Humans have been helping distressed wild animals for centuries. These efforts resulted in varying degrees of success because little was known about wildlife care. It finally became apparent that domestic and zoo animal husbandry could not be applied successfully to wild animal rehabilitation. Even trained professionals like veterinarians had little information about wildlife care.
Interest in wildlife rehabilitation has grown rapidly. Since the late 1970s, volunteer wildlife rehabilitators have appeared all over the nation. Increasingly, our members are incorporating nonprofit organizations, opening wildlife centers, and hiring staff to work with volunteers. However, many continue to work alone or in small volunteer networks.
Wildlife rehabilitation has come a long way in a short time. It is no longer defined as "trying to help" but as "the treatment and temporary care of injured, diseased and displaced indigenous wildlife and the subsequent return of healthy animals to appropriate habitats in the wild." No longer is it enough to mean well and to have good intentions. Our members strive to learn more each day. Through NWRA and other networks, our members are now making significant contributions to the veterinary and wildlife sciences, as well as to public education and appreciation of wildlife and our environment. Many share information by writing papers and speaking at seminars and conferences about the wildlife in their care.
Membership is open to everyone. NWRA members are:
· Individual rehabilitators
· Wildlife centers
· Humane society and zoo personnel
· Hundreds of volunteers
This diversity allows NWRA members to draw from the vast array of expertise, which is so vital to the success of wildlife rehabilitation. Through networking, members have access to the wealth of knowledge and information needed to provide wild animals with proper medical care, housing, nutrition, captive management, and release conditioning, while preserving the animals wild integrity and quality of life.
NWRA members work within state and federal regulations designed to ensure the protection of wildlife, hold appropriate permits, and keep accurate records that may someday soon add to a national database of information that can assist wildlife beyond current successes. NWRA members feel they owe it to the wild ones in their care to do the best they possibly can. NWRA members try to learn as much as possible from many different disciplines. Wildlife care requires knowledge and skills in species identification, natural history, behavior, nutrition, housing design and construction, diseases and zoonoses, euthanasia, restraint, medicine, and many other areas. Dealing with governmental agencies, the public, and the media requires communication skills, patience, perseverance, and diplomacy.
Supporting rehabilitation and educational activities requires administrative skills such as fundraising, record–keeping, and the recruiting, training, and supervising of volunteers. Members strive to keep up with new discoveries and better techniques. They learn through books, classes, seminars, conferences, and other wildlife rehabilitators. They improve themselves through creating cooperative networks of veterinarians, biologists, animal care volunteers, educators, wildlife law enforcement officers, and many others.
In 1993 the NWRA Board of Directors conducted a member survey to help plan the future of the organization. The 485 respondents handled 132,000 animals and 200,000 phone calls in 1992. Follow–up surveys was conducted in 1997, 2002, and 2007 to continue this process. Results from the 2007 survey show 343 NWRA members treated over 105,000 animals, answered over 252,000 wildlife–related telephone calls, and over half provided wildlife educational programs to the public, which reached an estimated 839,000 people.
The spectrum of activity ranges from direct care of wildlife to identifying and arranging suitable release sites. Wildlife rehabilitation also involves anticipating and helping to prevent problems with wildlife as well as humanely resolving human–wildlife conflicts. This includes prevention of cruelty to wild animals by public education on orphan and injured animal rescue. Wildlife rehabilitation is part science, education, problem solving, and care giving. An average NWRA member works 32 to 36 hours a week during the spring and summer, usually without pay.
The field of wildlife rehabilitation and the contribution by NWRA members continues to grow each year. It is wonderful to be involved in such an exciting field! Won’t you join us?