Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ubiquitous Nature


Ubiquitous by some definitions means abundant or ever present. In North Idaho, we do seem to have ubiquitous nature = wild species and spaces galore, however when you look closer… 

Reflect on the reality of so many people moving ‘here’ from ‘there’.  They, just like you, appreciate the wildness of Idaho. Some Idahoans know the importance of sharing the habitats with our wild neighbors. We accept we are a part of not apart from nature. We understand that nature heals and rejuvenates – not in some energy crystals and auras kind of way (although there is some validity to that level) but in the way that spending time in nature forces you to realize you are one very small piece in a very large puzzle.   

Nature is not an entertainment destination. Nature is not a recreational venue to be abused. Nature is not an entitlement for the privileged. Nature is not a means to an end of accumulation of resources. Nature is not ubiquitous. Nature will not remain wild, unless we the people defend and protect.

“What can one person do? Stop being one person. You don’t have to do it all. Other people are working all around the world on the same causes you believe in. Find them, join up with them. You’ll find your place in the choir. Choose what you love and devote yourself to it. That is enough."  ~Joanna Macy

Bonner County has a many nonprofits with missions involving the environment and the protection of habitat components. These charities vary in size as well as the ways they accomplish their activities but one common thread connects them all – the need to have community support.

Ecologists use an airplane as a metaphor for nature. Imagine all the components necessary to create that craft – engine, wings, metal, nuts, bolts, wiring, computers, etc. in your mind substitute all the parts of a healthy functioning ecosystem in place of the parts of the airplane. The insect kingdom is the nuts and bolts, the wiring are the rodents such as squirrels, the metal panels are the small mammals, the glass and landing gear are the birds, the computer compartments are the predators, the oil and other necessary fluids – the water and lands, the engines are the trees and other flora. Do you have that image in your mind? Take a moment to and start removing all the flora and fauna which has gone extinct. Loosen or damage all the flora and fauna which are threatened and endangered. Do you still feel safe trying to fly in that plane?    

History will clarify that the native peoples of North America were connected to nature. Nothing was taken for granted; all life was respected and honored. Yet sadly, the ‘civilized peoples’ felt this connection to nature was ignorant.  The people were gathered up and forced to forget their ways. Hubert Reeves phrased it the best when he said: “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible nature. Unaware that this nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.” Nature is an ecosystem. The prefix ECO comes from GREEK - “OIKOS” meaning HOUSE. Ecosystem – a ‘household’ of organisms.   An ecosystem is the house we live in. Economy refers to how we manage that house.  


If that analogy is insufficient to stir your soul, perhaps a more human approach will be understood. Do you remember or have you read about the 1970 Kent State University shooting? This was decades before humanities ghoulish fascination with death and calling morbid images entertainment was normalized to the point of complete desensitization and yet a young girl ran to help, she ran to do something, she reacted towards the horror in front of her. The innocence of youth and being connected to her emotions and compassion were the driving force. What is the excuse for adults to not get involved in any good and kind act? Selfish narcissism or fear because of past traumas suffered at the hands of others who were not humane humans.  

Aldo Leopold said “the last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, what good is it?” The moral may be act for what you believe in, don’t try to dominate. Simply live and let others do likewise, work together to find peace. If we don’t remember history we are destined to repeat it. Let us not walk in the path of ignorance and follow misguided attempts of dominance.

Humans have caused habitat alteration, fragmentation, acid rain, increased ultraviolet light due to ozone depletion, pollution by toxic chemicals and heavy metals, predation from free roaming dogs & cats and introduced species competition, poaching, killing, trapping, drought, climate change, illegal transfer through pet trade or commercial collection, urbanization, improper harvesting techniques, burning fossil fuels, improper waste management, exhaust from motor vehicles, release of noxious gases like SO2, CO etc. from sources such as metal smelters, coal dust and particulates in our waterways,  air pollution leading to water & soil deforestation, leaking underground storage tanks, incorrect use of agricultural chemicals (fertilizers & pesticides), livestock grazing near waterways, solid waste disposal sites, treatment plant ‘sludge, Consider treatment plants cannot filter the toxins & the same water body where emptied is the tap water source as well, urban runoff (including salt from winter de-icing), improper logging techniques, lead poisoning from sinkers & bird shot (alternatives are available and exist). – biomagnification is the problem, feral pet populations, Release of industrial chemicals: crude oil, heavy metals, radioactive waste, including thermal pollution. Compounding issues of strip mining practices  which have currently exacerbated desert community groundwater supplies, septic systems (leaking or nonfunctional), household chemicals/ homeowner actions, street lights & outdoor advertising, etc. Each night billions of bulbs send their light pollution skyward. These bits of matter reflect the wasted light back to earth, causing wildlife damage.

The land mass of Idaho is 83,557 square miles, the 12th largest state in the lower 48.  The human population in Idaho has risen from 88,548 in 1890 to 431,866 on 1920. There were 721,519 residents in 1975. The 2011 census reported 1,584,985 humans living in 53.5 million acres. The 2020 census reported 1.8 million people sharing the same land space with the native wild animals. These wild ones are our native neighbors! Let us all learn to cohabitate, they are trying to exist with ever shrinking resources.  

The human race seems to be divided … those with empathy and those with apathy. Let nature guide your acts. Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult is…life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.   

Make a stand for wild spaces and species. Donate time, talent and treasure. For wildlife we are both their greatest enemy and their only hope. These wonderful creatures will not argue their case. They will not put up a fight. They will not beg for reprieve. They will not say goodbye. They will not cry out. They will just vanish.       And after they are gone, there will be silence. And there will be stillness. And there will be empty places. And there will be nothing you can say to change this. Nothing you do will bring them back. Their future is ENTIRELY in your hands.   

