Posted by: Wild Instincts | June 2, 2020

They Helped It to Death

This is the time of year when many well-meaning people are finding many different species of wildlife babies…ducklings, squirrels, bunnies, birds, raccoons and especially fawns.

People decide to help their newfound wild friend by reaching out to find a wildlife rehabber because they realize this is a job for a professional.

A small percentage decide they don’t need no stinkin’ rehabber and they will proceed to try and help the animal themselves. After all Google will reveal all the secrets. Some think it will be a great lesson for their kids.

This is a very frustrating and heartbreaking event for rehabbers that happens almost daily this time of year.

If you come across a person in need of medical attention, even if it’s minor, you don’t take them home into your basement, garage or spare bedroom and start looking up what might be good to feed them to make them better. You call a medical professional! Think of wildlife rehabbers as wildlife paramedics.

If a child is wandering the street all alone, you call the authorities to help find their parents. Wildlife rehabbers are wildlife authorities.

Even though you have chickens or remember as a young child, Grandpa had a pet raccoon, the truth is, you are unlikely to be equipped to effectively help the animal you to which you are now attached.

Just because you dropper or tubed fed a litter of kittens, you will not have the special formulas. The incorrect formula(s) can cause death. Google doesn’t tell you that nor which ones are the worst of the worst. You will not have special enclosures. In addition, many of these animals carry diseases and parasites you or your pets can get.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Believe us when we say it is a tremendous amount.

You will not have decades of experience and knowledge of handling thousands of wild animals from hundreds of different species. What formulas at what stages of that species’ life, how often, how much are just a few of the things wildlife rehabbers know.

The lesson you will be teaching your child is that of death and heartbreak.

Rest assured, you will pass that heartbreak onto the rehabber you finally decide to contact at the end; when your wild charge can no longer endure the Googling and the inexperience.

The rehabber will spring into action and try all the tricks, use all the medical intervention that should have been given when the animal was first found a week ago. They will pour their heart, time and resources into the wild animal you care so much about because they care about it, too. Their heart will break when it turns out to be futile and the death you started ends in their arms.

This fawn was admitted today after a well-meaning person tried to help it. Even though the formula she was being fed said it was for fawns, she was slowly starved to death over a week’s time. The body condition score was 0.5-1.0.  She died in one of our intensive care units that controls temperature, humidity and oxygen about 30 minutes after admission.

Your wild animal should be given the best chance at the life it was supposed to live.

Please don’t help it to death. Help it to life.

Call a rehabber right away.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | April 2, 2020

Magnificent 7

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 30, 2020

5 Cubs Move Up

Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 22, 2020

Black Bear Cubs Explore

Posted by: Wild Instincts | January 18, 2020

A Day in the Life of Orphaned Cubs

Posted by: Wild Instincts | October 27, 2019

Food Donation Guidelines

We absolutely rely on food donations from generous people cleaning out their freezers to help feed our patients. However, our patients are with us because their health is compromised so we are particular about what is in their diet. We don’t take everything.

To make it easier for everyone, we’ve put together some guidelines to illustrate what type of donations are helpful to us and what is not. Call if you have any questions.



We try to keep our patients’ diets as close to their natural diet as possible. We are always grateful for venison from your freezer, even outdated items. We ask that you let us know if it was from archery season, or, if from rifle season, if it was shot with lead ammo or non-lead ammo. This allows us to make the best decisions regarding which animals to feed it.

We stay away from processed items such as bacon or sausage. We will take most any venison cuts/ground including those that were going to be turned into sausage but never made it that far.

We do not take leftover rib cages, legs, heads or hides after your deer has been butchered. Not transporting these things more than absolutely necessary may help deter the spread of CWD. We do not take deer tongues or livers either.

Extra tags

If you have extra tags, we’d be happy to take field-dressed deer as a donations as long as they are fresh and not days after season ends.


We do not have the staff to be able to process road-kill during the busy summer season. We also we try to keep the diets for our patients as fresh as possible. Maggoty road-kill is okay for wild animals that use it as only a portion of their diet, but it’s not suitable for compromised animals such as our patients.


We will take wild duck and geese. We will also take chickens from your backyard flock; even live if need be.


We take any species of fish. Eagles are partial to the “hammer-handle” Northerns and bullheads. Suckers are another favorite.

We go through roughly 3000 lbs. of fish a year, more if we have extra otter.  We love whole frozen. This is perfect for kids who love to fish but don’t have adults around who love to clean them. Just put the whole fish in the freezer to drop off when you have time. Or drop them off on your way back to the house.

