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Sometimes, euthanasia is the only choice

Cayucos

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The Pacific Wildlife Care Rehabilitation Center in Morro Bay takes in seabirds covered in oil, birds and mammals hit by automobiles, seabirds entangled by fishing line and pierced by fishing hooks, hawks caught in barbed wire fences or maimed by gunshots, songbirds caught by cats, eagles, and turkey vultures poisoned by bullet-laced rodents, mammal babies orphaned by trapped parents, and the list goes on. I have been a volunteer and wildlife rehabilitator at the center for more than 26 years.
 
In 2008, PWC took in more than 1600 wild birds and mammals. PWC is able to release or transfer approximately 50 percent of the sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife that comes through its doors. Regarding the commentary by Dennis Morris, “The decision to euthanize a bald eagle,” (April 16): Sometimes an animal is so severely injured that euthanasia is the most humane option.  
 
It is cruel to release a maimed animal back to the wild. A bird with one wing will not survive in a burrow. A bald eagle that cannot fly is comparable to a fish that cannot swim. Birds of prey hunt by swooping down on their prey. They protect themselves from ground predators by perching in trees. The anatomy of their feet is adapted to grasping limbs, not standing on flat ground. If it survived for a short time, a grounded bird would develop painful foot and leg problems, and most likely would starve to death.
 
PWC is very fortunate to have the help and support of many San Luis Obispo County veterinarians. They assist with complicated medical treatment and decisions, give advice on the probability of successful rehabilitation, and euthanize animals when that is the most humane course of action.
 
The people who rehabilitate wildlife do not make treatment decisions lightly. We are all very dedicated and passionate about the work we do. Every individual animal receives the same level of thought and consideration when it is being evaluated for rehabilitation. The primary objective is to return the animal to the wild as soon as possible, healthy and capable of surviving on its own. Every year, wildlife rehabilitators complete many hours of continuing education and training offered from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association, the California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. This continuing education keeps a rehabilitator abreast of the latest protocols, medical advances, and the highest standards of care.

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