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Being a Good Neighbor

 We have all heard the saying it takes a village to raise a child into a responsible adult. A parent can read all the articles they want but there is so much more support when they talk with friends who have children who share experiences. That expression is based on good neighbors helping their neighbors.


Idaho is full of big hearted citizens and nonprofit charities. Idaho is also a community filled with many wonders of nature – wild spaces and species. How do we become good neighbors and keep Idaho WILD? We make time to learn about our native neighbors. Winter is a wonderful time to begin your studies. The wild animal residents will leave foot prints in the snow. There are only a few bird species who remain through winter’ you will be able to commit to memory the handful by vision and hearing. Did you know the shape of a birds beak gives clues to what it eats? Did you know there are four types of tree squirrels or that striped skunks will dig up underground wasp nest?


Time in nature is a reciprocal relationship. When you spend time learning the names of all the feathered, furry, scaled, and even wild animals with skin you will be healing yourself. By observing what they eat and where they find shelter, you can come a good neighbor.  Your time in nature, even the briefest exposure, will relax you and help you cope with the daily annoyances.


The estimated human population growth into Idaho over the next five years is staggering. The best way to maintain the beauty of our glorious neighborhood is to take the pledge to present the present as a present for future generations. We do this by connecting with local charities working to help wild animals. We do this by learning about our native wild animal neighbors and then sharing what we have learned with our fellow human neighbors.   


One easy way to observe wild birds is to maintain a yard with native plants. It is the best way to offer a diversity of natural foods. If you decide to put up bird seed or suet feeders in the spring or summer, please continue in winter. Remember if you do use feeders, please keep them clean. Dirty feeders will spread diseases such as salmonella and conjunctivitis. When songbirds flock together and one gets sick, inevitably the others will become ill. Sadly, the diseased birds who perish can still spread the disease. If you make the decision to offer supplemental foods, rejoice in the assortment of animals who visit. Your invitation for one, rapidly turns into many.  


Always be a good neighbor and respect the safe distance. Do not approach, nor try to take selfies. Do not offer unnatural food items – this is for their health and yours. A wild animal who does not fear humans is in danger. Be a good neighbor and help your wild native neighbors. We love where we live, so let’s work together to keep Idaho WILD.          
(thank you Bonnie for this great Pine Siskin photo) 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Baby its COLD outside!


Baby its COLD outside

How do the native neighbors, the wild animals we humans cohabitate with, stay warm? Heat is one of the seven components any habitat must provide to ensure survival. For endotherms (mammals and birds) heat is created internally and preserved by the integument (aka fur and feathers). Because humans do not enter states of brumation, aestivation, torpor or hibernation nor do we possess a naturally grown fur coat; we must use the finite supply of fossil fuels available such as natural gas, wood, coal, and/or oil. We utilize houses made of wood, nails, concrete, etcetera to make sure the elements do not affect our well-being. The wild animals call their shelters different names such as dens, burrows, and hibernaculums.

The wild animals cohabitating with us - the native neighbors, use shelter both natural and artificial. Trees offer internal cavities when both upright and fallen. Bird and Bat houses provide escape from sun and wind. Some animals use caves, or ground burrows and for some the only thing stopping them from certain death during long cold winter is a pile of fallen leaves. G. Pinchot states an obvious fact that has become overlooked. The forest is not merely a collection of trees.

To be scientific in the most simplistic way for just a brief moment, heat is in essence a byproduct of energy which has been acquired by consumption of food. All living beings need a food source. There must be producers and consumers. The food chain is the relationship of which organism eats what organism and who eats them. The reality of nature is there is no such thing as a bad animal. To survive one must eat or be eaten.  

If food provides the means to stay warm internally, how does the animal maintain that heat? Mammals have fur coats. Hair and fur is the same thing in the name but microscopically there are differences between species. A hair strand has layers; one factor contributed is the determination of coloration. Habitat conditions determine the special adaptions each animal will have. A few examples would be long guard hairs, thick deep undercoat, and special vibrissae.    The purpose of any pelt is to disallow dirt and water to settle onto the skin. When this happens the principle of the perfect seal of air is broken and conditions such as hypothermia (the extreme reduction of core body temperature) will arise. Some animals have hair which is hollow. These animals are the coat of the deer and the quill of the porcupine. The hollow hair traps air which forms an air pocket of body heat. The exception is bats who during hibernation allow their body temperature to drop to that of their environment!  

Just like mammals, birds must have some means to protect their skin. They do not have fur they have feathers. The structure of a feather under the microscope shows the barbules interlocking together and the hollow shaft. There are many ‘categories’ of feathers, plume, semiplume, down, and so forth but basically there are three types of feathers: down, contour and flight. Down feathers are the fluffy feathers located close to the body which help insulate the bird and keep it warm. They are located beneath the contour feathers. These are the external feathers which provide that sleek streamline shape. They shed the rain water and provide an extra layer of protection from the elements – the exception is owls. They sacrifice the ‘waterproofing’ of feathers in order to fly silently. The contour feathers are stiff, but flexible, strong but lightweight. The specialized feathers with the purpose of getting off the ground, staying in the air as well as landing safely are called flight feathers. Feathers are fascinating. Flight is an amazing. Want to know more? Raptor Freedom Project created a little article about feathers and flight which we have shared onto the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation facebook page.

What about the ectotherms? How do the reptiles such as snakes and turtles and the amphibians such as frogs stay warm? The animals with scales and skin must draw heat from external sources and be able to adapt their body temperature. They conserve their energy by slowing down the metabolisms and limiting movement. Snakes do not hibernate. They simply find a place of shelter and wait for frigid temperatures to pass. Shelter can be a hollow log, a rodent tunnel, or a pile of leaves. Often these burrows will be used year after year. Without shelter survival over winter is not likely. Lizards store much of the energy they need for survival in their tails. Some species who are able to ‘release’ their tail as a defense when predators attack will starve if they cannot regenerate the tail with sufficient stored energy. Turtles will find shelter at the bottom of the pond and settle in. They draw oxygen, as a fish does with gills, through a highly vascularized appendage - their tail! This special adaption is invaluable for survival. Problems may arise if the water freezes solid as this limits the oxygen. Frogs are amazing creations. The native wood frog for example will just stop moving, they appear to be frozen solid. This is because of the high glucose in the internal organs. This glucose provides two life sustaining properties, nourishment and antifreeze.

