Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.
I grew up on an old one classroom school yard property in central Mississippi that abutted a 500-acre peach farm. I remember the first time i happened upon a three-toed box turtle and wondered with delight at all of her colors on her head and forelimbs. I also recall the day I was walking under the oak trees and came face to face with the web of a spiny orb weaver. I raised my hand to tear it down (I was a little boy) and then hesitated. I thought, “what has the spider ever done to me”? Upon realize “nothing”, I lowered my hand and forever forged a bond with spiders that day.
How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?
The Pelican Harbor Seabird Station has a long history with IWRC. I attended the 2014 annual conference and was very impressed with the staff, board and sessions. It was an honor for me to join the board to expand my repertoire and network within the wildlife rehabilitation profession, as well as contribute to the fundraising committee.
Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC's mission.
Science based education has always been important to me and will forever be a passion of mine.
Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)
I’d like to think my fundraising and marketing skills have been helpful in telling the stories of what we do in order to bring in the revenue needed to accomplish our mission(s).
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
Run full time eco-tours to Latin America and Cuba
If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?
Definitely a river otter, as they are so graceful in the water and get to enjoy land too.
Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.
4 chickens, 3 tortoises, 2 chestnut-fronted macaws and a one-eyed tuxedo cat named Pedro.
This month The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) published a position statement advocating for the elimination of lead released into the environment via lead based ammunition and fishing tackle. Effective alternatives, such as steel shot, copper bullets, and tungsten fishing weights, are available in North American and European markets and becoming more widely accessible elsewhere.
Raptors and scavengers, including vultures, condors, and eagles are unintentionally poisoned when they eat the remains of animals hunted using lead ammunition. Loons and swans directly consume lead shot or fishing tackle while feeding. Changing to non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle can prevent scavenger poisonings and decrease the chance of aquatic poisonings. Because of lead shot and sinkers left in the mud of ponds and rivers, stopping future use will not completely resolve the poisoning of water birds.
The World Health Organization has listed lead exposure as unsafe at any level. Even sub lethal levels may cause immunological and neurological problems, biochemical and behavioral changes, and physiological disorders that may affect immune response and reproduction. Over 500 peer-reviewed papers demonstrate the deleterious effects of lead on wildlife.
“Wildlife rehabilitators are the first responders of the lead toxicity epidemic and we need to relate what we are experiencing every year”. IWRC Executive Director, Kai Williams comments. Ms Williams sits on the HSUS Lead-Free Wildlife National Advisory Council, along with hunters, scientists, and biologists.
Photos (click individual photos for captions and version downloadable by press. Use only with this story)
About The IWRC (The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council)
The IWRC is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that provides science-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to promote wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide. IWRC was founded in 1974 and has spent the last 41 years helping wildlife by training and supporting wildlife caretakers through our peer reviewed journal, classroom and online courses, standards, and manuals. IWRC training programs include course topics such as basic wildlife rehabilitation skills, nutrition, pain management, parasitology, and have been taught in over 10 countries.
Some people's lives can be summed up with one lofty quotation. Walter Crawford was not such a person. He was a man of simple needs and complex dreams. Walter is best described not by a quotation, but by the fortune in a cookie: "A wise man knows everything. A shrewd man knows everybody." Walter may have had to kiss a lot of toads to make his dreams come true, but he, himself, remained a prince. Click here to read an interview with Walter from 1998.
Last Saturday, May 9th was World Migratory Bird Day (2015 theme Energy: make it bird friendly) and International Migratory Bird Day (2015 theme Restore Habitat, Restore Birds). Why there are different themes and names for the Eastern and Western hemisphere's is a different topic and one beyond my scope. But there is a link between the themes. Many rehabilitators have seen the results of wildlife tangling with power generation sources - electrocutions, burns, amputations, and habitat destruction. This is frustrating and often heartbreaking. Wildlife rehabilitation has a role to play in improving the conservation quotient of renewable energy.
Wildlife rehabilitators routinely collect data on animal intakes. By recording and reporting intake locations and reasons for intake, we can help scientists and policy makers discover if a given energy collecting device impacts local wildlife. Do you live near or receive wildlife from a traditional or renewable energy source? Contact your wildlife permit officer and ask if they would like you to submit reports on intakes from that region.
