Myths about wildlife rehabilitation
Working with wildlife requires specialised knowledge, skill, and facilities. Potential dangers exist for the public, domestic animals and wildlife when untrained and uninformed people attempt to provide care for wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained to provide specialised care that reduces risks to humans and animals, and increases the chances for the animal’s return to health and successful release back to the wild.
Many people are attracted to wildlife rehabilitation because they believe it is a valuable and rewarding activity. However, there are more facets to wildlife rehabilitation than most people initially expect. It can also be demanding and difficult. A better understanding of what is involved can help with a more informed decision about if, how, and when you might want to become involved in wildlife rehabilitation.
Below some of the common myths:
Anyone who finds an injured or orphaned wild animal can take it home and care for it, and everything will be wonderful.
Wildlife requires specialised care to survive, especially those that are injured or orphaned. Without such specialised diets, feeding, housing and treatment, these animals may suffer or die. Working with wildlife carries risks of injury, disease, and parasites for humans and domestic animals. Inappropriately released wildlife can result in problems for wild populations. Possession of wildlife requires various permits and licenses. Working with wildlife is a serious activity and has special requirements.
Wildlife rehabilitation is fun.
Wildlife rehabilitation can be interesting, stimulating, rewarding, and sometimes pleasant, but it is rarely fun. Rather, it is physically and mentally demanding, emotionally stressful, and considerable work. It involves many tasks that are not pleasant, such as cleaning wounds, scrubbing cages, and occasionally making the decision to euthanase an animal that is suffering and cannot recover.
Wildlife rehabilitation is a hobby.
People choose when they spend time on a hobby. Wildlife rehabilitators do not have that luxury. Animals may arrive at any time of day and night. Once an animal is admitted for care, providing food, water, and medical care; cleaning cages; and doing other necessary tasks requires time each day. The animal in rehabilitation depends completely on the caretaker. Wildlife rehabilitators cannot care for the animal only when it is convenient, nor can they leave for the weekend or travel without arranging for care from another licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Loving wildlife qualifies someone to be a rehabilitator.
Effective wildlife rehabilitation includes compassion, but it also requires specialised knowledge, skills, facilities, permits, licenses, and more. Caring alone does not make a person a wildlife rehabilitator.
Experience with pets or "being good” with domestic animals qualifies people to be rehabilitators.
Wildlife is very different from other animals. Wild animals have different handling requirements, diets, habitat and housing needs, diseases, and parasites. Wildlife is also stressed by humans, whereas domestic pets and livestock are not. Proper training in wildlife care is essential for the benefit of the wild animal and the safety of the caregiver.
The government pays rehabilitators to care for wildlife.
Wildlife rehabilitators generally are unpaid volunteers who fund the expenses of their wildlife rehabilitation activities either from their own pockets or donations from the community. Government agencies rarely if ever contribute to any wildlife rehabilitation activities.
Wildlife likes to be cuddled and loved.
Most wild animals, especially those aware of their surroundings, do not want to be in captivity. Wildlife is stressed by human contact. Human contact, whether visual, auditory, or physical, must be minimised. Wildlife should not be cuddled, petted, or handled unnecessarily. Wild animals are not pets and should not be treated as such.
Wildlife rehabilitation is a great activity for children.
One of the important aspects of wildlife is its wildness. Wildlife does not want to be in captivity, handled, or watched by humans, who are considered predators. They will bite, scratch, kick, or do whatever is needed to escape. These animals also may transmit diseases and parasites, many of which are particularly dangerous to children. In addition, too much attention by humans can stress the animal and cause unintended consequences, such as the animal’s death. There are many ways other than rehabilitation to help children learn about nature.
Updated: 3 July 2015