Recently, IWRC was able to interview Rebecca Dmytryk on the new animal rescue app, WildHelp she is working on:
IWRC: The description on kickstarter mentions that the app will provide safety tips and basic instruction on first aid to help save the animals life. Does this take into account the fact that most people that find injured wildlife don’t have any experience in animal first aid?
Dmytryk: Most people who find a wild animal in trouble will have little experience handling wildlife and for their safety and the welfare of the animal they should keep their hands off. There will, however, be instances when a very basic, very simple thing can help extend the life of an animal until it reaches a professional. For example, placing a cold hatchling on a warm rice-sock in a small cardboard box could save its life.
IWRC: What type of additional information will be given to the finder after the data has been sent besides basic first aid information? And will it be general information or specific to the type of animal and injury?
Dmytryk: Depending on the information the user gives, the app will respond with information specific to the type of animal or situation. If it’s a beached seal or sea lion for example, the app will offer the user tips on what not to do, instructing them not to pour water or sand on the animal or chase it back into the water, explaining that these animals haul out of the water to rest and get warm. If it seems the user is reporting an uninjured fledgling, the app will provide information on this stage in a bird’s development.
IWRC: If the finder of the animal is, for some reason, not able to identify what type of animal it is or what type of injury it has sustained, will there be a list of people/organizations that the finder can contact in order to better classify the type of animal/injury?
Dmytryk: The app will offer very basic questions, starting out with identifying what type of animal it is. After making the basic selection between bird, mammal, marine mammal, reptile or amphibian, the user is asked to refine their answer down to the species if they know it, or they can skip along to the next question. As for the animal’s condition, here, too, the user can provide details if they’re able to, or skip forward. Let’s say the user gave a very general description of an injured bird about the size of a football, then the app will still route them to the nearest wildlife hospitals or nearby responders.
IWRC: If the initial goal amount is reached, how long do you expect it will take to complete the database of first responders and wildlife professionals before the app can be launched?
Dmytryk: The database of wildlife response organizations, and categorizing them, is what will take time. The more we raise, the faster we can produce it. If all goes well, we should have this up and running by February, in time for the 2014 season. If we don’t reach our initial goal in pledges, we get nothing – we’ll have no money to complete the app’s development, so we really need people to make those pledges, even if it’s only $1., and then spread the word far and wide. I feel confident that if enough people know about it, we’ll be successful. People want this.
IWRC: Were there any experiences you or someone you know went through that inspired the creation of this app? And if so, how would this app have helped or improved the situation of the finder and of the injured animal?
Dmytryk: I’ve been involved in wildlife rescue and rehabilitaton since the earl 1980s, and back then this was an issue. It’s not like the system is broken, there’s never been anything in place to help people connect with wildlife experts. There has always been a major gap – a missing link. You know, you have 911 for people emergencies and animal control and police handle domestic animal calls, but injured wildlife? Unless the animal is a threat to public health and safety, it seems like the calls just slip through the cracks. We sure hear about it though – the wildlife hotline operators – don’t we? Just about every caller tells me of the difficulties they had in finding the right number, and such delays can be costly. Last year, a woman tried desperately to find help for an injured goose. It had line around its leg. Calling various agencies, she kept getting the runaround, until, get this, three months later she finally got through to an organization that helped rescue the bird. By then, though, it was too late. The bird lost its leg. Its life. So preventable. If she’d had the WildHelp app, the bird would have been saved in time.
I hope the rehabilitation community sees this as a valuable tool and supports its development. Remember, pledges through Kickstarter are just that – promises – no money exchanges hands until we are successful at reaching our goal. That’s when backers will be asked to make good on the amount they pledged. Safe and securely through Amazon Payments.