Not all power generation is created equal. The enormous Ivanpah solar farms, in California’s Mojave desert, use heliostats to generate concentrated solar power. The site was in the news last year as a “death ray frying birds”1. Not good. But that certainly doesn't mean solar power is bad. The US Fish and Wildlife Service provided the Ivanpah farm with suggested mitigation methods to prevent bird deaths2 and the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) embraces the creation of photovoltaic arrays on existing human built structures and ground built arrays in non-sensitive habitat areas3.
The path to creating and maintaining wildlife friendly energy is planning, proper placement, risk assessment, mitigation, and continuous monitoring4. In Spain, shutting off wind farms during migration reduced mortality of griffon vultures by 50% and only caused a 1% loss in energy production5. A small solar farm in Germany chose a location that had previously been a gravel pit. The farm includes wetland and grassland habitat and permeable borders to allow small mammals, ground birds, and amphibians to transit safely6.
In my home (aka IWRC's headquarters) I put in a rooftop solar array of 48 photovoltaic panels that will provide up to 12 kilowatts of energy per hour - which covers all of IWRC's on site energy needs! This home-based system is one more small step to renewable energy and one that fits with what the World Wildlife Fund terms harmony with humans and nature7.
The IWRC has seen many presidents in the last 40 years, all with their unique perspectives, well-established reputations and drive to pursue the organization’s mission of providing education and resources to support the field of wildlife rehabilitation.
I have some very big shoes to fill as the president. I remember being brought on the board in 2008 as the youngest board member at the time to represent new rehabilitators to the field. This opportunity was challenging but allowed me access to a network of experienced wildlife rehabilitators, which would prove to be invaluable and have a great influence in the care and protocols I established for the birds we admit to Le Nichoir.
Even after being in this field for over 10 years (not long compared to some of our members!) as both a rehabilitator and wildlife biologist I still consider myself a novice. There is always more to learn; whether you are new to the field, or have been practicing for a very long time, we are constantly learning new information and changing accordingly. Our passion for wildlife drives us to learn more, to improve our work and to teach others what we know. The ultimate result is to offer wildlife casualties a more humane, appropriate form of care that means we will be releasing better prepared, more viable animals back into the wild and we will be confident that our job was well done.
Projects such as the revision of courses including Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation, developing new resources and increasing networking among individuals in the field are just some of ways IWRC is supporting its members and contributing to the bigger picture of wildlife conservation.
IWRC is the international hub of wildlife rehabilitation, and I look forward to continuing to work hard, contribute to these projects, and represent the IWRC the best that I can so that we can increase our visibility and continue to support rehabilitators worldwide.
The board and I are always available to you to help you in any way that we can. Do not hesitate to contact us through the office at 866.871.1869 and visit our bios on our website www.theiwrc.org
White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal pathogen caused by Pseudogymnoascus (formerly Geomyces) destructans, was first identified in 2006, and has since been associated with the deaths of over 6 million bats here in North America. This devastating fungal infection may be present even when no obvious signs are seen. Therefore, we as rehabbers must be aware of any potential infection and act accordingly with isolation and care to prevent the build up or spreading of the fungal spores within our facilities. The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center has tested the use of UV light to detect WNS in bats. The good news is that by simply evaluating the bat using a UV light, nearly 99% of WNS cases were detected, and 100% of bats that tested negative, were indeed, negative for the disease. 1 That means that we can use this tool with confidence as we admit bats to our care.
Buy an appropriate UV light. I checked and there are suitable models ranging from about $20 to several hundred dollars on Amazon. Be sure that the unit you buy works at the required light range of 385nm. Use this in a darkened area and explore all surfaces of the bat for signs of orange-yellow fluorescence indicating microscopic lesions associate with WNS as seen in the following photo.
If you have a positive result, your bat care should include isolation and appropriate cleaning to ensure you do not have a build up of these spores. The https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/ website has a decontamination section which offers some great information, however, your standard cleaning agents may also be effective against fungal spores. So simply check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for your cleaning agent’s range of action.
