Utah Wildlife Rehabilitation is an organization that nurses injured wild birds back to health and then releases them. It has been lauded in numerous stories over the years. We first learned about it a few years ago when one of us rescued an injured seagull on 7th East and took it to a nearby veterinarian's office. They didn't handle wild birds -- try finding a veterinarian who will -- but they knew a good organization that would rehabilitate it, they said. Nope, no payment was necessary. (A donation was sent later.)
Fast forward to one month ago, an injured magpie this time, hauled into another veterinarian's office in an oversized cat carrier. After one startled squawk, "Magpie" (creative patient name reached after much consideration) allowed himself to be examined.
"Well, I think this little guy will be just fine--"
"--but you can't take care of it."
"I don't mind; I feel guilty because it was my cat that injured it." Granted, it was probably divebombing him at the time, damn magpies, but still . . . . "I can get a cage."
"No, it's illegal for you to have this bird in your possession. Federal wildlife laws."
"Oh, dear. I wouldn't want to break the law . . . ." And I've never buried a family pet in the back yard, either.
Don't worry, the vet said; there is an excellent wildlife bird rehabilitation service that will take care of the bird until it is ready to be released back into society. No charge, he added (although donations are accepted). If Channel 4 is correct, our federal government raided this respected organization and removed all of the birds in its care -- some of which had been brought there by state and federal agencies -- because, although the organization's principals have had federal permits for years, some of their volunteer rehabilitators do not. No allegation of abuse or neglect was mentioned, just a lack of permitting by some of the people who care for the birds.
We do understand the purpose of requiring permits. As this rehabilitator notes in a pre-raid article, untrained do-gooders may fail to provide proper nourishment or care. But there was no allegation in Channel 4's story that Utah Wildlife Rehabilitation's volunteers didn't know what they were doing; just that they didn't have permits.
One of those volunteers, I suspected after seeing the story, is my neighbor, or someone like her. One morning a while back, as I was sneaking up on an apparently injured bird hobbling along the sidewalk, I saw my new neighbor closing in from the other direction. (Some neighbors are made for each other.) "I think that bird is injured," I said, in case she thought I was stalking it or something. The woman nodded. She was a volunteer wild bird rehabilitator, she said; she had the cages and the food and all that. She would take care of it.
I don't know if this woman has a permit, and I don't care. With the support of her family, she performs a responsible and compassionate service. Since most veterinarians will not treat wild animals, what's going to happen to the injured birds now? Is it better to let them suffer than to be taken care of by someone who does not have a permit, but who works with people who do? And while we're at it, does our federal government really not have better things to do these days than raid a group of people trying to do something kind?