As the population in Colorado increases, the number of injured and orphaned animals discovered by people each year has been climbing. When people become sick or injured, they can go to the doctor for treatment. Where do the animals go for treatment?
"Wildlife rehabilitation" is the process of providing expert care to injured and orphaned animals to increase the chances of survival once they are released back to the wild. The areas of biology, medicine, diseases, caging, animal release and wildlife laws all come into play when working as a rehabilitator.
Properly caring for wildlife requires expert technical skills, special diets, animal specific cages and supplies. Wildlife rehabilitation requires a great deal of time. Some weakened animals, especially newborns, require care every few hours."Because wildlife is the property of the state, wildlife centers require special licenses to legally possess wildlife," said Aaron Bartleson, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife officer from Springfield. "Any native wild animal in captivity, even if just for temporary rehabilitation, remains under the authority of the state," he said.
There are about 100 licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Colorado. Most are small home-based operations that can only handle a few animals at a time. There are ten full-time dedicated rehabilitation centers in the state. Those ten centers generally rehabilitate larger numbers of animals than home-based rehabilitators.
Regulations require that rehabilitators provide training for unlicensed people helping with direct animal care, whether volunteers, interns or seasonal staff. Some centers specialize in only one type of animal; others can care for more than one species.
So what should you do if you find an injured animal? CPW has an organized group of trained volunteers that can assist in the transportation of some animals, including raptors.
If an injured or orphaned bird of prey is found, please contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office or local wildlife officer immediately. It is crucial that the animals be transported as quickly as possible as this greatly increases their chance of survival.
For further information, see the full press release. For information on becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, see the rehabilitators' documents and applications page.