Can you name all seven components required for survival? Humans and the wild native neighbors alike need heat, shelter, light, water, soil, air and food. Please be kind and respectful of all living beings – the life you save may be your own. Humans are after all just one piece of this intricate puzzle called an ecosystem.

Find out more about your community supported Bonner County located professional wildlife rehabilitation nonprofits American Heritage Wildlife Foundation and Raptor Freedom Project on the web and social media. Call AHWF at 208.266.1488 to find out how you can become part of the team working to keep North Idaho WILD! 

twenty years


Thanks to your help, American Heritage Wildlife Foundation has been able to help the local injured and orphaned wild animals for 20 years! Pat yourself on the back for your dedication. A fellow rehabilitator of only songbirds had to close her doors in the middle of Spokane Valley after only 7 years due to lack of funds and volunteers helping. We are located in a rural location and care for all but the largest of species and we are still forging ahead with the mission to help the wild native neighbors and educate our human community. 


I wanted to share an excerpt from a recent email from a very large nonprofit group executive director:


every leader has an expiration date. There comes a time for all of us when – in taking a deep breath and a long look at where we are and most importantly where we’ve been – we realize that a new leader with fresh ideas and a different skill set is needed to take our organization to the next level.


I receive a lot of credit for being a great leader, but in all honesty, it is the team here at the Center and our incredible board of directors who share in the credit. We succeed as a team, always.


Those statements really sum it up as your founder and lead volunteer of every aspect of operations. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically tired.

I need to have others step up and exude their vibrant energy and revive my fatigued soul. While it does not seem like it, twenty years’ time has passed since the vision and the formal process began to create your local wildlife rehabilitation and community education nature center.

In all honesty, I have been working in wildlife rehabilitation longer than that. I was reflecting, not only wild animal work at three different zoos but also the fact that during the late 1990’s prior to moving out of state for a zookeeper position, I had been assisting the local Sandpoint conservation officer and accepted wild animals as patients. He even provided me with the vari-kennel crates! Wild animals have been needing my help for almost 30 years. I have been required to provide their every need – it is my divine calling.


Blessedly I have been supported these past several years by AMAZING friends.  I could not have gotten through without your financial support both for this mission of AHWF but also personally without your notes of encouragement and hugs.


In order to continue another 20 years:

We must have an active board of directors. This includes the presidency (if the members wish I will remain as the vice-president), a treasurer, and several other vacant seats.

We must have active committees – many people giving a little and working together to accomplish a lot!


Share with your friends (& followers) how important your support is. Your soul has been stirred by mission and vision of keeping Idaho wild – get them involved so they can experience this joy as well. Not only treasure is necessary to succeed; contributions of time and talent are also required. Consider getting involved with the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation board or volunteering or perhaps submit application for either the on-site or off-site internship positions. Details are on our secure webpage www.ahwf.org Consider getting involved with the Association of Idaho Rehabbers for wildlife support group (AIR for wildlife). This newly formed group www.airforwildlife.org which will be working with all the licensed Idaho wildlife rehabilitation facilities.


Duties of the aforementioned committees are:

a)      Wildlife Rescue (& transport) Team - These committee members should function in cooperation with any and all wildlife rehabilitation organizations within the state of Idaho which are in good standing and members if the Association. They arrange for transporting animals to and from facilities or veterinary hospitals as well as locating release sites. Additionally materials and supplies will be transported as needed from facility to facility. These may include surplus expired hospital items or frozen meat or . They keep records of the locations of cages and animal taxis drivers. Additionally these members shall abide by traffic laws as set forth by law enforcement when transporting wild animals from one facility to another. These members shall not attempt rescue of any wild animal without proper training and a notarized release waiver being on record. Accurate records of mileage will be maintained and provided upon delivery. Transportation costs for fuel may be reimbursed however shall not be required nor demanded.

b)      Welcome wagon Committee – This committee will welcome incoming new members by introducing them and getting them involved in the Association as well as the various licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities who hold active membership status.

c)      Supplies and Inventory committee – these members’ research best prices for supplies, food, etc. and share their findings with the nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation facility managers. These members ensure an ample supply of such items is on hand based on the expected seasonal needs of the organization, coordinates the collection of natural foods and maintains records of the locations of freezers and other designated supplies. Records shall be maintained of surplus and shortages.  They directly assist the wildlife rehabilitation organization managers.

d)      Public Relations committee - members prepares news releases regarding AIR activities; prepares and mails newsletter and all general interest information to members; prepares posters, fliers, etc., for activities such as fund-raising activities, they assist with maintaining social media presence, including creation of a youtube channel designated for wildlife rehabilitation awareness.  They are tasked with encouragement to join the association; this includes identifying wildlife rehabilitators who are not currently members of the association. 

e)      Fundraising committee  - members shall proposes and coordinates fund-raising programs such as garage sales, etc., and pursues whatever grant and gift opportunities may be available. Also, develops promotional materials for sales of hats, T-shirts, and sweatshirts, and coordinates sales which will create funds to support the wildlife rehabilitation organizations which hold Association membership status. Additional ideas for fundraising shall be specially created artwork and books or online campaigns. 

f)       Animal Records committee members shall maintain lists of species and quantities processed at the recognized licensed permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities which are Association of Idaho Rehabbers for wildlife active members. These committee members shall report to the members or the board of directors as needed or requested on issues relating to percentages released, causes for admission, genus and species etcetera. 

