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It's the Law, Part TwoPosted Sunday, September 16, 2012, at 5:01 PM
Wildlife laws are put into place to protect people. All people - well-intentioned or not. The situation may seem harmless, such as when a child or adult finds a wild baby (insert: rabbit, turtle, raccoon, bird) and simply wants to nurture it until it grows up or is feeling better.
Let's discuss zoonotic diseases. This is a classification for diseases that are transmittable from animals to humans. We always hear about rabies because it is fatal. Generally, we picture an animal that is foaming at the mouth, extremely debilitated and is highly aggressive. However, there are an immeasurable amount of animals which can carry and transmit the disease; and never have a symptom.
There are many other zoonotic diseases among wildlife that you never hear about it. Some of these can be fatal, especially in younger children whose immune systems are not fully developed. Some of these include salmonella, ptomaine, tularemia and cryptospiridiosis. They can also harbor canine/feline distemper and parvovirus, which can be fatal to unvaccinated family pets. In the best of scenarios these diseases can make you feel really sick for a while.
At Walden's Puddle, we once received a call to rescue a mother raccoon and 3 babies from a Sears 18-wheeler which came to Nashville from Missouri. The mother was thin and weak, and our initial reaction was to believe she was simply in a starved state. In order to try to preserve the whole family, we separated them for nutritional purposes and planned to reunite them a few days later. Within a week, the mother and all babies were dead.
We could have assumed it was from starvation and dehydration. Instead, when the first animal died we sent the body to a lab for necropsy. A necropsy is to animals what an autopsy is to people. The whole family was infected by cryptospiridiosis, a nasty intestinal bacteria that people can also catch. It had infected some of the water in Missouri and several people had died from it.
What we SAW was a poor starving mother who was doing everything she could to care for 3 young babies whose eyes had not even opened. What we HAD was a potentially deadly bacterial disease that could have caused a lot of problems to a lot of people. (From Walden's inception, we were using sterile conditions, gloves and a lot of disease prevention!)
The point here is - TWRA and U.S. F & W have laws designed to keep people safe from dangers and hazards that might not be visible to the naked eye.
The things that we can't see are often the ones that are most dangerous to us - that's kind of a statement about life!!!
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Vicky Carder is a Shelbyville native. In 1991 she founded Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. There she served as Executive Director for more than 12 years. The Center is the largest wildlife hospital in Middle Tennessee. She has published in wildlife national and international journals. Now she wants to share her knowledge of native wildlife and some of the experiences she had while working with wildlife.