The Wildlife Health Event Reporter – A Surveillance and Communication Tool
Wildlife can be effective sentinels that alert us to potential health hazards and environmental concerns, but information about sick/injured/dead wildlife need to be reported and shared in a timely manner for professionals to evaluate and determine if response is warranted. The Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), www.wher.org, developed by the Wildlife Data Integration Network (WDIN) and maintained by University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine, not only provides a destination for observations of sick/injured/dead wild animals, but also functions as an alerting system, quickly distributing these reports to those who are signed up to receive them. Since 2010, the system has been collecting reports from the public, citizen groups, wildlife rehabilitators and other wildlife professional organizations and is building a long-term dataset of wildlife morbidity and mortality event data.
Get Alerts! Stay Informed about Emerging Events
Did you hear about the multiple seabird mortality events that were reported along the US’ East coastline beginning in January 2013? An unusual number of dead/injured dovekies, razorbills and grebes have been reported along the US’ Northeast coast; while puffins and loons are being reported along the East coast from Florida to Maine. If you were subscribed to alerts through the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), you would know about these occurrences as well as future unfolding events.
Alerts can be delivered daily by email (when reports are available) or in near-real time as an RSS feed. In addition, you can choose what geographic locations (by state or equivalent administrative unit) you want alerts from (e.g. Wisconsin, United States; Alberta, Canada; or Hunan Province, China). Or if you’re interested, you can select to receive all the reports made to WHER from around the globe.
Alerts include summary information about the wildlife health event, including the location, species involved, how many of each species were observed to be dead, sick and alive, and what actions were taken. To learn more and to sign up for alerts, visit: http://feeds.wher.org
Wildlife Health Observation Network for Data Exchange
Due to the health consequences of emerging diseases in wildlife and their potential effects on human and domestic animal populations, the collection of wildlife health data is increasing not only through professional monitoring efforts but also through citizen science projects. Despite this increase, the data often is not standardized nor formatted for distribution (e.g. as XML web services or RSS feeds) and therefore cannot be easily integrated or shared effectively across political or academic boundaries for practical surveillance applications or scholarly research.
In addition to functioning as a data collection application and alerting system for wildlife health events, WHER is also an open data exchange hub capable of importing, exporting and integrating basic but essential data fields from more complex datasets for epidemiologic study.
The WHER team works with organizations who are interested in sharing their surveillance data with WHER to help them automate the delivery process that will integrate pertinent data with WHER’s dataset. Currently WHER is integrating data from multiple sources. In addition to the public sharing their wildlife health observations through WHER, the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a citizen science effort that tasks trained volunteers to record seabird deaths and injuries along the Atlantic coastline, pushes their reports to WHER through an automated feed. HealthMap is also providing a feed of its wildlife health reports made through its mobile application, Outbreaks Near Me. In the near future, through a southeastern pilot study, US Fish and Wildlife Service field staff and other conservation partners will be submitting their wildlife health observations to WHER.
As a hub, WHER can exchange and integrate wildlife health data either within the WHER system (e.g. view joined data on maps or tables) or in a user’s local system (e.g. WHER data can be streamed or downloaded for analysis in outside systems) to evaluate for trends or investigate potential disease hot spots.
We Work Better When We Work Together
The ecology of wildlife disease is complex and poses many challenges to effective disease management, which can be best overcome through collaboration that leverages resources, reduces duplication of efforts and broadens access to information about disease events. WHER can facilitate communication and collaboration about emerging wildlife health events. It was developed to collect and distribute wildlife health data, and complement other organizations’ surveillance systems. Whether you are interested in contributing or obtaining WHER data, you are invited to become a member of the WHER community. Increase your awareness about wildlife disease and health events and your ability to work with others to address the challenges of wildlife disease!
Want to Learn More about WHER?
