Practicing Wildlife Rehabilitation Within Legal Restrictions

BIO  Dr Elizabeth Mullineaux BVM&S, DVM&S, CertSHP, MRCVS

Liz is director at Capital Veterinary Services, science advisor at Secret World Wildlife Rescue, and a veterinary surgeon with Vets Now. She is also an active member of the British Veterinary Association and editor of numerous BSAVA Manuals, including Wildlife Casualties.
This post is a revised version of the paper Liz presented at the 2014 BWRC Symposium.

Legislation affecting the care of wildlife can be a minefield for both vets and rehabilitators, risking prosecution for both if not followed correctly. Legal responsibilities are not always clearly outlined in all countries, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the relevant legislation that might apply. For example, in the United Kingdom (UK), the main pieces of legislation to be most concerned about are the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (as amended 2002) (VSA), Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2014, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Remember, that there are many others affecting both animals and people associated with wildlife centres and this should be considered when writing centre policies and guidelines. Here are a few key areas to consider for those caring for British wildlife, although they are applicable in most places around the world:

Veterinary surgeons

You need to have good veterinary involvement with the wild animals you care for. In most countries only vets can legally diagnose medical conditions, prescribe drugs, carry out surgery and have animals legally under their medical care. It is important to have a good relationship with your vet and best to have one main veterinary practice that is responsible for the animals at your centre. You may occasionally involve other vets, but you still need a main veterinary practice. If you don’t have a vet on site, then your main practice vets need to visit on a regular basis, ideally at least once a week. These visits also allow them to understand how you work, know what animals are on site and provide general advice. If you chose to employ a vet, then remember you will need adequate facilities in which they can work and you will still need to provide 24/7 veterinary care for your centre, which may mean employing a second vet or making use of an additional local practice. Have a written policy (formally agreed upon with your vet) for triage and first aid treatment of admitted animals that don’t immediately see a vet. If your vet allows you to make any decisions about treatments, these need to be written down clearly in a policy. Ensure that anything written follows the law, and remember only vets can ‘diagnose’ and ‘prescribe’ so avoid using these terms. Make use of the telephone (or email) to get veterinary advice, and document all correspondence. This advice is usually free and helps ensure that you (and your vet) cover yourself legally when making decisions and that the best treatment is provided.

Veterinary nurses

In the UK a Veterinary Nurse is a professional person with appropriate qualifications and training that is registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Relevant qualifications from overseas may allow RCVS registration (e.g. some North American ‘tech’ qualifications). Veterinary nurses may be employed by vets, volunteer at wildlife centres, or be employed by centres. In all instances, even if you employ them, a Veterinary Nurse’s work must be under the direction and supervision of the centre’s vet. Veterinary nurses in the UK receive little formal training on British wildlife (these species are not in the RCVS occupational standards). Legally this means that they are not suitably trained to carry out ‘Schedule 3’ procedures under the VSA on wildlife species and must receive this training first from the vet who is responsible for them. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association Nursing Merit Award in British wildlife was the first attempt to formally fill this knowledge gap for veterinary nurses. Vet nurses are not ‘mini vets’. Specifically, they are not legally able to make a diagnosis (e.g. based on an examination, x-ray, or laboratory report), prescribe medication, induce anesthesia using gaseous anesthesia, or perform surgery that enters body cavities. They are allowed to take blood, administer intravenous fluids, give medication and suture minor wounds, however all these must be ‘under the direction’ of a veterinary surgeon. Wildlife centres should have an agreed and written policy for veterinary nursing activities. If they employ a veterinary nurse, they should ensure that both job descriptions and employment contracts make it clear where duties start and end. RVNs are legally liable for the work they do and should have professional indemnity insurance.

Wildlife centre policy

In general, it is important for you to have written policies regarding all the activities at your centre. It is useful to have an admissions policy that allows animals to be signed over to you, which can protect you legally in terms of ‘ownership’ and at least helps finders to appreciate that the animal is now your responsibility. It is important to agree which of your staff can do which tasks (e.g. give medication) and keep records of this. Ensure that adequate training has been provided for any tasks performed, record this training and ensure that it is kept up to date. Ensure that there is a policy for any storage of drugs left on site and who has access to these. Drugs should always be in a locked cabinet with restricted access. Records of drug use should be kept. Agree on a written policy with your vet regarding euthanasia of animals, including: which cases, under what circumstances, and how euthanasia is to be performed. Any phone conversations or emails regarding euthanasia of individual animals should be carefully recorded. Keep good records of each animal, the treatment they receive and their progress.

