Last month M. and I attended a Colorado Division of Wildlife meeting on volunteer opportunities. Today was our first activity--training for wildlife transport.
When someone captures or reports an injured critter -- and said critter is not too large or dangerous -- volunteers set forth with nets, bath towels, flea powder, pet carriers, and a hopeful attitude to pick it up and take it to the nearest appropriate wildlife rehabilitator.
A large injured animal--or a mountain lion in the garage, etc.--requires professional attendance.
My niece used to be one of those licensed rehabilitators, over in Montrose County, and I have heard her stories. "Rehabbers" get good press, and they deserve it. They even write books.
Rehabbing wildlife requires time (and money), more than we care to give. But we learned that the rehabilitators are served in turn by a network of trained transporters, and that we can do.
We showed up for the training in old clothes, in case we had to test-load a trained raccoon or something. Well, no need. They used stuffed animals ("plushies") for the demonstrations.
The instructors -- a CDOW staffer, two rehabbers, and the director of the Raptor Center -- were often talking over each other, sort of a wildlifers' version of The View.
Everything was pretty upbeat until they got to zoonoses. I could sense M. sinking farther into her chair. Rabies. West Nile virus. Tularemia. I wanted to bolt from the room to buy a gallon of hand sanitizer and some Tyvek coveralls.
But the lead instructor had two good things to say: One, you don't have to do a job that you don't want to do, and two, the CDOW provides insurance for its registered volunteers.
And also, "Wash, wash, wash."
So now we must not only think of this as the beginning of fire season, but it is also the beginning of "baby-animal season," when wildlife officers must sort out the truly orphaned or endangered babies from those who are actually fine and should just be left alone, such as a mule deer fawn temporarily left by its mother while she is feeding.
Test question #7. You receive a call to transport a sick animal. When you arrive, you discover that the animal is a bat. What do you do?
When I find out, I'll blog it.