Your are invited to check out this online wildlife health surveillance and communication tool at www.wher.org and explore its capabilities to inform you about where wildlife disease incidences are occurring on the ground through maps, tables, downloadable data and alerts. Email comments and questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
● Use case of how WHER is being used for tracking and communicating unusual bird mortalities as described above, http://seanetters.wordpress.com/tag/reporting-dead-birds/
● How to get report alerts from WHER – http://feeds.wher.org
● Handout [benefits and proposed enhancements] – http://www.wdin.org/documents/wher/wher%20handout_biologists.pdf
● Two- minute overview video – http://www.whmn.org/wher/pages/about#video
I’m going to start this post off by quoting myself. In the introductory editorial of the third Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation issue of 2012 I ask rehabilitators to consider the following questions “What is our place in the larger conservation community? How can we effect change for individuals and species? How can we share our experiences with our colleagues?” These are big picture questions, too large to be answered with a single cup of coffee, especially when gulped down during a two minute break! But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the questions. We answer them by being, by doing, and by teaching.
IWRC keeps a list of current research projects that wildlife rehabilitators can get involved in. The current projects are up on our research resources page. The raccoon polyomavirus study came from a rehabilitator asking a veterinary researcher to look at an odd raccoon. Now UC Davis has launched a full scale study and is looking for specific raccoon tumor samples. Meanwhile another researcher is looking at tick hosts across Canada to find out how animal range extension is affecting the movement and occurrence of tick species.
You don’t need to be a researcher at a major university to create a study. Partner, learn, be brave, and jump in. Ann Goody, a wildlife rehabilitator in Hawai’i is no stranger to research projects. She works with interns on a research question almost every year. Ann took some time to speak with me about her current project:
I am seeking information on if any of the people using educational birds display them in mixed species habitats and if so with what other types of species. We found over many years that captive raptors really do very well with tortoises and or pheasants on the floor of their aviaries. We plant them in natural foliage and this seems to really be stimulating & enriching for the birds. Our raptors (endangered Hawaiian hawk) have successfully bred and reared a chick which was parent reared and returned to the wild. My thought is that the stimulation seems to cause less of the behaviors associated with stress and allows for a better educational experience for the visitor. Our facility is visited only on docent guided tours.
The idea for these blended species exhibits this originally came from my work on enrichment projects for our exotic species. One of our BOD (who just passed away) Dr Hal Markowitz, was the grandfather of behavioral enrichment. Papa Hal always complained about the furnishings of the typical raptor exhibits and said that in the wild this bird would be non-stop focused on surroundings and other creatures. That led me to work out a healthcare protocol with our avian vet (another BOD member)which allowed us to pair reptiles who move around the aviaries with the raptors. This led to adding pheasants as well which, in our minds, is like raptor TV. Just thinking like they do and knowing that the natural soaring overhead provides hours of stimulation does make you sympathetic to the edu birds whose entire world consists of a mews. So many of these species are endangered or threatened and are seen at our facilities on static display by visitors. To provide a more natural habitat with plantings is one thing we always should aim for but to also add movement of creatures on the ground, that is a whole new level of stimulation.
So you see, each research project begins with a simple question. Whether the study is to improve the welfare of animals in captivity, to understand disease vectors, or to explore the success (or failure) of a rehabilitation technique, the pursuit of knowledge is always useful. “Without wildlife rehabilitators working with scientists and sharing this important information, our observations and the impact of animals admitted to wildlife centers will not have a broader impact on conservation activities.” (Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation 32:1)
A guide to record keeping options
Record keeping is a fact of life. Every job from police officer to tax accountant requires a certain level of documentation for proper functioning, legal purposes, and record keeping. Wildlife rehabilitation is no exception; our records provide data on what treatments are needed for a specific animal, how that animal has fared over time, and the medical-legal outcome of each case. I remember as a teen being enlisted to enter each year’s worth of intake sheets into an Excel program. Tedious for sure, but quite amazing once all that data was entered and we suddenly saw that 70% of our waterfowl came from Oshkosh or that the number of squirrels with pox had greatly decreased in Menasha.
