About NYS Wildlife Rehabilitation Council

Kelly Martin, NYSWRC President

Fall is here, winter is approaching, and we come together for yet another, the 35th, NYSWRC conference. I am pleased to say that I have been present for all but the first of these significant gatherings. Humble beginnings at the NYSDEC rustic and rough Camp DeBruce have grown into one of the most respected meetings for wildlife rehabilitators in the country. Since our beginning, and continuing today, NYSWRC has benefitted greatly from a dedicated, hard- working, and cooperative Board of Directors. Maintaining a standard of excellence in our quarterly newsletter, Release, and hosting our annual conference are the two primary on-going achievements of the organization. To those who contribute articles to our newsletter, and especially to those who give their time and share their expertise at the annual conference, we thank you. Not only do those who care for wildlife reap the benefit of these shared experiences, our wild patients benefit as well with the skills and knowledge gained put to good use in care for wildlife. From the inception of our organization, NYSWRC is also grateful for the cooperative working relationship we have maintained with our licensing agency, NYSDEC, to the benefit of the wildlife rehabilitation program in NY.

Looking back, there is much to be proud of, but annual messages are also a time for looking ahead. There are new challenges facing older organizations, such as NYSWRC, which must, ‘get with the times’. Happily, some of our newer, and let’s face it – younger, board members, as well as some older members more current with technology than some of the rest of us, are helping the organization become more up to date. For starters, we are redesigning the website and have joined Facebook. Please “Like” us! For an organization that serves primarily those licensed to care for wildlife, or those who want to become licensed, the challenges are numerous. How to continue to serve licensed wildlife caretakers, yet offer something of interest to the general public? These efforts are a work in progress and we welcome input from our membership. How do we maintain interest in our quarterly newsletter with information available over the internet? Will the newsletter become obsolete? Again, we welcome input. For now, we still welcome submissions for the newsletter, especially articles that will benefit rehabilitators; examples: interesting case studies, natural history or species information, hand-rearing information, center design or rehabilitator profiles…

A word to the wise. With the advent of the internet and social networking has come the public revelation of some not-so-professional ‘rehabilitation’. It hard to resist the cutesy animal photo ops, especially when partnered with fund raising. The public eats it up. Please consider that these photos can encourage the public to want to share that same experience with a wild animal. This does not reflect well on professional (and by this I don’t mean one gets paid) wildlife rehabilitation. These images tarnish what is at the core of good wildlife rehabilitation.

Still relatively new in New York, is the NYSDEC Wildlife Health Program. Rehabilitators are being plugged into this program and there is an information-sharing list serve (contact nah88@cornell.edu) and ask to be included. You will be sent information pertaining to disease concerns and updates relevant to wildlife rehabilitation. It is imperative that we arm ourselves with the most current and accurate information, not only to provide the best care possible for wildlife, but also to keep ourselves, our families, and the public safe.

Another challenge facing wildlife rehabilitation everywhere is recruitment of new people. With the passing of yet another “baby season” it is apparent that there are not enough people to ease the workload. Improved networking can help but that is not enough to ease the overloads on existing licensed rehabilitators. Becoming a Class II rehabilitator and taking on assistants can help, but, that brings work with training and overseeing your volunteers.

However, these assistants may go on to get their own licenses and once trained can help ease the workload. Even more frustrating is the lack of people who have gotten authority to rehabilitate rabies vector species (bat, raccoon, skunk). Those who do hold the RVS license get overwhelmed and quickly reach a saturation point when they simply cannot take in more animals, generally orphans. The requirements are difficult and expensive, however, there remains a huge need for more people to obtain this license.

NYSWRC is pleased to announce that we will be hosting an oil spill training seminar in April 2016, on Long Island with training provided by Tri-State Bird Research & Rescue. This training is useful even if there is no large scale spill, with the information applicable to individual animals contaminated with oil, or some other icky, sticky, gooey, oily, or otherwise gross man-made foreign substance. We also continue to be very proud of offering continuing education credits for licensed veterinarians and technicians for many of the lectures, labs, and workshops presented at conference. Again, we thank the wildlife veterinarians who teach these classes, but also thank the practitioner taking these classes and who works with rehabilitators to provide medical care for wildlife. This team effort helps us with our successes in releasing wildlife back to the wild.

In giving out thanks, NYSWRC thanks our members for being a part of this organization. Our best effort goes into to educating people to become better wildlife rehabilitators. Since age, specifically old age, has been a part of this message, it is our hope that as a rehabilitator, you do not outgrow NYSWRC. We need the benefit of our shared experiences and expertise. We need support to continue to bring in new members into the wildlife rehabilitation community.