We will take the leftover live minnows from your fishing trip.

We will also take fillets, even freezer burned from your freezer. Wild or store-bought are both welcome.

We don’t take processed fish like breaded, smoked or pickled.



We will accept non-seasoned/processed chicken, chicken breast, turkey or turkey breasts. We don’t accept nuggets, breaded items or things like Butterball or other brined turkeys.


We accept ground beef (hamburger), limited steak and limited liver. We can’t use beef tongue.


We accept pork chops, steak and a few ribs. We can’t use bacon, breakfast sausage, seasoned patties or ham.

Vegetables & Produce

What we need/accept depends on our patient loads and varies depending on season or year. Call to check.

We WILL take

We WON’T take

Fresh Venison* Rib cages, legs, hides, heads from your deer or road kill
Venison from your freezer (outdated is fine)* Venison sausage, bacon
Fresh Fish (leftover live minnows, too) Fish sticks, pickled fish, breaded shrimp
Frozen fish (outdated from freezer is fine)  
Fresh Chicken (call if live)/Duck/Goose  
Frozen Chicken/Turkey/Duck/Goose Nuggets, Butterball or other seasoned/brined or breaded items
Beef Tongue
Pork (ground, roast, chops) Bacon, ham, breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, hot dogs, bratwurst
  Bread, doughnuts, cookies, bread dough, pizza,  etc.
  Feathers, guts, etc. maggoty carcasses
  TV dinners
  Anything cooked

 *please let us know if harvested via bow or rifle and if lead or non-lead ammo

Posted by: Wild Instincts | April 20, 2019

Cubs Upgrade Their Accommodations

Posted by: Wild Instincts | October 27, 2018

Tundra Swan

We recently admitted a juvenile Tundra Swan with a fractured leg. The x-rays also revealed what appears to be a shot pellet. Tundra Swans are migratory with eight states allowing hunting. Wisconsin is not one of those states, nor is it bordered by any of the states that allow hunting of Tundra Swans.  The shot pellet is not the most pressing concern at this stage.

Fixing the badly fractured leg is.

Two days ago, Dr. Brian at Animal Health Care Center in Rhinelander, performed orthopedic surgery to pin and repair the leg.  It was longer and more complicated than anticipated requiring not only an internal pin, but an external fixator.

There will be weeks of after care and some post-surgical risks, but he’s getting the best care and has a wonderful attitude.

Inked15034 CC TIB_LI

Radiology revealed a shot pellet (red arrow) in addition to the leg fracture.




Plucking feathers to get to surgical field.


Preparing surgical site.


Final preps before starting surgery.


Putting the pieces back together.


Slowly waking up from anesthesia.


Two Days out from surgery.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | August 27, 2018

One of These Things

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”

This childhood song pops into our heads here at Wild Instincts from time to time. It was in the Top 10 this week following some of our recent admissions. Just like Sesame Street where it originated, we also are about educating people about wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation.

This photo can help us.


Let’s start with what all these “things” have in common.

They are all baby wild animals who would have died without some help.

They all were found by people who recognized that and cared enough to intervene.

All of the caring people who found them tried to help them.

“Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing doesn’t belong?
If you guessed the largest bunny on the right is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely right!”

Wildlife rehabilitators need to know many things. We need to know complete life histories of many different species. Last year we cared for 113 different species. We need to know nutrition, medical, social and many other aspects of each of the species we care for.

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It allows us to bring this message to you. It also allows people with animals in need to find skilled, licensed wildlife rehabilitators to help animals.

The Internet is also a scary thing. There is a lot of misinformation and harmful information masquerading as “fact”. Misinformation many well-meaning people with their heart in the right place use to try to do the right thing.

And so we come to what makes the large bunny different than the others.

The largest bunny on the right was brought to Wild Instincts as a four-day-old orphan immediately after it was found.

The smaller bunnies were not brought to Wild Instincts when they were found. Instead, they were kept by the well-meaning person who found them. They were fed and cared for incorrectly for over a week. A week may not seem like much to us. People have vacations longer than that. However, to a very quickly growing rabbit, it is an extremely long time at a very critical period of development.

The bunny on the right is about 15 days-old and getting ready to be released back into the wild. It was found and brought into Wild Instincts immediately.

The other two bunnies are about 12 days old and fighting each day for lives. It will be a miracle if even one of these survives to be released.

They were found and kept by their rescuer for 8 days. The Internet had provided care instructions. Only after two of the original five died, were the remaining three brought into Wild Instincts.

Look at the photo and really think. All the bunnies in the photo are only 3 days apart in age! THREE DAYS!

