Every year we receive many sick and injured birds of prey for care and the number of calls we receive is steadily increasing as caring members of the community become aware of the work we do. Many of these birds have been injured in the course of human activity.
A large proportion of injured birds have been found on roadsides, often with severe injuries consistent with motor vehicle impact. For a bird of prey, roadsides are attractive places. Grassy verges provide habitat for prey items such as mice, insects and reptiles, and road killed wildlife presents an easy and tempting meal. Unfortunately, roads are also crowded and dangerous environments. Raptors risk being struck by vehicles, becoming entangled in roadside fences or colliding with electrical infrastructure. One kestrel brought to us with a broken wing had been struck by a car and carried in the grill for approximately 20 kilometers! Fortunately, this bird was successfully rehabilitated. Roadsides and vehicles are not the only dangers however. We have received birds which have been shot, attacked by cats, collided with glass windows or have simply been found in starving condition.
Whereas raptor rehabilitation can be extremely rewarding, especially when a bird that would have otherwise died is released fit and well back into its own territory, it can also, at times, be heart breaking. The reality is that many of the severe injuries suffered by birds of prey cannot be satisfactorily healed and humane euthanasia is frequently the kindest option.
The costs involved in rehabilitation are almost always borne by the rehabilitators themselves. Anyone interested in becoming involved in wildlife rehabilitation should understand that there are constant expenses for housing, food, transportation and medical care, not to mention a very substantial time commitment. On one notable occasion I drove for five hours, covering nearly 400 kilometers in order to collect two birds that subsequently had to be humanely euthanased. We are fortunate, however, to have expert veterinarians who provide treatment at substantially reduced rates.
The value of rehabilitation has been a subject of hot debate in recent times. For the injured birds that are successfully released, and the children and adults who experience our educational programs, I feel that what we do is of value and has merit. In terms of conservation; rehabilitating injured raptors may help. Certainly, doing nothing at all does not