The “Other Release”
Not long ago a gentleman presented me with a box containing a bird that had been stranded in a store. The man explained that while trying to capture the bird it flew up into a ceiling fan and became injured. Upon opening the box I was horrified to find a beautiful chuck wills widow on one side of the container and one of his wings, completely severed, on the opposite side. I knew immediately that I would need to euthanize the poor creature and gave the finder this sad news. He looked as if he was going to burst into tears and questioned why I could not fix him or keep him as a captive. I could tell he was quite upset with the situation. I explained that this type of bird is an aerial insectivore. They soar the skies at dawn & dusk with their huge mouths wide open catching all types of flying insects. Their beaks are incredibly tiny and are not designed to physically pick up food. In captivity they are very nervous and high strung. In order to keep a bird such as this alive, we would have to force feed several times a day, and possibly insert a feeding tube which would be terrifying for this animal.
I also informed him that we are regulated by the government and there are rules we must follow – one which prohibits us from possessing birds with full wing amputations (and re-attaching the wing is not possible).
Sometimes an animal may be able to be fixed physically, but could never survive the rehabilitation needed. The stress alone would cause it to perish. There are so many things we must consider.
I am writing this article so that the non-rehabilitator can understand the great emotional toll we as rehabilitators face on a regular basis.
I became a wildlife rehabber because I have a deep love and respect for wild animals and I will do whatever it takes to save them or make them comfortable. There is no greater joy than successfully rehabilitating and then releasing back to mother nature, one of her own.
However through years of painful learning experiences, I have slowly gained the knowledge to look at an animal brought in, and know what its chances for recuperation are, or if it could be a suitable captive animal. As an experienced rehabber I also know that sick or injured wildlife may look or act as normal as possible, they don’t moan or cry out in pain – this is their survival tactic.
And as for these animals that are so badly mutilated, injured, or diseased that they will never fly or even walk in the wild again, we can provide them with the “other release”. We can release these wild creatures,with humane euthanasia, from their broken bodies so that their spirits at least can fly or run free again.
As rehabilitators we have dedicated our lives to relieving suffering in wild animals, making them well, and returning them back to the wild.
But some times the best we can offer them is the “other release”, and each time it takes away another piece of our hearts.