This morning, I read a post on IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) from a member of Will County Audubon regarding an injured Mute Swan down by Channahon. I responded to the posting that if the bird was still there and in need of assistance, we would coordinate a recovery. In return, I received private emails from three different individuals providing helpful information regarding the swan, its location and its condition. I also received the following email:

“Hello, Dawn.

I don’t mean to sound uncompassionate, but Mute Swans are a nasty invasive (species)that are killing our native wildlife. While no creature should suffer, of course, I think euthanizing it would be the best option regardless of its potential to recover. Rehabilitating the bird will only further degrade what little native wetlands we have.



I realize that not everyone thinks that Flint Creek Wildlife should treat non-native species. Through the years, I have come to realize that many people think we shouldn’t treat certain native species – even some that are fully protected under state and/or federal laws. I have been surprised to learn just how many people have one or more species of animals that they dislike or even hate. If we listened to every one’s opinion, we’d stop treating or even euthanizing all sorts of animals….but we don’t. Why?

First, let me say that Flint Creek Wildlife’s mission is to treat injured and orphaned wildlife with the goal of returning fully rehabilitated wildlife back to its natural habitat. There are three major species that we don’t treat – skunks, bats and raccoons. We don’t treat skunks or bats because it is prohibited by Illinois law. We don’t treat raccoons because we don’t have the space or funding to devote caging to this species and, due to a parasite of which raccoons are asymptomatic carriers, caging used for raccoons should not subsequently be used for other species. We do treat all other species of wild animal, native and non-native, even species that aren’t my personal favorite. We strive to provide the best possible care to each and every animal that enters our facilities. We are in the business of Saving Lives.

Second, I believe that conservation begins in small ways. Sometimes a person develops a life-long love of birding and an awareness of conservation after finding their first bird. This can begin regardless of whether the first bird was a pigeon, house sparrow or starling. The act of helping another living thing, whether native or non-native, also instills a fundamental respect of wildlife to which we should all ascribe and which we should all promote.

Third, as a not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center, we not only serve animals through saving their lives, we also serve residents of the communities in which we operate. We cannot effectively service our communities when we refuse to accept animals found in those communities.

Fourth, compassion for living things should be fostered in all of us. Compassion cannot be selective based on meeting certain species criteria.

Last, let me ask, have you ever held in your hands a living thing and determined whether it lives or dies? I have and I do, but when I euthanize an animal it’s an act of compassion due to that animal’s inability to survive. And it’s never a decision to be taken lightly.

I guess we just see things differently.


Dawn Keller
Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi

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