While this is part 5, and final, in my series covering my recent cross-country road trip, this one will be considerably different in topic. It will also be somewhat depressing to animal lovers at the start but hopefully swing back to a happier tone by the end. This one will not cover aspects of a normal trip. Stop here if that is what you are expecting. But there are a few pictures of cute animals…
For most of the last seven years, I have volunteered part of the year helping with wildlife rehabilitation. Birds, fowl, and small mammals depending on where and the season, but a good amount of that time working with squirrels and now raccoons more than anything. Even at the biggest rehab shop in Colorado, Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, we would rehabilitate over 3,000 animals a year. In the big picture, that really isn’t a lot compared to how many are in nature. But it does help in some way, even if small, and helps to rebalance some of the harm humans do.
Driving across the country I saw a lot of roadkill. Every time I pass a dead squirrel or raccoon on the road it makes me a little sad because once you work closely with animals, you see they have distinct personalities and they did nothing wrong. Humans encroached on their land, took away their resources, and often treat them like pests. Despite all that, I accept that is how things really are and that animals will get struck by cars.
Going through Kansas I saw quite a few raccoons along the road and it made me think about the current place I volunteer, Sonflower Ranch Wildlife Rehab Center. With a skeleton crew, limited resources, and an incredibly dedicated founder, we rehabilitate well over 100 raccoons a year. Being someone who aggregates things, I counted the roadkill along the way. It only took me driving through Kansas to start having a crisis of confidence in my rehabilitation efforts.
I passed at least 42 raccoons along the entire drive, 15 possum, 21 armadillo, 8 deer, 2 skunks, and 1 squirrel. It’s hard to see those numbers, knowing it is a fraction of the road strikes those weeks, and compare them to the numbers we rehabilitate at our shop. Like hospital workers, wildlife rehabilitators can experience Compassion Fatigue. While I wasn’t involved in the death of the animals I passed, they weren’t in my care, and I couldn’t have done anything to save them, it still had the same effect to a milder extent.
For the first week of the trip I thought it might be time to step back from rehab work altogether. The more I drove the more dead animals I saw and it just reinforced that notion that my efforts were ultimately meaningless and the more it caused sad feelings. Up until a certain point. I don’t remember when, but after seeing at least 100 dead animals, my mind came around to a different direction. Rather than pull back and work less with animals, I figured it was time to focus more on expanding wildlife rehabilitation in the state.
For the last year I had been doing exactly that by broadening my financial support for rehab shops throughout Colorado. Now I want to do that even more. While my own personal volunteer time is negligible in the big picture, my financial support can make a much bigger difference. The need for it is greater now than it has been the last three decades.
Even when I began volunteering there were more rehab shops open along the front range. Over the years several closed for different reasons. A few due to financial issues, as outside of a pittance of solicited government grants, there is largely no state or federal funding for them. One got shut down for repeated and egregious violations of Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) Chapter 14 regulations. A surprising amount of the rehabilitation efforts in this state are done among a network of private rehabilitators that can do varying amounts of animals at any one time. But they are all at capacity all the time, with no relief until they can’t take it any longer and have to take a break or retire.
It simply isn’t sustainable. So… time to double down and keep volunteering, keep supporting rehab efforts in Colorado financially, and keep fundraising. I’ll end on that note. Specifically, because so few people actually read this blog we’ll have some fun with it. For the rest of this year (2022), I will match 1:1 for every dollar donated to a Colorado 501(c)(3) wildlife rehab shop of your choice. I’ll match 3:1 if it is donated to Sonflower Wildlife Rehab, where I volunteer, since I know exactly how the money is used.
Feel free to put this to the test and push my limits. Share it to your social media and challenge your followers to make it hurt. One way or another, I will keep my end of the deal up. [If you need input/ideas on what places qualify for this, I am happy to help you find places that might be to your liking!] Thanks to Alicia at Sonflower, I am now tracking all of the donations on a separate blog.