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Bird Safe Windows

It was a warm, late summer day in 2020. Like many people, I was working from home, sitting in my living room, laptop on my knees, coffee at my side. Suddenly I heard a very loud THUNK in the vicinity of our back door. I sprang up and ran to the back of the house. I knew there was only one thing that could make that sound. Something had hit the glass on our back door, something big.

I rounded the corner and felt simultaneously relieved and concerned. Sitting on our porch bench was a perplexed juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. It was obvious that despite the many UV decals attached to the door, it had hit the glass. It sat shaking its head and turning it side to side. I watched carefully. In another minute it was gone, back on the hunt.

Window strikes account for approximately 1 billion bird deaths a year in the US and Canada alone. Any social media group about birds will yield example after example of birds that have hit windows. While some survive and fly away, there are many that do not. For the layperson this is often a unique event, but for those of us involved in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation this is an all too common occurrence. With that in mind, let’s look at resources we can share and ways we can work to prevent window strikes, locally and beyond.

Making Windows Safer at Home

Identify if any windows are more problematic than others. While all windows can pose a problem, there are things that make some windows more of a threat. Windows reflect the world outside, making it appear to a bird that they are flying toward habitat, instead of a solid object. Factors that may make certain windows more hazardous include having food sources nearby, plants visible inside, or large picture windows. 

Any window where you have had a previous strike should be flagged. If you are fortunate enough to not have had any bird fatalities, start by flagging the most reflective windows. When looking for reflections try to look at various angles, heights, and distances, concentrating on areas where you see birds frequently. Even if you don’t see a reflection head on, a ground feeding bird, like a dove, might. Keep in mind that as the sun moves reflections may change.

Quick Fix

Applying a substance  to the outside of the window is one of the easiest ways to decrease collisions. Drawing lines, patterns or pictures with soap or tempera paint is easy and quick. You can wash and reapply as needed. The important thing about executing such patterns is ensuring the lines are close enough together to prevent a bird from attempting to fly through them. To deter all species, including hummingbirds, a gap of 2’’ (5 cm) is recommended1.

UV and Reflectives

Other popular deterrents are UV decals or reflective ribbons. You can purchase these in different shapes or styles. Ribbons move in the wind and are meant to keep birds from approaching windows.The decals work because birds see UV light, so the decals stand out against the glass. However, the decals may not work equally for all birds and generally need to be replaced every 6 months. Like designs made with soap or paint, decals must be placed so that birds do not attempt to fly between them.

Semi-permanent

If you are looking for more permanent solutions, but don’t want to retrofit windows. Shutters, screens and vertical blinds on the outside of the window may provide a happy medium. Closing shutters is ideal if you are not using windows. In addition to preventing collisions they also act to help insulate the home, saving money on cooling and heating2. In more clement weather, screens can be used to help protect birds from injury. When the bird hits the screen it acts as a cushion, and the bird bounces off. Acopian Birdsavers (Zen blinds) are another window accessory that are effective and gaining popularity amongst bird enthusiasts. The blinds are made of paracord spaced closely together. Birds actively try to avoid the strings as they would a stick in their environment.

Windows in your Community

Keeping birds safe doesn’t just take place at home. Working in your community to prevent window strikes is essential. This can be as simple as ensuring decals or other deterrents are placed appropriately on your work building or as involved as advocating that your building follows bird safe guidelines. While it may be daunting to approach the subject with corporate leaders there is value, even to lay people, in ensuring a building is mitigating bird strikes. The value of data in this endeavor cannot be overemphasized. It is one thing to request a business make their building safer, it is quite another to demonstrate the impact of indifference with data, including public relations, monetary, and ecological costs.

While the number of bird deaths attributed to glass is devastating, there are positive changes being made. Some cities now require new buildings to be made with bird safe designs. For building owners in the United States, buildings can be LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, part of the certification involving bird safety. The American Bird Conservancy is also working to launch the Bird City Americas program, a program that works to decrease bird loss on many fronts, including glass collisions.

Our bird populations are in decline across the globe. While we may not be able to affect things as quickly or broadly as we would prefer, we can each take small steps to conserve birds in our own community. While this may seem like a small contribution, every bird counts, and moves us toward a better future.

