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Emergency Care for Injured Wildlife

by Trish Utter

Nan & Joe Soistman of Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc

Recently, I found an injured bird, but I was not sure what I should do. I spoke to Nan Soistman from Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc., and she had some very useful information.

What made you start Sunrise Wildlife?

A baby barred owl was brought to us. The good Samaritan thought it was an orphan. If you see an animal like this, leave it alone and watch, as most of the time the parents will return for it. It is also important to note the location of an injured animal, as it can be re-nested with its family.

Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc. was established in 2016 as a nonprofit all volunteer organization. Before SWR, my husband Joe and I volunteered for another wildlife rehabilitation center for over 7 years. We began rehabilitation after a neighbor’s cat had killed and eaten a gray squirrel and her babies began coming down from the trees searching for food. We contacted Florida Wildlife Care in Gainesville and they trained us on squirrel rehabilitation. That was the start and when our first enclosure was constructed. We hold proper permits for rehabilitation of native mammals, birds, and reptiles. We also hold special use permits for educational wildlife.

Since most of our wildlife is in rehabilitation, we are not open to the public. This helps keep human contact to a minimum, which helps wildlife cope with the stress of being in captivity and keeps them wild as to better survive after release. We do make some exceptions, depending on time of year.

Some of the most common problems we have seen are outdoor cats, cars, tree cutting and pruning, rodenticides/ rat poison and not understanding wildlife. We suggest
that you keep cats indoors, do not use rodenticides to poison mice and do not cut trees in spring. The thing we hear the most is, “My cat caught it, but it did not hurt it”. People want to believe that, but it’s not true. Cat fangs go deep and cause a deep infection, killing days later. Also plain old baby kidnapping – fawns picked up because
mother is not there and the same with baby birds. Make sure you are saving an orphan and not creating one by understanding nature and the world around you.

What should people do if they see injured wildlife?

Loggerhead Shrike fledglings we are rehabilitating after their living tree was cut down this spring. Injuring one baby. In many countries, it is not legal to trim trees in the spring because of nesting.

1-Observe to be sure the baby bird is truly orphaned. Many times the parents are right there. If the wildlife is injured, or you are not sure, you can safely box the animal or bird.

2-Call a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If you get a voicemail, listen to the instructions and leave a message.

3-Covering the animal with a blanket or jacket. This will take away the visual and keep it help calm. It allows them to stop using up vital life force. It is better off sitting in the dark and quiet than being fed the wrong food or aspirated by improper hydrating methods.

4-Place animal in a vented box or pet container. Do not let children handle wildlife. Do not handle rabies vector species without gloves or a towel (Bats, raccoon,
skunk, fox, etc).

What are common mistakes people make when they find injured animals?

Over handling, feeding the wrong food, aspiration. Searching the internet for rehabilitation advice. Waiting too long to find rehabilitation and raising a single animal as a pet, realizing later it is not a good pet.

Can people donate to Sunrise Wildlife?

We rely totally on public support and donations. We receive no government funding. We do not charge for our offsite wildlife educational programs, but appreciate
donations to support them. Donations of Esbilac Puppy Milk replacer is always appreciated, unscented laundry soap, paper towels, cotton t shirts, and baby blankets,
new heating pads with no shut off, simple green cleaner, white vinegar, betadine/iodine, nuts, and non-freezer burned meats such as venison.

Can the public volunteer?

Yes, out shelter rehabilitation is one example, and transport is another. We have volunteer opportunities with our wildlife programs in the fall. Construction volunteers are needed as projects arise.