As a nonprofit wildlife hospital, Pelican Harbor Seabird Station cares for wildlife in South Florida. Their goal is to nurse animals back to health so that they can be released back into the wild, especially for species that are vulnerable or endangered. The organization also helps with public outreach to ensure everyone is educated about how to protect wildlife.
Let’s start with the basics— what exactly does a wildlife rehabilitator do?
I help with the intake of new patients, patient exams, and creating animal treatment plans. We care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife that comes into our care from a variety of circumstances. Right now, we are in the height of baby squirrel and possum season, so I’ve been taking over the role as their mother until they can be set free. As a wildlife rehabilitator, I’m able to give these animals a second chance at life.
What kinds of animals do you rescue?
We have a wide variety of patients. When we were first founded 40 years ago, we only dealt with pelicans, but that isn’t the case anymore. We treat all kinds of seabirds, marsh birds, songbirds, owls, hawks, squirrels, possums, and some reptiles. Our average stay is about a month, but it depends on the case and how much recovery time the animal needs.
What can we do as individuals to help protect our wildlife?
A lot of the animals come into our care because of human interaction and pollutants. Birds can get sea hook injuries because fishermen just cut the line when it gets caught on a bird rather than taking safer measures. These fishing lines can lead to restriction injuries that sometimes require surgery. If you’re into fishing, make sure you pick up after yourself and dispose of your lines properly. If it does get stuck on a bird or other animal, call your local animal hospital. Also, don’t feed wild animals! Their bodies are not designed for the kinds of food that we eat and it can cause major issues for them.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It’s so great to be able to provide a second chance for these patients. I really feel a sense of joy when I help animals that are hurt, especially ones affected by human interaction. All parts of my job are so great, and it’s amazing to be with the animal throughout their recovery process until they are released back into the wild. There’s a misconception that it must be sad for us to see our patients go after we’ve cared for them for so long, but really it’s the opposite. I love being able to see them back in their natural habitat, knowing that I helped them get there.