Humans are extraordinary. We’ve adapted, developed, and advanced over thousands of years. We are capable of fascinating things like engineering self driving cars, capable of showing deep empathetic connections, and so much more. However, us humans have our flaws, and one weakness are how we choose to care for our environment. In the U.S more than 250 million tons of trash is produced each year, and unfortunately an extremely large portion of this doesn’t get disposed properly and ends up in the habitats and homes of our wildlife; humans impact the environment and that has direct correlation to the well being of our wildlife. Our goal is to help out our wildlife as much as we can by educating the public, spreading awareness, organizing cleanups, and donations.
The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
I have worked with the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California for quite some time. WCSV is a non-profit organization and their desire is to, “provide sick, injured and orphaned wildlife free high-quality care, rehabilitation, and opportunity for release. Through community outreach, we foster a positive co-existence between the general public and wildlife. With over 200 volunteers we care for over 5,000 birds, mammals, and reptiles from over 150 different species each year.” My role as a volunteer is to assist the vet technicians with their rehabilitation efforts. During my time with WCSV I have helped many different species including possums, ducks, many different bird species, coyotes, and raccoons. The most rewarding aspect of this experience is seeing an animal being released. Once the animal has gone through its full course of rehabilitation WCSV will release the animal 2-5 miles from the initial rescue location.
What happens when an animal is first recused and taken to WCSV?
The animal will be taken to an examination room and veterinarians will make an initial assessment of the animal.
What will veterinarians look for in an initial exam?
Veterinarians will look for a range of conditions like signs of shock, infections, wounds, emaciation, dehydration, neurological damage, fractures, and signs of parasites. Sometimes a vet will decided to carry out immediate treatment. This varies from tube feeding (if the animal is emaciated), fluids (for dehydration), medications (antibiotics for infections), stopping bleeding, or stabilization of a fracture or break.
What happens after an initial exam?
After a vet properly assesses the animal, they will determine a care plan that suits the animal best. There are 3 categories any given animal can be placed into; immediate release, short-term care, or long-term care. Immediate release is very unusual but if a veterinarian believes the animal is okay it will be released within 24 hours after initial observation. For an animal to be directed into short-term care means the animal only has minor injuries or infections. Usually the animal will be released several days or weeks after rescue. Long-term care are for animals that have severe injuries or infections. Long-term care patients sometimes will also need isolation to heal. Animals placed into long term care are typically released months to a year after initial rescue.
Case Study #1: Bobcat
In December of 2016, a female bobcat was brought to the center. She had a 6-pack plastic bottle ring around her leg. The plastic ring was cutting off circulation and it had already caused an abrasion. In addition, she was not bearing weight on her leg so WCSV believed that it might have been fractured or broken. She was anemic, emaciated, and covered in fleas and ticks. A local runner of San Jose passed the bobcat but the runner did not call animal services as he thought the bobcat was diseased (due to the fleas and ticks). It was another four days until someone else called animal services and the bobcat was picked up and taken to WCSV. After examination, it was concluded that her right tibia was indeed fractured.
#1 Danger of Improperly Kept Environment on Wildlife: TRASH
This product unfortunately is one of the most common littered items. Styrofoam is extremely harmful to wildlife as food remnants found within some styrofoam takeout containers attracts animals to eat the container too. Animals that ingest styrofoam will often develop digestive problems, and most will likely experiment choking.
Plastic bags and plastic bottle rings
This is another commonly found item around wildlife habitats. Plastic bags are both choking and digestive hazard. Plastic bags cannot pass through animals, so once the bag has been ingested it will remain in the animals’ stomach. However, what’s more dangerous are the chemicals within the plastic. The chemicals within the plastic can sometimes contain unwanted hormones that eventually become absorbed into the specific animal eating it. Plastic bottle rings also contain a lot of the same chemicals. On accident these plastic rings can become attached to animals causing abrasions or a loss of circulation.
Sometimes when you buy balloons a company will suggest that their brand of balloon is biodegradable. This is false marketing. Most all balloons are made of latex and latex is a chemical that takes years to break down. If an animal were to swallow a balloon it will eventually obstruct the animals’ intestinal tract which will lead to malnourishment and emaciation.
Case Study #2: Western Grebe
In February of 2015, WCSV received a juvenile Western Grebe that had accidentally swallowed a fishing hook. In addition, the bird’s left wing was constricted by monofilament and fishing hardware. After examination, it was found that the fishing hook was lodged in the bird’s upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract. The bird went into surgery for the fishing hook to be removed. The Western Grebe was housed at the wildlife center for 4 months and released thereafter.
Check out this video to watch all of 2017’s animal releases!
Call to Action/How You Can Help
Bring in any injured, sick, or distressed animal into your local wildlife shelter. This link below allows you to locate the nearest shelter near you. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/find-a-wildlife-rehabilitator.html
Make a donation! Caring for and rehabilitating wildlife is expensive, and most wildlife shelters are non-profit, so any donation amount will greatly benefit our wildlife. https://wcsv.org/how-to-help/donate/
Volunteering your time will have direct impact on our wildlife. Many wildlife shelters across the U.S. are understaffed so your help would be greatly appreciated.
If you aren’t keen on working with wildlife organize a trash clean up! Most people are surprised at how much trash they collect by just walking around their local park. Participating in a clean up will ensure that this trash doesn’t get swept into wildlife habitats.
Spreading awareness about keeping our planet clean and protecting our wildlife will increase people’s knowledge about how to properly care for our wildlife.