So in summary, this fungus is extremely widespread and any bat admitted, especially during the winter months, may be contaminated with microscopic lesions, which means every bat should be screened for WNS. Many of these bats are now members of shrinking populations and each animal represents an increasing percentage of the gene pool of that species, so we as rehabbers must do the very best for these animals as individuals. Also get to know your local researchers and become involved in the monitoring of the local bats. You will be able to bring your skills to the team and help when impacted animals require professional care. Finally, buy a UV light so you can simply screen your patients, not just on intake, but during the period of their care to ensure that if there are indeed developing lesions, you can act promptly, reducing any build-up of spores, and preventing it’s spread to others in your care. This is a great new tool for the rehabbers kit.
Reference: 1Gregory G. Turner, Carol Uphoff Meteyer, Hazel Barton, John F. Gumbs, DeeAnn M. Reeder, Barrie Overton, Hana Bandouchova, Tomáš Bartonička, Natália Martínková, Jiri Pikula, Jan Zukal, David S. Blehert. Nonlethal Screening of Bat-Wing Skin With the Use of Ultraviolet Fluorescence to Detect Lesions Indicative of White-Nose Syndrome. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2014; 140522114529005 DOI: 10.7589/2014-03-058
The rescuers of a mourning dove they found under a chair on their back porch approach a wildlife center. They are initially skeptical of the standards of the facility after observing that the building is an old mobile home and the outdoor caging looks homemade. However, the rescuers are pleased when they enter – the facility appears tidy and smells clean. They are greeted by a volunteer who is entering information on a well-kept log, and another volunteer busily mopping the hall in front of a closed door marked “Infirmary.” The volunteer at the desk puts on gloves and takes the bird into a room adjoining the lobby marked “Intake: Rehabilitators Only,” notifying a woman donning a lab coat that a new patient has arrived.
In another location, a rescuer confidently takes a nest of baby squirrels into a building that looks like a veterinary clinic with a large "Wildlife Rehabilitation Center" sign. She is not greeted, so she calls for attention down a dark hall. The building smells of animal waste. A volunteer appears from a room containing several animals in cages, eating a sandwich. There are what appear to be feces on her sleeve, and her shoes are caked in mud. The volunteer puts the squirrels in a box and puts them in a closet with other boxes, and asks the rescuer to fill out a form that looks to be smeared with blood stains before shutting the door behind her.
While these examples may seem like a lesson in first impressions, the purpose is anything but. Busy wildlife rehabilitators often rely on support volunteers to perform “busy work,” such as cleaning cages, sweeping, mopping, and doing the laundry. However, these activities are just as important as delivering medical care to wildlife patients. A healthy wildlife rehabilitation facility is not characterized by the structure of the workplace. In fact, it is a comprehensive zoonoses prevention plan that deserves more than relegating tasks to volunteers.
Zoonoses are infections that pass from animals to humans. A majority of existing zoonotic infections are associated with domestic animals (pets, farm animals, etc.) and are well-known, predictable, and curable. However, zoonoses associated with wildlife can be vague in presentation and life-threatening. Prevention of zoonotic disease consists of measures taken to reduce the risk of transmission of disease.
Personal habits eliminate or provide a barrier against zoonoses, including hand washing and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, masks, and special clothing. It is important to remove PPE after use to prevent them from becoming fomites (inanimate objects that harbor a pathogen, only to be transmitted to a person who touches the item later). Take gloves off immediately after touching an animal to avoid transmitting pathogens from the gloves to other objects. Remove outer clothing (such as lab coats or shoes) after caring for an animal or its environment and wash them separately from other clothing. Because of the large number of pathogens that can be spread through the fecal-oral route of transmission, human food and beverages must be stored and consumed in an area away from the animal care areas.
The process of cleaning and disinfecting removes zoonotic pathogens from the environment. Cleaning is the most basic step. It involves removal of trash and debris from the area (“tidying”), changing soiled bedding and caging, dirt or contaminants from surfaces, and washing food and secretions from feeding utensils (including syringes and feeding tubes).
Disinfecting is a chemical method to eliminate pathogens from objects. Disinfecting must always be preceded by cleaning because most chemicals are inactivated by organic material. Disinfection is complete once the surface has been thoroughly air-dried.
Similar to the fact that there is not a single medication that cures every illness, there is not a single disinfectant that eradicates every pathogen. Selecting a product for disinfecting is not easy. Consulting veterinary practices for advice is as necessary a component for managing the physical environment as is assuring animal treatment protocols are correct.