More Reading

Selected Journal Papers

Factors influencing bird-building collisions in the downtown area of a major North American city

Drivers of Bird Window Collisions in Southern South America

Winter bird-window collisions: mitigation success, risk factors, and implementation challenges

Resources on Window Strikes and Prevention

American Bird Conservancy: Glass Collisions

Acopian Birdsavers

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

American Bird Conservancy: Bird-Friendly Building Design

Entre a Vida e o Vidro

Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada

Summit Highlights Beaver Impact

Photo Credit: Cheryl Reynolds

This April I attended the California Beaver Summit, an event focused on the positive impact of beavers on the California landscape and their key role in ecological restoration projects.

As a wildlife rehabilitator the information on managing common human/beaver conflicts was especially useful. The full summit is available to watch.

I found these three presentations particularly interesting
as a wildlife rehabilitator:

2020 Annual Members Meeting

IWRC held our 2020 Annual Members Meeting Oct 17. A full recording of the meeting is available to members (log in).

President Adam Grogan provided a brief presentation on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our other activities this year.

Active committees, including Membership; Course Development; Executive; International; Finance; and Development, provided brief updates on their recent work.

We thanked our 49 volunteers!

Adam then introduced the member slate for our upcoming board election, which will begin November 2: Ashley Ihrke and Lindsey Jones. We gave thanks to outgoing board members Laurin Huse and Lloyd Brown.

Executive Director Kai Williams took a moment to reflect on our values

  • Work with passion
  • Pursue collaboration
  • Individuals matter
  • We value our members
  • Welfare and conservation work in synergy
  • Wildlife doesn’t recognize boundaries
  • Access to education
  • We practice professionalism
  • Science is our foundation

Katie provided an update on IWRC classes. IWRC started out the year of 2020 with a solid in-person class schedule. A few classes were held early in 2020, before COVID-19 became a fully realized pandemic. However, as we monitored the progression of the pandemic we quickly realized that we needed to move our classes to an online format to better serve our members and students, and ensure their safety. 

The spring and summer were devoted to creating an online version of our classic Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation class. The hybrid course includes live and recorded lectures from IWRC instructors, an interactive virtual lab or a socially distanced hosted lab, and online forums for student/instructor discussion. Our first class was hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management in September, and the class received excellent reviews from students.  Currently we have scheduled online regional courses in Michigan, Alberta, Kentucky, and Indiana. As classes are still in high demand, we hope to schedule at least three others in the US/Canada in the coming months, and work to have an online international class early in 2021.

While the pandemic has posed great challenges for us, IWRC is committed to continuing to bring our classes to students. Our Program Coordinator, Aya Cockram, and all of our amazing IWRC instructors and hosts have done a phenomenal job in developing and advancing our online Basic Class. We are grateful to them and you, our members, for being committed to improving wildlife care worldwide.

Julissa reported that we currently have 1240 members spanning 23 countries.

There are currently 172 Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators (CWRs) active in nine countries on five continents. The CWR volunteer team is working to support and connect CWRs – Kai highlighted their continual promotion of CE opportunities – especially in the face of COVID-19.

We closed out the meeting with a short but lively ‘Coffee & Tea with the IWRC’ style session that focused on member needs and issues. The session provided staff with some great ideas to further support our members.

Spotlight on New Staff Member, Micayla Harland

Micayla is our new behind the scenes bookkeeper. Welcome Micayla!

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

On holiday in Penticton, BC Canada.

I grew up part-time (child of divorce) on a small hobby farm in the Manitoba prairies. We had a couple horses and a few dozen head of cattle. One memory of this time that will never fade in my mind happened when I was about 10 years old. My dad gathered me up from the living room where I was reading a book and made me go outside with him. I had no idea what was going on until it was already happening. It was time I helped out with the birthing of a brand new baby calf. It was life changing.

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

I am actually in the process of studying to become a Registered Nurse.

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

Wolf!

What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?

Front row seats to a concert.

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Traveling to a new location.

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

Mr. Shadow, the best boy there ever was. A wolf/lab mix that is just under five. He has a HUGE personality. Although he can be a passive aggressive old grump, he is the most loving, loyal, friendly, and funny dog in the world. 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?

We here at the IWRC have recently put forth a few resources promoting mental health in wildlife rehabilitation, such as our blog post on Self-Caring During COVID-19 and our Going Home Checklist. As we can all imagine, due to the emotion, long hours, and stress placed on us (especially during the intense spring and summer hours), the importance of mental health cannot be overstated…. but what is mental health? How does our work impact our mental health? What can we do about this?

