When the chipmunks are down, Lynne McCoy is the one to call
Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. A baby bird falls out of a nest, a squirrel loses an argument with a neighborhood dog, or a too-curious raccoon injures itself.
In a situation like this, there’s only one person to call – your local wildlife rehabilitator.
“Rehabbers,” as they call themselves, are state and federally licensed to care for wild animals, and are the only ones legally able to do so. They work so that they may release the animals eventually into the wild again.
Rehabber Lynne McCoy has been working with injured animals for thirty years, caring for more than 500 sick or injured animals last year alone. She does it all from her home.
“A long time ago I was working with a humane society, helping to get it started,” McCoy told The Herald. “They called me to say they’d taken in an owl, and they couldn’t get it to eat the bird seed they were trying to feed it. Of course, owls don’t eat bird seed, so I agreed to take the owl and nurse it back to health.”
The Humane Society began sending McCoy more and more animals after that. “I told them I’d take anything that wasn’t domesticated, and they took me at my word,” she said.
That was thirty years ago. “There wasn’t much material out there on caring for wild animals,” McCoy recalled. “Most everything in veterinary medicine is geared toward pet animals. Back then it was very difficult to obtain the information I needed to help these creatures.”
From that first owl, McCoy began receiving about half a dozen injured animals each year. That number soon began to climb rapidly. “In the last twenty years it climbed into the hundreds per year. In the last few years, I’ve gotten as many as five hundred creatures that needed care in a single year,” McCoy said.
The restrictions for wild animal care are severe. “Only state-certified and -licensed rehabbers are allowed to have these animals,” McCoy explained. “And you need certification at the federal level to care for injured wild birds.”
There are very good reasons for those restrictions, chief of which is that only a rehabber knows how to properly care for the animal.
“Some well-meaning people might find, say, an injured baby squirrel,” McCoy said. “They’ll keep it, and feed it the wrong thing, and then after the squirrel fails to recover and becomes even sicker, then they call me.”
“The thing to do is to call your local rehabber first. They have the right food, the right cages held at the right temperatures, and the training to know what’s wrong and how to fix it,” McCoy explained.