Cleaning occurs on a frequent basis to prevent zoonotic diseases from gaining a hold on the care environment. However, disinfecting is done based on the area or item. For instance, feeding utensils can be cleaned between uses on the same animal, but must be disinfected after the last use of the day. Caging may be cleaned daily, but disinfection is required when the enclosure is heavily contaminated or after the occupant is moved out of the cage. Despite having the best intentions and practice, humans can spread pathogens during daily activities in the rehabilitation center. Using disinfectants to mop floors on a daily basis greatly reduces this risk.
So, just as a wildlife rehabilitator would never neglect the care of an animal, never neglect the care of the workplace. The prevention of zoonoses is rooted in the cleaning and disinfecting of the facilities and equipment of the wildlife rehabilitation center. Consistent application of the steps of a comprehensive zoonoses prevention process supports the overall mission of wildlife rehabilitation. At the same time, this purposeful work by dedicated support volunteers provides a great first impression for rescuers who bring in the patients.
This month, we delve into the topic of preparedness during a disaster, seen here in our blog entry last week. This week, we sat down with our board member and Treasurer, Mike Davidson to talk about financial preparedness in an event of an emergency. Mike is a senior auditor with Isler CPA, the IWRC's accounting firm, and has experience in not-for-profit and financial institution audits, review of internal control and policy, and a strong knowledge in bookkeeping and review.
What are some financial advice you can give to non-profit organizations in case of a disaster?
Well, the most obvious is to have some form of back-up available. For example, if you are using QuickBooks Online (an online accounting software), it needs to be backed up. They do that pretty much already since it's online and everything is cloud-based and off-site. If your location gets hit by a meteor, your organization will be fine, from a financial perspective.
With changes in the economy, you also need to have some form of reserve, savings, or unrestricted asset (whether cash or donation) that does not have a specific restriction on it by the donor for a specific purpose. That's a big deal. Basically, having a plan is the most obvious way to go about it. It's always best to think ahead in the future and not plan for next week. A good budget process helps in that, because you're essentially saying, "We have a limited amount of assets and resources, so how do we spend these resources wisely?"
Are these financial steps different from what for-profit corporations would do?
There are similarities, but in the corporate world, the focus is based more on product lines and how these divisions will be affected by changes in the market. In the event of a disaster, some areas get affected but some others don't. But in non-profit organizations, what is the overall community's opinion towards giving? That's one thing to be prepared for. While corporations are thinking about how their customers and products might be affected, the non-profit organization is more concerned about the community based in the particular industry: who will still support this cause?
What kind of information do you need to gather from donors when they donate?
Besides basic biographical information, tax information is needed too for tax deduction purposes. The most important thing is to understand if the donor has placed any restrictions on the donation. At the end of the year, we need to disclose big restrictions on our funds; money that can only be spent on a certain cause, and if you don't, the donor has the right to take their money back. It's important to track donations – what's given and restricted and to ensure it matches accordingly to our expenses.
During the end of the year, what does a non-profit organization need to do financially?
When you're closing down your year, it involves a review of your transactions, balance sheets, income statements and asking yourself, "Are we complete?" Transactions such as invoices and bills that should have been recorded the previous year but have been received in the current year record an accrual.
The next question is if we are ready to present the statements to the board and to answer questions they might have. The board will be interested in the net position of the organization, which basically means how financially well-off are we? We can see right away how we're doing in comparison to last year and that helps to make decisions in the next year, be it understanding our givers and changing what we're doing to be able to make our community donate more to our cause.
A fire incident that occurred on the afternoon of August 7 near Spencer Butte, Eugene, Oregon caused a gutted house, several burnt vehicles and charred trees. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire and firefighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading. Located northeast of Spencer’s Butte, Cascades Raptor Center (CRC) decided to execute their evacuation plan the moment Executive Director Louise Shimmel saw a billowing plume of smoke a quarter mile away from the center.
How important is it to have a disaster preparedness plan?
"Extremely important," said Shimmel. CRC's detailed emergency action plan was put together by a graduate student at the University of Oregon who had past work experience with Red Cross. The Eugene Fire Department also inspected the center and gave their feedback, such as regulating parking spaces onsite for emergency vehicles and installing a staging area for staff and volunteers to meet and decide the next course of action during an emergency. According to Lane County's Fire Safety Standards for Roads and Driveways, driveways should be at least 20 feet wide to allow access for fire fighting vehicles and turnaround as well, which CRC already has.
