The rehabbers are tasked with managing the care of the patients and residents at PRWC. They spend their days tending to the weak and broken. Is it any wonder that their compassion does not extend to people? At least not to me. I’m pretty sure they are trying to get me killed. They often send me on rescues or releases into dubious conditions.
I was recently given a nest box full of baby squirrels that we had raised at PRWC. They had been in home care for weeks, then placed in outdoor habitats back at the Center to get them used to being outside. When the time came for their release back into the wild, we locked them into the nest box in their habitat, reattach it to a tree at a location where at least one of them was originally found, and then open the box to allow them to explore their new (old) home at their leisure.
The directions I was given to find this nirvana seemed fairly straightforward. The homeowners at the given address were out of town for a few days, but gave us permission to return the squirrels. There was no ladder onsite, so I had to bring my own. Not an ideal situation, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
When I got there, the garage door was wide open as were the windows. This was a rural community, but no one is going to leave for a few days and leave everything wide open. I had either been given the wrong address (wouldn’t be the first time) or they hadn’t left yet. I rang the doorbell, and hearing nothing, knocked. At this point I probably should have left the property. I, of course, just started hiking around, looking for a good tree in which to attach the squirrel box.
Around the first corner there was a ladder leaning up against the side of the house. Further proof that I was in the wrong place. But, having found a fun tree to climb, I gathered my equipment and began the task. Balancing a drill and a couple screws, plus the nest box full of juvenile squirrels careening around inside, I climbed up the ladder to a fork in the tree where I could lean the box while attaching it to the trunk.
Mission accomplished, I returned my gear to my car and placed the homeowner’s ladder where I found it. Still no one threatening me with a shotgun. No vicious attack Rottweiler coming at me á la Cujo. I’m still pretty sure I had the wrong place. Won’t these people be surprised when they get home from work and find a weird little wooden box in their tree?
While the rehabbers failed to get me shot or mauled by a guard dog on this adventure, I did get two screws in one tire. So, they did have some satisfaction. Oh, how I love badly rutted dirt roads in my Volt—which was made for minimum wind resistance, not the Baja 1000.
Happy to have provided some entertainment for my overworked staff back at PRWC, I have finished tallying the numbers for 2017. Our patient total of 2,443 reflects an increase of approximately 10% over last year. We had a few more mammals than birds this year, an unusual occurrence. Since PRWC’s educational exhibits include mostly birds, many people thank we treat only avian species. Our 2017 statistics show we treated 44% birds, 48% mammals, and 8% reptiles.
We saw a total of 113 different bird species, 27 different mammals, and 28 different reptiles. The top three types of birds were mourning doves, northern mockingbirds, and common grackles. The three most common mammals seen were eastern cottontails, eastern grey squirrels, and Virginia opossums. Gopher tortoises comprise the vast majority of reptiles we see.
One of the most important figures at year’s end is patient outcome. Overall, PRWC had a positive outcome for 49% of our patients, and a negative outcome for 51%. A positive outcome includes patients that recovered well enough to be released, or were transferred to another facility for continued care or to become an education resident.
It is an unfortunate fact that some patients are dead on arrival, or very nearly so. After removing patients that do not survive the first 24 hours of care, our positive outcome increases to 82%. That number is increased over last year and that is definitely good news.
Thanks to the community that supports us both financially and by volunteering their time, PRWC is able to help the injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals in and around Charlotte County. A huge thanks to our employees who, while being paid to do the job, could be making much more money if employed by a for-profit company. Wildlife rehabilitation is a labour of love and we all love the animals we are able to help and all the other people who assist us in that endeavor.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM