Wildlife rehabbers band together to raise funds after hurricanes

Pelicans recover at the Texas Sealife Center after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Tim Tristan/Texas Sealife Center
Pelicans recover at the Texas Sealife Center after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Tim Tristan/Texas Sealife Center

After Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, the wildlife rehabilitators at the Texas Sealife Center in Corpus Christi continued caring for birds, turtles, and other animals despite extensive damage to their facility.

In Florida, after Hurricane Irma, the Kritter, Inc. Wildlife Sanctuary in Panama City Beach received an influx of patients from other rehabbers. The staff took in shorebirds and seabirds, even though they weren’t set up to help the species. They had to scramble to obtain the correct food for their new charges.

And in the hard-hit Florida Keys, the rehabbers at Marathon Wild Bird Center had to wait more than a week to get into their facility, which was flooded by Irma. Despite having a big mess to clean up, the staff continues to care for injured birds.

These are just some of the stories of wildlife rehabbers in areas affected by hurricanes. While wildlife rescuers and rehabilitators work to care for animals in need, a well-organized and well-funded response system for injured wildlife has never been in place.

The magnitude of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey compelled four organizations — LoveAnimals.org, Animal Help Now, Southern Wildlife Rehab, and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council — to raise funds for the aid of the wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers desperately working to save wild animals orphaned, injured, or displaced by the hurricane and subsequent flooding.

On September 11, the campaign was expanded to assist wildlife rehabilitators impacted by other hurricanes. The organizers intend for the effort to help serve as a model for future response efforts.

“Wildlife rehabbers and rescuers in the impacted Gulf Coast region are in desperate need of help,” says Michelle Camara of Southern Wildlife Rehab. “Some operations have been directly damaged by the storm. Some farther north are taking in patients from those directly impacted. Most rehabbers have no means of fundraising, and even those that do cannot focus on anything right now other than admitting and triaging the stream of opossums, baby squirrels, raccoons, snakes, and shorebirds arriving at their doors.”

In the last few weeks, the Hurricane Wildlife Relief Fund attracted more than 175 donors and about $13,000 in donations. The donated money was transferred to the accounts of the wildlife rehabilitators who had applied for assistance. Organizers decided the campaign will conclude on Sunday, October 1, because it would be too difficult to manage multiple campaigns for multiple storms.

The team behind the fundraising effort is donating all time and materials, so besides minor credit-card processor fees, 100 percent of the money is going directly to wildlife rehabilitators and rescuers directly or indirectly impacted by the hurricanes. Donations may be made at www.LoveAnimals.org/Harvey.


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