10 Ways to Annoy a Wildlife Rehabilitator

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10. Show her a leaf, and ask her what kind of bird it came from. Laugh uproariously.

Hahaha – no.

9. Be shocked when you discover she isn’t vegan/vegetarian/pacifist/shamanist/communist/(insert political or religious view here)

Honestly, the only safe thing to assume is that we’re doing this because we feel responsible to help alleviate some of the pain humanity unwittingly visits on innocent animals by hitting them with our cars and cats and windows. Even that is an assumption, but it probably won’t result in items thrown at you.

8. Tell her how you love animals. Except for rats. Oh, and raccoons. And opossums. And bats. And coyotes. And squirrels. No wait, you like squirrels, just not when they’re in your yard. I mean, after all, they belong in the forest.

What you meant to say is you like convenient, photogenic animals. Like eagles. Everyone likes eagles, right? Oh, except they might carry Fluffy away if you were to let him out without a leash… so no. No eagles either.

7. Talk about how you could never hurt an animal, so you relocate them instead.

As well-meaning as the relocation was, it probably just killed that animal. Our rehabilitator is wondering if she should do her civic duty and tell you that, or if she should go ahead and enjoy her salad with the guilt dressing… Ah, but duty never sleeps.

6. Ask if you can adopt a bear. Laugh uproariously (or don’t, that’s creepier).

No. No you can’t.

5. Ask her how to solve a wildlife conflict, and then spend an hour trying to get her to say “ok, it sound unsolvable, you’re justified. Call the removal service to come kill it – oh, and I know one that does it for free.”

You asked, and you got an answer. Probably several. The truth is wildlife conflicts often have easy solutions, but even easy solutions require some amount of work from the human. The animal certainly isn’t going to do it. The definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting different results – and crazy isn’t something a rehabilitator is trained to cure. That’s a psychologist. Now let the poor rehabilitator eat her sandwich.

4. Tell her you know she’s just in it for the money. Laugh uproariously. Then ask when she’s going to get a real job.

Don’t you just love it when you’re chasing your dream and people tell you it is worthless/childish? Sooooo uplifting.

3. List all the animals your outdoor cat kills. Use the phrases “in his nature,” “just birds,” and/or “he’s meant to be outside.” Also tell her how you always let the animals go, because you “didn’t see any blood.” Expect praise.

This is like describing your crack habit to your doctor and expecting him to be happy/accepting about the horrific things you’re describing and optimistic about your future health. Since that poor rehabilitator would just like to continue peacefully eating her lunch, I’ll bring you up to speed:

First, cat trauma is sneaky and devastating. Not only are they adorable, furry little killing machines, the majority of cats carry a bacteria called pasturella in their mouths. Pasturella kills most animals within days, sometimes hours. All it needs is a teeny, tiny little opening in the skin. So though there might not be blood, if the cat’s sharp-incredibly-sharp teeth or claws left even one tiny mark, the bird is dead.

Second, the epidemic of non-native predators (cats) is incredibly damaging to our native ecosystems and the cats themselves! Thus, outdoor cats are a one-two punch to animal-loving, ecologically-minded people.

2. Describe how you once “put a mouse out of its misery” by smacking it with a shovel. Repeatedly.

I’m pretty sure smacking things with shovels – or any other blunt instrument – adds to their misery. And maybe I don’t want you around when I’m eighty.

1. Tell her all about the animals you illegally kept and raised

Every person seems to have a story about how they found baby raccoons/birds/bunnies when they were kids, and their parents let them raise them. And every single person seems to be incredibly shocked to find that not only was that irresponsible, it was illegal. Even more shocking is that these stories don’t seem to bond them with the people who spend incredible amounts of effort to raise wild animals the right way – having obtained the necessary permits and education. I mean, it isn’t like you just told them that a) their jobs can be done by children and b) the laws and ethics they base their lives around are more like… guidelines. Stupid guidelines.

All joking aside, I don’t want to discourage questions, or the free exchange of ideas. Nor is anyone condemned because of misconceptions or past mistakes. That’s how we all learn, after all – and when you become a rehabilitator, the most important part of your job is educating people.

It’s just that sometimes, I find it frustrating how prevalent certain beliefs are in our society. And even more frustrating how often I am cast into the role of “nut” so people can continue to cling to their ignorance. To me, rehabilitation isn’t about “animal rights” – it is about our responsibility to the planet God gave us, and the inhabitants He gave us power over.

It is a selfishness like any other when we know what the right choice is, but we don’t make it because of pride (we can do it, and we’re willing to stake an animal’s life on the accuracy of an internet search), or because the solution is inconvenient (but then we’d have to buy a chimney cap, and who’s going to install it? Not me), or because the right decision deprives us in some way (if we give it up, we won’t have the cuteness in our house anymore).

So if you do care about animals, I encourage you to do what you can to help them out. The things that make the difference aren’t hard. Try planting native plants, using appropriate bird feeder hygiene (if you have to have one). Use humane conflict resolutions instead of removal, and keep Tiger inside (yes, inside). Take injured or orphaned wild animals to your nearest wildlife rehabilitator – no matter how cute they are. Teach your kids how to love animals with their actions, as well as their words, and help spread the knowledge. And if you really want to make me proud, volunteer at a wildlife rehab center – we always need the help!

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