Posted by: Wild Instincts | June 14, 2022

Ruffed Grouse Beginnings

After a ruffed grouse was disturbed from her nest and accidentally killed, her eggs were brought to us to incubate and hatch. Eight of the nine eggs hatched.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | May 14, 2022

The Paving Stones of Good Intentions

Wildlife rehab is hard. Sometimes we are likened to wildlife first responders/paramedics. There certainly are lots of similarities.

We were deemed essential workers when the Pandemic was declared just like paramedics and volunteer firefighters.

We spend a lot of time, at our own expense, to maintain training and stay up on latest techniques.

We are available 24/7 for whatever wildlife emergency presents itself.

There are lots of differences between human paramedics and wildlife caregivers, too.

Unlike human first responders, who deal with emergencies & illnesses in different stages of the same species (pediatrics, general population, geriatrics) we must deal be able to do the same in different stages of over 100 different species.

One of the biggest differences, however, is the level of respect and the “Well-Intentioned Excuse”.

If a Good Samaritan comes across a horrible car accident, they don’t take the victims home and give them aspirin to help. If it’s a fatal accident with a baby strapped in the car seat, they don’t take the baby home and care for it by feeding it some concoction they found on the Internet.

They call the PROFESSIONALS immediately.

In the case of wildlife emergencies, wildlife rehabbers are the professionals although because as a kid their friend nursed a hurt squirrel once we are not respected as professionals.

All too often we are not the first call.

Instead of making that first call to a wildlife professional, wildlife in need of care is taken home by Well-Intentioned People, who often then decide to take it upon themselves to try to “help” the animal.  Not only does this delay the animal getting the proper help it needs, it can also do irreparable damage. Frequently it results in needless, preventable death.

Imagine spending hours on multiple phone calls counseling a person how to best handle a fawn that likely is not in need of help. Trying everything you can think to explain how to keep a wild family together. Patiently answering questions late into the night.

A couple days later someone calls because they had found a fawn next to a dead mom on the road just 20 minutes ago. They have prior arrangements so can’t get it to us until late. The fawn pulls in after 9:00 pm. We had already been working since 7:00 a.m.

Upon approaching the car, our suspicions were confirmed. It was apparent the caller had lied. Piecing the threads together this is the likely scenario:

This fawn wasn’t found near a dead mom. They had taken the fawn we were counseling them about days before and were feeding it inappropriately because we couldn’t possibly know more than Google. They were avid deer hunters and know deer. Besides their uncle raised a fawn 20 years ago so they know best.

When it was getting harder to keep their secret and the amount of work to care for it became reality, they arranged with “friends” to make up a story about finding it on the road by a dead mom and transport it.

Remember how we said their story all fell apart when we approached the car? We could smell the fawn. He was covered in nasty diarrhea and his diarrhea-filled transport container was next to a large bag of inappropriate formula.

He was on Death’s Door, but only we seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. They were just thrilled to be able to “help” this cute little creature.

He passed away just a few hours later.

People will try to make a case that the Well-Intentioned People meant well and should not be held accountable because they had good intentions.

Actions, whether well-intentioned or not, have consequences. Doing the Right Thing too late, is not doing the Right Thing.

The Right Thing is respecting professional wildlife rehabilitators, seeking them out, and respecting their advice.

Having to deal with preventable consequences of others “good intentions” is one of the hard parts of wildlife rehabilitation YOU can prevent.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Wild lives shouldn’t be the paving stones.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 31, 2022

Cubs Afternoon “Nap”

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 16, 2022

Cubs Get Room Upgrade

Posted by: Wild Instincts | January 10, 2022

2021 Says

NUMB3RS was a TV show that aired from 2005 -2010 that focused on how mathematics is always important in daily life, often in unexpected ways. The program showcased using math in astonishing ways to solve crimes.

Many people are surprised how much simple math is involved in day-to-day wildlife rehab and medicine. Lots of different data is collected, tracked and analyzed.  However, it encompasses much more than just fluid calculations and drug doses.