Fortunately today there are many documentation options, from web based solutions (WILD-ONe, Wildlife Rehabilitation MD), software options (RAVEN, RaptorMed), and state-run databases (Wisconsin), to Excel documents, and the traditional pen and paper. What to choose? Well, it depends entirely on what level of technology you are comfortable with and what your situation is. Here are some of the common options, their benefits, and contact information so you can research further. Note that most of the developed options are made in North America. However, several are either currently useable worldwide or are working to become useable worldwide. Be sure to check with the developer before dismissing an option as “not for my geographic area”!
Cloud (Web) Solutions
Cloud solutions, sometimes called software as a service (SAS), provide an off-site database for collection and analysis of rehabilitation data. This option has several benefits. For example, most cloud databases include back-up security; automatic back ups make the loss of your data less likely. In addition, other benefits include the ability to easily run analytics (e.g. how to determine what was the major cause of intake in raccoons this year), low cost or free to the user, ease of version updating, and the ability to add information about a specific animal after intake to track its care. The major downside is the need to have a reliable internet connection to use the product. These web-based solutions don’t work when your internet is down. A few cloud solution are listed below.
WILD-ONe – Free
Visit http://wildlifecenter.org/wild-one to learn more or sign up
Wildlife Rehabilitation MD – Free
Visit http://wrmd.org/ to learn more or sign up
State databases are a cloud-based service, similar to the web products described above. A major difference is that registration is limited to people in that state or region. The obvious benefit is that it’s created by the regulatory body, so there is no delay in it keeping up to date with regulation changes.
Software solutions, like the web-based options, are out of the box (RAVEN) or developer customized (RaptorMed) programs for the collection and analysis of rehabilitation data. Benefits include not needing an internet connection, ability to easily run analytics, ability to track finances as well as animal care, and a more reliable and easier to reference system than the old pen and paper. Further, you are not recreating everything from scratch like in Excel! On the downside, software generally has a cost involved and updating to a new version may involve more work than cloud systems, although most developers offer highly discounted new versions to customers with an older edition.
RaptorMed – $2500 – $5000 (tailored to organization) More information is available on the website http://www.raptormed.com
Excel and other spreadsheet programs provide rehabilitators with an electronic way to track their data. The complexity and ease of use depends entirely on the ability of the operator; this can be used as anything from your primary method of keeping data on animals in care to an end of year project to look at macro level data and compile governmental report data. Excel is something most computer users already own and basic use is quite simple. However, advanced use can quickly become complex. Analytics need some understanding of chart and graph creation at a minimum, if not formal statistical training.
Pen and Paper
Ah, the old pen and paper; the classic method of tracking data. The upside? It’s amazingly portable (unless you are lucky enough to have an iPad you can carry around) and each file can stay with the animal while it’s in care, making excuses of not updating the charts nil. Further, it is a common technology, so volunteers will be comfortable with its use. Downsides include relatively more easily lost and destroyed documents, disorganization, lack of a central collection system to allow for easy analytics and search for past information. In my opinion the biggest downside of this method is that you cannot quickly and easily learn from the past (e.g. did that new antibiotic your vet prescribed increase your cat-attacked songbird survival rate?).
There are many options out there, and no one option is everything to all people. Evaluate your needs, and then choose a system based on how you plan to use it. That is the best way to ensure you have a good fit.
Have you had experiences with a system? Share with other rehabilitators by posting comments below.
We are pleased to announce the new board members voted in by the membership in December of 2012. Continuing board members Brenda Harms and Melissa Matassa-Stone were also voted to the board. But for the moment, lets concentrate on our three new members.
Kristen Heitman is a full-time bird and mammal. rehabilitator, specializing in waterfowl. Her passionate connection to this field began in 1999 and in 2002 she founded the non-profit, Providence Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc., and continues as their director. With Providence’s 13 education birds, Kristen and her staff provide outreach conservation programs across Indiana.
Kristen took the 1AB Basic Wildlife course in 2005 and became a CWR in March 2007. Kristen has been a board member, Communications Chair, and newsletter editor for IWREN (Indiana Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators Network).
