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.
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!
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.
You can find short bio’s on each of our staff members here!
Q&A with Aya:
Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.
When I was twelve years old my neighbor rescued a baby squirrel from the jaws of her dog. She gave the little one to me and my parents to care for. The process of researching squirrel care, building her an environment, getting to enjoy her presence and then, the bittersweet experience of releasing her had a significant impact on me during a formative moment in my life. It helped me comprehend that wild (or domestic) creatures, and the natural world itself, has an intrinsic value completely distinct from human valuations. At the same time we all live within systems that inextricably connect us. The act of rehabilitating a creature that, hopefully, will never look back upon its release, seems a significant way to respect their value and those systems upon which we all depend.
How did you initially become involved with IWRC?
The first time I encountered the IWRC was through the job posting for my current position. I was immediately drawn to the blend of wildlife protection and education and love the office culture and passion of the employees!
Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.
I have a great affinity for bioregionalism which, among many other things, asserts that knowing ones bioregion not only allows us to live within our environments in an informed way but also creates a deep sense of belonging to a physical place. This knowledge and sense of belonging is believed to naturally lead to pro-environmental behavior. I view the IWRC’s focus on education and their work to continually build on the field of wildlife rehabilitation as critical for improving the welfare of individual wild animals. However, this educational component also creates an important awareness and an ethic of care that is much needed given the current climate and extinction crises.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I am particularly proud of what some of my past students have accomplished. One such student cited my Islam and Nature course as an important factor in her decision to pursue a JD in environmental law. Another student from the Environmental Ethics course I TA-ed went on to become a prominent member of the Sunrise Movement and was very informed by this course as well. These are not my accomplishments but they make me feel incredibly fulfilled and part of something larger. I love working in education because you never know how your work will affect your students, they can go on to do things you yourself could not have imagined.
If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?
Aldo Leopold! Leopold is a particularly incredible conservation trailblazer because of the ecocentric view of the world he developed and that he was able to do so long before others came to the same conclusions. Through his writing Leopold is able to uncannily express what I feel but cannot myself put into words. Besides all this, he was a dedicated parent and partner, a knowledgeable forester, scientist, and conservationist!
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise”
– Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 262
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
While going to school I really enjoyed my research studying Muslim and Islamic environmentalists in Senegal. Although I ultimately don’t see myself as an academic, I still think it would be amazing to continue that research and write a book on the topic.
IWRC founding board member and former Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation editor Gary Bogue died at his Bay area home this September at age 81. In December of 1974, Gary, curator at the Alexander Lindsay Junior Museum, was one of eight individuals to sign the articles of incorporation for IWRC, at the time called Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. He had been involved with IWRC since the earliest of board minutes – January 17, 1974, and although I have no records, likely as early as a 1972 consortium of rehabilitators where the gem of IWRC began.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s Gary had a column in the Wildlife Journal (Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation). In Fall of 1982 he took over as Journal Editor. By all accounts, Gary was heavily involved with the founding and development of IWRC.
Gary, we are grateful for your passion and perseverance on behalf of wildlife!
[HOUSTON, TX] — Disasters bring communities together and bring out the best in people. Organizations helping people and organizations helping companion animals (dogs, cats, horses, etc.) impacted by natural and human-made disasters have become part of the emergency landscape. They quickly and efficiently channel donor dollars into relief efforts.
It’s different with wildlife. While wild animals impacted by these same disasters get compassionate care from wildlife rescuers and rehabilitators, a well-organized and well-funded response system has never been in place.
The magnitude of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey has compelled our organizations – LoveAnimals.org, Animal Help Now, Southern Wildlife Rehab, and The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) – to put together a fundraising effort to come to the aid of the wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers desperately working to save wild animals orphaned, injured, or displaced by Hurricane Harvey and subsequent Texas flooding. The organizers intend for this effort to help serve as a model for future response efforts.
In just a few days, the Harvey WIldlife Relief Fund has attracted more than a hundred donors and about $9,000 in donations. Before a week will pass on this fund’s launch, donated dollars will be transferred to the accounts of the wildlife rehabilitators who have applied for assistance.
IWRC member and REP for Wildlife founder, Brooke Durham explains, “Our goal with the Harvey Wildlife Relief Fund is to quickly and efficiently get funds transferred over to our licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Texas so that they can continue to provide their vital services to wildlife and indeed to the public in the affected areas.”
Michelle Camara, whose Southern Wildlife Rehab was not impacted by Hurricane Harvey, stepped up to help her colleagues. Camara adds,“Wildlife rehabbers and rescuers in the impacted Gulf Coast region are in desperate need of help. Some operations have been directly damaged by the storm. Some farther north are taking in patients from those directly impacted. Most rehabbers have no means of fundraising, and even those that do cannot focus on anything right now other than admitting and triaging the stream of opossums, baby squirrels, raccoons, snakes and shorebirds arriving at their doors.”