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

mentalhealth.gov

1 in 5 adults experiences mental health issues1. Even if they don’t affect you personally, they likely affect someone you know!

Myth: I can’t help someone else get over their mental health issues. Busted: One’s social networks are perhaps the most valuable in helping them get through a difficult time. Friends and colleagues can not only show their support for those impacted but also help them find the help that they need.

Myth: Mental health issues cannot be prevented. Busted: As we rehabbers know with our own patients, prevention is far easier than treatment (though in our case, both are feasible!). Knowing one’s risks and limits can help manage our mental wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing impacts from our work

Traumatic events. We see a lot during our work as rehabilitators. Whether the animal was hit by a car, torn apart by a cat, or shot, it can be traumatic – both for the patient and for us. On a near-daily basis, we witness suffering and animals in duress.

Stressful life situations (financials, loved one’s death, divorce, ongoing medical conditions). As most of our work comes out of pocket – or relying solely on donations (surviving donation-by-donation), it can be very stressful to wonder if we can afford our next batch of mealworms.

Dealing with stressed, angered, or scared members of the public.

In addition…  

Advanced level of multitasking and triage (answering phone calls, feeding wildlife, etc)

Balancing relationships. Spring and Summer hours are long and seemingly never-ending… this can make personal relationships difficult to find and maintain.

Maintain positive mental health

1. Seek professional help. There should be no shame in asking for help. As we rehabbers know, we can’t do it all! It is more than OK to ask for help.

2. Connect with your social network. This doesn’t just mean Facebook. Reach out to your friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues. In fact, studies show that those who engage in regular social interactions with others are less likely to be depressed2. We’re in this together and you are not alone.

3. Help others. Well…. we probably have this pretty well covered in our daily work as rehabilitators but this is a great reminder ;)….

4. Sleep. What is sleep? We know those baby hummers need feeding every 20 minutes, but luckily we know that their parents do indeed get sleep – so we can too! The National Sleep Foundation’s recent studies show that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night3. Though it may not always be possible, it is a good goal to aim for! Don’t forget, we also make fewer mistakes when well-rested4.

5. Develop coping skills. We all go through rough, really rough days… It is OK to feel emotion about what we do, and it is OK to take a second to step outside, go for a run, or find a useful technique to deal with a difficult or stressful event5.

6. Get or stay active. Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Staying physically active can help you maintain your mental wellbeing

Most importantly, please remember how awesome you are and the significant difference you make on wildlife’s lives each and every day. Stay healthy. Stay well!

Resources

International Hotline List

Crisis Text Line (US): Text HELLO to 741741

Suicide Hotline: +1-800-273-8255 (US)

National Alliance on Mental Health (US)

References

  1. Mental Health Myths and Facts. Washington DC: US Dept of Health & Human Services; 2017 [accessed 2020 May 26]. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts
  2. Steger MF, Kashdan TB. Depression and Everyday Social Activity, Belonging, and Well-Being. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 2009;56(2):289-300. doi: 10.1037/a0015416
  3. How much sleep do we really need? Arlington (United States): SleepFoundation.org; 2020 [accessed 2020 May 26]. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  4. Gingerich S. Wake-up call: sleep deprivation can lead to workplace mistakes. Yardley (United States):Staywell; 2019 [accessed 2020 May 26] https://www.staywell.com/insights/sleep-deprivation-workplace-mistakes
  5. What is mental health. Washington DC: US Dept of Health & Human Services; 2019 [accessed 2020 May 26]. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

Self-Caring During COVID-19

As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to spread, it can be a stressful and daunting time. Especially as the baby season is here for some and closely around the corner for others. Many of us have had to temporarily remove volunteers from our workforce, while balancing more-so limited funds and an increased workload. However, we must always make time for ourselves. Without caring for ourselves, we simply cannot care for others. Wildlife needs you to practice self-care!

1. Get some air.

As of now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is still saying it is OK for healthy individuals to go outside – as long as they practice social distancing (staying at least an eagle’s wingspan away from others; at least 6 feet). Confirm with your local authorities that such activity is still acceptable. Safely get outside and get some fresh air!

2. Leave work, at work (we know… it’s hard!).

Even if you rehabilitate out of your home, it is always possible to put work aside when you are done. Creating this mental separation between work and home has significantly helped significantly with productivity and mental health (Source). Consider looking at a recently-published resource: Going Home Checklist.