g)      Outreach and correspondence committee - members shall be involved with assisting the AIR active members with any type of correspondence as deemed necessary. Makes calls necessary to coordinate or assist various programs as proposed by other committees.

h)      Projects planning committee - members maintain close contact with the Association active members and identify the necessary projects. These committee members organize and coordinate the solicitation of supplies necessary for construction and maintenance of cages and other major projects when the needs arise at the licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities which are active members of the association.

i)        Education committee - members get directly involved with providing presentations regarding AIR and wildlife rehabilitation activities and goals to schools, civic and private groups, etc. to assist community in better understanding role of AIR and the importance of wildlife rehabilitation. Prepares training materials and conducts training sessions at the direction of wildlife rehabilitation facility managers. Additionally a template for online wildlife trivia is in place (through mentimeter established by AHWF ) and can be utilized to educate and entertain.

j)        Wildlife Health – committee members shall research infectious and/or non-infectious diseases, human related causes for wildlife admissions to rehab centers, or advancements in wildlife rehabilitation techniques.

k)      Licenses and regulations committee – members shall remain aware of and report as needed the assorted dates for hunting and fishing. These members will also strive to keep aware of any poaching activities and encourage members to take action to apprehend the perpetrator of the crime(s).  Future laws effecting wildlife and alterations to existing sporting activities shall also be identified including regional restrictions of certain species.

l)        Standards of operation committee – these members are tasked with keeping current on latest means of intake, handling, feeding, and treating animals as well as euthanasia practices. Creating documentation reflecting this data relating to wildlife rehabilitation, wildlife health, and captive wildlife topics along with announcing continuing education opportunities shall be shared with those active wildlife rehabilitator members. The committee shall also assist with drafting training materials and creating training sessions including developing an Idaho Wildlife Rehabilitation Study Guide with exams in order to prepare the next generation of Idaho wildlife rehabilitators.  This shall be done under the close working agreement with staff from any one or more of the licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities who are Association of Idaho Rehabbers active members.  

m)    Other committees will be created on an as needed basis (ad hoc).


Sincerely and with much gratitude,



Kathleen St.Clair - McGee

American Heritage Wildlife Foundation founder & board of directors president



Find us on the facebook, instagram, twitter, linked in, youtube, vimeo, and the web.

Association of Idaho Rehabbers for wildlife founding member.



“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – B. Dioum


Friday, September 18, 2020

Don't be scared - it's just me your neighbor!


Don’t be scared – it’s just your native wild animal neighbor!

Many native neighbors, their nocturnal sounds cause irrational fear in many humans. By reading this article I will attempt to accomplish what Marie Curie said was true. Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Unfortunately, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said we are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribes. And superstition is the religion incongruous with intelligence as John Tyndall said.

So, let us start a journey of intelligence and understanding. Every animal in the web of life is vital. Without every species the habitat is not a fully function ecosystem.  What are your views about skunks, bats, coyotes, and great horned owls? These species for some reason seem to be vilified the most. One fiction author even had her heroine make the statement “man gave the wolf all the dark bits of himself and then vilified the wolf”. Perhaps that statement will explain the polarization and why there is such resistance of many humans to accept all species, particularly predatory species as valuable.

Skunks are nomadic. I will say that once more – they are nomadic. They stay on the move. They do not see well, nor hear well. They have no powerful defenses like big claws or teeth. They do not have aggressive attitudes. In reality, they are quite docile. Their small size makes them perfect to be considered food by several predators. The only means to defend is a grape sized scent gland which, once depleted (roughly three sprays) they are helpless. Did you know they consume many harmful insects including underground wasp nests as well as rodents? They are not digging up your over watered lawn, they are consuming the plethora of insects residing in your lawn who are there to consume your lawn.    

Bats are not blind nor are they a mouse with wings. Their wing actually more resembles the hand. These animals do not fly into your hair. It is more likely they were trying to consume the small flying insects hovering just above your head. They can navigate around a single strand of thread in total darkness using their echolocation abilities. They cannot take flight from the ground. They do not carry rabies. Once contracted from the stray cat who had it, they too will perish from it. Roughly 0.5% or 1 in 1,000 bats have the virus.  More people are killed from dog attacks, bee stings, power mowers or lightning than from rabid bats. Did you know a colony of 1,000 bats will consume 22 pounds of insects each night? There are 12 species of bats most are threatened or endangered. Some migrate, some remain hibernate the winter. One winter disturbance can cause up to two weeks early awakening.   

The first Americans respected the hardiness, adaptability and intelligence of the Coyote. Without their tenacity and opportunistic feeding tendencies the habitat would be overpopulated by assorted prey species consuming far too much vegetation which would lead to starvation and habitat depletion and erosion.

Did you know there are nine species of owl who reside in our region? They are not harbingers of death. Chosen prey depends upon the bird – from moths to rabbits. Not all fly silently but there is a cost for the silence. In order to hear the prey instead of themselves the feathers sacrifice their weather resistance. Contrary to popular belief the head cannot rotate all the way around, only 270 degrees. The low frequency vocalizations travel long distances.   

When a person makes a connection with nature, a bond is formed. Being immersed in nature makes a person realize how interconnected we all are. Being just one of many in the hectic buzz of urban settings it is easy to be self-absorbed and ignorant of the how dependent each species is upon another. Out of sight and mind are the endless threats to this planet which effect the survival of us all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

In the name of LOVE.....

STOP – in the name of love and engage your brain!

We are aware you (the private citizens) care. We, being the professional licensed and trained wildlife rehabilitators. We are aware you enjoy the wild animals around you as much as we do. We love it when you show your support through donating time, talent or treasure. The truth is we could not do what we voluntarily do unless you supported our efforts. We also are moved deeply when you acknowledge the hard work we accomplish. For those who want to get involved with hands on animal care, please do contact today and begin the training process. For us to keep Idaho WILD, we need your help.

