Last week I posted about the deer in New Jersey that had survived getting shot in the head with an arrow.
The photo sparked a lot of discussion on my Facebook page, prompting me to write the following:
Lots of folks' responses have been that they hope "they" or "someone" helped it. I do have to ask this question: who do you think would help this deer?
Most cities have poorly funded and staffed animal control departments, whose focus is typically dealing with strays and nuisance animals. They are not trained, staffed or funded to deal with a complicated capture of a large wild mammal and the medical procedure that would be necessary to remove this arrow.
Wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting species and their habitat--not individual animals. Especially not individuals of species whose populations are doing just fine (or, in the case of white-tailed deer, are at ecologically dangerous levels in some places). Saving/rescuing individuals is only a strategy used by conservation for the most severely endangered species, where every individual counts.
Wildlife rehabilitators--the people that care for injured wildlife in the hopes of releasing it--are almost always unpaid volunteers who dedicate their entire lives, incomes and homes to it. They are also few and far between and don't have the funding, time or the expertise to go out and proactively capture injured wildlife. (Places like the Wildlife Center of Virginia are a notable exception.) They rely on citizens to bring them patients.
So with that said, I ask again, who are the "they" that folks think are there waiting around to rescue and treat injured wildlife? Unfortunately, this is no one's job. That's because citizens have not demanded it.
If seeing this picture upsets you, I encourage you to get involved locally and push for more wildlife services where you live. I encourage you to financially support your local wildlife rehabilitation community. Maybe even take on the commitment of becoming a rehabilitator yourself.
Just wishing or expressing that you hope someone else saved this deer isn't good enough, you need to get involved and make it happen.
I really felt the need to share all of that, because as a wildlife professional, I hear from people all the times who are well-intentioned but aren't educated about the realities of wildlife rescue, the difference between conservation and animal welfare, and who are not willing to get involved and do anything about it.
Well, I've got good news: the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife has saved the deer all because of a woman named Susan Darrah. Susan saw the deer and immediately took action and actually DID something about it. Kudos to you, Susan!
Here's a photo taken by Susan during the removal of the arrow.
Here's a video about the incredible story with a happy ending.
Photos by Susan Darrah and used with permission.
Get Involved! Protect wildlife with David and the National Wildlife Federation.