The vast majority of animals in need of our help are in these situations due to human causes. We receive animals that have been hit by cars, have flown into windows, have been illegally shot, were attacked by domestic cats and dogs, have been secondarily poisoned, found themselves tangled in fences, have had their nests destroyed, or were live trapped. The list goes on and on.
We rarely receive an animal that has been treated maliciously. However, a great deal of animals find themselves in trouble due to humans’ presence on the land. We are interacting with wild animals all the time, whether we know it or not. This is why J. David Siddon dedicated the organization to rehabilitating wild animals in need, as well as educating the public to become better stewards of wildlife, and the natural world at large.
The rehabilitation process begins with a physical exam in our Clinic. Here, Animal Care staff assess the extent of an animal’s illness or injury. Of course, wild animals are not the most cooperative of patients, so we oftentimes need to anesthetize the animal to be certain we are able to safely provide a thorough exam. We might also take radiographs, perform simple tests, and collect laboratory samples if needed.
Once we have evaluated an animal’s condition and have determined that it might be capable of surviving its illness or injury, we then must treat it accordingly. Our Animal Care staff must be knowledgeable about a wide variety of species and how to meet their needs. We deal with all native species of wildlife. One day we might get a nest full of cat-attacked American Robins. The next day we might get a very angry injured adult raccoon. Clearly the approach for treatment is going to be different from species to species and even from one animal to the next.
After an animal is out of intensive care, it eventually graduates to an outdoor enclosure. Animal Care staff must assess an animal’s ability to climb, run, fly, crawl, slither and soar. Our pre-release cages have a variety of perches at different heights, large logs to run over and under, tunnels to crawl through, dens to hide in, boxes of dirt to dig in, and ponds to swim in.
Once outside, orphaned animals have the chance to grow, learn natural behaviors and get accustomed to the sights and sounds of being outside. Injured animals get a chance to be back outside where stress levels are considerably lower for them, as well as time to strengthen and regain the physical abilities they had before their injury. Although we maintain a strict policy of limiting human contact for all of our wild patients, there are noises and unavoidable contact when an animal is housed in an inside enclosure. Once outside, we find that the animals will start behaving more normally again, now that they are experiencing less human induced stress.
The ultimate goal for all animals that come in for rehabilitation is to be released back into the wild. Before any animal can be released, we must be absolutely certain that they can take care of themselves in the wild. It’s a tough world out there! For orphaned animals, this involves a lot of things. Since these animals were hand-raised by humans, they are at a greater disadvantage than if they had been raised by their wild parents. Animal Care staff takes every precaution to ensure that immature animals do not become imprinted on humans. An imprinted animal thinks it’s a human. Therefore, it has little to no fear of, and associates itself socially with, humans. This can be a real problem for animals, especially during mating seasons. An imprinted animal is not capable of surviving in the wild and therefore cannot be released.
Orphaned animals must learn social behaviors from other animals of their own species. Animal Care staff does everything they can to ensure that we rarely raise an orphaned animal by itself. If we only have one animal of any given species, we communicate with other rehabilitation facilities to find it a foster sibling. Usually though, we have plenty of foster siblings at our own facility!
For all these reasons, immature wild animals are best left with their parents in the wild. We find that a good deal of ‘orphans’ we receive are not in fact truly orphaned. Oftentimes well-intentioned folks don’t see the parent(s) and assume the animal is orphaned, so they bring it to us. If an animal is truly orphaned, this is absolutely the right thing to do. However, it is rare for animals to be truly orphaned. Remember that wild animals have a biological drive within them telling them to do nothing in this world but procreate and raise offspring. We like to view it this way – if we find a lost child, we don’t run it to the orphanage, we try to find the parents. If you think you have found an orphaned animal, please click to go to our “Help! I found an animal!“ page for more detailed information or you can always give us a call at (541) 476-0222 for more information.
Once it has been determined that an animal can be released, we make it a high priority to return that animal to the wild. Wild animals can develop many problems from living in captivity and we like to make their time with us as short as possible. Although we humans truly enjoy their company, our patients don’t feel the same way about us!
We always try to return the animal to the same area it was found. Animals have established territories, know where existing food and water sources are, where potential dangers are, etc. In order to ease their transition back to having to fend for themselves, it is best to return them to the area they are familiar with. Releasing an animal back into the wild is our ultimate goal and when we are able to reach that goal for an animal it is a truly rewarding experience. It reminds us that humans are capable of pulling together to help those that cannot help themselves and that we want to “fix our mistakes.” Remember that saving a wild animal begins with you – whether it’s keeping your housecat inside when that nest full of finches are fledging or coordinating a group of people to bring in an injured Bald Eagle, we all work together to save wild animals. The work we do here at Wildlife Images would not be possible without the generous support of many people like you.
Whether it’s splinting a broken bone or simply rehydrating and fattening a juvenile animal, we deal with it all and provide our patients with whatever they need along the way. It is estimated that the bare minimum cost of treating one animal is $20, and is often at least $100 and sometimes several hundred. We receive no public funding; we are a non-profit organization providing a service to the public and our native wildlife. We humbly ask for donations whenever we can and absorb the costs of treating, medicating, housing and feeding these animals. After all, none of our patients have health insurance! If you would like to help Wildlife Images continue its mission of treating and releasing these wonderful animals, please click here to be redirected to our secure donation site.