In the last few weeks, your three North Idaho licensed wildlife rehabilitators (American Heritage Wildlife Foundation, Mystic Farm, and Palouse Wildlife Rescue & Rehab) have admitted cases which we have worked tirelessly to save and lost. We have given pain medications, proper nutritional support, performed medical procedures, shouted to the great creator to give us the wisdom to know how to help, sought additional professional counsel, lost sleep and grieved terribly over each precious soul of our wild native neighbors.

The common thread between each of these cases: the rescuer thought they knew best. They thought they could trust the information they read on the internet. They thought it was credible information. They thought the same foods they ate were acceptable for this different species. They thought they were helping. The end result was the rescuers admitted defeat and the animal suffered needlessly and suffered a painful death. 
Imagine, you are walking along and then a person stops, picks you up, takes you to their house, forces food down your throat which makes you feel sick and never lets you leave. Each day this person repeats this cycle of holding you down, forcing you to consume foods which make you feel worse and worse and seems oblivious to your suffering. This is exactly what happens when a good intentioned private citizen does when they keep a wild animal and try to raise it.
There is no maliciousness intended, it is not a brutal or merciless act being performed. It is simply ignorance because the captor does not know what the signs of pain and suffering are, there is no realization they are killing you.

The founder of Mystic Farm Wildlife Rescue who cares for the White Tailed Deer fawns had a patient recently accepted by well intended private citizens who kept the orphaned fawn and provided the wrong nutritional requirements. They contacted this professional organization after problems started to present. This animal was not able to have the trauma reversed. It suffered and died needlessly.

The founder of American Heritage Wildlife Foundation who has the permits and training and capacity to provide care for nearly 270 of Idaho’s 280+/_  species has had five cases in less than two weeks of private citizens finding wild animals and then attempting to rehabilitate them on their own.

One pair of American Robins had been in care with their captor for almost two weeks. Both were malnourished. The feathers were weak and breaking off. The skin was pale and bones were very weak. They could not fly despite being of an appropriate age. They were caked with feces. Sores were present on their legs because they were too weak to stand. One was suffering from pneumonia. Both had external parasites because of the filthy conditions they were kept in. Both were suspected to have internal parasites.

A call was received about one young Raccoon after the person saw the adult hit on the highway and stopped to discover a youngster curled up beside its dead mother. This person decided it would make a wonderful pet and kept the animal.  After more than one week of ‘care’ this good Samaritan consulted AHWF for advice. Our volunteers advised this person the proper thing to do is bring in for rehabilitation and did not pass along information on what to feed, how much to feed, what type of setting the animal should be in, what medications are necessary, what nutritional supplements are needed etc. This wild animal has not been admitted for rehabilitative care and we have not heard from the caller again.

One Robin hatchling was admitted after being ‘cared for by a neighbor’ for three days. The bird was given to this person because they told the neighborhood they ‘just raised a batch of Robins’ who fell from the nest. What was not told to the neighborhood was these birds suffered from metabolic bone disease and upon flying away were unable to recognize natural foods and starved to death. The little patient upon admission was only days old and weight was 9.6 grams in weight (less than a quarter). It was suffering from double pneumonia.

One Female Striped Skunk was found dead on the highway. One driver stopped and discovered one youngster at her side. They immediately called and made arrangements to get the animal admitted for care. Sadly too many days had passed between the time the mother was killed and being found, she died despite providing supportive care. Another sibling however was picked up by a would be rescuer, but instead of contacting the professionals these folks decided they would feed this wild animal the food choices they felt were best. When they realized the error of their ways, they contacted our volunteers and this patient was admitted. He died in agonizing pain because of the incorrect foods he was forced to eat. Our newest volunteer’s very first wild animal experience was this little male. This new volunteer had to daily try and provide comfort and ease the suffering. They interacted with this animal in order to render attempts at life saving measures. In the end not only did the wild animal die but this experience will forever be etched on that volunteer’s heart.  

One young American Crow was admitted. We estimated this bird to about 6 weeks of age. Upon examination we could surmise this short life was filled with nothing but discomfort and pain. Because the lead wild animal care specialist has more than 30 years of professional experience with wild animals the story line unfolds like this: Hatch from egg. Remain in nest with siblings. Start exploring using wings and legs but loose balance. Fall to ground. Picked up by human #1. Taken home and forced to eat the wrong foods. These items do not offer enough nutritional support for healthy bones, skin, feathers, or muscles. The human realizes that they messed up because the bird cannot stand and the legs are permanently fused at the joint due to perpetual laying down. The feet are twisted to the side because of old trauma or incorrect bone development. Callouses form on the anatomical areas where there should never contact with the ground due to the deformities of the body. The anatomical body part which should never be in contact with the ground was bruised and sore because of this as well. Feathers are in poor condition because of the nutritional deficiencies and no social interaction to learn the behaviors necessary to ensure feather health.  There were external parasites crawling on this bird. A weakened body is prone to have external parasites which leach out the life slowly one bite at a time. So the human, instead of admitting their error and contacting an animal hospital to end the suffering simply takes the bird into the woods and puts it on the ground to fend for itself and be free.  
Another human finds this bird days later and realizes it is in need of care or it will starve to death painfully. They take it home and try to render aid by again giving foods which are also not nutritionally sound or appropriate. After a few days, human #2 realizes the bird needs more than a few so called free meals and takes it to a veterinary clinic who has doctors who do not know about birds so they contact AHWF. Our trained volunteers coordinate a transfer and then examine the bird only to realize this bird will never have a chance at being wild and it has only ever known suffering.  Human #1 created a huge emotional wake because of their ego and ignorance. Human #1 is responsible for causing suffering to that young bird who most likely could have simply been renested and the parents would have continued care. Human #1 is responsible for causing human #2 loss of time and expense trying to fix the problem. Human #1 is responsible for the loss of revenue the veterinary hospital could have earned by treating a dog or cat instead of spending time with an animal they were not able to treat. Human #1 is responsible for a community supported nonprofit expend financial resources to retrieve the bird. Human #1 is responsible for having several trained volunteers become emotionally attached to this wild native animal in distress. Human #1 is responsible for the sorrow caused to the lead wildlife care specialist when the only humane decision was euthanasia.    