Records help to protect you legally, allow the progress of individual animals to be monitored, and allow for reflection on the success (or not) of treatments. Lastly, have good written policies for people (staff, volunteers and members of the public) and for the maintenance of the site itself. Common areas of litigation against centres relate to health and safety and waste disposal.

While these are some important guidelines, it is vital to research and understand the current, relevant legislation to wildlife rehabilitation in your country and ensure that your operation is always acting within the law.

Research Byte: Post release survival of rehabilitated Eurasian badger cubs (Meles meles)

BIO  Adam Grogan

Adam is on staff at the RSPCA, IWRC Board Vice President, Vice Chair of The Mammal Society for Britain and Ireland, and on the Executive Committee of the British Council for Wildlife Rehabilitation (BWRC). He has experience surveying and radio-tracking a number of mammal species, including badgers (Meles meles), polecats (Mustela putorius), mink (Neovison vison), and water voles (Arvicola terrestris).

This post is a summary of the paper Adam presented at the 2014 BWRC Symposium.

The RSPCA has been interested in the survival of rehabilitated wildlife for over 10 years and has conducted a number of post-release projects on a variety of species. This is a brief summary of a radio tracking project investigating the survival of released juvenile badgers after being reared in captivity in artificial groups.

There is little known about rehabilitated badgers post release. Prior to 2013, the RSPCA radio tracked four groups of badgers and found poor survival rates for the fifteen animals collared. In all four groups, the badgers dispersed into different areas. Of the collared animals, nine were known to have died, either as a result of road mortality or failure to thrive. The radio signals were lost for the remaining animals except one, who was tracked for an excess of 200 days before she shed her collar. During this time, she had settled in to a local, wild badger group near to where her artificial badger group was released.

In early 2013, another group of rehabilitated badger cubs was ready for release. A site was offered from the West Surrey Badger Group (WSBG), which they had monitored extensively for a number of years. An artificial sett (or badger den) was also available and so with the enthusiastic support from the landowners, plans were drawn up to release the badgers in summer of 2013.

Juvenile badger (Meles meles) peaking out of an artificial sett. Photo credits: Jan Reen
Juvenile badger (Meles meles) peaking out of an artificial sett. Photo credits: Jan Reen

The WSBG examined the suitability of the site by checking the artificial sett and other setts close by for signs of use by resident badgers and found no visible signs of badger presence. An electric fence was installed around the artificial sett, putting in bowls for water and straw for bedding. The five cubs, 3 males and 2 females, were released into the sett in July 2013.

For the first two weeks, the WSBG conducted morning check visits and evening feeding visits. Unlike previous releases done in late autumn, these badgers were active right from the start and were out the first night. They had one encounter with the electric fence; dug a dung pit; polished up all the food that had been carefully scattered about and hidden under logs and stones; dug a new entrance directly into the back of the sett; and dragged in the straw that had been left outside for them.

A camera trap was set up to record activity occurring when observers weren’t present and found that all five badgers were exhibiting normal species-specific behavior. The electric fence was removed at the end of the 2-week settling-in period, which coincided with the arrival of a student from Swansea, Owen Bidder, who tracked the badgers at night for the next two weeks. The badgers were now free to explore their new environment.

Camera trap image of juvenile badgers (Meles meles) in a soft release enclosure.
Camera trap image of juvenile badgers (Meles meles) in a soft release enclosure.

After one night, only one badger was still sleeping in the artificial sett, while the other four were all in an empty sett 100 metres up the hill. Within days they had discovered another sett about 100 metres down the hill away from the artificial sett.

WSBG members continued to provide food and water during the summer although the amount offered was reduced as time went on. During the first two weeks, Owen reported increased exploration by the badgers, finding and exploiting more setts in the area. Early on, one badger lost his transmitter, which was found detached from the collar on a footpath almost a kilometer from the release site. Over several weeks the badgers discovered a total of 8 setts that the WSBG knew about in the area, as well as one sett that had not been recorded previously. All of these setts were empty as far as the WSBG knew.

