Micayla is our new behind the scenes bookkeeper. Welcome Micayla!
Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.
I grew up part-time (child of divorce) on a small hobby farm in the Manitoba prairies. We had a couple horses and a few dozen head of cattle. One memory of this time that will never fade in my mind happened when I was about 10 years old. My dad gathered me up from the living room where I was reading a book and made me go outside with him. I had no idea what was going on until it was already happening. It was time I helped out with the birthing of a brand new baby calf. It was life changing.
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
I am actually in the process of studying to become a Registered Nurse.
If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?
What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?
Front row seats to a concert.
What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?
Traveling to a new location.
Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.
Mr. Shadow, the best boy there ever was. A wolf/lab mix that is just under five. He has a HUGE personality. Although he can be a passive aggressive old grump, he is the most loving, loyal, friendly, and funny dog in the world.
Dr. Helene Marie Van Doninck, is remembered by friends and colleagues as a dedicated, passionate and determined veterinarian, and also as a positive and effective force on behalf of wildlife. She co-founded the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) outside Truro Nova Scotia in 2001. She worked tirelessly to eradicate lead ammunition and tackle for hunting and angling purposes and won support from all sides. Her sense of humor, depth of knowledge, and understanding of people gained her entry to circles that could be otherwise unwelcoming to a veterinarian and avid wildlife rehabilitator, proposing change. Helene’s veterinary and scientific knowledge regarding lead toxicity and the effects on wildlife (especially eagles), persuaded people to make lifestyle changes. Her friendly, non-threatening demeanor when presenting the information, gained their trust as willing partners to protect wildlife and human beings. Her tireless efforts have created an awareness within the hunting and angler community about the dangers of lead ammunition and tackle that was virtually non-existent until she began her work to eradicate them.
The wildlife rehabilitation community has come together to remember Helene by creating and contributing to a fund which supports public education. IWRC is pleased to manage this fund on behalf of the larger community.
Purpose of Scholarship: To support attendance at conferences or other opportunities in order to learn or present on an aspect of public education as related to wildlife rehabilitation
Funded by: Donations from the community
Application Cycle: Annual. Open June 1 – August 31st. Awardee(s) announced at IWRC’s Annual Membership Meeting.
Award Amount: $50-300
Application Review: A panel of 2 board members, 2 staff members, and 1 community member will convene each Autumn to review applications and select the awardee.
This year is anything but normal. IWRC staff and governance feels that providing support for public outreach is especially needed. You may not be able to attend a physical event, but public outreach goes far beyond the standard conference.
The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) find that taxa-specific protocols, based on scientific evidence and region-specific risk assessments, should serve as the basis for an informed approach to managing the risk of disease spread and for formulating any restrictions on wildlife rehabilitation.
“Wildlife rehabilitation plays an important role in managing human-wildlife interactions. This management, which includes appropriate human and animal health monitoring, becomes more important during a global pandemic like COVID-19” states IWRC executive director Kai Williams.
The IWRC and NWRA are international not-for-profit organizations based in the United States, with memberships extending to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India. Our 2,000+ members include wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators, wildlife biologists, animal behaviorists, government officials, and academicians from institutions across the world. Our members provide expertise in wildlife conservation and welfare, often at the forefront of where humans and wild animals interact.
The IWRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through training and resources on wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s mission statement “We provide evidence-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to move the field of wildlife rehabilitation forward; to promote wildlife conservation and welfare; and to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts worldwide, through better understanding of wild animal ecology, behavior, and welfare.” Wildlife rehabilitation is the act of providing temporary care for injured, sick or orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. By providing unique insights into issues affecting wildlife populations, species, and habitats, wildlife rehabilitation contributes to wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide.
National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association
The NWRA was born in 1982 at the first National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium in Naperville, Illinois. The rich diversity of expertise and interest represented at the symposium provided a firm foundation for a national organization designed to meet the needs of wildlife rehabilitators. As the mission statement says , NWRA is “dedicated to improving and promoting the profession of wildlife rehabilitation and its contributions to preserving natural ecosystems.”
Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?