Let’s look at the bird in the photo. How is the bird like the malnourished bunnies? This red-eyed vireo was also found and kept by a well-intentioned person. This person fed and cared deeply for this bird for 10 days. It was fed about every hour, approximately 120 feedings over those 10 days. However, it was an incorrect diet.

This bird has metabolic bone disease. It also did not get proper nutrition. As a result, his beak is deformed and his legs are in danger of fracturing. He’s on a complete diet now, but there is a great chance that he will never be able to overcome the malnutrition he experienced during his critical growth periods.

The “one of these things that’s not like others” turns out to be the animal that was brought to a wildlife rehabilitator right away.

In Wisconsin, the law allows a person 24 hours in which to get a wild animal to a wild rehabilitator. This ensures the animal can get proper care from licensed, skilled people. It is also against the law for rehabbers to give out care instructions to the general public except for that which is necessary to keep the animal alive until it can reach a licensed person.

All of the animals in the photo have in common that they are now getting the best care Wild Instincts experienced, trained staff can provide.

For three of them, though, it may not be enough. For three of them, their struggles could have been prevented had they been brought in sooner.

Posted by: Wild Instincts | October 29, 2017

Wild Instincts receives Green Gift from Cellcom

Rhinelander, WI (October 26, 2017) –  Wild Instincts has been selected as a 2017 Cellcom Green Gift recipient. The organization received a $1500 Green Gift from Cellcom to build a wildlife rehabilitation enclosure specifically for aquatic animals.

“Wild Instincts is the only wildlife hospital in Wisconsin licensed to treat all wildlife allowed to be rehabbed by law. As such, we get admissions and transfers from across the state. We have approximately 90 trained volunteer drivers that transport wildlife in need to our facility. Last year our drivers drove 19,214 miles enabling us to admit patients from 31 different counties across Wisconsin,” said Mark Naniot, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation. “In the last five years our admissions have increased steadily. We need appropriate enclosures to fulfill our mission of returning each animal to the wild.”

The Green Gift from Cellcom will help build a new Versatube structure for a wildlife rehabilitation for aquatic animals such as small wading birds like bitterns and small herons, also for kingfisher, ducks, and even mammals such as mink. In Wisconsin, there are laws prohibiting un-permitted people from trying to care for wildlife in need. This protects the safety of both people and wild animals. The good news is that 70% of the animals brought to Wild Instincts are released back into the wild, well above the national average of 50%. Beyond their successful work rehabbing animals, Wild Instincts takes as many opportunities as possible to provide education.

“Every interaction with a person is an opportunity to educate that person on environmental stewardship and living in harmony with wildlife. Many times the connection they have to the particular animal they are reaching out to us about may be their first up-close and personal encounter with nature, whether it be a mouse or a bear, a hummingbird or an eagle,” said Naniot. “Wild Instincts has three wildlife ambassadors and presents programs to schools, camps and civic groups to reach an even broader audience as well. In the last three years we’ve presented to almost 7000 people. Our programs educate individuals what they can do to lessen injuries to wildlife and how to be good environmental stewards.”

Wild Instincts was among 30 green organizations that received a share of the $40,000 in Green Gifts from Cellcom this year. The Green Gifts program launched in 2010 and uses funds generated from Cellcom’s cell phone recycling program to fund green nonprofit initiatives. Customers and community members can bring in their old or unwanted phones to be reused and recycled. Cellcom sends the phones to recyclers who in return send money to Cellcom for the materials that were saved from the phones. Cellcom’s Green Gift program completes the green cycle that starts with consumers being environmentally-conscious and donating their devices.


“Our service area is fortunate to be teeming with non-profits that are creatively using their resources to help the environment though education and activism. Donating your phone allows us to contribute to their efforts through our Green Gifts program and ultimately work toward a greener tomorrow,” said Brighid Riordan, director of public affairs and customer experience initiatives at Cellcom.

Visit Cellcom’s website for the full list of award recipients. Cellcom is proud to support organizations of all sizes, whose work is impacting the community and building a greener tomorrow. The company’s recycling program has generated $306,975 for local charities over the past 13 years

Cellcom is an innovative wireless company that provides nationwide service for its customer base throughout Wisconsin and Michigan, with more than 50 retail and agent locations. Cellcom is respected for its long-standing reputation of delivering extraordinary customer care, being a strong community partner, and for its renowned network, which is customized to its rural markets. As a subsidiary of Nsight, Cellcom is part of a family of companies offering complete telecommunications services.

Older Posts »