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Archive for February, 2011

Responding to a Crisis Involving Wildlife

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Many types of disaster and crisis situations can involve and affect wildlife: natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires), oil spills, and even terrorism. When a disaster strikes and animals are involved, many people’s first reaction is to rush to the scene and attempt to save as many animals as possible!  However, I’m learning as I undergo training to become a volunteer for the Minnesota Veterinary Reserve Corps, an organization that responds to emergency and disaster situations involving animals, that immediately running to the frontlines is not always the right thing to do.

The details and planning that go into emergency preparedness for any given city, county, state or country are very complex and very carefully designed. We all know that disasters and crises are going to occur, so law enforcement agencies, state and federal agencies, and tribal groups have established a plan for responding to those events. There is a definite chain-of-command when it comes to responding to an emergency, and that means not just anyone can jump in and help. Oftentimes, hundreds to thousands of people want to help however they can; however, sometimes more is not necessarily merrier.  Emergency response is executed very specifically, and all responders must be called upon to assist by a superior in the chain-of-command.

For example, during the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, many well-meaning people wanted to help by rescuing oiled birds. In the process of doing so, many NON-oiled birds were scared off the beaches and ran into the oiled waters,  jeopardizing their lives as well. Instead of the problem becoming minimized, it became maximized. Therefore, sometimes it’s best for the safety of the people and animals involved to allow only professionals and experts to handle the situation. Rescuing and caring for oiled wildlife requires expert knowledge and a very specific rehabilitation process, and should never be attempted by an untrained person.

If there is ever a disaster situation involving animals and you’d like to help, instead of rushing to the scene and putting yourself to work, ask officials how you can help. Join a community or state-wide volunteer reserve corps for emergency situations, such as the Red Cross, where you can receive training and be called upon in the event of a disaster or crisis situation.

I did not realize how intricate and organized emergency preparedness was until I started training for the Minnesota Veterinary Reserve Corps. I used to be the person who wanted to run to every crisis where animals were involved and start scooping them up one by one and take them to safety. I never realized that by doing that, I could be doing more harm than good!

A Winter Frog Blog

Monday, February 21st, 2011

We’ve admitted a couple cool patients the last couple weeks: frogs. No, they didn’t come in from icebound lakes, but rather they’ve been hibernating in people’s plants and are being disturbed as people move their pots around for better sunlight.

This teeny, teeny guy is a Western Chorus Frog.

Chorus Frogs are found throughout Minnesota and are heard early in the spring, especially after rains.  They are Minnesota’s smallest frog measuring in from .75″-1.25.”

This much larger frog is a Green Frog and it’s the second largest frog found in Minnesota (bullfrog is the largest).

Green Frogs live in lakes and rivers in the eastern half of Minnesota. While the Chorus Frog will lay its eggs in March, the Green Frog waits until May or June to lay thousands of eggs.

Minnesota’s DNR has a fabulous section on their site for more information on frogs and toads.

There was one other interesting frog that arrived last week, but it’s not from Minnesota.  In fact, it’s not even from the U.S.:

Isn’t it cool looking?  This is a Cuban Tree Frog and Bachman’s Floral brought it to us.  It arrived in a shipment of plants from Florida. Cuban Tree Frogs are native to well, Cuba, and much of the Carribbean.

Unfortunately, no matter how cute it is, this non-native species is decimating native populations of tree frogs in Florida and the USFWS is working to eliminate them. So, since we cannot release this frog, it has been placed in a nice new home.  You can learn more about the Cuban Tree Frog here.

We Love Wildlife

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Our annual open house is one of my favorite days of the year.  For me, it’s one of the first signs of spring – right up there with the early, distinctive call of the Northern Cardinal.  We’re also just a month or so away from the beginning of another busy season meaning the deadline to clean, scrub, paint, etc. comes at a good time.

Sunday – the nicest day since November – lived up to expectations.  Staff, volunteers and all the wonderful people who came through our doors seemed buoyant in the nice weather and appreciative of the chance to see what goes on at WRC.

From the two kids who talked their dad into going around twice, and not just in the hopes of an extra cookie, to the two year-old who brought her own bunny, which was almost as big as her, the day was filled with delightful surprises.  It was especially nice to have visits from a girl scout troop and a 4H group both accompanied by parents and advisers.  Their generous donation to WRC added more “inventory” for our exhibits featuring all the cool ways young people help WRC.

It was a great day; appropriate for the first day that felt as if winter was receding at last.  While it’s still too early for budding trees, we certainly were blessed with a bunch of budding veterinarians.