At Licking Valley Vet we treat a wide range of animals. Everything from rabbits to dogs to horses. We also treat wildlife through our local wildlife rehabilitation centers.
What is Wildlife Rehabilitation?
Wildlife rehabilitation or rescue is when wild animals are placed in the care of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. This would include wildlife that is injured or orphaned. Typically, it is baby animal’s, but some rehabilitators take in adults.
The rehabilitator has the job of feeding and caring for the animal until it can be released. Medical care is given as needed. Neonate wildlife just like human babies need round the clock care.
Caring for Wildlife
Wildlife are not pets, they are raised with the intention of releasing them when they are ready to survive on their own. They can not be raised in homes and around other pets because then they do not learn appropriate fear of predators.
Once babies are weaned from the bottle, human contact is limited and they start to receive natural foods and have experiences that teach them survival skills.
For instance, at Fox Run EEC baby raccoons are given lots of opportunities to climb trees. That is an important skill in the wild.
What is the Vet’s Role in Wildlife Rehabilitation?
In Kentucky, all licensed wildlife rehabilitators must have a vet who agrees to work with them. The vet agrees to provide needed medical care and advice.
Licking Valley Veterinary got involved in treating wildlife when one of our clients, Ame Vanorio, became a licensed rehabber. Vets are given a lot of fundamental skills in college but not a lot of classes that focus specifically on wildlife care. So, we have both been learning a lot!
A vet has the diagnostic equipment that is needed to determine what’s wrong. We may draw blood to check for diseases, take an X-Ray to check for broken bones, and prescribe needed medications.
Basically, the same care we give our domestic clients.
However, working with wildlife can be a bit tricky because we don’t know the whole story of what is happening. In addition, there is not a lot of medical information on what drugs work best in wild animal species.
Rehabilitators are trained in more common simple procedures such as giving fluids and treating wounds. Some of the things that the vet may be needed for is amputating or setting a broken bone, repairing crushed turtle shells, and administering rabies vaccinations.
Check out the blog on Fox Run ‘Why We Vaccinate’ to learn more about why it’s important to have healthy wildlife.
It’s important for the veterinarian and the wildlife rehabber to have good communication. Wildlife can be hard to treat because there is a lot of unknowns in their history.
Check out our podcast interview with Dr. Glaza and Ame Vanorio of Fox Run Environmental Education Center.
Follow us on Sound Cloud!
How Do I Know If a Wild Animal Needs Help?
Typically, wild animals come into rehabilitation because of human interference. For instance, they or their mother may have been hit on the road. The parent animal may have been trapped or killed before the person realized there were babies. Sometimes wildlife is injured when we mow or bale hay.
If a baby is next to a dead mother or has injuries from being hit on the road you should call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Sometimes the answer is not that obvious. In that case take the time to observe the animal. Often a wildlife rehabilitator will ask if you have observed the animal for 24 hours.
For instance, deer leave their babies deliberately. We have all seen pictures of cute fawns curled up in the woods.
When a fawn is under two weeks old it does not have the strength to keep up with mom. It also has little odor. So, mom leaves the fawn and goes to forage.
She thinks all the bad guys will follow her and leave her baby alone. She only comes back twice a day to nurse and move the baby.
So we never want to assume a fawn is an orphan. It’s the same with rabbits.
Never take a baby animal from it’s home without talking to a wildlife rehabilitator first.
How Do I Find A Wildlife Rehabilitator?
In Kentucky, wildlife rehabilitators are licensed through the Department of Fish and Wildlife. They have a list of licensed persons on their website. You can also call them at 800-858-1549.
Another good resource is Animal Help Now. They have an app for phones and a computer program that allows you to locate rescue centers near you. You just put in your address and animal that needs help and it will give you people who are nearest to you.
Wildlife and the Law
In Kentucky, it’s illegal to keep any wildlife as pets or to have them in your possession. A Good Samaritan clause allows you to transport wildlife to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator within 24 hours of finding them.
There are several repercussions if people are caught with wildlife illegally. The person may incur fines or jail time. Sadly, the animals are typically confiscated and euthanized.
Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator
There is a big need for wildlife rehabilitators in the state. Rehabbers are volunteers and must spend much of their own money on supplies and the ever-important vet bill! However, it’s very rewarding to know that you have helped an animal be able to live a normal and free life.
To learn more about what it takes to become a wildlife rehabilitator visit the Kentucky Wildlife Rehabilitators Association website.
Licking Valley Vet is excited to be expanding our clinic space and services to meet your needs. Check out our Facebook page @LVVS2010 to see our progress!
Give us a call at 859-472-4141 to make an appointment for your pet or ask a question about services.