The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is sounding a call for the public to join a new advisory group that will be responsible for reviewing state rules governing the operation of licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Washington.
The idea to form that advisory group came after the handling of a complaint filed against For Heaven’s Sake Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Rochester. That situation arose late last summer after a set of former interns filed allegations with the WDFW claiming unsatisfactory practices at For Heaven’s Sake. Their accusations included habitual overexposure of wild animals to humans and prompted the WDFW to take drastic action. Following a series of visits to check on the conditions at For Heaven’s Sake, the WDFW made the decision to euthanize a handful of deer fawn and one elk calf after they were deemed “too friendly,” despite a lack of formal evaluation protocol.
More than a dozen deer that escaped capture by tranquilizer-toting WDFW personnel at For Heaven’s Sake back in November have been given until March 16 to prove their merits for wild release or placement in a WSU study program.
That series of actions drew an outcry from the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation community, including the resignation of at least one Western Washington rescue worker. Others from the passionate rescue and rehab community attended a hearing in December in Olympia in order to provide their testimony to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
There are approximately 30 wildlife rehabilitation centers in Washington that care for sick, injured or orphaned animals. The goal in each instance is to nurse the animals back to health with minimal contact in order to facilitate a wild release. Anyone who seeks to rehabilitate wildlife in Washington must obtain a permit and abide by the set conditions.
Anyone interested in serving on the advisory group must apply by Feb. 19. Interim WDFW Director, Joe Stohr, who took charge on Thursday, will select eight licensed wildlife rehabilitation workers and four members of the general public to sit on the advisory group. That group will work with WDFW staff in order to recommend changes to state rules that were last updated in 2013.
According to Eric Gardner, WDFW wildlife program director, the department conducted a periodic review of the rules governing those facilities last October, during the run-up to the lethal action at For Heaven’s Sake. The new advisory group is intended to provide additional perspectives to the department’s management plan.
“Since then, there have been times when the department, wildlife rehabilitators and some members of the public have disagreed about the treatment of wild animals at certain facilities,” Gardner said in a press release. “We will look to this advisory group to help us clarify the rules to make sure we are all working toward a common goal of preparing these animals for release back into the wild.”
Gardner noted that candidates should have an interest in wildlife rehabilitation and the ability to communicate their perspectives and ideas constructively.
Applicants are not required to be affiliated with any organization, and the WDFW hopes to find representatives from both sides of the state. The group is expected to begin its work in late March, with three or four in-person monthly meetings in Olympia, Mill Creek or Ellensburg, depending on the makeup of the group. Anyone selected to the group will serve until the state’s wildlife rehabilitation rules are adopted, unless the period of service is extended by the WDFW.
Applications must be submitted in writing with the following information:
• Applicant’s name, address, telephone number and email address.
• Explanation of interest and reasons for wanting to serve as a member of the advisory committee.
• A brief description of the applicant’s effectiveness in communicating in a group setting.
• Name and contact information for any organization submitting a nomination.
Nominations can be submitted by email to Heather.Bonagofski@dfw.wa.gov, or by postal mail to Heather Bonagofski, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501-1091.