Tuesday, July 30 2013 @ 02:47 AM EDT
Contributed by: davidh
Hancock here: a Review of our policy of the difficulty of rescuing raptors into rehab and then to "euthanize or not to euthanize."
The last element to "euthanize or not to euthanize" captures all the gut wrenching emotions facing a person who just exercised their 'right motivations' and 'feel good' elements of considering to help out a critter in need. Now the more terrible decisions come forward. But lets start with the previous question that they faced moments earlier: when to bring a wild eaglet into captivity? Is this the right moment to intervene? Or can we leave this creature in the wild for another few hours or days or is this the last and best chance to capture? Animals have great recuperative powers and our judgements are not always right. What is best for the animal? Difficult questions to answer but we feel obligated to evaluate and act -- we are humans!
Rehabers offer great service but not without investing great commitment and often gut wrenching efforts. So here is my perspective on some of these gut-wrenching issues -- from a committed animal lover, a conservationist, a breeder of many birds, a biologist and one of British Columbia's pioneer rehabers. And one thing is clear from my 64 years of dealing with these issues: the commitment inevitably leads to a lot of gut-wrenching aftermath and none of the decisions ever gets easier.
While much of the following can apply to most species I am specifically addressing eagles that are more frequently getting into difficulties and need our help.
Why do I even attempt to answer this emotion-charged field: The big answer is simple -- I care about the animals and have been directly involved in these decision from my early years. So here it is again. At age 11 we moved to a farm and I started to raise pigeons, pheasants and the family chickens. The first year I caught a hawk, met one of the world's most experienced falconers and he became my mentor into understanding ecology. Because of my mentor, Frank Beebe's position working at the Provincial Museum and his connections with the biologist community, I was soon the only person on southern Vancouver Island who the Fish & Wildlife Gamewardens or biologists could bring an injured bird or mammal to for care. The SPCA was not equipped to look after hawks, seabirds or cougar kittens. Hancock became the easy way out! And this was a long time before there were 'rehab permits' -- there was just the need to have someone look after orphaned or incapacitated wildlife. Time and circumstances simply dictated that I was given anything rescued from the Island or from the mainland if Stanley Park Zoo didn't want to deal with it!
The menagerie soon extended from raptors to seabirds and seals, bears, cougars and deer. The house and farm soon took on the trappings of the first rehabilitation center for the British Columbia area. I would commandeer the local vets into helping, but that is expensive and pretty soon the unpaid vets were encouraging me to learn to handle most challenges on my own. The biggest challenge then was if you could not release a critter, was to find it a home or euthanize the poor beast. Then we had more options: at least there were possibilities of giving the animal to a zoo, private breeder or an educator.
Today, few animal are wanted by or acceptable to zoos. Giving wildlife to private people or educators is almost a no-no. So the options for today's rehabers are basically 'wild release' or 'euthanasia'. These are tough calls by people who care.
In BC if the bird is not likely fixable for release the bird is/must be put down. The real troubling area becomes those birds that look treatable, are treated for some time, but in the end are evaluated as 'possibly not being able to cut the wild mustard'. Now a lot of time, money, personal attachment, commitment and emotion have come into the equation for this one bird. Challenging for all.
Root Decision: At the roots of the first few decisions are: (a) can the bird ........