We here at the IWRC have recently put forth a few resources promoting mental health in wildlife rehabilitation, such as our blog post on Self-Caring During COVID-19 and our Going Home Checklist. As we can all imagine, due to the emotion, long hours, and stress placed on us (especially during the intense spring and summer hours), the importance of mental health cannot be overstated…. but what is mental health? How does our work impact our mental health? What can we do about this?
What is mental health?
1 in 5 adults experiences mental health issues1. Even if they don’t affect you personally, they likely affect someone you know!
Myth: I can’t help someone else get over their mental health issues. Busted: One’s social networks are perhaps the most valuable in helping them get through a difficult time. Friends and colleagues can not only show their support for those impacted but also help them find the help that they need.
Myth: Mental health issues cannot be prevented. Busted: As we rehabbers know with our own patients, prevention is far easier than treatment (though in our case, both are feasible!). Knowing one’s risks and limits can help manage our mental wellbeing.
Mental wellbeing impacts from our work
Traumatic events. We see a lot during our work as rehabilitators. Whether the animal was hit by a car, torn apart by a cat, or shot, it can be traumatic – both for the patient and for us. On a near-daily basis, we witness suffering and animals in duress.
Stressful life situations (financials, loved one’s death, divorce, ongoing medical conditions). As most of our work comes out of pocket – or relying solely on donations (surviving donation-by-donation), it can be very stressful to wonder if we can afford our next batch of mealworms.
Dealing with stressed, angered, or scared members of the public.
Advanced level of multitasking and triage (answering phone calls, feeding wildlife, etc)
Balancing relationships. Spring and Summer hours are long and seemingly never-ending… this can make personal relationships difficult to find and maintain.
Maintain positive mental health
1. Seek professional help. There should be no shame in asking for help. As we rehabbers know, we can’t do it all! It is more than OK to ask for help.
2. Connect with your social network. This doesn’t just mean Facebook. Reach out to your friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues. In fact, studies show that those who engage in regular social interactions with others are less likely to be depressed2. We’re in this together and you are not alone.
3. Help others. Well…. we probably have this pretty well covered in our daily work as rehabilitators but this is a great reminder ;)….
4. Sleep. What is sleep? We know those baby hummers need feeding every 20 minutes, but luckily we know that their parents do indeed get sleep – so we can too! The National Sleep Foundation’s recent studies show that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night3. Though it may not always be possible, it is a good goal to aim for! Don’t forget, we also make fewer mistakes when well-rested4.
5. Develop coping skills. We all go through rough, really rough days… It is OK to feel emotion about what we do, and it is OK to take a second to step outside, go for a run, or find a useful technique to deal with a difficult or stressful event5.
6. Get or stay active. Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Staying physically active can help you maintain your mental wellbeing
Most importantly, please remember how awesome you are and the significant difference you make on wildlife’s lives each and every day. Stay healthy. Stay well!
Online learning is increasingly viewed as a valuable platform that offers tools not available in a traditional classroom setting. The IWRC strives to make our courses as accessible as possible, while constantly improving their quality. Throughout the remainder of 2020, we will be releasing new and revamped online courses that take advantage of the technological benefits of virtual learning.
This new generation of IWRC online courses will utilize the classic digital lecture style of our previous classes, and make them more interactive. We are adding knowledge reinforcing activities and tools, including knowledge checks, flashcards and other activities, as well as closed captions, to ensure students are getting the most from their learning experience. Our classes will employ different types of media such as pictures, audio, text, and video, to cater to a wider spectrum of learning styles. We hope that our students will enjoy not only a broader range of courses available from the convenience of their homes, but also an enhanced educational experience.
The IWRC’s online classes do not seek to recreate or replace in-person courses but give you a different educational experience with the same learning outcomes. To allow students the opportunity to practice procedures traditionally taught through IWRC labs, we are creating virtual labs in partnership with Folkmanis Puppets. When completing a class with a lab, you will learn procedures and then upload videos of yourself completing these assignments. Your videos will then receive feedback and evaluation. For those without access to supplies or cadavers, lab kits can be purchased along with a class. In these kits we include the materials needed for your lab including a realistic and carefully crafted Folkmanis animal puppet on which to practice. In this way, our online classes will allow all the benefits of online learning without sacrificing the important experience you gain through a lab.
