Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Game Warden Files--Not Always About Enforcement

EnCon Officers get their share of complaints that involve injured, diseased or distressed wildlife. Sometimes, as in the case of rabies, mange or most road-injured animals, the only humane and/or practical thing to do is quickly euthanize the animal to spare it any more pain.  Other times however, there are other options.  I've had my hands on all manner of animals from small to large; birds and mammals, sick and injured. Many were saved and released to the wild after care by wildlife rehabilitators.

Only a year or so after moving upstate we had an incident involving some illegally shot bears with one wounded cub running off into the woods.  Some friends of mine--Jeff and Anne Morgan who were friends from church--came along and Anne insisted that if we found it, she'd take it and nurse it back to health.  We never did find the bear cub, but a day or so later Anne was on the phone with me wondering what she would have to do to become a wildlife rehabilitator.

Until that time, there had been no set system for taking care of wildlife.  There was an informal network of caring and trusted people who did it; but there were no standards. The state had just come out with new regulation on wildlife rehabilitation. and Anne would take the first test for it and become one of the first licensed rehabbers in the state.  I took her and Jeff a lot of critters in the years she was doing it and had a lot of fun watching them bring the animals back to health and release them back to the wild.  They made a few errors--not getting a couple of young raccoons back to the wild before winter and having them take up winter residence in Jeff's parents' porch was one--but they were good at it and successfully released a number of animals.

Some didn't want to leave.  A crow named Pete would greet Jeff every morning, land on the hood of his truck and ride it like a hood ornament for about a quarter mile before spreading his wings and taking off like a airplane from an aircraft carrier.  One released deer would come up on the porch and eat the shrubbery...but for the most part, they did a very good job of it.  After years of rebuilding animals, they're both now involved with a ministry that rebuilds broken people.  I suspect the animals were easier.

Another rehabber wasn't so diligent.  Though certainly filled with good intentions, Marge (again, the name changed to protect the guilty), just couldn't release the animals she took in.  She was popular, got some good press for the work she did; but had everyone around her totally in the dark about the nature of her activities. She just could not bring herself to release those animals placed in her care.  Her home became a hovel of animals that should have been released long ago, but had not.  It was truly not fit for for the animals, let alone human habitation, yet she lived there, and carried on day to day activities with no one knowing.  She fit the profile of one known as an animal hoarder, which is a specific pathology.
When Marge's activities came to our attention, we gathered enough information to obtain a search warrant based upon possessing certain animals without specific permits, entered her house and found a mess that was beyond belief:  A bedroom full of squirrels; rat droppings on the bathroom counters, a rabbit in a cage that was glued to the table by its droppings...yeah, it was that bad and worse. When we were done for the day, we had found over two hundred small animals and birds in deplorable conditions. It was so bad that the Town Health Officer and Code Enforcement Officer declared her house uninhabitable until it was cleaned up, which took several months.

We took truckloads of animals from there that day.  Some were released immediately on a parcel of state land not far away.  Others, that needed medical care, were handed off to a network of rehabilitators that worked tirelessly through the evening to transport them to facilities for care. Sadly, some were beyond help and had to be euthanized. I still chuckle to myself over the memory of one squirrel that got away from us; he sat on the railing of the front porch watching the activities like a spectator. Poor little guy was enjoying his first day of freedom and didn't know what to do with it. He was still sitting on the railing of the porch as we drove away that afternoon.

We charged Marge with with about a half dozen EnCon Law violations and over two hundred counts of animal cruelty. She would ultimately come up with a plea that gave her three years of probation. For those years, she could possess no animals unless specifically authorized by the judge. Sadly, there was no way we could exert any control beyond that.  I suspect that her home is now filled with other creatures; but that's a problem for someone else now.

No comments:

Post a Comment