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Students continue emergency care for wildlife

WSU veterinary students take turns practicing how to handle raptors or birds of prey.
WSU veterinary students take turns practicing proper handling techniques for raptors at a training inside the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The students will now be on-call 24/7 to provide initial care to injured or orphaned wildlife in Eastern Washington.

Veterinary students at Washington State University are stepping up to ensure Eastern Washington and North Idaho continue to have 24/7 care for injured or orphaned wildlife. 

Since 1981, WSU has provided around-the-clock emergency care to wildlife. However, as the demand for WSU’s emergency and intensive care for client-owned animals continues to increase, resources to accommodate wildlife through those services have become more and more limited.

To fill the void, and with the guidance of WSU exotics and wildlife veterinarians, two to three first- through third-year veterinary students will now be on call at all hours to intake wildlife. The student volunteers, dubbed the wildlife triage team, will help continue 24/7 wildlife care in the greater Inland Northwest region. 

According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife website, WSU is the only 24-hour emergency service for wildlife rehabilitation in Washington east of the Cascades, and it is just one of two that takes in mammals. On average, WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital provides care to 500 to 600 wildlife patients every year.

“We were looking at the possibility of having to limit our hours of intake, and this will allow us to keep taking in wildlife 24 hours per day; that means animals that are hurt or in need of care get medical attention a lot sooner, and the students get more hands-on experience,” said Dr. Marcie Logsdon, one of two full-time WSU exotics veterinarians.

Logsdon said when wildlife is suspected to be injured or orphaned, animals often end up staying with their finder overnight, which can be difficult for both parties. The new wildlife triage team, which began this week, looks to change that.

The students won’t be alone. Just as in the past, WSU wildlife veterinarians will be on call for more complicated cases.

Logsdon said most wildlife patients require a physical exam, supplemental heat, fluids, medication, and treatments for injuries.

“Those are all things we can train our students to do in their first years of vet school,” she said.

Logsdon said the 24-hour WSU wildlife hotline (accessed by calling the veterinary teaching hospital main line afterhours) will still be available to assess if the animal is truly injured or orphaned, and help the finder determine if it should be coming into the hospital or not. As students in the program gain experience, they may help fielding these calls as well.

So far, over 60 students have signed up to participate on the wildlife triage team. 

Logsdon said she hopes the increased experience and training for veterinary students will lead to more licensed veterinarians out in practice who can provide veterinary services to wildlife – emergency or otherwise.

“A lot of veterinarians want to help, they just aren’t familiar working with wildlife,” Logsdon said. “We want to make them comfortable.”

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