The founder of Palouse Wildlife Rescue and Rehab receives countless calls daily about assorted wild animals. One such call is detailed below.
A caller asked if the founder would be willing to accept a tree squirrel with a broken spine. The caller had the animal for two days. Because the emergency veterinary clinic would not release the animal back into her custody after the examination, she did not bring it in for any type of care. This citizen wanted the animal to live despite being paralyzed. After being told to please bring the animal in so the suffering would end, the caller hung up.  

Do not misunderstand this proclamation. We are grateful for the kind humans who want to help. We are cut from the same cloth. Please do understand that it is IMPOSSIBLE to raise a wild animal fully, this means physically, mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally simply by reading one perhaps less than credible article on the internet or believing old wives tales. Just because you tossed the bird in the air or took the mammal out into the woods and let loose your grip does not constitute a ‘successful release’.

We love you for your kindness and wanting to help. We want you to help but please do not stop caring once you put your hands on the animal. There is no shame in admitting you don’t know what to do. There is no shame admitting you need help. There is great reward when you become part of the team who saved a wild animal who was able to be released into the wild territory of North Idaho. 

Wildlife Rehabbers are committed to this calling. It is not a career. It is not a hobby. They are deeply empathetic to the wild animals and when those animals suffer the toll is immense. Wildlife rehabilitators accept the financial strain and the physical demands. They willingly agree to the mental challenges. They put on a brave face for the general public. They smile as complete strangers tell of stories of family members who improperly raised wild animals and then let them be free, all the while knowing that animal suffered needlessly. They patiently listen to the stories from complete strangers of assorted horrific animal encounters such as my cat once got a bird and it …. or my dog attacked a fawn and it …. because they know that this complete stranger is not wanting to offend. This complete stranger is simply trying to find that common ground and demonstrate their compassion for wild animals by telling perhaps their only experience with our wild native neighbors. There is a very very very heavy emotional price to pay for those who accept the responsibility of properly raising a wild animal so it may return to its wild habitat. This price is paid willingly, but when the patients are admitted because of mistakes and errors made from ego and ignorance, their sorrow is tempered with rage.

The roughly 5,000 professional wildlife rehabilitators across the nation all have two things in common. We all love the wild animals more than ourselves and we are unfathomably shaken to our cores when we see the contradiction of humane human who cared enough to stop their hectic lives for one second and rescue a wild animal but then not care enough to spend a few minutes researching the correct next step.  If you truly love where you live and care about the wild animals who are our native neighbors, get involved with these licensed facilities. We need your support.
Please stop in the name of love, before you break all of our hearts.


Monday, June 1, 2020

What's more important?

Nothing is more important than empathy for another being’s suffering. Nothing. Not career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity. – Audrey Hepburn

There was a  USFWS survey completed almost 40 years ago asking over 3,000 citizens ‘if your monthly electric bill were to increase would you be in favor if it would save an endangered species? A few specific animals listed were: Bald Eagle (89% approved), Mountain Lion (73%), Silverspotted Butterfly (64%), Furbish Lousewort (48%) and Kauai Wolf Spider (34%). The view of these supporters that all life not just humans have value is called biocentrism. These folks approached living with a life centered perspective.

I am curious if I were to look at the IUCN and ESA listing of species, how many of these species have been declared extinct.  The citizens who were most in favor of protecting would now be around 60 to 70 years old. Those least likely to support endangered species (at that time were those aged over 56 years old). The people who felt the environment is a tool to be used to benefit only humans are known to hold an anthropocentric view.  Additionally, those with less education were not in favor. My question is how many of those people felt that all animals are sentient beings (that they feel pain and pleasure)?

The general public has limited knowledge of the interconnectedness of life. We are taught to pursue careers and work hard to obtain possessions. We are told, the animal kingdom has no tangible value. But take a moment to look at the root of the word animal. Anima is Latin meaning breath or soul. It is a life force to be respected. Albert Einstein, the intelligent analytical minded scientist, admitted that if you look into nature you will understand everything better. John Muir stated when you tug at one thing in nature you will find it is connected to the rest of the world. The wilderness will offer clues to the preservation of the world said Henry David Thoreau. The Dalai Lama proclaims that the planet does not need more successful people; it needs peacemakers, healers, restorers and lovers of all kinds. America’s founding father Thomas Jefferson recognized that if one link in nature’s chain is lost, it may continue until the whole of things will vanish. To quote from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring “On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn of scores of bird voices there was not sound; only silence over the fields and woods and marsh”. Chief Seattle in a letter to the President Pierce in 1855 asked the question: Where have all the Buffalo gone? This wise Native American tribal leader announced that his people recognized every part of the earth is sacred. The warmth of the land and sky cannot be owned. The earth is not an enemy to be conquered - it is our mother. The (white mans) cities offer no quiet place to hear or clean precious air to share its spirit with all life. The white man must value nature and treat the land as his brother. What befalls the earth will soon happen to all man. All things connect – what man does to the web of life he does to himself. It seems to me that modern humans have gone from animus to animosity all because we ‘got civilized’. I ask you now, what’s more important? 