3. Schedule your self-care time.

This may sound silly, but having regularly scheduled blocks of time can help ensure you are saving time for yourself. Though we aren’t accustomed to anything ‘regular’ or ‘scheduled’ in our field, the importance of having ‘you time’ cannot be understated. Whether you block off a day of the week, an hour a day, or whether you take that time to take a bath, go for a run, spend time with a loved one, or read, it is imperative you have time to focus on you!

4. Social Distancing, or Physical Distancing?

Stay connected with loved ones, family, friends, and colleagues! Just because you have to stay physically away from each other doesn’t mean you can’t be social, take advantage of free video chat software such as Google Hangouts or FaceTime to communicate with each other, continue to hold meetings, and continue safely seeing your friends and family!

5. Consider talking with someone

Ask for help or seek professional advice. Thanks to advancements in technology, telemedicine is an emerging field – one which is especially valuable during this time with stay-at-home orders. There are many services that are covered by health insurance, as well as low-cost services for mental health available to you at your convenience and budget.

Some examples of these services include…
Emergencies: 911
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to talk to a counselor
BetterHelp (licensed psychologists): https://www.betterhelp.com/
Doctors on Demand (licensed medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists): https://www.doctorondemand.com/what-we-treat/behavioral-health

The Cost of Self-Deployment:

Deciding how to help during the Australian Brush Fires (and other similar emergencies) 

 

Since news of the devastating Australia bush fires broke in late December there has been an outpouring of support as well as a wave of global horror and sorrow. For many, including those involved in wildlife rehabilitation or care, this crisis evokes a strong need to contribute or help the animals affected by the fires. This altruistic urge is not surprising as many people feel a strong connection to the wildlife of Australia because it is so unique, with many species that are imperiled or endangered.  Others have useful skills that are relevant to the situation and this disaster may also be viewed as a rare opportunity to physically do something in the face of more impalpable or seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate breakdown and the extinction crisis. Some have chosen or are considering making the journey to Australia, to offer their support in the form of on-the-ground assistance. While this might be the logical choice for a few, in many cases, and despite the best intentions, this decision may hurt more than it helps. The IWRC urges all of those considering self-deployment to assist with wildlife care in Australia to weigh the cost and benefits of such an action and think about alternative ways to help.

The first costs to consider are monetary ones. According to an article in the Harvard Political Review, “Can Help Hurt?”, the price of volunteering abroad may outweigh the amount of help you are able to provide. The article offers an example of a child care volunteering opportunity in Rio. In this case they calculate that the money spent on three days of volunteering was the equivalent of the cost of 4 months of schooling for one child 1. In many cases, the money a person might pay out for housing, food, insurance, and transportation would go further as a donation. Much of the actual money being spent is paying for the experience of the person volunteering rather than the needs of those they aim to help.   

Other costs to consider are the environmental ones. This is of particular relevance as the scientific evidence points to climate change as a definitive factor in the severity and scope of these Australian fires.  As stated in an article by Yu, Pei, et al., “The ongoing bushfires (wildfires) have confirmed researchers’ warnings several years ago about increasing bushfires due to climate change in Australia”2. Lecturer in veterinary pathology Dr. Andrew Peters averred, “the most important thing the international community can do, is recognise this for what it is – it is our climate change future, and to take individual and community action now to prevent a much worse future for all of us, including the wildlife that we share this planet with”3. With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge the carbon cost of a flight to Australia as well as the use of currently scarce resources upon arrival. The carbon calculator on myclimate.org estimates that a roundtrip flight from the IWRC office in Oregon to Sydney produces 4.4 tons of C02 per passenger4– that is only slightly less than the average emissions of a passenger vehicle for the entire year of 2019 at 4.63 tons5. Although there may be compelling reasons to get on that plane, we must also decide if doing so coheres with the need to mediate a “climate change future” like Dr. Peters describes. 

