— By Susan Eirich, PhD —
After 19 years of trying, Earthfire Institute has finally received a formal rehabilitation license from the State of Idaho Department of Fish and Game. We have been working with them informally over the years on a case by case basis when they needed help with specific animals, but this is different. We can now take calls from the public and they are coming in several times a week. The need is so great! And so many of the issues are human caused that we owe it to the animals to do what we can.
At this time of year it is mostly orphaned babies. To date we have welcomed coyotes and beavers but soon there will be black bear babies and others. I am afraid that I am so busy “doing” that I can’t write much now and do justice to the topic. But there is so much to write about! Such profound issues involved in trying to help wild animals recover and then have a successful life.
There are many issues related to rehabilitation and release. How many baby animals do you accept? After the intensive first phase of getting them stabilized off the bottle and on a good diet, then what? They need to be kept here for several months. In order to release them they each need to be taught how to survive in the wild – difficult in the best of circumstances, made harder by ever-encroaching humans. We cannot interact with them and make them comfortable with humans or we will be signing their death warrant.
As things slow down I will write about some of these compelling issues, all of which have to do with human interaction with the wild; our responsibility; our attitudes; finding a way to live with the wild ones and leave them space. But I did want to share with you this major accomplishment and our intent to help as many animals as possible live what would otherwise be shortened lives. Life, is such a gift. We all want to live as long as possible and I firmly believe and have seen how true that is for wild animals as well.
We received the license so suddenly that we had no time to fundraise, or build facilities suitable for wild animals that are going to be released and in the meantime need to be away from humans. We also will need to hire experienced staff. The babies will have to stay with us for several months until they are old enough to survive on their own. During that time will need time-intensive training on how to survive. How do you teach a two week old beaver baby whose parents were shot to swim? Seek food? Build? It is not all instinct.
We have not yet had time to make an accurate estimate of the needs but it will be in the tens of thousands of dollars. We are doing the best we can with what we have until we can raise the funds for this unexpected but wonderful need. Any financial help you can give would be so appreciated, and allow us to help more animals and spend critical time with the ones we have. Thank you for any support you can give.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.