitation requires training and certification
- All vets in Louisiana may hold a wild animal for up to 72 hours prior to transportation to a certified rehabilitator
- It’s illegal to keep any wild animals as pets in Louisiana. I think as kids we’ve all probably experienced some small critter die under our ‘care’, pollywogs, fireflies in jars etc. They really are better enjoyed and left in their habitats.
- If you see an animal that might be in distress, try to observe the situation and call an expert first. It may not need rescuing, young birds will be fed by parents if they are on the ground.
- If you feel you must catch it, wear gloves or use a receptical, avoid personal contact at all costs because this will lead to some animals having to be destroyed and their corpses checked for zoonotic dieases likerabies post mortem. Some animals cannot be rehabilitated: deer, bears, bats. Healthy bears in the wrong place can be transported by proper authorities.
- It’s a good idea to apply to volunteer to help an existing rehabilitator first
- Wildlife rehabilitation is a very good cause and worth funding
A very useful links page can be found at the LEARN website https://www.learnaboutcritters.org/links/
The LEARN site also offers an electronic version of Micah’s excellent reference book A Primer on Reptiles and Amphibians
This contains a wealth of information about reptiles and amphibians, their anatomy, lifestyles and their care requirements, also how to recognise venomous from non-venomous snakes and how to avoid snakebite.
There is also an ongoing campaign to raise funds for a printed hard copy of the book to be produced A Primer on Reptiles and Amphibians on Indiegogo. A pledge to the project may see the book printed if enough sign up for it.
Please see the video below for more info.
The work of these animal guardians is nothing short of heroic.