The final cost to consider is the potential toll international relief work can have on local populations. In Ilan Kelman and Rachel Dodds’ paper “Developing a Code of Ethics for Disaster Tourism”, they highlight the importance of only offering assistance and donations with the local context in mind. They stress that, “in a disaster-affected location, any additional people further tax a community”6. Kelman and Dodds convey that emergency workers discourage self-deployment because of safety hazards, reduced accountability and because it diverts scarce resources, even when volunteers are qualified to help (282). It is for these and other reasons that organizations such as the Red Cross have created codes of conduct for international or Non-Governmental Organizations in disaster relief situations. The sixth code of conduct item in their document states “All people and communities – even in disaster – possess capacities as well as vulnerabilities. Where possible, we will strengthen these capacities by employing local staff, purchasing local materials and trading with local companies”7

The urge to help those in need, human or animal, is great, particularly for those in fields that require compassion and empathy as wildlife care does. However, we must always ask ourselves, do they need our help? In discussions with IWRC staff, rehabilitators in Australia have repeated that they do not need more volunteers. Instead they need financial aid and encouragement from the global community. The wildlife carers in Australia are facing one of the most devastating wildlife disasters in recent history but they are also knowledgeable about the local wildlife, invested, and already on the ground. With this in mind IWRC recommends that individuals only deploy when invited to ensure that your help is really helping.  Watching disaster unfold from the “sidelines” can elicit feelings of helplessness, idleness, and even frustration or anger. It is critical, however, to ensure that our efforts to help have the results we intend. Flying to Australia may bring the satisfaction of acting in the face of catastrophe but before booking a plane ticket we must first weigh the monetary, environmental, and local costs. In many cases other means of solidarity or aid may be more appropriate. You may consider donating to an organization who is doing work you support. You might also think about how you can support those fighting to protect and save wildlife in Australia on an emotional level— for example you could participate in our letter writing campaign or make a video of support. Finally, you could take action in your own patch of the world to protect wildlife, your local ecosystem or the global biosphere. 

In Solidarity,

The IWRC Staff  

 

Works Cited

  1. Brown B. Can Help Hurt? Harvard Political Review. [Internet] MA. 2018 Jun 11. [2020 Jan 10]. available from harvardpolitics.com/online/can-help-hurt/.
  2. Yu P, Xu R, Abramson MJ, Li Shanshan, Guo Y. Bushfires in Australia: a Serious Health Emergency under Climate Change. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2020; 4(1). 2020 Jan 1. [Cited 2020 Jan 10]. Available from doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(19)30267-0
  3. Williams K. IWRC Works to Support to Wildlife Carers Affected by Australian Bushfires. Eugene (OR): IWRC; 2020 Jan 15 [accessed 2020 Feb 12]. available from theiwrc.org/archives/75979.
  4. Calculate and Compensate for Your Emissions! Myclimate. [accessed 2020 Jan 10]. www.myclimate.org/carbon-offset
  5. Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator – Revision History. Washington (DC): Environmental Protection Agency. [accessed 2020 Jan 10]. www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator-revision-history
  6. Kelman I, Dodds R. Developing a Code of Ethics for Disaster Tourism. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. [Internet] 2009; 27(3)272-296. available from http://ijmed.org/articles/499/
  7. IFRC. The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. Geneva: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. available from https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/who-we-are/the-movement/code-of-conduct/

 

Spotlight on Max Lipman

Q&A with Max:

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

New barn owl patient

I was very fortunate to have outdoorsy parents. However, until my first internship with a wildlife hospital, I was completely naive to the field of wildlife rehabilitation. When I found out about it, I was instantly intrigued. I always knew I wanted to be a non-domestic veterinary professional, but wasn’t sure how exactly… My internship helped solidify my interest after seeing the diversity, passion, and dedication of the amazing individuals within this field.

 

 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.

During the course of my career, the one thing I’ve enjoyed the most (aside from helping my wildlife patients, of course!) is working with the dedicated people who embody what it means to be an advocate for wildlife – not just on a population scale, but on the individual scale as well. Throughout my career, however, I learned about compassion fatigue and burnout the hard way. Because of this, I have become not only an advocate for excellent, progressive wildlife care, but also an advocate for exemplary ‘people care’ as well. To me, this isn’t just about maintaining positive mental health, but also encouraging camaraderie and collaboration.

 

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

Barn owl receiving an exam

I believe my ability to work and sympathize with others has helped me become a better wildlife professional, given that our work would simply not be possible without the support, collaboration, and dedication of others!

 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

Early in 2019 I received an amazing opportunity to move from California to Oregon and open a new, state-of-the-art wildlife hospital. Despite having to leave a job I loved, it was quite the unique experience to use what I’ve learned worked (and perhaps most importantly – what didn’t work!) to design a modern wildlife hospital and comprehensive rehabilitation program from the ground up!

