Feb 7, 2010

Dr. Wildlife

the Crusade of a Northwoods Veterinarian
by Rory C. Foster

This short book is about a vet who set up the first hospital and rehabilitation center specifically for wildlife, in Wisconsin during the 1980s. At the time there was no training available for wildlife vets; he learned as he went by studying books about the different species' anatomy and applying his knowledge of veterinary science. It all started when a fawn was struck by a car and someone brought it to the animal hospital. Up until then Dr. Foster had only treated the usual dogs, cats and other pets, but he was willing to help out this injured wild creature. Foster and his wife raised the fawn in their house, eventually setting it free to live in the wild. More and more people began bringing him wildlife in need of care, until he realized he had more wild animals occupying cages in his hospital than pets, and would have to either give up treating them or build a separate suite just for their care. He did so, as a non-profit, dedicated to helping wild animals free of charge.

Surprisingly, his efforts to fund and build the Northwoods Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Center were met with a lot of opposition from the local community, including the forestry department whose job it was to manage wildlife. Back then, many people held the attitude that wild animals only had value as a resource for mankind- so they saw Foster's work as wasted effort on animals that would probably die soon anyways- shot by hunters or killed by predators. I have a hard time understand that mentality, but it must have been rampant for all the resistance Foster faced in trying to establish his wildlife hospital. He also had to deal with the issue of local roadside zoos, who existence he was adamantly opposed to. He did not want to cure their animals which had been neglected or mistreated, only to have them return to living in small cages and deplorable conditions. Eventually he had to make a policy of refusing to treat their animals. He would only help wild animals that were going to be released again into the wild, or -if they were unfit for that- kept in a good zoo or wildlife sanctuary.

Aside from all that, I enjoyed as always, the stories about the animals themselves. The writing is easygoing and some of the tales are pretty funny. Many of Foster's patients were deer, orphaned or struck by cars. He also treated a lot of birds injured in one way or another- eagles, owls, herons, even an osprey. One was a gull with cancer (the only treatment being surgery). Some of the other animals he cared for included a porcupine, a white arctic wolf, and an infant otter. Overall, Dr. Wildlife was a good, quick read. The man was very passionate about his work and had a good sense of humor as well, both of which shine through the pages.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 182 pages, 1985

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