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Good intentions, bad results

Several siblings have found a temporary home after having their small world pulled apart by kidnappers — or ducknappers.

Currently, Best Friend’s Veterinary Center in Oak Harbor is dealing with not only a family of ducknapped ducklings, but with a number of cases where people have found or rescued wildlife and don’t know how to handle or care for them.

“Some kids thought they were cute,” said Erica Syring, D.V.M., referring to the small yellow ducklings. “So they took them home.”

Syring said when the kids returned the babies to their home, their parents wouldn’t take them.

She said it is human interference into nature, a system that works and cares for its own, that is frustrating to try and remedy.

Now, instead of leaning to swim and feed in the wild with their parents, the ducklings huddle in the center’s bath tub, eating man-made food and only having a small bowl of water to drink and bathe in. And although they are well cared for, a veterinary clinic is no match for the wild.

Syring said, for the most part, people who find wild babies or wounded wildlife mean well and really want to try and help these animals. But she said the best help people can give these animals is to call a vet or animal clinic before touching them. This way, a vet can assess the animal’s situation and advise the caller to bring it in or leave it alone.

Pia Carruth, one of the center’s veterinary technicians in training, rehabilitates and raises the bunnies brought into the clinic. Called “Mama Pia” by co-workers, Carruth raised approximately 90 bunnies last year.

Although her success rate is high, Carruth said a large number of bunnies die because people wait too long before bringing them into the clinic.

“They are very fragile,” she said.

She said that bunnies can’t stomach cow’s milk and require a formula high in fat, an incubator, only two feedings a day and very little handling.

“I hardly touch them at all,” Carruth said. “I want them to stay wild.”

She said whether the nest disturbance comes from a lawnmower, gardening, a dog, cat or other animal, often times, it is best to let the animal parents care for the remaining babies.

If a nest is disturbed, but the babies are fine, she said the person who found the nest should put some garden gloves on, restore the nest and leave. And for animals that are injured, a clinic is the best place for them to recuperate.

Another area of concern for veterinarian workers is people handling baby or wounded raptors and birds of prey.

This past week, the clinic got a call from a ranger at Joseph Whidbey State Park saying that a baby owl was lying in the brush next to a park trail.

The clinic sent someone to get the baby bird and bring it to the clinic for an assessment. After checking the baby out, veterinarians decided the bird was healthy. And having heard the parents in the area, they returned the baby to its original spot.

A few days later, however, someone called and said they had picked up a baby owl they found while visiting the park and didn’t know what to do with it. Once again veterinarians returned the animal to its parents and placed a sign telling trail users to leave the bird alone.

Several days later, a man brought the same little owl into the clinic, saying he had found the baby bird a few days prior, taken it home to care for it, watched it get weaker and then eventually brought it in - although much too late. The baby owl died.

Several of the clinic workers said it was sad and frustrating to see a bird go from a beautiful, living baby to a lifeless body of feathers simply because people wouldn’t leave it alone.

“The thing is that it is education that people lack,” Carruth said. “Everyone has good intentions.”

Syring said “no touching” is a good rule to follow when coming upon a wild animal. Always call a vet or clinic first. This keeps animals and people safe and allows for interference only when absolutely necessary.

“We just want animals to live,” said Cheryl Gisvold, who works at Best Friend’s and is an animal lover.

And the others agreed that this was the bottom line and motivation for their concern.

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