Animal Help Now co-founder and executive director David Crawford adds, “It is clear that coordinated efforts to assist wildlife and wildlife rehabilitators must be in place in advance of anticipated disasters such as floods and hurricanes. This collaborative effort, facilitated in exemplary fashion by John Irvine, President of LoveAnimals.org, will help create a model going forward. We have learned a lot, and Harvey has again demonstrated that wildlife is especially vulnerable to environmental disasters in this new century.”
The team behind this fundraising effort is donating all time and materials, so besides some minor credit card processor fees, 100% of the money is going directly to wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers directly or indirectly impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Grant funding is open to licensed wildlife rehabilitators and wildlife related registered nonprofit orgs (wildlife centers, home-based wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife hotlines and rescues) who have been directly or indirectly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The initial grants are modest, but the group will be awarding them frequently, and recipients are allowed to receive multiple grants.
The IWRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that protects wildlife and habitat through training and resources on wildlife rehabilitation. The organization’s mission statement is “providing science-based education and resources on wildlife rehabilitation to promote wildlife conservation and welfare worldwide.” 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 protection worldwide. @theiwrc
Animal Help Now, through AHNow.org and free iPhone and Android apps, leverages digital technologies to immediately connect people involved with animal emergencies with the most appropriate time- and location-specific resources and services. Animal Help Now also works to minimize threats to wildlife through education and advocacy. AHNow is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. @animalhelpnow
Southern Wildlife Rehab, Inc. was founded by Michelle Camara in 2014. She has rehabilitated animals for over 30 years. The subpermittees, volunteers, vets and consulting experts from all over the United States help us in our efforts to rescue and rehabilitate native wildlife. We are all 100% unpaid volunteers based in Texas and Louisiana.
Photos (click individual photos for captions and version downloadable by press. Use only with this story)
On the evening of Saturday, May 13th I lost a close friend and the wildlife rehabilitation community lost one of our own
Amanda Autumn Margraves was always meant to be a rehabber, she just didn’t always know what to call it. She had a passion for animals and went to the University of Michigan, where she was studying in the Pre-Vet program, when she found an injured squirrel. Like many people who have such experiences, she spent almost a whole day trying to find out what could be done to help it. When she finally found a rehabber and learned what wildlife rehab is all about, she was hooked. She continued on at U of Michigan and got her bachelor’s degree in zoology. But from then on, she was a rehabber.
After college, she got a job at the Flint RiverQuarium, in Albany, Georgia. While there, she became a Georgia State permitted rehabber. She was the only rehabber in her area so she took in everything. While there she also volunteered with the rescue efforts of seabirds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that affected the coastal birds along the Gulf of Mexico.
She then went to Belize where she worked at Belize Bird Rescue and Wildtracks. She loved Belize and even after she moved on, she would go back as often as she could.
After that, she landed the job of Director of Rehab at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.
I had begun my rehab life at the Keys Bird Center working under their founder Laura Quinn. I lived and worked there for two years before moving on to work on a dolphin rescue project and eventually started my own place. Mine is the next rehab center to the north of the Keys bird center, so, I maintained close ties with them. When I heard that they were getting in a new rehabber, I made a trip down to meet her and introduce myself. That was when I met Amanda. That was in 2011 and over the next several years we stayed friends and rehab neighbors. If I had a water bird I would send it down to her. If she had a large bird of prey or a mammal, she would send it to me. During her four years there, she became a legend and was beloved by the Keys community. She was known as someone who would show up at any hour of the day or night (sometimes in her pajamas and slippers) to rescue any animal in peril. Everybody loved her and she had a cult-like following of fans who thought she was a saint and would follow her every move on social media. Many of these fans were people had witnessed her rescuing animals and some had only heard about her and wanted to know her.
In September of 2015, she came to work with me and live at my center (Wildlife Rescue of Dade County) in the south end of Miami-Dade County. For twenty plus years, I had been running the center on my own and the addition of another experienced and legally permitted rehabber made an amazing difference.
She worked at Wildlife Rescue for a year before she got hired to at Zoo Miami where she worked in the Amazon/South America section.
Unfortunately, despite the many people who loved her, she fought a terrible, personal battle with depression. People who didn’t really know her only saw the animal rescuing super-hero, wonder woman who would quickly put her own life in danger to rescue any animal. Few saw the struggles she had to fight to save her own life every day. She lived and worked at my center for a year and a half and so I saw the highs and the lows.
When I would see her in her deep depression, I would put her to work caring for babies. This would usually bring a smile to her face right through the tears. Nothing could fight away her depression like a baby fox or otter that needed a bottle.
Sadly on that particular night, she could not fight off the demons when they came for her and convinced her to take her own life. Her last text to me was that I was running low on raccoon milk and I need to order more. Right up to her end, she was thinking of what had to be done to take care of our babies.
