Happy Earth Day 2016
Friday, April 22, 2016 is Earth Day, the 46th anniversary of the celebration. In 1970 the event was first observed by 20 million Americans, mostly students. Today over one billion people in 192 countries from all walks of life participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular observance in the world. The goal of Earth Day is to educate people about the importance of environmental protection. Whether you believe Global Climate Change is a figment of Al Gore’s imagination or a viable threat to the future of all life on Earth, it is hard to argue that treating the planet with a little respect is a bad idea.
Peace River Wildlife Center celebrates the principles of Earth Day every day. Our primary goal is to assist injured, orphaned or ill native Florida wildlife and get the healthy individuals back out into the wild where they belong. Most of the harm we see is due to some sort of human-animal conflict. It may be an opossum that has been hit by a car, leaving her babies orphaned. Sometimes it is a red shoulder hawk or screech owl hatchling that has had its nest destroyed when a tree was trimmed. It can even be the consequences of habitat loss forcing more animals into unnaturally close proximity and increased encounters with humans and their pets and cars.
Regardless of the cause, PRWC tends to over 2,000 injured and displaced birds, mammals and reptiles each year, and does everything within our powers to right the wrongs that have been committed. While we do not profess to have any super powers, we do have some pretty super people on our team. Our staff consists of nine paid employees, only three of whom are full-time. The rest of our staff is comprised of volunteers, over 100 selfless folks who give their time to help make PRWC the successful community resource it has become.
Of course none of those people could do their jobs if it weren’t for PRWC’s generous donors. These are the true unsung heroes who keep PRWC in baby formula and feeding tubes. Many community members help out by donating supplies that we use on a daily basis—from eggs, fresh kale and dog food to trash bags, laundry soap and rakes. Every item donated is one less expense for the Center. And while we appreciate each of these donations, there are still specialized items that we must purchase through professional distributors, for which we gratefully accept monetary donations as well.
Many birds and mammals breed year round here in beautiful Southwest Florida, but we still see an uptick in babies during spring. Each of the babies that come into PRWC is fed a diet specially formulated for that species and each container can cost up to $100. We have different baby formulas for birds depending on their natural diet—pescivores (fish eaters), raptors (meat eaters), insectivores (bug eaters), frugivores (fruit eaters) and granivore (seed eaters).
We also have different formulas for each type of mammal baby that we see, since their dietary requirements are surprisingly unique. The amount of protein and fat in each diet can be quite different, and those needs can vary with the age of the baby. This is one of the reasons it can be dangerous for people who find a baby animal to feed it cow’s milk. In the same way that many people cannot digest regular milk, most animals other than calves cannot digest it either. It is usually worse to feed the wrong thing than nothing at all.
If you find a baby or injured animal—bird or mammal, call PRWC for instructions before attempting to feed it anything. After hours, place the animal in a warm, dry, dark, quiet location and call first thing in the morning. We are open seven days a week, 365 days a year.
At PRWC we are especially grateful to the community for their overwhelming support. Everyone who has brought an injured or orphaned animal to PRWC is part of our extended family. We exist because of all of the love and support that has been shown to these unfortunate animals. So it is a little redundant to ask people to participate in Earth Day once a year when our community at large does it every day. Rather, think of Earth Day as a day to celebrate the small victories (releasing the bird whose broken wing has healed) and to envision reaching even bigger goals (helping us educate people to avoid injuring wildlife.)
This Earth Day let’s all do something totally subversive–let’s try to appreciate Mother Earth. She is pretty special. And she’s the only planet we have. For now.
by – Robin Jenkins, DVM