Wildlife Medicine by Dr. Jessica Wilson

At least monthly I volunteer my services to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton. I find this to be one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I do as a veterinarian. There are so many different species of wildlife right here in Alberta. The types of patients I see range from tiny songbirds weighing 5-10 grams to large raptors (hawks, eagles) weighing 4-5 kg. It also includes tiny baby prairie hares, deer fawns, the rare elk calf and everything in between. This is not something that vet school prepares you for or that you can look up in the textbook. Each species has different requirements for diet and habitat that they thrive in—forest, lake, or sky. There are only a few guidelines published about medications and treatments to use in wildlife and then there is the practically of trying to give medication to a wild animal! Some species take to treatment easily and you can sneak medications into their food or water. Others are very stressed being confined or being around people and they become a danger to themselves and their care givers! It is always an adventure and sometimes you have to be creative! The staff that cares for the injured wildlife are amazing at their job and are great at helping me figure out the limitations of treating each species.

The goal of treating injured wildlife is always to release them back into the wild after they are fully recovered from their illness or injury. This sometimes proves to be the biggest challenge. Not all animals recover fully and then we have the difficult decision of deciding if they can cope with their limitations in the wild. Can they hunt for their food adequately? Can they escape predators easily? Can they mingle with their species, mate and thrive? Some are not so lucky and we decide it is best to humanely euthanize. But sometimes we are fortunate to have our treatment plan work and we are able to release them back into the wild. Releasing a wild animal like an owl or a bald eagle and watching them soar in the sky knowing you have helped is really the best feeling of all.

Check out the website for the Wildlife Rehabilitation of Edmonton and consider making a donation to help them continue to care for injured wildlife.