While badgers did disperse, often two or three were found in one sett and on the odd occasion, all four. Some mating behavior was recorded on camera before the electric fence was removed so some alliances may have developed while they were still in the enclosure. They seem to regularly move from sett to sett, sometimes using a different sett each day. One badger moved off to the sett that was previously unknown to the WSBG, about a kilometer from the release site. Since he seemed to have selected a permanent home, the WSBG set up a camera and discovered that he was with an un-collared badger that they believe to be a local resident.

The badgers were tracked until late December 2013, which is when the transmitters all seemed to stop transmitting. The cameras have been deployed a few times since and have recorded some activity so now the RSPCA plans to use different equipment to see if the badgers are still present. All the badgers were fitted with microchips, so a feeding station with a chip reader and data logger will be set up to hopefully record the badgers coming and going.

What have we learnt?

  • After 18 months of captivity, rehabilitated badger cubs can quickly start a natural wild life.
  • When released they will find and utilize existing local setts.
  • They may disperse from the release groups or remain together.
  • They may integrate with local badgers provided there are only a few around.
  • It is well worth rehabilitating orphaned cubs.
  • It is a rewarding thing to do.

Consider Animal Welfare When Generating Center Income: Part 1

BIO  Fran Bell

I am a wildlife rehabber from Perth, Western Australia. Over the last 6 years I have practiced wildlife rehabilitation in Australia, South Africa, and the UK; and worked with marsupials, placental mammals, birds and reptiles. I have undertaken several internships, including a year with penguins and other seabirds at SANCCOB in Capetown. I am a member of the IWRC and the West Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. I hold two certificates in Wildlife Management, have been trained in venomous snake capture and release, have Certified Wildlife Rehabber status and am also a certified Marine Mammal Medic. In my free time I work on animal rights and welfare causes around the world.


In my time as a rehabber, I’ve seen wildlife centres who operate at different levels. I’ve seen those staffed by paid vets and rehabbers, outfitted with beautiful surgeries and stocked with a wide range of drugs as well as top quality food and supplementation. I’ve seen those who can’t afford paid staff but who have access to enthusiastic staff at nearby vet clinics, and can provide adequate nutrition and housing. And at the other end of the scale, I’ve seen those who operate on a shoestring and can’t afford a consultant vet, antibiotics for treatments, or remotely appropriate food.

What this mostly boils down to is funding.   Some centres are wizards at getting government grants, having corporate sponsors, and partnering with universities or the very wealthy. Other centres develop creative ideas for community fundraising. The question is, where do these places draw the line in their quest for money, and how do they balance that with animal welfare?

I’ve seen one under-funded centre use student and public “training days” as a way to bring in funds.

  1. Bring in veterinary students from the local university.

Students were given lectures in their morning session. After that came a “practical”. The practical consisted of the senior rehabber having up to 20 vet students crowded into the small hospital, all surrounding one terrified animal. Tube feeding was demonstrated. A new bird was then taken from a cage and a complete novice – a tube-feeding virgin, you might say – was invited to practice on a live animal. The next in line were young birds who did not require tube feeding, but who were able to swallow. They were subjected to potentially damaging diets and feeding techniques and as I looked at the faces around me, I realised that even some of these naïve vet students were not so convinced that what they were being shown was of any value.

The practical finished up by the students being invited to cuddle barn owl chicks and young fox kits.

  1. Bring in the public.

Training days with the public were more of the same, but with more people and less lectures. In hindsight that may have been a good thing as less misinformation was passed on, but I still worried that members of the public would leave the centre thinking that there was nothing much to wildlife rehab, and that they would all be fully competent to commence wildlife rehab operations under their own roofs.

Every single component of the training day gave me grave cause for concern regarding the welfare of the animals. Noise levels were completely unacceptable. Prolonged, incompetent and unnecessary handling was also completely unacceptable. As wildlife rehabbers, we know that both these factors add up to a lot of stress. We know how badly stress affects an animal’s ability to heal and thrive. I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, seen birds who literally drop dead from stress.   We also know that habituation of a wild animal to human contact severely limits the likelihood of a successful release.

Every animal handled or fed by a member of the public or an untrained vet student ran the risk of being seriously injured. Proper techniques for restraining animals were not demonstrated. Appropriate techniques for feeding were not taught. Mammals and birds aspirated after being incorrectly fed. Birds refused to eat because rough feeding had damaged their throats. Birds died from head injuries due to rough handling.

