Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – December 6, 2022
Ah, December, the season of giving is upon us. This may surprise you, but I am NOT going to ask you for anything. Rather, I would like to extend thanks a group of people who give every day of the year.
Thank you to our volunteers.
They get nothing but the occasional verbal acknowledgement from our small Liberty Wildlife staff, the silent but appreciative gazes all of the animals that we care for in the year, and the unseen gratitude of citizens who bring animals here for help.
Our volunteers are dedicated people who come to us, most with no direct prior experience with wildlife, and allow themselves to be trained to initially do some seemingly thankless jobs… They start with cleaning enclosures, chopping up food, counting out mealworms, defrosting fish, handling animals that aren’t always happy to be handled, and the great many tasks related to caring for injured, orphaned, and ill wild animals. Now that is dedication. That is giving. That is selflessness. And to us at Liberty Wildlife, that is as good as gold.
And, it’s a daily occurrence — every single day of the year dozens of volunteers arrive at Liberty Wildlife to handle their assigned duties. Once those volunteers have acquired a little experience, they can move into other areas… (some, that are maybe a little less unappealing). They can move into areas where a real relationship with animals is afforded. But even at that point, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts that must be attended to. Consistency isn’t always fun, but it is needed. Rules apply here as well.
What this group of selfless individuals gets from their efforts, is a feeling of helping, of giving back, of making a difference, and knowing that their donation of sweat, energy, and expertize is the life blood of our organization…that they are working with like-minded folks to preserve and protect precious wild animals.
As the executive director of a non-profit organization, I would find it to be cost-prohibitive to hire that many people (even at minimum wage) to perform the duties needed to be as successful as we are. It wouldn’t be possible to help as many animals as we do, or to provide as much educational programming. Our numbers in these categories are off the charts. Thanks to our volunteers. We are very successful, only because we have such great and generous volunteers.
In our last Annual Report, we summed these labors of love into a measurable statistic: a whopping $2,267,544.00 worth of volunteer hours.
That number is based on the total number of hours donated by volunteers last year, calculated at the Independent Sector’s current average value of donated time. Annually the Independent Sector assesses the value of volunteer time, with this year’s hourly donation equivalent of $29.95.
Just consider: this total is almost twice the income of our unrestricted dollar donations! And it is nearly $1,300,000 over our expense budget. Just imagine how much our programs would be restricted (how many wildlife we would NOT be able to treat) if we didn’t have the valuable donation of time made by these hundreds of amazing volunteers.
Hat’s off to all of you who give back to nature, to wildlife, and to all of us who would be devastated without it.
Thank you for the sweat through the summer, through the dealing with natures’ challenging pests, through the loss of sleep when early morning duties call, through the valuable donation of your expertise and your good humor.
We couldn’t do this without you! Join me in sending out a heartfelt thank you from all of us who appreciate all that you do.
You too can become a volunteer for Liberty Wildlife. Sign up today!
This Week @ Liberty – December 6, 2022
It’s official; the holidays are here. Christmas music is playing in most retail stores, lights are twinkling all over the valley, and traffic is here for better or worse. After spending an entire day on my own decorations, I’m happy to say my home is filled with the holiday spirit, and my dogs aren’t entirely sure what to do with themselves.
Still, there’s lots of things happening here at Liberty Wildlife. While I don’t foresee us reaching intake numbers from 2021—we were just shy of 13,000—we’re well on our way to being over 11,000. That’s a whole lot of animals, and a whole lot of releases!
Plus, now that we’ve hit December, that means our amazing volunteers and Animal Ambassadors are hanging at the Desert Botanical Garden nightly during the Las Noches de las Luminarias. You can buy tickets here…but hurry! They sell out quick, and you want to make sure you have every opportunity to come see your favorite feathered friends in a beautiful setting.
Part of rehabilitation is knowing the end game; that wildlife coming through our doors will, hopefully, one day, be released back into the wild to do what they’re meant to do. The process and the time involved are based on several factors, including but not limited to: the type of injury involved, medicine and/or surgery needed, nestlings to juveniles to adults, and believe it or not, migration.
All these things go together for each individual bird; for some, they may be released in a few short weeks. For others with more serious injuries sustained, they could be with us for several months.