Data is important to many aspects of any organization. It helps show what they’re doing right, what areas need improvement, helps secure funding and a host of other things.

Here at Wild Instincts we track lots of different data: survival rates, admissions, food intake, disease outbreaks are just a few.

At the end of every calendar year we compile and analyze what we collected and compare to other years. Here we’ll try to provide a snippet in a way that doesn’t make people glaze over when they hear MATH or NUMBERS.

For instance, in 2021 we treated 1306 patients from 118 different species from 39 different counties.

We admitted the same number of wild animals as the human population of Glenwood City, WI, the site of the yearly St. Croix County fair.

There are 72 counties in WI so last year we admitted patients from over half of all the counties in WI. Many years it’s even higher than that, but it’s always a big geographic area we cover! We also transferred in patients from Michigan and Minnesota, so we had admissions from three different states.

Keep in mind also, we do this with only three permanent staff, a few seasonal interns and a handful of volunteers.

Some interesting items from compiling and comparing year to year:

Even though they started Wild Instincts 11 years ago, Mark & Sharon have been wildlife rehabbers for a very long time. In 1998 they started tracking how many patients they’ve been personally responsible on their permits. As of 12/31/2021 that total was 19,865.

Sometimes numbers and data analysis clarify something we may suspect or experience. A perfect illustration of that is our “To Date” category.

Way back in 1998 Mark & Sharon started tracking how many patients they saw to May 29th and then to June 5th. This was designed to compare what the affect of the Memorial Day Weekend kick-off to tourist season in the Northwoods had on admissions. Many people would come North to their cabins and open them up for the summer and find unexpected house guests or injured wild friends.

The last two years during COVID, we have continued to operate as usual. We kept our same hours and services. We kept the same three staff. We reduced volunteers to less than six. Intern levels fluctuated but were never at full capacity.

Other facilities were forced to reduce hours and limit their admissions so we assumed some of our frantic Springs were due to more admissions that would normally go to other facilities and not having a full staff of interns at any time.

Looking at our comparative data for that time, however, reveals to what degree this occurred and validates our exhaustion:

Will this trend continue? Is it strictly due to COVID? Is a component of this due to climate change? As more people relocate to their Northwoods cabins permanently, will this be trend be permanent?

Stay tuned as we continue to collect and analyze date and more importantly, adjust so we may continue to provide top quality care to as many of our wild friends as possible.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | November 26, 2021

Tale of a Trumpeter

Trumpeter Swan with lead poisoning.

This swan was admitted 5 weeks ago today with lead poisoning reading over 65 micrograms/deciliter. How much higher than 65 we don’t know because our analyzer only specifies up to 65. Anything greater than that gives us a “HIGH” reading. It could be 66 or 96. We would never know. As far as we’re concerned, the only acceptable reading is “LOW” meaning less than 3.3 micrograms/deciliter. Some facilities think a reading of 10 or less is acceptable. They consider it background and don’t treat.We don’t agree. Lead is still out there and any animal we release has a huge potential of being exposed again. If we release an animal with 10 micrograms/deciliter, it’s that much closer to getting back to 65.

radiograph of swan
Swan radiograph showing at least 19 discernable lead fragments.

Over 19 discernible lead fragments were visible on the x-ray taken upon admission.

Like most lead poisoning victims, it was not shot. It ingested the lead in its system simply by feeding itself. The fragments were likely in the muddy bottom of the lake. While minding its own business, just foraging on the bottom, it dislodged the lead while it was eating vegetation.

Chelation was begun immediately. Chelation is the process to remove lead from the animal’s system. Like chemotherapy, chelation has serious side-effects. It removes good minerals and vitamins along with the lead. It is very hard on the bird. Sometimes the treatment is too much and they succumb.