These new classes also come at an opportune moment — during the self-isolation and social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 virus. While the global pandemic certainly lit a fire under our tails in terms of getting these courses ready for release, they have also been a long time coming. The development of these online courses began in 2018. Now these classes are being rewritten with up-to-date information, are being peer-reviewed by experts, and remodeled with current technologies/resources. You will find that our new courses, although timely, were not rushed to release, and are our best quality online learning resources to date! While we are committed to rolling out these new courses to meet the increasing need, we are still searching for funding to support this accelerated launch. Remember that donations, no matter the size, help us to grow and innovate!
Although we cannot promise exact dates, we will be releasing Wound Management with the bandaging laboratory this spring/early summer. Next, we will introduce our new Parasitology course (also available in-person at a later date), Fluid Therapy, and Pain Management! Directly following their release, the price of each course will be generously marked down. For students that recently took an older version of these courses, you can expect an additional discount as well!
Please stay tuned for more information on future online releases— we have some other projects in the works that we think you will love! The IWRC is committed to growing and improving our educational resources to push the field of wildlife rehabilitation forward. We hope you enjoy our growing curriculum!
We have them, we know them, we love them, and most of us even are them… Volunteers make up the lifeblood of our wildlife rehab operations. Without them? Well… we don’t even want to go there. They help us with anything and everything from cleaning to caring for our patients to medical procedures. They even help with the admittedly less-than-fun administrative tasks including fundraising, event planning, and management!
Whether they are nurses, lawyers, contractors, pilots, or teachers, with us they are amazing supporters of our work and our wildlife patients. Some may even think of it as the great equalizer; we all, in some way or another, end up cleaning feces and urine out of our clothing, scrapping it out of enclosures, or searching for the diet items for those rare species we sometimes get in.
Though this year, along with other challenges, is quite different. We aren’t able to give the usual in-person smiles, hugs, potlucks, appreciation dinners, or customized gifts to our volunteers (at least, not yet!). COVID-19 has affected all of us to a great extent, yet, throughout this difficult time, our volunteers continue to be more dedicated than ever to our cause.
Nonetheless, we cannot express how much we care about and appreciate our many volunteers who make our every day work possible. IWRC is sending out a virtual hug to our volunteers and all wildlife rehabilitation volunteers. Thank you for all that you do!
As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to spread, it can be a stressful and daunting time. Especially as the baby season is here for some and closely around the corner for others. Many of us have had to temporarily remove volunteers from our workforce, while balancing more-so limited funds and an increased workload. However, we must always make time for ourselves. Without caring for ourselves, we simply cannot care for others. Wildlife needs you to practice self-care!
1. Get some air.
As of now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is still saying it is OK for healthy individuals to go outside – as long as they practice social distancing (staying at least an eagle’s wingspan away from others; at least 6 feet). Confirm with your local authorities that such activity is still acceptable. Safely get outside and get some fresh air!
2. Leave work, at work (we know… it’s hard!).
Even if you rehabilitate out of your home, it is always possible to put work aside when you are done. Creating this mental separation between work and home has significantly helped significantly with productivity and mental health (Source). Consider looking at a recently-published resource: Going Home Checklist.
3. Schedule your self-care time.
This may sound silly, but having regularly scheduled blocks of time can help ensure you are saving time for yourself. Though we aren’t accustomed to anything ‘regular’ or ‘scheduled’ in our field, the importance of having ‘you time’ cannot be understated. Whether you block off a day of the week, an hour a day, or whether you take that time to take a bath, go for a run, spend time with a loved one, or read, it is imperative you have time to focus on you!
4. Social Distancing, or Physical Distancing?
Stay connected with loved ones, family, friends, and colleagues! Just because you have to stay physically away from each other doesn’t mean you can’t be social, take advantage of free video chat software such as Google Hangouts or FaceTime to communicate with each other, continue to hold meetings, and continue safely seeing your friends and family!
5. Consider talking with someone
Ask for help or seek professional advice. Thanks to advancements in technology, telemedicine is an emerging field – one which is especially valuable during this time with stay-at-home orders. There are many services that are covered by health insurance, as well as low-cost services for mental health available to you at your convenience and budget.
