New rule about rehabilitated wildlife has many upset - Huntsville News | and ABC 31: Local News

New rule about rehabilitated wildlife has many upset

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 9:53 pm | Updated: 8:17 pm, Tue Sep 24, 2013.

WOODVILLE, Ala. (WAAY) - There's a new state rule about wildlife.

The state no longer allows the rehabilitation of animals like raccoons and possums. Those changes have many state rehabilitators upset.

"This issue is a personal one for us. This is very personal,” says Shamballa Wildlife Rescue owner John Russ.

For him, it's moments like greeting his injured raccoons that he says make life worth living.

"It satisfies me to get up in the morning and go outside and see, well, I might have freed that one you know if it's a deer or a fox or a raccoon or whatever," says Russ.

He's spent years taking care of injured wildlife, like raccoons, possums and rabbits, that people bring to his rescue center.

"We've successfully rehabbed over 50 animals, my wife April and I. Over 50 animals," Russ says.

But a new rule change from the state could change the Russ's backyard. In a letter sent out this week, the state's wildlife and freshwater fisheries division says rehabilitators will no longer be able to take in bats, skunks, possums, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs, and raccoons.

"I don't know what they're thinking, I don't know how they can possibly even think that people in Alabama are going to put up with this," says Russ.

Instead of helping them, the state says the animals will now need to be euthanized. But John says he's not going to play by the rules. He's still going to be taking in injured animals.  

"If I have to make a choice between euthanizing that baby to maturity, yes ma'am, I'm going to take it in.  If they want to take me to jail, then that's fine too. But a man's got to live with himself, I have to sleep with myself at nighttime. And I'm not going to go to bed at night knowing that I killed an innocent animal, and I don't know how anybody could do that," Russ says.

The district one wildlife supervisor says the phone has been ringing off the hook with people complaining about the new change, and he'll send another letter to rehabilitators. 

Here is the letter from the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries:

Several comments have been received regarding the new wildlife rehabilitation permitting process recently implemented by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF).  This response provides some insight into Alabama’s wildlife resources and our view of the role of wildlife rehabilitation. 

The WFF began a review of the wildlife rehabilitation permitting process and policies during the fall of 2012.  The goal was to standardize the policies and procedures across the State. The review process involved input the United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service permitting office in Atlanta, the National Rabies Management Program Coordinator for the USDA in New Hampshire, and an individual permitted as a wildlife rehabilitator in Alabama.  Ultimately, Alabama’s wildlife rehabilitation permitting process is a state program and the final decisions were made by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources personnel.    

As part of the process, the WFF mission statement (“manage, protect, conserve, and enhance the wildlife resources of Alabama for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama”) was used to determine an appropriate course of action regarding wildlife rehabilitation.  WFF firmly believes that rehabilitation of most wildlife species in Alabama is not warranted unless it is threatened, endangered or is a species of special concern.  Statewide populations of most animals are at levels that do not justify rehabilitation of individual animals.  Injured and/or orphaned animals are more susceptible to predators.  These injured/orphaned animals are an integral part of the natural food chain.  Disrupting the food chain may have unintended consequences such as causing additional mortality of healthy animals in the system. 

Although the rehabilitation of most wildlife species is not necessary, we approved a permitting process that would allow for the rehabilitation of animals except raccoons, foxes, skunks, opossums, coyotes, bats, or feral pigs. These species are either exotic invasive or pose significant human health risk through diseases such as rabies. The new permitting process requires permitted rehabilitators to meet guidelines established by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.    

The recent letter to permitted rehabilitators was not as clear as it could have been on how to handle raccoons, foxes, skunks, opossums, coyotes, or bats that were being held by rehabilitators prior to September 1.  The intent is for permitted rehabilitators to continue to rehabilitate these animals and release them upon their recovery.  After September 1, 2013, permitted rehabilitators should 1) tell members of the public that they can no longer accept individual animals of these seven species, or 2) euthanize animals brought to them by unknowing citizens.  It is our goal to hopefully educate the general public regarding the role of wildlife rehabilitation and the need to allow nature to act upon biological systems in an unbiased manner.  For example, it is more appropriate for a hawk to remove an injured/orphaned squirrel as opposed to preying on a healthy squirrel.    

A few comments have been made about Acts 9-11-247 through 9-11-249 of the Code of Alabama.  These acts have no impact on wildlife rehabilitators but to clarify these are the facts.  These acts, passed in 1951 by members of the state legislature and signed by the Governor, allow sportsman associations incorporated as non-profit associations in Alabama which have a paid membership of 25 members or more to host “coon on the log” contests.  These events also require a permit issued by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  Since 1998, only three permits for these events have been issued.  These types of events may have been popular in 1951 but in today’s society are much less common.  We don’t encourage this type of activity but must issue a permit if the conditions set forth in the law are met by the permit applicants.   

We value the services that permitted wildlife rehabilitators provide and want Alabama’s wildlife rehabilitation program to be standardized across the state.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Voice For Animals posted at 2:19 pm on Thu, Nov 14, 2013.

    Voice For Animals Posts: 0

    This was also attempted in Indiana and Michigan about 10 years ago. Recommendation to citizens of Alabama:
    1- Before any law or directive is passed in any state it is required that the Department hold a public hearing. This is the citizens of alabama's right of constituents to decide if this is a necessary approach.
    2- If this directive is not in writing within their policy and proceedures manual, then they can not enforce this.
    3- The govenor of Alabama is their boss, he/she appoints the director for the States Wildlife Division. If you Disagree contact the govenor.
    4- All animals have the potential for viruses and disease. the Rehabilitator is the key in rehabilitating the animal, vacinating them and returning them to the wild. To make a statement about the food chain and a scare tatic that they always use RABIES !!!! is not only displaying ignorance but also they are the same "individuals" that have a book titled "Combating Against Animal Activist".
    5- Wildlife of all species is ensential to the environment. to eleminate any species could cause an over population of another. Insects, rodents, etc.

    6- Once you have their attention research, research, create documents and have your cannons loaded. Do not give them a reason to say the following; We will look into it (you will already have the research), We need to look up the directive (you will already have everything printed). etc

    by the way I think these are the same idiots (Look into this) that made a decision to use a pesticide to eleminate aphids which in turn the aphids who would eat Bee mites from the honey bees were no longer a preditor of the mite and in the end a whole honey population was wiped out....

  • Norskejente posted at 2:06 am on Mon, Sep 30, 2013.

    Norskejente Posts: 1

    I guess we just need to set up an underground railroad to pull these animals out of Alabama. IMO this is half azz backwards. A trapper can use a leg hold trap and torture an animal but it is now illegal to save one. He uses the word protect but does nothing to protect them. He talks about disrupting the food chain but that is exactly what hunters do. They kill the healthy, leaving behind orphaned babies (don't tell me hunting does not leave behind orphans because I have done rescues of my own and have seen it), hunters not hitting their target and what would other wise be healthy animals are now left injured and dying, trappers using traps that injure and maim healthy animals and these poor creatures are left to suffer and die a slow death. All of that has an impact on all the wildlife. I agree with John on how do you or anyone sleep at night knowing a wild creature is suffering. The WFF and the Dept of Natural Resources is telling people not to have compassion and empathy for Gods other creatures, but instead we should now turn ourselves into cold-hearted, uncompassionate monsters. IMO you can't be humane if you knowingly left another living being to suffer. Also I don't understand why they would want the animals to be euthanized, as they promote suffering of wildlife on a grand scale especially with trappers. They say one thing but do exactly the opposite.


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