This swan has received chelation treatment 43 of the last 45 days.  In addition, it’s been tube-fed a special diet/vitamins to ensure proper nutrients and protection from chelation side effects. That’s 45 days of being handled and forcibly medicated. It’s not fun for any of us.

swan being tube fed
Being tube fed to ensure it keeps its strength up to endure the chelation treatment

During the past 45 days, several x-rays have been taken to determine the status of the lead in the digestive tract as well as several blood lead level tests to monitor lead levels.

swan lying on x-ray table
Swan on x-ray table ready to be x-rayed.
radiograph of swan
Oct 31 x-ray still shows lead fragments.

Eighteen days into treatment the lead test was still “HIGH”.

Today we’re happy to report the blood lead level was down to 21.9. There’s still a way to go, but finally what feels like progress.

radiograph of swan
X-ray from 11/16 reveals progress, but still some fragments.

Three blood lead tests = $28.50 ($9.50/test)

Six bottles of chelating agent = $180.00 ($30/bottle)

Special diet, vitamins, other medications = $35.00

Typical normal diet = $18.00

To care for this one swan so far is $261.50 in just food and meds alone.

This is what your money and support does when you donate to Wild Instincts. You make a difference. You have an impact.  

A donation even a small as $6.00 would care for this swan for one day.

Please mark your calendar for Tues, Nov 30 and join us on Facebook to raise funds to help us help them.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | August 25, 2021

Home to Die

On Saturday, August 7, 2021, at 12:40 pm, we admitted an adult loon. People had been watching it be a normal loon just two evenings before. Diving, swimming and being the typical icon-of-the-wilderness off the end of their dock, but less than 48 hours later something was horribly wrong. They were able to catch it and bring it to us.

The green goo and the general appearance of it when it arrived provided a stark contrast to the healthy vibrant bird it was just a couple days earlier. It was conscious, but showing signs of having aspirated on its own vomit and having difficulty breathing.

Adult loon with green discharge, a sign of lead poisoning.

Unfortunately, wildlife rehabbers have way too much experience seeing these things and they were shouting to us LEAD POISONING.

The weight indicated it’s probably a female. Her body condition was pretty good, so whatever was going on was acute, sudden onset.

We drew blood for a blood lead level test hoping for good news. While we were waiting for the test to finish, we took a couple x-rays. Both diagnostics confirmed our worst suspicions.

The blood lead level was HIGH. That means there is so much lead in the animal’s system, the analyzer is unable to break it down into a specific number. It’s over 65 micrograms/deciliter (or .65 parts per million) but we don’t know if it’s 66 or 166. A value of 10 or less is considered “background” and the general thought is it’s not of concern. We are not of that mindset, however. We treat any measurable value so when the animal gets re-exposed after release, there is more of a cushion for future accumulation. Unless we get the lead out of our fishing and hunting equipment, they WILL be re-exposed.

The x-ray revealed what appeared to be a jig head in the stomach.

The x-ray revealed what appeared to be a jig head in its stomach. This was the likely culprit. In these situations, removing the source of lead in the digestive tract is the only way to keep lead from continuing to enter the bird’s system. We were the first rehabbers in the state to use endoscopy to accomplish removal of fishing tackle from loons. (See Loon Endoscopy blog and the video).The human gastroenterologist who donated use of his equipment and skill has long since retired meaning that is no longer an option. Most rehabbers and their veterinarians “gavage” the item out of the stomach. This is accomplished by anesthetizing the bird and “flushing” the entire stomach contents from the bird.

Critical loon suffering from acute lead poisoning in ICU.

The trouble with either of these approaches is the loon first must be stable enough for anesthesia. This one was not even close to that point. We began work to stabilizing her, but she was too far gone. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she passed away mere hours after her admission.

So why in the world would a loon have a jig head or sinker in its stomach?

They may have eaten a fish that had snapped an angler’s line. Or they mistook the piece of lead for a rock. Loons ingest small rocks and stones on purpose. Called gastroliths, they are in their stomachs to help grind up their food and help with digestion. This, however, makes it even more deadly when they swallow a lead jig head or sinker. The rocks in the stomach grind against the fishing tackle. This removes any paint that may have protected the lead a bit. Then the rocks continue to grind against the bait, releasing more and more lead into the system continually. Lead is released back into the system faster than we can chelate it out.

