Reuniting and Fostering Wildlife

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By Anne Miller (reprinted from the November 2011 IWRC newsletter)

A ground-breaking session on Reuniting and Fostering Wildlife was one of the highlights of the IWRC Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale this November.  A panel of seven speakers described methods of reuniting and fostering most species of native North American wildlife in a series of half-hour programs that provided persuasive proof that reuniting healthy young wild animals with parents should be ‘an obligation, not an option’ in nearly all situations.  The presentations underscored the fact that juveniles raised in the wild by their own parents learn valuable skills such as prey recognition and predator avoidance that are hard to teach in a rehab setting.  Older juveniles also benefit significantly from the protection of parents during the vulnerable period while they are becoming independent.

The case was made that the practice of keeping healthy juveniles that could be reunited causes severe overcrowding in many wildlife rehabilitation centers, leading to unnecessary expense, overcrowded facilities, and staff stress and burnout. Wildlife rehabilitation centers that reunite all healthy juveniles see immediate benefits from the much smaller number of animals requiring treatment, allowing them to provide the best quality of care for those animals that cannot survive without their help.
The session was sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, and was co-chaired by Laura Simon, of the HSUS, and Anne G. Miller, author of ‘Calls of the Wild:  Using Recorded Calls and Other Tools to Reunite Juvenile & Adult Raptors’.  Anne Miller opened the session by demonstrating that reuniting wild animals with their parents ensures the greatest chance of survival for dependent young, but that we need to understand the biology of a species in order to ensure a successful outcome when reuniting.  Featured Speakers included Jay Holcomb, Director Emeritus of International Bird Rescue, speaking on Reuniting Ducks & Geese; Rebecca Dmytryk, of WildRescue, speaking on Reuniting Raptors; Elizabeth Hanrahan of Ocracoke Wildlife Rehabilitation, speaking on Reuniting Songbirds and Shorebirds; Diane Nickerson, Director of Mercer County Wildlife Center, speaking on Reuniting Fawns; and John Griffin, of Humane Wildlife Services, speaking on Reuniting Small Mammals in the Urban Setting. Laura Simon wrapped up the program by making a persuasive case that we need a new paradigm where rehabilitation success is measured not in terms of intake/ release statistics, but in the number of animals successfully reunited and kept out of rehab facilities.
The session was followed by a planning meeting also sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, and attended by all of the speakers, aimed at organizing a nation-wide campaign to promote the practice of reuniting healthy young animals wherever possible.  The group is actively recruiting experienced wildlife rehabilitators who are interested in cooperating in a nationwide network to research and develop viable protocols and to help promote reuniting and fostering wildlife as an essential practice for wildlife rehabilitators.  For information, contact Anne Miller at

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