Sometimes I Hate Voice Mail


Picture this….a hard-working, all-volunteer wildlife rehabilitation center that receives no government funding and is reliant on donations to pay for food, medical care, medical equipment and caging admits 10 duck eggs. The person bringing the duck eggs, let’s call her Betsy, makes a $40 donation and is sent a thank you note/gift acknowledgement for tax purposes. Betsy is told that she will receive an email update regarding the final disposition of each egg. If the eggs hatch, the ducklings will be raised until they are fully feathered and capable of flying and then will be released back to the wild.

Each egg is labeled with a patient number and then placed into an $899 egg incubator. Each egg is entered into a database that contains all relevant information, including all of Betsy’s information so that she can receive her final updates. Once the eggs hatch, the ducklings are moved to a $675 incubator where they are kept until they no longer require strict temperature control.

As the ducklings grow, they are moved to a duck barn that was specifically constructed to provide appropriate housing for ducklings and goslings. Once they get big enough, they are then moved to the barn where they are exposed to adult Mallards that are in rehabilitation healing from their injuries.

Throughout the process, the ducklings are tended to – sometimes multiple times a day – food, water, and cleaning.

2-1/2 months after the eggs are admitted but before the ducklings are old enough for release, the not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center gets the following voice message:

“I’m just leaving a message…um, we’re just terribly disappointed. A couple of months ago at this point we had rescued a nest of eggs and had ‘em a duck who had returned and then abandoned the nest after being attacked by a neighbor’s loose dog for a second time. And we brought the eggs down to you guys and we also made a donation and got our neighbor whose dog did it to make a donation as well. And we thought we would have had a phone call ‘cause we did speak to someone and the rules of the game over there changed, um, from the first conversation we had that we were to receive some sort of blanket email whether our the eggs had made it or not. It would have been better for all of us to know that they nothing happened after the thirty days that you guys had them than to wait and really not hear anything. It’s kind of a cheap way to deal with a situation when people go the mile to try to make a difference and do the right thing. And, um, definitely has made us reconsider further donations or promoting donating in the future because, you know, it’s not just a repository. So, we’re very disappointed and my husband and I have been debating about whether to call and he asked me to call and so I did. And our name is (name and spelling of name withheld). I don’t know that you even keep records but in the event you do you can look it up and see. Very disappointing – and for our children too. So anyway, good luck with your endeavors and hopefully you’ll continue to rescue birds and we’ll just turn our attention to another organization that has a little more follow through. Um, thank you. Bye.”

Although I wish this were an isolated incident, wildlife rehabilitators often receive rude emails and voice mails – often threatening to withhold much needed financial support – for reasons ranging from the person who wants the wild animals in his yard killed to the person who couldn’t wait for his or her final update or didn’t listen as the final update was explained.

On behalf of independent and privately funded wildlife rehabilitators everywhere, please think about your words before you are so quick to judge us. Many of us work long hours with little or no compensation, and with scarce financial resources, we put animal care first. We scrape for every dollar and worry about how to pay the many animal-related bills. Most people bringing in animals do not donate enough money to cover the cost of care of their animals. Take Betsy, for instance, whose donation of $4/duck didn’t pay for food much less for expensive equipment and caging necessary to raise them. And after you drop off the animal, it is the wildlife rehabilitator that cares for that animal every day until release and then, when the animal is released, doesn’t get an adoption fee from Mother Nature!

I only agree with one thing that Betsy said in her voice mail, “It’s kind of a cheap way to deal with a situation when people go the mile to try to make a difference and do the right thing“…’re right, Betsy, your voice mail was a cheap shot.

Oh, and by the way, your ducks are doing fine and you will receive your final updates after they are released.

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