Every animal handled and fed ran the risk of disease. Hands were not washed. Gloves were not worn. A single tube was used for every crop feeding, regardless of age or presenting condition. Animals were passed from person to person with no thought of what could be transmitted from one to the other.

On training days every animal handled also had to wait for the appearance of the trainees to be fed. The normal routine was abandoned. Birds were left hungry for upwards of an hour because the public had paid to be “trained”.

With the quality of information and ‘training’ being so poor, attendees were likely to cause unintentional harm to animals they came across in the future. The interactive training days increased admissions and infused the centre with ready cash. Ultimately the centre’s mission could be hurt much more than helped, and any funds raised swallowed up in increased care costs.

Training days in other centres I’ve worked with are solely for those who have already made a commitment to helping wildlife. They mostly focus on theoretical knowledge in a classroom well away from patients with “hands-on”, if appropriate, on a strictly supervised one-on-one basis. There may be a small fee to cover costs but the focus is not on raising funds – it’s on professional development. I remember when I attempted my first tube feeding. It was after a lengthy lecture, a couple of demonstrations by rehabbers with many years experience, and then the small class was invited to practice on deceased animals who had been kept solely for teaching purposes. Even when I began tube feeding live animals, I worked under the supervision of a suitably experienced mentor.

Training days are one avenue of raising funds but, when animal welfare and perhaps even survival is severely compromised, the question is – should they be? 



Board Member Christopher Boykin Shares Some Tidbits with Us

Chris Boykin with bird

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?Photo of Christopher Boykin in Florida swamp

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.

Lets #GetTheLeadOut of Our Wildlife


Let’s Get the Lead Out of Our Wildlife

Eugene, OR August 24, 2015

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.


Media Contact: Kai Williams @malkahkai @theiwrc 866-871-1869 x1

Twitter hashtag: #GetTheLeadOut #leadpoisoning

Lead Poisoning Position Statement

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.

Walter Crawford

Walter at the 2011 IWRC Symposium in Coral Springs Florida all dressed up in his favourite kilt!

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.

Conserve Wildlife, Generate Energy

World Migratory Bird Day Poster featuring Siberian crane flying in front of drawn energy power sources and map of worldLast 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 International Migratory Bird Day Poster featuring vertical drawings of birds in grassland, mashland, backyards, and mangroves. Restore Habitat, Restore Birds - 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.

Rooftop solar array with Oregon oak in background Photo: Kai Williams

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.

Plaque reading Lane Electric net-metered photovoltaic generation site


  1. Sweet C. The $2.2 Billion Bird-Scorching Solar Project. WSJ Online Article. 2014 Feb 13.
  2. Preventing Bird Deaths at Solar Power Plants, Part 1. Renewable Energy World. 2014 Sep 11 [accessed 2015 May 13].
  3. Trouvilliez J, Zurita P. Solar Energy Policy Briefing. 2014 Dec.
  4. Birds and Solar Energy within the Rift Valley/ Red Sea Flyway. BirdLife International Migratory Soaring Birds Project Solar Energy Guidance.
  5. Opinion: Renewable Energy – How to Make It More Bird-Friendly | Inter Press Service. [accessed 2015 May 13].
  6. Science For Environment Policy. Wind & solar energy and nature conservation. European Union; 2014. Report No.: Brief 9.
  7. Archambault A. Solar PV Atlas: Solar power in harmony with nature. Denruyter J-P, Mulder L, editors. WWF; 2012.

Filling the President’s Shoes

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.

Sue Wylie examining a mourning dove
IWRC Board President Sue Wylie examines a mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) in her role as Executive Director of Le Nichoir in Quebec, Canada.

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

A new tool for bat rehabbers

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.

USGS White Nose UV image
Bat wing lit with hand held UV light showing fluorescence of lesions in yellow. Image Credit USGS1.

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 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.

The care and rehabilitation of animals infected with WNS are well covered in the following two documents; Rehabilitating Bats with White Nose Syndrome, and Protocol for Wildlife Rehabilitator Response to Hibernating Bats Affected with White-Nose Syndrome.

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.

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

Good Housekeeping

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.