WSU expecting record number of injured and orphaned wildlife

A closeup of gloved hands caring for a baby owl as it is weighed.
Marcie Logsdon, a wildlife veterinarian at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, weighs a baby owl that fell out of its nest in a campus parking garage on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Pullman. (photo by College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren)

Wildlife rehabilitators at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital are accustomed to caring for hungry and chirping mouths once spring rolls around, but since the start of April the crew has seen a substantial increase in injured and orphaned wildlife over past years.

And they are anticipating record numbers through the summer.

Much of the uptick can be attributed to the recent announcement that Blue Mountain Wildlife, a rehabilitation center in Pendleton, Oregon, is no longer operating out of its central Washington location and is unable to accept wildlife rescued in Washington. Now, many of the hundreds of animals the center typically receives from the Evergreen State will be heading to WSU Pullman.

That’s a lot of additional hungry mouths to feed, which, WSU wildlife veterinarian Dr. Marcie Logsdon said, will severely stress the service’s limited budget. Donations and assistance from the public will help WSU to continue to care for as many animals as possible.

Marcie Logsdon gives fluids to a baby owl that fell out of its nest in a campus parking garage.
Marcie Logsdon, a wildlife veterinarian at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, gives fluids to a baby owl that fell out of its nest in a campus parking garage on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Pullman (photo by College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren)

“Even before the announcement, we were spending more on wildlife rehabilitation than we were getting on donations,” Logsdon said. “We will really need the public’s help for us to continue to provide the best care for these animals so they can be released back into the wild.”

In a typical year, WSU’s wildlife rehabilitation service takes in more than 600 wildlife patients ranging from owls, hawks and other birds to squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, foxes and deer. Numbers usually begin to increase in April and remain high into August.

With intake numbers expected to rise, Logsdon anticipates more than just a strain on the budget, as the service’s staffing and capacity will also be affected.

Currently, many of the wildlife patients are housed at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, while others are sheltered in the wildlife hospital ward in nearby McCoy Hall. Some raptors are accommodated at WSU’s Stauber Raptor Facility. Logsdon said additional facilities are needed to meet long-term needs.

Lillian Zachary, a second-year veterinary medicine student at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, feeds a baby squirrel with a syringe on Saturday, March 25, 2023 (photo by College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren).

“We have outgrown our current facilities, and, long-term, we are hoping to put in a new wildlife-specific hospital and rehabilitation center,” she said. “That would help us to increase our capacity to care for animals and also ensure we are teaching veterinary students best practices when it comes to wildlife medicine and wildlife rehab.”

Transportation of injured and orphaned wildlife is also a pressing need, particularly from the Tri-Cities and Spokane areas. Those interested in helping can reach out to Logsdon at mlogsdon@wsu.edu for more information on how to contribute.

Logsdon said it is easy to mistake a healthy baby for one that may be orphaned or injured, and she reminds the public to call a wildlife rehabilitator before intervening. Calling ahead allows a wildlife rehabilitator the chance to assess the situation and to ensure the animal needs veterinary care or is orphaned. It also provides an opportunity to discuss how to safely handle the animal in question.

To reach the WSU wildlife service, call 509-335-0711. Donations in support the WSU wildlife service and the care of injured or orphaned animals can be made to the Wildlife Care and Support Fund.

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