Wildlife Rehabilitators Are Overwhelmed During the Pandemic. In Part, That’s a Good Thing.


Feeding an orphaned bear. Tom MacKenzie / USFWS

By Hope Dickens

Molly Craig’s day begins with feeding hungry baby birds at 6 a.m. The birds need to be fed every 15 minutes until 7 at night. If she’s not feeding them, other staff at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn, Illinois take turns helping the hungry orphans.

When the center’s resident birds, opossums, squirrels and other wildlife aren’t being fed, cleaned or cared for, Craig, Fox Valley’s director of animal care, finds herself trying to answer the seemingly ceaseless stream of calls from concerned citizens who’ve come across a hapless animal and don’t know what to do about it.

“Phones have been ringing off the hook,” she says.

Fox Valley and other wildlife rehabilitation centers across the country have seen a large increase in calls from the public since coronavirus-lockdown orders took effect in March. Wildlife Rescue League in Virginia, a help line that gives advice or directs callers to local rehabbers, reports their calls have increased by 62% compared to last year, with staff now fielding more than 50 a day.

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