Some examples of these services include…
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to talk to a counselor
The IWRC and our partners have gathered some advice for wildlife rehabilitation operations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is fluid, and our responses must be agile to align. We will work to update this post as additional guidance and tools become available.
Abbreviations used throughout: Member of the Public – MOP, Personal Protective Equipment – PPE
Biosecurity Best Practices
Biosecurity and cleanliness are vital to the prevention of disease transmission. Make sure that you are up to date on recommendations and have protocols in place to safeguard yourself and others.
Put public health first and follow government guidelines
Wear personal protective equipment and change it often
Don’t allow public out of the car, just transfer the animal and get information by phone or other electronic means
Have arrivals come to the center by appointment only, or at least phone ahead
Limit volunteers/staff on each shift
Check expiration dates and ensure proper dilution of disinfectants
Disinfect surfaces at end of each shift
Limit use of paper and other fomites (fomites are objects or materials which are likely to carry infection, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture)
Community can be one of our most powerful resources in trying times. If you are part of a team, reassure staff and volunteers that their safety is top priority. If you are a home rehabber, or part of a network, communicate via phone or video calls and check in on one another. Let your donors and community know what they can do to help you. If you cannot receive patients take this time to work on development, education projects, or your own well being.
Have clear guidelines in place for volunteers and employees. If many of your volunteers are in a high risk category your guidelines may include letting volunteers self-select not to come in because: 1) they are at higher risk 2) they are caring for someone that is sick or of higher risk. Examples of other “adaptive” policies:
When volunteers are in the facility only one person can be in a particular area for that day/shift etc and then the area is wiped down.
Volunteers are in teams that do not shift. If Anna and Sally are on a team today—they should be together tomorrow too. Anna should not be with Charles the next day. If someone from the team falls ill, then you replace the entire team.
Reach out to other rehabilitators!
Share resources if you possible
If veterinary clinics or other organizations direct people to you for drop off, make sure they are aware of new protocols and can communicate those to MOPs
Update your community and donors
Rehabilitators are all too keenly aware that resources are limited. During times of crisis taking space to evaluate and formulate a plan is crucial to continued successful operation. While it may be stressful to consider worst case scenarios, a plan helps mitigate the stress associated with disasters.
Do your best to ensure sufficient resources are on hand (people, food, bedding, cleaning, medical supplies). Don’t hoard beyond what you will use.
Create alternative plans if critical resources are scarce or missing (eg access to ¼ people, low on food for squirrels, out of euthanasia solution/access to vet)
Consider how many animals can you care for with your current staff/volunteers and resources? What is your plan if intakes increase?
Consider what should happen if you become ill? Who is the emergency contact? If you are a single rehabilitator – who will care for the animals?
Does the animal actually need to come in? Our pre-intake assessments are more important than ever to avoid patient overload and unnecessary contact.
Normal procedure: Assess the health of the animal during triage exam. Have the member of public wait in a different room; if the animal doesn’t need intake, have them return the animal back to its original location.
Adapted procedure: Use cell phone video to assess the animal’s need for intake before the member of public transports the animal.
Normal procedure: The member of the public writes information on paper form.
Adapted procedure: When the member of public reaches your location have them call or text. They should not leave their car. Text or email them a link to a Google Form version of your intake or obtain that information via phone and transcribe it.
Transfer of animal
Normal procedure: Varies
Adapted procedure: (Animal Help Now has additional suggestions!) Members of the public should not leave their car, or if walking, the sidewalk. When they reach your location have them call or text. While wearing appropriate PPE, you pick up the animal transport container (cardboard box best) and bring it into your facility. Thank the person by phone or text.
Restrictions on movement
Know your terminology. Shelter in place, self-quarantine, lock-down, essential services – these terms have different interpretations in different jurisdictions. Know what they mean for your jurisdiction. Can you travel between home and work? If not, are you prepared to transfer all animals or have people stay on site?
IWRC extends our thanks to the centers that have shared their practices:
Native Songbird Care
St. Melangell’s Small Mammal Sanctuary
Keep an eye out for more information – here on our blog and on our social media accounts regarding this unprecedented, developing situation. We will continue to communicate with our partners to bring you the most accurate and useful information regarding COVID-19 and its impacts on the wildlife rehabilitation community.
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