The stomach contents revealed lots of snails and a bright shiny jig head that’s not supposed to there amongst the stones that are supposed to be there.

She was banded July 10, 2009 as a juvenile on the connecting body of water on which she was poisoned.

Loons don’t generally start breeding until around 6 years of age. Hopefully she was successful in the last six years to raise several other generations.

In the 12 years of her life, she migrated roughly 61, 800 miles between breeding and wintering grounds.  It’s astounding to think of all the challenges she would have encountered. Weather events, people, boats, predators.

She survived all those obstacles over all those years only to come home to be killed by something totally preventable.

A fatal lead jig head with the stones from the loon’s stomach.

The future of our wildlife is in our hands. We need to do better. Get rid of all the lead in your fishing and hunting gear.

She deserved better.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 20, 2021

Bear Cubs Play

Posted by: Wild Instincts | September 30, 2020

Pick Your Poison: NONE

Now is the time of year mice and other little creatures are looking for a good place to spend the winter. Chances are your garage, your barn, your shed or even your house look much more inviting and warm than the great soon-to-be-white-&-frozen outdoors.

People are looking for ways to keep these pesky critters out of their living space. A long-time solution has been and still is to actually turn to poisons like D-con®.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring brought attention to the perils of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Changes came about, but the use pesticides with no thought of the bigger picture is still a much too common practice.

So let’s talk about the bigger picture.

In 1948 Warfarin was introduced as a rodenticide. It was developed in Wisconsin and partially funded by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (the WARF of Warfarin). It works by interfering with the blood’s ability to clot, causing the animal to bleed to death internally.

Rodents began to develop genetic resistance to warfarin so second generation anticoagulants were developed. Probably the most common and therefore most well-known would be d-CON® (using the chemical ingredient brodifacoum) or TomCat® (using the chemical ingredient bromadiolone).

These second generation anticoagulants were more toxic than the first generation. Part of that is because they are longer acting and they bioaccumulate leading to biomagnification. In short, the chemical is not broken down before the little creature dies so is still present in its body. A wild animal like a raptor finds the little creature for breakfast and ingests the toxin the animal had in its body along with the body. Then in finds another for lunch and another for dinner and another for a bedtime snack. Viola. Now the hawk or eagle has ingested 4x the amount used to kill little creatures.

This is a major problem for wildlife. Part of the big picture we must think about when trying to keep the mouse out of our house.

The Environmental Protection Agency recognized this and developed new regulations regarding rodenticides supposedly with this in mind.

In 2011, new regulations restricted the residential use of second generation anticoagulants. The regulations stated the only allowable active ingredients for residential or consumer use were the first generation anticoagulants, vitamin D3 or bromethalin, or zinc phosphate (used in specialty applications). Manufacturers knew mice had developed a resistance to the first generation anticoagulants so looked at the other possibilities. The choice was to start to use bromethalin (a neurotoxin with no antidote) or cholecalciferol (vitamin D3.).

Neither of these ingredients have a safe, easy, inexpensive antidote like the anticoagulants. Vitamin D3 was chosen because of the risk to kids and pets of the neurotoxin with no antidote (bromethalin).

You may be thinking D3 is in my vitamin supplement. How can it be used in rat poison? Vitamin D3 is an essential vitamin we can’t live without. Normally it helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorous. In excess, however, it causes calcium and phosphorous imbalances that can lead to severe kidney failure within 48-72 hours. Soft tissues and organs may start to calcify.

These D3 rodenticides also have a narrow margin of safety which means smaller amounts cause poisonings in pets. The clinical signs may not be seen for 24-48 hours, so by the time they appear it may be too late.

These changes in product make-up initiate a huge change in the way accidental ingestions are treated. If your pet accidentally gets into the rat poison in your garage for instance. OR if a wild animal eats an animal killed with rat poison.

