Eaglet with foster at Raptor Education Group
Thousands of animals admitted to Fellow Mortals complete their entire rehabilitation process with us: starting with critical care provided in the hospital, then progressing to a recovery room when they can feed themselves again and fractures are stable or injuries are healing. From recovery they proceed to a pre-release area or outside habitat and then, when able to live and survive in the wild--are released.
We are grateful for the support that has made it possible for us to provide so much care for so many different species, and on the occasion when an animal needs something we can't provide here at Fellow Mortals, we're fortunate to be able turn to a friend in the rehabilitation community who can help.
Baby animals, especially birds, imprint when very young, learning what they are (eagle/owl/robin, etc.) from the being that feeds and tends to them when they are helpless. A baby bird raised alone and without its own kind may survive, but will not have the 'social skills'--the vocalizations, the physical postures, the normal behaviors--to be accepted into a society of its peers once returned to the wild and, if it truly identifies itself with humans, could pose a danger if released to the wild.
Foster parents are birds or mammals that are permanently crippled in some way and cannot be released to the wild. The individual animals who become foster parents are unique in that they have been able to adapt to a life in captivity and retain normal behaviors. Giving these individuals a chance to be parents to orphaned young gives them at least something of what they miss not being able to live in the wild.
In 2011, along with nearly 1400 other animals, we admitted three bald eagles, including a days-old eagle baby from a caring person who found the nest on the ground, chilled and starving after a tornado destroyed its 'cradle' high in a tree. The eagle parents did not come down to the baby and so the woman who had watched the nest and found the eaglet brought it to Fellow Mortals where we slowly and carefully warmed the eaglet, gave fluids and moved the baby onto a meat slurry as it gradually gained strengh and finally was able to take small pieces of meat.
Fellow Mortals is privileged to provide care to many permanent foster parents that live with us year-round, with permission of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They include "Alberta," a great-horned owl, "Hannah," a Canada goose, "Sophie," a barred owl, and "Thomas," a blue jay--to name a few. All of these special individuals serve one purpose: to provide role models for the orphaned young brought to us for care every year, making sure they not only grow up strong, but grow up wild. What we do not have is a foster bald eagle, but a rehabilitator friend, Marge Gibson of Raptor Education Group, does, and once 'our' little eaglet was stable and ready to travel it went to join its foster dad eagle and Marge up in Antigo, Wisconsin.
This kind of networking represents the best of what rehabiltiators do--working together to make sure that the wild ones brought to us for care get the optimal chance to survive and thrive once they are released. This Saturday, 'our' baby was released--no longer a downy chick but a beautiful 12 pound immature female.
Back at Fellow Mortals, our fosters are enjoying a quiet winter of having the meal worms all to themselves, no one crowding them on the perch or in the nest and no one begging to be fed every 15 or 20 minutes but, come spring they, like us, will be very excited to make room in the hospital and in our nests for the new little ones who need us.
Thank you for the support you give that makes all these stories possible.
"Alberta" foster great-horned owl with orphans
"Hannah," foster Canada goose with orphan
"Benjamin," Eastern Screech Owl, with orphans
Mother Goose, with orphan
Great-blue heron, injured mature & immature