During the aforementioned survey from the 1980’s, no more than 33% of the entire national survey correctly answered any of the basic true false questions such as ‘pesticides were a major factor for the decline of Brown Pelicans’. The section of wildlife management knowledge and concern resulted in only 14% of the citizens being educated on the issue of the use of steel shot versus lead shot by waterfowl hunters. 94% felt poisoning was unacceptable method of predator control although was a least expensive method. Only 26% approved hunting of large carnivores.  18% were approving of trophy hunting but more than 80% approve of hunting as a means for food. 87% of people felt that illegal killing of wildlife should result in stiff fines and prison sentences for repeat offenders.  71% disagreed with the statement “Americans should have automobile access to scenic public areas even if the wild animals are disturbed by traffic and noise”. 76% of respondents agreed they would pay more for lumber & paper if it ensured that cutting trees was done in ways to help wildlife.   Do we citizens today still agree with these statements? If yes, have you notified the policy makers and voiced your opinion? ‘Never underestimate the power of a small group of determined people.’  – Margaret Meade.   

I believe, current views & knowledge of our wild surroundings seems to have increased, perhaps due to those who were in favor of coexistence in the 1980’s taught their children to do likewise and those children have taught their children. The reality is however that in general, people have become so urbanized that there is no contact with wild animals and their only way to connect and experience that awe and wonder is through zoos and live educational animal demonstrations. The wild habitats have been so degraded and manipulated for the sole purpose of human betterment, if the captive animals were to be returned to the wild, it would not survive.

Which is the right view: Individualistic or Holistic? One example being a native orchid was rapidly becoming extinct because of the deer population feeding upon them because predators who kept the deer population at a level sustainable for that habitat had been previously removed. What’s more important? How do we choose when the interests of two or more groups conflict?
Invasive species such as European Starlings and House Sparrow (English Finch) as well as Muscovy Ducks, Green Iguanas and Domestic Feral cats or Pigs are all species who in their own individual right should live but they exist in a foreign habitat and decimate the native species who have existed in that habitat for centuries. Hawaii is known as the extinction capital of the world in part due to all the introduced invasive species that have been released onto the isolated and fragile ecosystem. Wild animal activists are working hard to protect the unique biodiversity. They are empathetic to the individual but respectful of the natural ecosystem. These pests which do not belong, threaten the native habitats and inhabitants. What’s more important?

A report from 25 years ago, demonstrated the “assault on the natives” by the “army of foreign plant and animal invaders”. The cost to the nation at that time in the form of pest control was near $100 BILLION. Today it is $2,000,000,000.00 in ecological damage. More than 4,500 species had been either introduced intentionally or accidentally. Species such as kudzu vines, zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, fire ants, knapweed sp, Mediterranean fruit fly, Eurasian milfoil, boll weevils, common tansy, European gypsy moth, hawkshead sp. etc. etc. etc.

Ethics will offer guidance when faced with difficult decisions. Every action must consider the finite resources available, the social costs and benefits evaluated as well as ensuring a just distribution of benefits and burdens. Morals force us to focus on the value of being impartial. It can rapidly be degenerated into favoritism. Too many issues of conflicting moral demands may lead to burnout because of inadequate understanding or support. We are in this together. The actions of your neighbor have consequences and may directly affect you. The regulations set forth by city, state & national politicians on topics of natural resources to agricultural industry to pesticide or herbicide use all directly correspond to your survival.  

 A habitat is not an ecosystem. ‘A habitat patch must be large enough to provide equal input and output features to sustain a population. It is not just size but structural components. – From forests to lakes and everything in between, it is vital to maintain a healthy habitat.’- McComb. A habitat must have 7 components to sustain life: heat, food, shelter, air, light, soil, water.  An ecosystem is a ‘household’ of organisms and its environment. Humans are part of the household.
In times past: Chicago was once a swamp – full of vegetation and marsh birds, fish and amphibians. Guinea Pigs were once wild species inhabiting the Andes. They were domesticated and now extinct in the wild. Settlers hunted & domesticated the Wild North American Turkey to near extinction. A mexican race (subspecies) had to be imported. The true Eastern Turkey has a brown tail tip, whereas the Mexican has a white tail tip.    

The 1968 International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) reported fewer than 10 bird species vanished in the 1600’s, 21 in the 1700’s, 75 in the 1800’s, 54 to the mid 1900’s. Well over 300 bird species alone are considered endangered.
Current reports show the rising temperatures are causing the tundras of the north are shrinking; giving rise to fields. The species that have inhabited it for generations are starving. The marshlands (which provide Moose a food source and a means to alleviate the biting insects as well as respite from the hot sun) are changing into forests. The Moose population in the North East – Great Lakes area has declined greatly. The speculations from experts include climate change, ticks and consequential hypothermia due to hair loss and ‘toxin’ ingestion.   

Did you know? The Wolverine population decline is shown in regions where wolf population has also declined. They rely upon each other. Documentary 2008 from ‘Lords of Nature’ – ‘life in a land of great predators’.  

Grizzly bears remain in the cool high country (altitude of 6 – 7000 feet) in late summer/fall to feast on the Army cutworm moth (who feeds on the high alpine native flowers: lupine, daisy, & paintbrush). The insects hide in rock crevices during hot days in high country. Moths do arrive in high summer alpine countries from the wheat fields of the plains. They are following the wild flowers which are full of nectar and pollen. The problem is there are fewer moths due to pesticide use. These moths provide protein for the bears during winter hibernation. 40,000 insects are consumed (at 1 calorie each) in one day!

The White Bark Pine trees – grow mainly in higher elevations have seeds that are spread by Clarks Nutcracker but Pine Squirrels cache them but are raided by the bears. A good crop keeps the bears in high country so no people confrontation for garbage. The problem is disease and insect infestation is destroying this vital tree population.

The future of the species relies on food, water, shelter. The threats are interlinked: The native cut throat trout is killed by the introduced Lake Trout (Mackinaw). Pesticides kill insects. Humans dig up (illegally) native wild flowers.  Warming trends take bug shelter away. Trees will take over if rise in temperatures continue. Therefore fewer flowers will be present. Blister-rust is invading White Pines therefore no seeds to provide food for the bird, squirrels, bears. No chance for future tree growth. Without the high protein of the nuts the bears do not have sufficient calories for hibernation and successful breeding. The more aggressive the predator the lower the baby survival rate; the parent gone to get food and young vulnerable. 

