Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
A Second Chance

     On Oct 8th, we were fortunate to be invited to participate in a gov-ernment wildlife release at the Quilla Reserve in Jalisco. Releasing a wild animal back into its natural habitat, where it belongs, is a richly rewarding experience. However far too often that is not an option. Many factors determine whether an animal should be released or not. Sadly, many times their fate is sealed long before they reach a rehabilitation center. To be releasable the animal must have the skills, the instincts and the physical capacity to use them in order to survive.
     * Can wildlife raised in captivity be rehabilitated so it can be released?
     * Not always. If the animal has been raised as a “pet” in all probability it will never be releasable. Orphaned babies raised in captivity for release are managed accordingly, human contact is minimal, ideally they would be fed with a “hand puppet,” never see a human face or hear a human voice.
     Contact with domestic animals such as cats and dogs is never permitted. Predatory animals must have an environment where they have the opportunity to learn to hunt; it is a skill that must be learned. Normally, this would be taught by the parent(s).
     * Are some animals more easily rehabilitated?
     * Yes. Reptiles and amphibians; barring physical disabilities, are almost always releasable. Animals that are solitary and timid by nature such as opossums and barn owls are also more adaptable.
     * Why are some animals more difficult?
     * Animals who are social and/or curious by nature tend to be more challenging. A good example; members of the raccoon family. As they tend to imprint on humans very easily, even under optimal circumstances.
     * What does the word “imprint” mean?
     * When an animal does not recognize itself as a particular species. This happens when it is raised by people. Although “imprinted” animals may have no physical disability, they cannot be released into the wild due to their fearlessness of humans.
     * What about wild adult animals that are injured?
     * Much depends on the injury. Many can be successfully rehabilitated. However, if the animal will have a permanent disability as a result of the injury, it will not be releasable. Two common examples are birds that have sustained broken wings, and animals that have been caught in a steel jawed trap. Many times the leg must be amputated.
     Such was the case with a young crested caracara (the national bird of Mexico) who was recently brought to us. He is now in the process of being fitted with an artificial leg. Although we were able to save his life, he will never be releasable.
     * What are options for nonreversible animals?
     * Just because an animal is not releasable does not mean its life is any less important. Depending upon the species, the animal may be used in captive breeding programs.      Equally important are educational programs.
     The more people understand wildlife and their importance, the more will strive to protect them and their habitat. Non releasable animals give people an opportunity, to get up close and personal; “get to know them,” so to speak. As a result a new appreciation for wildlife is established.
     If a picture is worth a 1000 words, imagine the emotional experience of looking into the eyes of a wolf, or having a bird of prey perched on your arm.