This article was published in the February/March 2006 Wedge newsletter. The following information may be outdated.

Cat Catch a Bird?

A Visit to Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

Last May, I was allowed a rare peak behind the scenes at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota. We learned of the center when my family rescued a cardinal from the jaws of a cat. Since even a superficial cat bite can be fatal to birds,* we set the stunned creature in a nest of grass clippings and hurried to the WRC in Roseville. The Center, a precious resource for the well-being of wild animals, is a combination wildlife ER, rehabilitation center, and multi-species orphan nursery. It is also a national leader in the treatment of injured wildlife and research into animal diseases.

My visit coincided with the peak season for abandoned infant waterfowl. Former Wedge cashier and future veterinarian, Shannon Guy, serves as the Waterfowl Coordinator during summer months. The Waterfowl rooms housed various species and ages, with tiny chicks in incubators and older birds in little ponds. Taped on incubators are care instructions for each species and notations for every feeding and dose of medication administered.

Other rooms house injured adult and orphaned baby mammals. While injured and infant creatures may require hand-feeding, the center takes extraordinary efforts to keep their patients wild, so they don't become tame or dependent on humans. Large cages, some almost roomsized, have features that mimic the natural conditions the creatures will be facing after release. Preparation for release is done in stages so that the animals are healthy, adequately mature and skilled for survival.

The year "our" cardinal was healed, the center treated thousands of injured and orphaned members of hundreds of species, all funded by donations. While they work on animal diseases and treatment research, their next horizon is developing more links with experts in human public health. As we are now seeing with the predictions of an avian (bird) flu pandemic, the intersection of human and animal diseases is becoming more pronounced as the human population grows and impinges on animal habitat.**

The dedicated veterinarians and administrators at the WRC emphasize that wild animals must be left wild (it is illegal to raise wild animals without a permit), that injured wildlife need specialized care, and that you should always call before getting involved with a creature, especially before interfering with a nest or what appear to be abandoned young.

There is simply not enough room in this issue to tell you all the things I learned about this wonderful organization during my visit. Go to the WRC website at www.wrcmn.org for details about how to care for creatures before getting them to the WRC, how to volunteer, a virtual tour of the facility and information on how to make a donation (a great birthday, anniversary or holiday gift for the animal lovers you know).

*Cat attacks account for 15% of the admissions at the WRC. Keep them in!

**To prevent your bird feeder from aiding in the spread of bird diseases, be sure to sanitize bird feeders each time you refill them. All Season's Wild Bird Stores sell a safe, effective cleaner.