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

This is a tough question… Part of me wishes I could be a sea otter because watching them dart through the water like flexible torpedos is so fascinating (the great ‘free’ healthcare they’re receiving thanks to the amazing wildlife rehabilitation facilities on the coast is an added bonus) but after seeing how demanding their lives can be in a rapidly changing environment (as well as how they bounce in the waves in combination with my lack of enthusiasm for roller coasters) that’s probably not a great idea… 

 

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

I remember when I first started as a young intern in the field of wildlife rehabilitation… I would be so nervous and excited at what the unique challenges and learning opportunities the next day would bring, I would have difficulty falling asleep. I’m happy to say (after some hard work) I still get that feeling today!

Raccoon under anesthesia

IWRC Australia Letter Writing Campaign

The issue: As you may know, the wildfires in Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia have consumed large areas and devastated local wildlife populations in the millions — with estimates of the animal death toll at over a billion individuals. Wildlife rehabilitators are working tirelessly to triage, aid, and hopefully rehabilitate these animals. This work is challenging because of the sheer volume of animals and limited resources. It is also emotionally overwhelming to see such death and destruction, to lose many patients or not be able to get to animals in time.

 

What can we do?: The IWRC aims to support those on the ground in Australia with a morale boosting campaign. We are soliciting letters from youth (or anyone wishing to participate) to send to the rehabilitators, vets, and wildlife workers in Australia. This is a simple act but one that may make a significant difference for those dealing with this crisis first hand.

 

How you can help:

Write a letter/card, facilitate a letter writing campaign with youth, or donate cards or shipping.

Create a video message of support to the wildlife carers in Australia.

Donate to the affected wildlife centers (list of centers needing support)

Letter writing guidelines:

  •     Be encouraging and/or thankful
  •     Please stay positive (these people are surrounded by devastation and need a boost!)
  •     Address them generally (For example Dear Wildlife rehabilitators in Australia; To our friends in Australia etc.).
  •     Add personal touches, have fun, and be creative!

 

Delivery Instructions: The IWRC will send all physical letters in bulk. If you are located near our office location (anywhere in Eugene Oregon) we may be able to pick them up. Otherwise they can be mailed to PO Box 3197 Eugene, OR 97403. If you have digital items to send please email them to office@theiwrc.org.

 

Delivery times: We will send the first batch of letters on Thursday, January 16th. Thereafter we will send them out on Thursdays, dates TBD.

If you have questions please feel free to email office@theiwrc.org or call 866.871.1869

Australia

There are no words in any human vocabulary to describe the unimaginable horror as Australia burns. There are emotions, deep-stabbing pains of grief, voids and the vacancy of loss, infinite vacuum of pain, but no words. Not one living thing consumed by this hell brought on by human greed and antipathy deserves this fate. I write this now, as my Australian colleagues have much more important things to do. I hope to voice some of their feelings, but I do not speak for them; I understand there is no possibility that I can ever know the pain they suffer.

Looking on the holocaust from afar is devastating. In the field, you put your head down, go to work, do your best and continue on. The personal pain and suffering comes later. From far away, helpless horror and despair takes over. I cannot weep, I cannot rage, I am numb. The tearing rip through my soul does not yet sear.

Rufous scrub-bird illustration (C) P. Latas

I have been an Australiophile since I can remember. On my first trip, the first view from the airport on hitting the soil of this fabulous continent took my breath away. I knew I was there. The airport, the people, the industrial aspect –all familiar–but there were galahs, right there. And magpie larks and noisy miners and funny-looking pigeons with crests. I was entranced and filled with wonder! Of all the places in the world to burn to nothingness, the loss of Australia is unfathomable. It is a continent already at the brink, and so susceptible and fragile to anthropogenic damage. The impact on the unique and ancient flora and fauna is beyond the scope of human understanding. There is nowhere else in the world these ecosystems and organisms exist. The fires are needless, preventable squandering of irreplaceable, priceless treasures. The Earth has been violated and robbed. So fortunate have I been, to have visited for several extended tours in regions that now are visions of hell. I vividly remember that stunning individual bowerbird who is now surely ash and his lovely bower rendered to molecules. I remember the first wild koalas I saw, on Kangaroo Island, smelling of chewed eucalyptus, whose remains now intermingle with the charcoal of their favorite gum trees.

