A Very Eco-Friendly Holiday

By Kathleen Rafferty, College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2021

It’s November, and the holiday season is right around the corner. There are many things you can do to make your ecological footprint smaller this year! Here are just a few ideas:

Give a Gift of Meaning

In a world full of stuff, heartfelt gifts can take on a whole new dynamic. Instead of unwrapping presents, consider an experience (such as attending a concert, comedy show, or play), creating a holiday tradition (such as baking cookies, caroling, or volunteering in the community), or making a donation on behalf of your loved one. Many organizations, such as the Wildlife Medical Clinic, have opportunities to acknowledge the gift publicly or privately in order to cater to your specific needs. Sponsor-A-Day at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, for example, is a unique, eco-friendly way to celebrate a holiday, anniversary, or birthday.

[feeding an orphaned squirrel]For more information on how you can claim your day at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, visit us at: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/6403802

For information on additional gift opportunities check out our website: https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/giving/

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Making the tough decisions

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.

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Partnering with Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators

[baby opossums]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. 

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