Kristen is guided by a strong commitment to furthering the mission and goals of the IWRC, to promoting the organization and its members to even greater excellence. She relays her passion through extreme dedication and tenacity, and would like to lend her detail-oriented organizational skills toward these ends.
Steve’s professional career spans 40 years of public service, including service in the United States Army and a 30 year career in law enforcement. An avid fisherman and hunter, wildlife has been an important part of his life since early childhood. With his wife’s encouragement, both began rehabilitating birds at Wild Bird Rescue, Inc. in Wichita Falls, Texas. Steve attended Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation in Houston, Texas, and later attained his Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator credential. He served on the Board of Directors for WBR and was instrumental in the success of several fundraising activities, as well as the wildscaping and beautification of the facilities. He is a member of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, a life member of the Sierra Club, an Associate Member of the John Muir Society, and a member of the Audubon Society.
Steve envisions IWRC moving forward by broadening its participation in wildlife conservation and preservation through mutual cooperation with similarly minded organizations. He wants to stimulate interest and increase new membership in IWRC. He foresees the IWRC serving as a clearinghouse for knowledge between experienced wildlife rehabilitators and the scientific community with the goal of assuring wildlife their place in the circle of life.
Amanda Cyr currently resides in Wausau, Wisconsin where she serves as the wildlife rehabilitation/captive wildlife liaison for the State of Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in biology with minors in captive wildlife management and conservation biology from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and a master’s degree in wildlife also from UW Stevens Point. Amanda discovered wildlife rehabilitation as an undergraduate student, and since then she has found numerous ways to stay involved in this field. She started as an intern one summer, which led to future internships, volunteering, and other employment opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation. In addition to wildlife rehabilitation, Amanda is particularly interested in studying wildlife health and disease. She strives to work within the wildlife rehabilitation community to promote networking and collaboration, encourage continuing education, and support research opportunities. She believes teamwork is an important key to success, and aspires to be a part of that team and encourage others to also promote and protect wildlife conservation.
In the US, it’s fairly common to see whitetailed and blacktailed deer, coyotes, and all sorts of mesopredators in and around the city. A recent National Geographic article mentioned the increased urban appearance of apex predators like cougars. The article made me think “what does this mean for rehab”? My only experience with an apex in the city had a tragic end. It was a timber wolf that was shot for being too close to a mall. How can rehabilitators assist in preventing human wildlife conflict with this new influx of predators?
Here are some thoughts from IWRC members:
Ned Bruha: The article in Nat Geo, just like their TV programming, is following suit with so many others who have the power to help instead of hinder animals. They have found that If they talk about, film, and add drama to wildlife dilemmas, they make more money. Wildlife and larger predators will always adapt and overcome. If you feed them, they will come.
Rehabilitators will continue to do gratis rehabilitation to “nuisance” and federally protected animals with personal and donated money, while the state and fed wildlife dollars will continue to go towards anything but helping wildlife that is in true need of rehabilitation. Because of this, it is even more important to screen calls to see if animals truly do need a rehabber’s assistance… those first 3 young raccoons sure look cute and inviting in the spring, but how much time and money can you save by explaining to the caller how to keep them with their real mother? The same goes with calls from people afraid about larger predators. Many times, they are raiding garbage cans, hunting at bird feeders and eating pet food left outdoors along with the cat or dog at the outdoor food bowl – often times, these are avoidable situations.
Kevin Bertoli: There is no way we can stop the influx of wild animals into our neighborhoods, short of our own retreat from THEIR habitat. I don’t see that happening, so it is inevitable that they will continue to be destroyed. Rehabbers can assist in slowing this process if they work in conjunction with their local Wildlife Officers and assist in either notifying them, or working with local law enforcement to quickly incorporate sedation and humane removal when a threat arises. This would mean organizing local vets, animal control, wildlife officials and those able to keep the necessary drugs and equipment on hand ready for immediate response.