One of the MOST frequently asked questions that we get in the spring is “I found an injured bird - can Tanglewood take it?”
The short answer: No, but I can give you the name and number of someone who can.
The long answer comes in parts: 1. Who can take an injured/abandoned animal? 2. Why can’t Tanglewood take it? 3. Is that animal really injured or abandoned at all?
1. Who can take an injured/abandoned animal? Wildlife rehabilitators. Here are two good contacts for our region. Please keep in mind that they are busy with round-the-clock animal care - they may not answer the phone when you call, but if you leave them a message, they will call you back once they are finished feeding baby birds with eyedroppers!
We have the names and numbers of even more rehabbers in Addison, Trumansburg, Canisteo, and Cayuta. You can call Tanglewood to get those names and numbers. You can also call the New York DEC to find a rehabber near you.
2. Why can’t Tanglewood take the animal? We do not have the training to care for injured animals. Plain and simple. Becoming a wildlife rehabber takes years of training and a license through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator, meeting rehabbers, and volunteering with rehabbers, the National Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators has some good resources.
Tanglewood provides a permanent home for over 40 animals. Many of our animals were placed with us through wildlife rehabilitators after they were assessed as “non-releasable.” Hank the red-tailed hawk and Sophie the great horned owl, for example, sustained wing injuries severe enough that although the rehabbers were able to get them stable - no pain - Hank and Sophie will never be able to fly well enough to survive in the wild. Another factor that can lead to an animal being deemed non-releasable is imprinting or familiarization with humans - this is the case for Jeckle, our crow. Wild animals should be cautious and stay away from humans. If a young animal loses that fear, then it is not safe to put them back in the wild, when they may approach a human for food or not know to hide from a gun or car.
Ideally, rehabbers can bring the animals back to full health (including a healthy, natural fear of humans and cars) and release them into the wild. If the animals are non-releasable, that is where Tanglewood comes in. We are the final, safe, caring and enriched home for non-releasable wild animals. We have the appropriate permits to keep and care for these animals. They are different permits and licenses than the ones rehabilitators have.
3. Is that animal really injured or abandoned at all? Often, when we see an animal - especially a baby animal - out and about, we feel an immediate emotional response and want to help it however we can. However, that gut reaction may cause more harm to the baby than help. Baby birds are notorious for being “rescued” when they didn’t need a rescue at all. Fawns and rabbits, too.
If you care, leave them there is a good rule of thumb. But if you see blood, or broken limbs, then of course that is an appropriate time to call a rehabber.
As an last thought - what if you find some animals that don’t need help, but YOU need help getting them out of the way? We call those nuisance wildlife and they have a separate set of humans to help them. If you need some honeybees to live elsewhere than your house, or find a timber rattlesnake, Tanglewood can connect you to a nuisance wildlife contact appropriate for the species.