I recently came across Morgan Autrey’s blog, The Wildlife Diary, and could quickly recognize her knowledge and passion for wildlife. Morgan lives in California and a few months ago, she successfully completed her training to become a certified wildlife rehabilitator. Through the blog, Morgan writes about her path to becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, her experiences with animals, and conservation tips such as eco-friendly products. In addition to her website, she shares her enthusiasm for animals with others through her artwork, which is available on her Etsy shop – The Vinyl Cactus. She has also volunteered her time for a variety of conservation related causes. I was excited to have the chance to ask Morgan some questions that I had about conservation and her pursuits.
Question: Volunteering with the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue’s hotline team sounds like a great experience. What do you feel you’ve learned from your involvement with this organization?
Morgan: I have loved volunteering on the hotline! After doing it every Monday for the past year, I have learned an incredible amount of info. First and foremost, I’d have to say that rehabbers (and volunteers) have the biggest hearts and a lifetime of dedication to these animals. Not a single day goes by where animals aren’t given the best care which, in turn, provides them with a second chance at a long life in the wild. That’s the goal, right? To rescue, rehab, and release as many wild animals as we can.
Another thing I’ve learned is that there is never a shortage of animals who need our help. Whether the animal is injured, orphaned, or raised by an unlicensed individual who eventually surrenders the animal (usually because they ‘can’t handle’ it anymore, or because it didn’t get the proper care and is now sick), the calls are non-stop every day of the year. Being a part of the hotline has taught me the ‘behind-the-scenes’ process of wildlife rehab/rescue. From arranging the drop off of a new intake to assisting callers in deciding whether or not an animal truly needs our help (human intervention), I am constantly working with the public to make sure the needs of wildlife are being met. It’s been such a blessing and I don’t plan on ending my time at CWR anytime soon!
(And in case you’re wondering: Yes! I volunteer at CWR in North Carolina while living in California because it’s all done remotely online! Pretty cool, huh?!)
Question: In your blog post, Becoming a Wildlife Rehabilitator – Morgan’s Journey, you wrote about the difficulty you had trying to find a wildlife rehabilitator to assist with the orphaned baby birds. Do you feel there is a shortage of wildlife rehabilitators?
Morgan: This is a simple question with a complicated answer- I would have to say yes. Here’s why: From my experience, it is so difficult to find a local rehabber who specializes in the care of the animal in need. Let’s take our goslings, for example. Of the multiple rescues & rehabbers I contacted, most of the responses went something like this:
“We only take in Mallards, nothing else”
“Adult birds only”
“Sorry, we’re not taking in animals at this time”.
Some never returned my calls. Others answered, but turned me away without any recommendations or assistance moving forward. I completely understand that not all rescues take in any kind of wild animal, but it became difficult to know where to go from there. This could lead to callers giving up and taking matters into their own hands; caring for wild animals without the proper licensing/training is not only illegal, but very harmful to the animal and potentially the human!
Here’s another example that comes to mind. Just last week, the animal sanctuary that I volunteer with (this one is local!) had a coyote pup get dropped off with them the night before. Keep in mind, we don’t accept animal drop-offs, nor do we rehab local animals. Instead, we refer people to the local rehabbers to insure they receive the proper care so they can eventually get released back into the wild. Anyways, back to the pup. It was dropped off because the ‘owners’ had found it a while back and had been raising it in the captivity of their home (which is a big red flag, and should not be attempted). It had become too aggressive for them, so they decided they didn’t want it anymore and turned it over to us. I was contacted about it in hopes that I would be able to find a rehabber who could take it in. After getting the same answer of ‘sorry, we don’t take coyotes’, I finally found a rescue who accepted our request. The issue? It’s about a 3 hour drive to get there from the sanctuary. Unless you have the freedom to drop everything and drive 5-6 hours round trip, this is yet another roadblock in getting an animal the help it needs. (As I’m writing this, the pup did make it to the facility, and is doing well!)
I truly appreciate every rescue for what they do- it’s no small task in any way! But at the end of the day, I do wish there were more options for injured & orphaned wildlife to get the proper, professional care they so often need.
Question: Are you training to work with all types of animals or are you focusing on a specific kind?
Morgan: In all reality, this depends on the rescue I end up working with. I would love to specialize in birds and waterfowl, but I’m ready for whatever kind of animal Mother Nature throws at me! 🙂
Question: In what circumstances should a wildlife rehabilitator be contacted, and how can one be located?
Morgan: I recommend that everyone should get the app called AnimalHelpNow. Using your location, it provides the contact info for all local rehabbers and rehab facilities in your area. It’s been incredibly helpful for me in the past, and it’s my go-to place for quick help regarding wildlife emergencies.
When should a rehabber be contacted?
Anytime you’re questioning whether or not a wild animal needs help/ human intervention.
We always say that the most important care an animal can get is from it’s mother. But we also understand that this isn’t always possible- that’s why we’re here! Orphaned animals will likely need immediate help, especially if they’ve been alone for a large chunk of time. Injured animals need care, regardless of age or species. If an animal like a bird or a rabbit gets caught by a cat, it needs to come in ASAP- regardless if there are any visible injuries or not. Cat saliva is toxic to some animals and will require immediate treatment and antibiotics.
In the event where you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please DO NOT try to feed it or give it water. Not only can this effect our rehydration measurements during triage, it can also cause further injury to the animal. If not administered properly, liquids can enter the animals lungs and cause it to aspirate, which could kill the animal before it reaches the rehabber.
When in doubt, always call a licensed rehabber. And please listen to their advice- we are trained in wildlife care and only want the best for the animals who are brought to us.
Question: You have expressed that hummingbirds are your favorite bird and you’ve had success getting them to frequent your feeders. Do you think feeder placement is an important consideration when it comes to attracting hummingbirds? If so, do you have a tip on where to hang them?
Morgan: Hummingbirds are such incredible birds and I have been so blessed to have them year-round here in Southern California!
My advice for anyone trying to attract hummers is to just keep it simple. We’ve used cost-effective feeders for years now, and they’re great! (Walmart has some for just under $4!)
Placing them 6 to 8 feet above ground is best, as you’ll want to make sure they’re high enough in case any neighborhood cats or other predators are lurking around. Shepard’s hooks are perfect for this! Also, I’d suggest placing them 10+ feet away from windows or doors, if possible. Although hummers are alert and aware of their surroundings, you don’t want one to end up flying into the window because the feeders are hanging too close. In addition, I don’t recommend window feeders (the kinds with suction cups). They provide a great close-up view of thirsty hummers, but personally, I don’t think they’re necessary or safe.
Pollinator-friendly plants are also a great way to attract hummingbirds! You can find tons of resources on which flowers work best for this- just type ‘plants that attract hummingbirds’ into your browser and plan your next trip to the local garden center! As an added bonus, you can hang your feeders above these plants and the hummers won’t be able to resist coming to your yard.
For some tips on making the perfect hummingbird nectar and DIY instructions on building an ant moat for your feeders, head over to my blog where I’ve written all about it!