First and second generation anticoagulants were fairly easily treated, if caught in time. The chemicals replacing them are not.

Over the last two months we’ve seen an increase in red-tailed hawks and eagles with signs of these poisonings.

Last night we admitted an eagle with seizures and the landowner admitted to having lots of rat poison around. He even gave us the bucket. Despite our best efforts, the eagle passed away about 14 hours after he arrived.

Maybe in addition to “kills rats, mice & meadow voles” we should add bald eagles to that list to help us remember the far reaching consequences of using any kind of poison.

We understand people don’t want mice or other little creatures in their homes. That’s okay. We can be good neighbors without allowing them in the door.

Please choose alternatives to ANY rodenticide.

Live traps and relocating them is one way. Make sure you relocate them far enough away they won’t beat you home. For mice, a ¼ mile should be sufficient. Note that this still puts a hardship on the animal, but it may have a chance to live a good life somewhere other than your house.

Sticky or glue traps are inhumane and the animal suffers a slow and painful death. Other animals such as birds, bats or salamanders are also victims to these.

Snap traps are generally quick and deadly, but not always. They also have the potential for catching something you weren’t after.

Ultrasonic repellers or unpleasant scents may also work.

Making your home a less inviting habitat is probably the best place to start. Make sure all entry points are sealed, keep birdfeeders away from the house, seal birdseed and pet food in chew proof containers, keep the garage door closed, etc.

From mice to eagles to humans, let’s be considerate of all our neighbors.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | September 18, 2020

Felid and Mustelid Rehab Ban Position Statement

Amanda Falch, DVM, CCRT has created a Position Statement regarding the Felid & Mustelid rehab ban. Please consider electronically signing it by sending your full name, title, city and state to (you may have to cut and paste this address)Please share this widely. The more signatures, especially from WI, the bigger the impact. If there are enough signatures they may be presented at a Natural Resource Board meeting occurring next Wednesday. Thanks to Dr. Falch and all of you for helping us help them.

Position Statement on Felid and Mustelid Wildlife Rehabilitation in Response to SARS-CoV-2September 17, 2020BackgroundSince December 2019, a corona virus known as SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 in humans has rapidly spread across the globe causing serious illness and death in some individuals. As our knowledge of the virus has been rapidly evolving it is suspected that the virus uses the ACE2 receptor to attack the body. Many species other than humans also have this receptor and concern emerged early on about possible zooanthroponosis (reverse zoonosis).There have been documented cases of infection with the virus in dogs, cats, tigers, and mink. It has been shown that both cats and mink have the ability to pass the virus on to others of their species once infected. It is worth noting that while concerns exist there has not been a documented natural infection in a North American species. (…/sa…/sars-cov-2-animals-us)ConcernThe ability of some species to become infected and to potentially pass the virus on to others has led to concerns that this virus could become established in a native species, causing illness and death and/or potentially allowing that species to act as a reservoir for human infections.

Agency Response

Out of an “abundance of caution” some state agencies have halted rehabilitation of felids and mustelid species. This is being done even as the agencies acknowledge that the solitary nature of many of these species makes propagation of the virus in the wild less likely. Excerpt from COVID-19 and North American Species of Mustelidae, Felidae prepared by the Fish and Wildlife Health Committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: “Based on our current understanding of transmission pathways, the infection appears less likely to spread among animals with a solitary lifestyle (as occurs with many mustelids and felids) than among animals that live in social groups. There is no evidence at this time that such infections, if they occurred in individual wild mustelids, felids, or canids, would necessarily be maintained in populations of these species, or that SARS-CoV-2 would cause significant disease if established in these species.”


