Wildlife rehabilitation is a relatively new field, but it is growing, fueled both by increasing conflicts between humans and their wild neighbors and by an expanding concern for the welfare of all animals.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter Jim Sterba, who studied the phenomenon intensely for his book Nature Wars, “It is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals and birds in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history.”
The reason for this stunning development is simple: There are more wild animals in the city now because, with the loss of woods and farm lands, the animals have no choice but to make the city their home. However, an environment built by and for humans is inevitably fraught with peril for animals that evolved to live successfully in a completely different, natural setting.
In short, more and more animals are finding themselves in trouble, and this trend is likely to increase in the foreseeable future.
Upon finding a distressed animal, many people are desperate to do whatever they can to get the animal some help. Helping these animals is, however, not a simple matter. By law, they must be treated by a trained rehabilitator who has the requisite state and federal permits. Moreover, successful wildlife rehabilitation requires specific expertise, supplies, and facilities. Despite the best of intentions, most veterinarians, animal shelters, and private individuals are simply not able to rehabilitate wildlife. When private citizens attempt it on their own, not only are laws broken, but the results are most often unsuccessful and the safety of the would-be rehabilitators may be jeopardized.
In light of this, it is clear that wildlife rehabilitators provide a unique and valuable service to those who find hurt and abandoned wild animals, as well as an important resource to other private and public animal agencies.