Researchers began their study in response to rising numbers of human-bear conflicts and the changing climate. Article by Bruce Finley, Amy Brothers and RJ Sangosti of the Denver Post April 2, 2017. Excerpts follow:  
Warmer temperatures near their rocky den that shorten hibernation. “We could see a ratcheting down of the (black) bear population,” said CPW biologist Heather Johnson, leader of the research, who used radio collars and monitored movements of 40 bears at a time.
“Human development is really expanding,” she said. “There’s shrinking safe space for these wild bears to be.”
“the key driver of bear populations is going to be the carrying capacity of the environment. And that is going to be related to soil moisture and plant productivity — which is directly related to the climate. You cannot change policy overnight on accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising temperatures and changes in precipitation. We will want to be addressing these ultimate factors that are driving wildlife populations.” – Colorado State University conservation biologist Barry Noon.
“If bears are denning less, they’re active longer. They’re interacting with people more. It’s going to change the numbers of interactions people have with bears. We should expect our rate of interactions with bears to really increase.” conflicts happen because bears wander into cities looking for food when natural foods aren’t available during dry years, which with climate change is expected to happen more often. – Johnson

Beyond foraging, CPW researchers focused on hibernation. They determined that bears hibernate seven days less for every 1.8-degree temperature increase at their dens. In addition, for every 10 percent increase in overlap of foraging terrain with urban development, hibernation decreased by three days.
“As the average temperatures in this state increase,” Johnson said, “we should expect our bears will sleep less.” That means bears probably will be more active, leading to more potential encounters with people.
The end result? Bears lost out, because even though human food helped them reproduce, fewer were able to survive. From 2011 to 2016, CPW researchers documented a drop in the female bear population to 84 from 200, mostly due to a dry year in 2012 that drove more bears into Durango. The population didn’t bounce back.

An Oregon State University horticulture research study reported on the decline of Aspen in Yellowstone. They discovered in that National Park (and several others) that the loss of top predator is directly related to the decline of streamside trees. The intricate network of connectivity is astounding!
The aspens in Wyoming declining causes bank erosion. The lack of shade also causes rise water temperature. The warmer temperatures cause small creatures (fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects) demise. There is also less songbirds – example being the Pine Grosbeak makes up to 20% of its diet with the buds of willow, aspen, poplar trees. Without the top predators, there are increased prey species. These animals require large quantities of vegetation; the loss of trees and bank vegetation causes erosion and alters the quality of the stream. In Yellowstone, the top species affected are the Wolf and Elk and White Tail Deer. In Utah’s Zion National Park the decline of the cottonwood trees directly affects the cougar and mule deer.  

 “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” – Aldo Leopold. This view places the ecosystem at the center. The view is holistic. All life is interconnected but the individual is simply part of the whole.  
We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. …the air shares its spirit with all life it supports. …(I) do not understand how the smoking iron horse (locomotive) can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.
What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts are gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children-that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth soon be falls the sons of the earth. If men spit on the ground, they spit on themselves. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. 
Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may someday discover, our God is the same God. You may think that you own Him, as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass, perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your own bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.      But in perishing, you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of God, who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.  That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the sacred corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the hills blotted by taking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.  - Chief Seattle 1854 statement excerpt

Joseph Wood Krutch felt and stated that ‘Man’s assumption that the earth can be treated as belonging to man alone and can pursue his immediate aims without regard to the fact that he is no less than the humblest animal and is part of an interrelated complex to which he must adjust himself.’ Fortunately while others are still learning there are consequences for every action, some humans recognize the true reality of the statement that humans are the most destructive predators on the earth today and act accordingly. Many countries have even passed laws or rewritten their constitution (such as Ecuador in 2008) protecting the rights of rivers, forests and ecosystems. There must be an extension of moral concern over all native species is the general concern at the world summits on sustainable development. These regulations should not be viewed as a loss of what John Locke viewed as natural rights, the right to life liberty and property. We as rational and compassionate humans should accept the responsibility to self-impose freedom of actions because it is the ethical thing to do. It is the dignified way to survive. To phrase it simply, live simply so others may simply live.

We as humans have been on the precipice of oblivion for years. To put it into scientific terms: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The use of pesticide, herbicide, insecticide, as well as direct or indirect dumping of chemicals into the land, waterways and air not to mention unsustainable harvesting of natural resources and prolific human population growth are all actions which have consequences for not only human population in part due to the limits of carrying capacity (coincidently for the US was lost in the 1970’s) but all our native neighbors and our combined home.

To view it from the ethical perspective held by Immanuel Kant, we must treat others as a free and equal person; the actions must be acceptable to be performed by all, and always respect each other even to the extent of developing the ability for that person to choose an action for themselves. These actions are not motivated by self-advancement, but out of duty as being the right way for all people to behave.  
Those who are privileged enough to be self-isolating are perhaps rediscovering what it means to be part of nature. The days of hectic lifestyle and experiencing chaos may be a distant memory but recall in the midst of the storm you felt isolated and focused solely on yourself. And now that the pace has slowed, life has taken priority. When you are in nature, with your wild native neighbors, you experience calm as you identify with all those individuals around you. You recognize you are but one strand in the intricately woven web of life.

Now is the time to ask ourselves and each other: What’s more important? career, wealth, intelligence, status or peaceable coexistence with the native neighbors who have been struggling to share our unique fragile ecosystems. Do we consider them living beings who are also entitled to moral standings and have rights? Please bear in mind as you venture forth, ultimately what we do to them and theirs so too we do to ourselves. Leonard Peltier was quoted saying “I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or The Answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive – nor will we deserve to.”