Limiting rehabilitation of species of concern could have unforeseen effects on public health by inadvertently increasing disease spread in these species while putting the untrained public at risk.Risks:1.) The public taking matters into their own hands. Individuals of young felid and mustelid species are vulnerable to orphaning and injury and people who find them will be able to interact with them in a way not possible with adults. If an individual is found in distress and the public is told there is no option but to leave the animal where it is found, they are very unlikely to do so. This puts the public at risk for rabies and other potential zoonotic illnesses and parasites. It increases the risk of domestic animals of acquiring illnesses like panleukopenia if a finder interacts with them as well as the wild animal. It increases the risk that the wild animal will suffer inhumane conditions as a result of malnutrition, habituation, inappropriate skill development for survival in the wild, and increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 being introduced to the wild through an untrained, well intentioned person releasing an exposed individual back to the wild. 2.) Increased risk of rabies exposure without proper reporting. When a finder interacts with a wildlife rehabilitator he or she is asked about any potential exposure and is more likely to share this information with a wildlife rehabilitator trusted with helping an animal brought into care.3.) Habituated animals. Wildlife that is raised by an untrained person is more likely to be habituated. Habituation of these species can lead to dangerous human/animal encounters, domestic animal/wild animal encounters, and increased risk of disease spread into wild populations. 4.) Endangered species, like the American pine marten, which is already in jeopardy, could lose individuals to injury or orphaning unnecessarily due to lack of access to professional rehabilitation.5.) Even if a member of the public does not take an animal into care through the act of finding it and looking for help, he/she may expose an animal to SARS-CoV-2 that is then left to spread the virus in the wild.6.) When the public knows that professional advice is not available and that contact could lead to an animal being euthanized when it is in need of help, there will be increased interactions with the species without knowledge of rehabilitators who would be able to provide direction about normal and abnormal conditions and behaviors of an individual, and who could intervene in situations where animals would otherwise be held illegally by the public.7.) Free-ranging domestic cats which can carry the virus, given their numbers and exposure to people, should be considered a risk for wildlife exposure.


Wildlife rehabilitators provide a free and valuable resource to the public and to our wildlife. They are experienced, knowledgeable, individuals who have been trained, tested, and found to be qualified by state and federal agencies to rehabilitate wildlife when necessary. Rehabilitators understand species natural history and care needs and keep current with information on emerging disease. They are able to effectively educate the public on when to intervene and when to leave an animal in the wild and, because they are trusted by the public, finders are more willing to follow their instructions and are more willing to share information with them. Wildlife rehabilitators have a vested interest in the health of the individuals already in their care as well as in the populations those individuals will return to. Rehabilitators should be viewed as a resource of knowledge on the species for which they provide care, for the valuable public education and outreach they provide, for their willingness to implement necessary protocols to protect against spread of the virus, as well as to report if a virus is detected in an individual in their care—all at their own expense, as professional volunteers. They are likely to be the first to identify illness if signs of SARS-CoV-2 are developing in the population. We feel the expertise of these individuals is needed now more than ever to protect human and animal health during this pandemic. We recommend that state agencies utilize their skills to help prevent the spread of SARS Co-V-2 to wildlife by allowing them to rehabilitate felids and mustelids with appropriate disease mitigation strategies in place to ensure the safety of the animals as well as the people working with them.

Under these conditions we recommend authorized wildlife rehabilitators be allowed to accept, rehabilitate, and release felid and mustelid species:

1.) Appropriate use of personal protective equipment including but not limited to gloves, gowns, and face masks to be used when working with these species.

2.) Appropriate sanitation is implemented for all caging, bowls, linens, and enrichment items.

3.) Appropriate quarantine protocols are in place when new individuals are brought into care.

4.) People with any symptoms of COVID-19 are not allowed to work with these species while sick or under quarantine.

5.) The number of people working with these species in a rehabilitation setting is limited to decrease risk of exposure.

6.) Any respiratory symptoms in these species are recorded, monitored, and reported to the appropriate state agency.

7.) Appropriate protocols are in place if an individual develops respiratory symptoms while in care to limit exposure of other at-risk individuals8.) Non-traumatic sample collection can be provided when appropriate and requested by state agencies to further our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 in these species.

Older Posts »