Here at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, our goal is to treat wildlife to be able to release them back into the wild. If you’ve brought in an animal and called back to get an update on it, you may have been disappointed to learn we humanely euthanized it (put to sleep). This news can be especially difficult to hear if you thought the animal’s injuries were treatable or if you didn’t think it was injured at all, but just orphaned. While an animal’s injuries and how they might be treated are the first things we evaluate when we start to examine or triage an animal, many other factors go into our decision making when we try to determine whether this animal would be able to be released in the future. To be released back into the wild, an animal must be at an appropriate age and able to survive on their own, meaning any recovery from injury must not affect their ability to hunt, forage, reproduce, or move around.
This fledgling (young bird not yet old enough to fly) stretches his wings and vocalizes, displaying appropriate behavior. This bird is too young to be completely independent, but old enough to start feed himself, as evidenced by the mess scattered about his towel. Younger birds with minimal feathering can be challenging to care for in a rehabilitation setting and overall do better in their nest with mom!
If during our exam, it is determined that the animal is not able to fully recover from its injuries, which would result in a decreased ability to survive in the wild, we will elect to humanely euthanize the animal to minimize its suffering.
Here are some of the questions we ask ourselves while triaging these animals to determine whether or not they can be treated to release.
Injured wildlife have complex needs and often require several weeks of care. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators utilize their extensive knowledge, training, and experience to ensure these animals can go back to the wild and fulfill their role in the ecosystem. The Wildlife Medical Clinic (WMC) provides medical care to approximately 2,000 patients each year, representing more than 100 different species. Once the animal is medically cleared, we partner with wildlife rehabilitators to transition this animal back to the wild and optimize its chances for success thereafter. Some of our youngest patients present as healthy orphans, requiring assisted feedings, a warm safe environment, and a chance to learn their natural behaviors. Our partnership with licensed wildlife rehabilitators is most evident in these cases, as they are best able to provide a place for care and an eventual transition to the wild as the animal grows.
BY: Kristen Braitkrus UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE
Who is this weirdo wearing a sheet, surgical mask, and gloves and what are they doing with that needle? Believe it or not, this is one of your friendly Wildlife Medical Clinic veterinary student volunteers! The patient this volunteer is treating is one that requires a very special dress code for a very special reason.
Springtime is an extremely busy time for the Wildlife Medical Clinic. Baby animals are brought in in droves to the Small Animal Clinic and veterinary student volunteers sign up for multiple shifts during the weekdays and weekends to keep these babies warm, clean and fed.