Noisy scrub-bird illustration (C) P. Latas

Reading the news that Kangaroo Island was aflame dropped the bottom out of my heart. I remember Australia: the first goanna, the first mallee trees; the first brown snake; the first bulldog ant; the first voracious leech; I remember them all and I know they are gone, dead in the most horrible fashion. Gone are half a billion wild animals. Half of all animals in Australia. Countless livestock and pets. Indigenous communities, lands and people. Death of entire ecosystems. Death of a continent. Death of biological record so important to evolution and systematics. Death of history.

Australia is the lesson to the world of what is to come. It is not a surprise. In the late 1970’s I was a fresh young college student working in ecological studies, some of which were predicting the course of human impact on global ecosystems. For 50 years humans have known what would happen, yet little was done to change the course of destruction. Governments have refused to acknowledge or implement policy to prevent disaster. Australia is the result. The rest of us are next.

Facebook user Renae Bruce posted this photo of her brother-in-law holding one of the seven koala’s he rescued in the bush after the fire passed in Mallacoota.

As a wildlife veterinarian I know there is little to be done. Skills in euthanasia will be the most valuable at this point. Yet valiant and dedicated people give their all and rescue the animal fire victims, of which each individual will now be more important than ever to any remaining population. Wildlife rehabilitators are always heros; but this is a new level of courage.

How can we help? I know that everyone of you would jump on a plane tomorrow with a bag of supplies, but that is not what our friends and the burn victims need most. 

  • The easiest answer is money – providing money so rehabilitators can buy what they need.
  • Morale support – we are there if needed. Spreading the word, for help and for prevention.
  • Educating ourselves and others about our local ecological regions and how humans fit into our world, and how deeply we damage it. 
  • Advocating for change and awareness. 
  • Being political and outspoken when needed. 
  • Acknowledging the imminent climate crisis and preparing for the impact on our own turf.

 

Be the best wildlife rehabilitator you can be – in the future you will be needed more than ever!

 

Pat Latas, DVM

IWRC Board of Directors

 

Editor’s note: University of Sydney Ecology professor Chris Dickman is estimating 1 billion animals have been killed thus far by the record-breaking wildfires in Australia, as of Jan 8, 2020.

Twitter user @LuckayyLucario maps showing Sep-Dec burned areas comparing 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 using NASA data as of Jan 1, 2020.

 

IF YOU CONTINUE TO SCROLL DOWN, YOU WILL SEE DISTURBING IMAGES OF WILDLIFE AFFECTED BY FIRE

 

 

 

From CentralTelegraph.com.au A young girl looks at the burnt body of dead kangaroo while walking her dog along a scorched property at Mallacoota. Picture: David Caird

 

Facebook user Luke McCrone posted this photo, saying “Just went for a walk along the beach at #Mallacoota literally hundreds of dead birds washing up. The toll these fires has taken on our wildlife is devastating.”

 

On Jan 2, Facebook user Nick Ritar posted the following ten photos taken at Bastion Beach in Mallacoota, Victoria and said:

“Birds of Eastern Australia 2020

1. Kookaburra
2. Rainbow Lorikeet
3. unidentified
4. Top Knot Pigeon
5. unidentified
6. New Holland Honeyeater
7. Whipbird
8. Gang-gang Cockatoo
9. Silvereye
10. Barn Owl

This is what climate change looks like.”

Editors note: specimen identifications were his, and frankly – there’s really no need to publicly speculate or correct them at this point in time. 

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, kookaburra.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, rainbow lorikeet.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, unidentified (pigeon/dove family).

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, topknot pigeon.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, unidentified.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, New Holland honeyeater.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, whipbird.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, gang-gang cockatoo.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, silvereye.

 

Facebook user Nick Ritar, barn owl.

 

Editors note: The act of compiling this post has been enough shake me to my core. Just like you, I feel utterly devastated and every image actually feels like someone is trying to pull my heart out of my chest. I have cried, wanted to punch someone (preferably a climate denier) and seriously considered screaming into a pillow as a release. But none of those things will help the people and animals that are suffering and I know the only thing I actually can do to help them is to donate. This is yet more reason for me to get back to work on IWRC’s Disaster Preparedness project so that we – all wildlife rehabbers -can all be ready to respond to these events in the future. I’ve lived through several big fire outbreaks here in southern California and I can honestly say that the only thing the local rehabbers needed from the outside rehabbers was money and moral support. So please, choose one or more of the rehab affiliated links that we have listed on this Facebook post and donate. – Brooke Durham