About NYS Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
I have been proud to be part of the New York Wildlife Rehabilitation Council for 36 years. An organization ages as do people, with ebbs and flows, with members coming and going, challenges met, and its relevance waxing and waning over time. In the early ‘80s NYSWRC was young, finding our way, establishing our relevance, and full of new ideas and hope; hope that we could develop a wildlife rehabilitation program that would insure quality care for wildlife and represent the interests of wildlife rehabilitators. Highpoints include:
-Participated in the development of the first Wildlife Rehabilitation Study Guide and Exam Booklet written by Tufts Wildlife Clinic under the supervision of Dr. Mark Pokras
Developed the log and tally sheets.
-In those years we also logged phone calls to document our service to the public – for every animal admitted there were at least 3 times that number of calls from the public.
-The first NYSWRC annual ‘seminar’ was held in 1980 with humble beginnings at the NYSDEC facility, Camp DeBruce. Despite the primitive setting, we hosted speakers renowned in the wildlife rehabilitation world. Our conference continues today with the experts in the field.
-Implemented an award to recognize veterinarians who help us with wildlife
-Wrote the first “If You Care, Leave Them There” public service information; produced a brochure for veterinarians interested in treating wildlife, “Distressed Wildlife and the Veterinarian”
-Published the newsletter, Release
-Sponsored mini-seminars: fund-raising, Leonard LeRue on photography, several oil spill classes, and when raccoon rabies entered NY, we sponsored an rabies seminar with expert speakers from across the country and Canada
-Hosted a National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association conference and also an International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council’s conference; hosted a regional northeast conference with several other state groups
-Supported and aided in the passing of the law in 1985 that made wildlife rehabilitation a legal activity
We are not resting on laurels and there are areas in need of improvement: recruitment into wildlife rehabilitation, an update of our program, keeping our newsletter relevant, re-establishing a cooperative relationship with DEC, and policing ourselves to maintain professionalism. Certainly last year presented new challenges with the imposition of the license conditions from NYSDEC concerning bear, deer, and moose, and in particular the manner in which these came about: out of nowhere, with no input from licensed rehabilitators, and little rationale for the changes given. As you may know, this prompted us to file a lawsuit against DEC, which unfortunately was dismissed. Attached is a summary of the reason for dismissal, as well as the dismissal of the suit filed by the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Center. Though this is disappointing, we will look ahead and seek opportunities to work cooperatively with DEC as we did for many years.
This past year has seen some much needed updates to NYSWRC. We have joined the social media world (FB) and joined the 21st century with a facelift to our website, including online registration and conference information. Many thanks to all the hard work by our Board members who helped make this happen. If there are still kinks in the system, bear with us, as many of us are not that technically savvy and this has been a laborious process for us. We welcome feedback on how to improve our efforts. This has been a transition year as well due to the departure from the Board of Steve and Amy Freiman, who for so many years kept the conference process on track. Many thanks to the Board members who stepped up and stepped in to fill big shoes. Again, speakers and those attending conference, please let us know if we missed things we used to do, or did things differently that may have caused blips or errors. I know we stepped on each other’s toes a bit and duplicated efforts to be sure things were getting done. We want to hear from you as to how to always keep making things better.
There are a few sad changes happening. A Board member from long ago, Linda Cleminshaw, helped give NYSWRC its public face. A graphic designer by trade, she designed our logo (a graphic rendition of antlers, or hands freeing a bird), designed our newsletter and proposed the name, Release, and coined the name “Nice Work” for NYSWRC. Linda left the board many years ago but continued to design our awards, namely the “Veterinarian of the Year”. This year, Linda felt she was unable to continue to do this work. We are grateful for her contributions. There are two board members ‘retiring’ this year, Ellen Kalish and Barb Cole. Ellen brought many years of experience as a rehabilitator, educator, and falconer to our Board. She accepted any conference duty asked of her and did so willingly and cheerfully. In addition, she has done a terrific job putting together some of our specialty raffle baskets. Barb has been on the Board for nearly as long as me! She stepped up to the plate when I took a leave of absence as President when I had my daughter Kate. Barb has an incredible memory for all kinds of things, some of it absolute trivia, but she is also a wealth of knowledge on natural history and animal facts. There is always something to be learned from Barb. It is our hope that both will help us when needed and we especially hope they will continue to join us at conference time. We will miss them.
In closing, I need to include a very personal note. This is the first year since she was born, June 1 1998, that ‘our’ daughter Kate will not be with us at conference. She made her debut at her first NYSWRC conference, held in late October. I remember because her Halloween costume on banquet night was that of a bat. This year she is studying in Bhutan and will not be able to join us and is sad not to be with her extended NYSWRC family. I must thank our NYSWRC family for being great role models, for making a kid feel a part of the experience, for including her in conversations, for sharing your stories and humor, for helping to shape her ethics and heart. After 36 years, I still look forward to this event and thank you all for joining us.