To me, Amanda was not just a rehabber. She was my partner and friend.
Amanda was born in Michigan and was 35 years old.
Our members are always welcome to submit In Memoriams to IWRC for rehabilitators who have died. Submissions may be edited for content or length.
Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship with wildlife.
As a child I always loved animals. I distinctly remember finding a squirrel that had been hit by a car and wanting to help him. My mother helped me get the squirrel into a box and we took it to the vet. Although things didn’t turn out like I had hoped, I was happy that I was able to do something to help ease his pain.
Describe a particular area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.
I am very passionate about bringing education and resources to wildlife rehabbers of all skill levels. Over the years I have seen many different rehab facilities and met many different volunteers and rehabbers. I truly believe that networking and continuing education are not only vital for excellent animal care, but for the health and well being of rehabbers as well!
Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator (or IWRC staff member)?
I am very good at planning and being prepared. Whether it is driving to rescue an injured bird or planning out a lengthy anesthesia and surgery, I always make sure I have everything I need on hand before I begin.
If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?
Doug Mader, DVM, one of the foremost authorities on reptile medicine!
If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?
I would love to be a travelling wildlife vet, going from country to country to work in various rehab facilities, learning to care for different species and helping with education and conservation.
If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?
Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with. We currently have a dog and two cats. Dolly is a walker coon hound that came from the Kansas Humane Society. She loves her creature comforts, and is very happy as long as she has a warm, soft bed, plenty of food and someone to pet her. She is very affectionate, but quite drooly, which can be problematic. Miss Kitty is a laid back cat, that was surrendered to one of the vet hospitals I worked at. She likes to be petted occasionally, but has more fun chasing our other cat around the house or laying in the sun. She is around 12 years old, so a bit more sedate. Kiki is 2 years old, and was found wandering outside, she was skinny and had a terrible flea infestation. A vet tech I worked with brought her in and convinced me to foster her. Of course we ended up keeping her. She is now quite fat, and hates having her flea meds applied. She can be very affectionate but also very surly. At times she will jump up on something she shouldn’t and when you try to remove her watch out! She knows what you are doing and will bite you! She does like to have cuddle time every morning though. She also enjoys watching squirrels, and has tried unsuccessfully to pounce on one or two by launching herself at the glass window. Oops! Both cats stay indoors, but they love going out in the garage to explore and have a change in scenery.
Since early January Chile has been facing the worst forest fires it has ever seen in modern history, with ~2300 sq miles of land destroyed, thousands of people evacuated and 11 human deaths. The Chilean government has declared state of emergency in several areas, which have been receiving support from official emergency agencies, international help, and volunteers.
This is a catastrophe: it can be described as a chain of wildfires, which have overwhelmed national services. Communities have lost their houses (more that 7,000 are homeless), their livelihoods destroyed (vineyards, tree plantations, etc), and many domestic animals have died or been injured.
A silent victim of these fires are wild animals. Chile does not have the richness of other Latin American countries such as Brazil or Colombia; but the affected area has a unique level of endemism. In fact, the most affected species are the ones with limited displacements, especially amphibians and reptiles which are also the two groups with higher endemism in the country. The Lolol Lizard (Liolaemus confusus), was just recently described as a species and with a species home range of only aprox 5 km2. The entirety of its known distribution has been destroyed by the fires; the species may be facing a real threat of extinction. Luckily, the National Service of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG) together with the National Zoo captured 20 individuals from the fires.
Most wild animals caught in the fire have likely died; amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates may not be able to escape. But other species can escape. Survivors have been found by the authorities, NGOs and the community. Huge efforts have been initiated to capture these survivors and treat them accordingly. Most of these survivors are represented by mesocarnivores such as foxes (Lycalopex sp.), lesser grisson (Galictis cuja), and small felids. Most of these individuals have been taken to rehabilitation centers such as UFAS and the National Zoo, and have been treated in emergency facilities implemented with the cooperations of the national association of veterinarians (COLMEVET), National Zoo, national association of wildlife veterinarians (AMEVEFAS), NGOs, among others.
All fires are not yet extinguished. At the moment, more than 50 fires are active (original number was over 90 by some accounts); people and animals are still threatened by the flames. Who is to blame? Probably, it is a multifactorial chain that involves humans (both intentional arson and negligent behaviors), the extensive plantations of exotic and pyrogenetic species for wood and forestry, inadequate territorial planning, climate change, and poor/belated response of authorities.
How can you help?
There are many campaigns to receive help and support from national and international individuals. If you want to directly help animals, contact COLMEVET (National Association of Veterinarians), which is the official institution organizing the help for all animals in need. You can donate urgently needed funds via COLMEVET’s international GoFundMe campaign. To donate directly to wild animals, make explicit note of this in the comment field during the donation process.
Update 2/5/17: State of emergency has ended with 8 of the remaining fires being actively combated and the remaining fires extinguished or under control
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