Case in point, three water birds who were just released in a beautiful riparian area. A Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, and a Green Heron; all common birds you’ll find here in Arizona if you know where to look (hint: they like water!). All were here for months recovering from wing or leg injuries, but did so with ‘flying’ colors.
We’re happy we were able to help; even happier they’re back in their natural habitat. Good luck, friends!
Let’s Take Flight
Have you ever wondered what it takes for our Animal Ambassadors to be part of our ‘flight program’? Well, for those of you who have, look no further!
Like everything here at Liberty Wildlife, there are steps to be taken for a Raptor to take part of our flight program. It starts with the injury that made them non-releasable in the first place. It could be a mental issue, such as imprinting (don’t identify with their own species) or habituation (identify with their own species but are too comfortable with people); illegally kept (which can result in imprinting and/or habituation); a severe injury to a young bird which results in them not knowing how to properly hunt on their own and/or can’t due to the injury; this list can go on and on. Regardless, once the bird of prey has been deemed non-releasable and their injuries have healed, and their flight ability has been impeded, their training begins…
And their temperament is imperative to the start of this. We ask a lot of wildlife to be tolerant of us, to be manned and asked to step up on a glove. It’s important we’re respectful of the fact that, despite being tolerant, they’re still wild animals at heart. Their natural instincts still kick in regardless of whether they’re imprinted or injured beyond the point of hunting on their own; our job is to ensure they’re safe, and comfortable enough, to learn how to do the things we’re asking them to do.
Operant training techniques are what we focus on here; for those outside the animal world, that’s a fancy way of saying behavioral enrichment. We use those natural instincts to help drive them to use what they can, and motivate them to step up on a glove, or, in this instance, to fly from different handlers or perches.
For those not fit for flight due to either their temperament or their injury, there are other options; becoming an Animal Ambassador is just as amazing, as well as fostering babies in the spring (also amazing!).
Either way, these birds have a wonderful home here with us at Liberty Wildlife with loads of people to care for them. They certainly don’t go without food…or love!
Christmas Presents for the Whole Family
If it hasn’t become painfully obvious yet, I love Liberty Wildlife; I want to shout that love from the rooftops and tell everyone about why I love this place so much. It’s not just one thing, either. It’s the incredible success stories of rehabilitated wildlife that are released by hundreds of volunteers throughout the year. It’s my amazing coworkers who’ve taken me on and listened to my insistent questions, helping me learn something new every single day. It’s the rescuers who bring in injured wildlife and the volunteers who work tirelessly to help make sure they’re taken care of once they get here…
The list could go on and on; not in a bad way, of course, but I only have so much ‘room’ to write. And really, I do ‘shout’ my love of Liberty Wildlife all the time, just in a less crazy way.
I have a lot of Liberty Wildlife shirts, and I wear them all the time! You can too, if you want! We also have ornaments for your Christmas tree, stickers and decals, hats, and tons of really great presents to give to that special someone in your life. So come join us for Public Hours Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday from 10am-1pm; see an eagle feeding and learn about our local wildlife before you take home something fun to put under the tree.
Hope to see you soon!
Always sad to know we’re at the end of the blog; the good news is, it’s never for long. In another week and a half, there’ll be more to write about and more pictures to show you. And until we meet again, here are this week’s notable mentions:
Animal Ambassador Iris (American Kestrel) gets some practice sessions in (1 picture)
Laura did a great job on her first Eagle presentation for Public Hours (1 picture)
Sometimes, you get a little dirty while you work (1 picture)
Gorgeous sunrise on a chilly morning on campus (1 picture)
Animal Ambassador Tristan (Harris’s Hawk) gets some sun on a chilly morning (1 picture)
X-ray of a comminuted fracture (a fracture in at least two places) on a Red-Tailed Hawk (1 picture)
A Ferruginious Hawk makes an appearance (1 picture)
Animal Ambassadors Millie and Marble chillin’ like villains (1 picture – by Alex)
Remember, Christmas is almost here so drop by during Public Hours on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday between 10am-1pm and pick up some goodies for the family! Hope to see you soon!
Until next time!
Posted by Acacia Parker
Public Outreach Coordinator