Wildlife lovers are objecting to an announcement that rehabilitators will no longer be allowed to take in injured or orphaned foxes, skunks, bats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons or wild pigs in Alabama.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said that it will no longer be issuing permits for these species and that as of September 1 anyone who finds an injured or orphaned animal should either leave them where they are or bring them somewhere to be immediately euthanized. Rehabilitators have been instructed to turn people away or take in animals and destroy them.
According to biologist Ray Metzler, assistant chief of wildlife for the agency,”Basically there is no biological reason to rehabilitate these animals.”
A followup letter from the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) further explains:
WFF firmly believes that rehabilitation of most wildlife species in Alabama is not warranted unless it is threatened, endangered or is a species of special concern. Statewide populations of most animals are at levels that do not justify rehabilitation of individual animals. Injured and/or orphaned animals are more susceptible to predators. These injured/orphaned animals are an integral part of the natural food chain. Disrupting the food chain may have unintended consequences such as causing additional mortality of healthy animals in the system.
There may not be a biological reason to save these creatures, but there’s certainly a moral one. Especially for those who end up needing help because of human activities, such as a mother being accidentally hit by a car, or intentionally killed, or an infant being injured by a domestic pet. As for the food chain argument, the same could be used for hunting and trapping in the state, both of which are perfectly legal.
Needless to say, the move to criminalize compassion has sparked outrage from both the public and rehabilitators who work with these species.
“This issue is a personal one for us. This is very personal,” Shamballa Wildlife Rescue owner John Russ said in an interview with WAAY-TV.
“If I have to make a choice between euthanizing that baby and raising that baby to maturity, yes ma’am, I’m going to take it in. If they want to take me to jail, then that’s fine too. But a man’s got to live with himself, I have to sleep with myself at nighttime. And I’m not going to go to bed at night knowing that I killed an innocent animal, and I don’t know how anybody could do that,” he added.
For wildlife lovers, even a quick look at the faces of those he and his wife April have saved or are currently caring for make it easy to see why they do what they do, and why they will continue despite this new rule.
Others have said they’ll be leaving their volunteer positions, rather than follow the new rule, while still others think the move will drive rehab underground and make it harder for people to find help. Kim Robinson, a volunteer with North Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitators, told the AP she believes the change will only make matters worse because people will now try to care for animals themselves, instead of taking them to trained rehabilitators, which could also increase the risks for spreading diseases.
In some cases, human intervention can cause more harm than good when it involves animals who don’t really need assistance. However, for injured and orphaned animals who do need help and are found and taken in, rehabilitation offers them a second chance to live out their lives in the wild. Attempting to stop people from taking compassionate action to save lives and stop suffering isn’t just cold, it sends a terrible message about the way we should behave as stewards of the earth and its inhabitants.
Please sign and share the petition asking the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to overturn this decision.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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