"In general consideration of state fire prevention guidelines, there were some things we could do and others we could not. We try to maintain a 13-foot high ceiling for fire trucks to get in but we don't have a 30-foot perimeter around the buildings," Shimmel said. "We want a comfortable habitat here for birds but that puts us more at risk.
As part of implementing the action plan, CRC's volunteers helped build an emergency shed (generously funded by one of their volunteers) that stored supplies such as walkie-talkies and collapsible carriers for animals; marked drawers containing vital information and set up a backup procedure for their computers. Quarterly assessment checks on all batteries were carried out as well.
"It's kind of hard to do a fire drill when you know that it isn't real. But in this case, it was real," Shimmel explained.
On the day of the fire, there were only eight people at the center; after activating the phone tree, another 19 volunteers and staff were there within 20 minutes to help with the evacuation. CRC’s Education Director, Kit Lacy, directed the evacuation plan: sprinklers on the side of the property toward the fire were turned on; with some 100 birds on site, dozens of carriers and transport boxes were put together and set up with towels and with sheets to cover them; any equipment with gasoline and any combustible items like oxygen tanks were moved away from the buildings; critical file and medical supply drawers were emptied, packed, and loaded into vehicles; computers were backed up.
Shimmel was grateful for the efficient fire and police response during the incident, and particularly their understanding and support of the magnitude of CRC’s evacuation requirements. Some of the roads leading to the butte were blocked to prevent traffic from entering, but police allowed responding volunteers through. A police officer was stationed near the driveway to CRC, keeping staff and volunteers in contact with the fire response effort. Just as volunteers were about to start loading birds into carriers, the police officer informed them the fire was contained, and staff decided to stand down. From start of activating the phone tree to the finish of putting away all the carriers, files, equipment, the whole exercise took about two hours. Staff had previously estimated – though without a fire drill to be sure – that it would take about two hours to get everybody ready to leave, depending on how many birds were on site and how many staff and volunteers were here to assist.”
What could have been done differently?
"Part of our plan is to, if necessary, simply release any flighted bird. When it came down to contemplating that, it’s clear that we would need to install release hatches on bird cages, instead of opening the doors and expecting them to fly down from 20 feet to 8 feet and then fly out," Shimmel said.
What should all wildlife centers have in place?
Shimmel stressed the importance of a disaster preparedness plan for other situations (not merely fires) and having supplies set aside for emergencies – supplies that are not for daily use, but only for emergencies, even though that requires duplication. Regular checks should be done on batteries for electrical equipment such as walkie-talkies. A reciprocal agreement with other rehabilitation centers within the same area should be planned in case animals need to be held at another shelter if the center is not safe or has been damaged. Smoke detectors should be installed in all buildings along with frequent checks on the batteries.
The next imperative step is to have designated organization staff that are aware of the emergency plan and who know how to initiate it during an emergency. "We have staff here all the time along with volunteers, so they will know our plans and how to put it in action," Shimmel said. Prevention is always better than cure – she contacts the non-emergency police and fire dispatch whenever she or anyone from CRC hears sirens nearby or a helicopter in the area, just to make sure it is not a hazardous incident that will affect the center.
At the end of the day, Shimmel was thankful that the fire did not affect the center directly and that the preparedness plan worked out despite not testing it out previously – post-event evaluations collected from everyone who assisted have also led to some good suggestions on how to improve the plan. "We had a good crew here who knew what to do. Everyone was so shaky afterwards. Adrenaline is tough," she said. "It was, in the end, a good experience."
Melissa Hart’s Wild Within is an engaging text that loosely intertwines the stories of her work with Cascades Raptor Center and her quest for an adopted child. Melissa sneaks in snippets of natural history and wildlife rehabilitation ethics, bringing this little known profession to a popular audience. The text provides a new volunteer’s view of wildlife rehabilitation, making it a valuable read for the seasoned professional as well as the general public.
One section which mentioned a volunteer storing human food in the carcass freezer, never a good idea. But overall the book portrays wildlife rehabilitation responsibly; an expert author’s skills applied to the passion of wildlife rehabilitation, penning the successes and failures of this emerging field in wildlife conservation.
What's your favorite wildlife rehabilitation memoir?