Personal Stories from the Front Lines

By Juanita Heinemann
In January of 1976 my husband found an injured robin in our garden. I applied my nursing skills to clean the wound and the mass in the left axilla that appeared to be a tumor. I collected berries and dug up as many earth worms as I could find for the robin's diet.

Off to our cat's veterinarian for medical advice in wound management and care for the robin until it was ready for release. Our vet could offer no assistance due to lack of knowledge about care for wild birds. I contacted the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) to ask about care for the bird, and I was told that it would probably be euthanized.

Fortunately Lee Kolb, a member of the Belmont Garden Club, had mentioned a group of women in Palo Alto who were saving various species of wildlife. My first contact person at Wildlife Rescue, Inc. was Carol Hamilton.

Carol instructed me in the care of the robin, provided health care risks and state and federal requirements, and sent the membership form. In those days, we were required to attend three classes or lectures about avian care, mammal care and first aid. After meeting these requirements, we were able to volunteer for more hands-on training in the wildlife room at the Palo Alto Humane Society. Would you believe the wildlife room was shared with the cat room! It was a little unnerving for both the cats and the birds.

In April, after my first class, Carol excised the mass from the axilla area, and we discovered a BB bullet in the center. The shoulder and the top of the humerus were badly fractured, and there was no hope of recovery.

I cannot remember how long I had been volunteering when Carol sent an adult injured dove home with me for care. My first fledgling was a scrub jay.

I became fascinated by the tiny little birds that built a bag-like nest in our neighbor's bush. My first rescue was a nest of bushtits that a neighborhood cat took down. I phoned the shelter and was instructed to deliver the nest of babies to Carol Meaney. Carol began my training in bushtit and insectivore rehabilitation.

One day in 1978, Kyra Bamboo phoned to ask me if I was willing to admit a hummingbird. At that time Wildlife Rescue was located in Mountain View, and the source did not want to travel the distance from San Bruno to Mountain View but was willing to deliver the bird to Belmont. Kyra gave me the formula ingredients, and it was a scurry getting housing and diet ready. This hummingbird was my first release, and boy was I hooked!

In those days, information about wildlife rehabilitation was very scarce. We had to rely on the phone as our umbilical cord to the senior member training us. When the gas crunch came, I began to volunteer at PHS which was much closer to Belmont. At that time, PHS sent all of the small special birds to Wildlife Rescue for care. So I volunteered to provide care for the hometown birds.

In those early days the sharing of information, training and natural history books were our only means of wildlife rehab education. We could not have survived without the guidance of the founding members who began our journey into the world of wildlife rehabilitation. Now we have several state and national organizations, wildlife veterinarians, scientists, biologists, and many other resources to help us provide the best possible care for our wild neighbors, enabling us to release them back into their world of nature.

It is hard to believe that my wildlife rehab years have flown by-this January I began my 23rd wildlife rehab season.

By Marilyn L. Scowcroft
February 1975 began a new life for me. Instead of being a people nurse, I found myself caring for the little wild creatures who had lost their mom. There have been good years and bad years. It's hard to believe the size of our one little room at the Palo Alto Spay & Neuter Clinic. Over the years, my husband, Phil, and I must have made more than 50 different cages for WRI.

My two most memorable tales: An injured adult squirrel arrived. The prognosis was not good, but I gave her medication and a nice warm bed for the night. Early the next morning: Surprise! She'd given birth to two babies. One was dead on arrival, the other, a very tiny 9-gram baby girl. Mom was unable to care for her, so I took over, and "Wiggles" and I spent six months together before release.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, a call came in from the Stanford Emergency Room. Their friendly courtyard squirrel seemed ill. She was high on a branch that I could not reach. We made one phone call, and the large cherry-picker fire truck arrived. Up the ladder and into the bucket I went. The fireman then placed me near the squirrel-I lifted off the squirrel and headed back down the ladder. Mom squirrel was too ill to recover.

It's been quite an adventure, and I'll never forget all the wonderful people I've met.

We Save the Birds
Copyright © 1999 Wildlife Rescue, Inc.
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