Jun 12, 2009

My Orphans of the Wild

Rescue and Home Care of Native Wildlife
by Rosemary Collett

Rosemary Collett was a wildlife rescuer. Her entire home and backyard was dedicated to taking in orphaned or injured animals, and caring for them until they could be released back into the wild. Located in Florida, she had the usual influx of young 'coons and squirrels, but also possums, the occasional armadillo, and many, many pelicans. Lots of other shore and seabirds, too. I thought this book would be something like The Swan in My Bathtub, but it's actually much more formal, a handbook for wildlife care. For each species, Collett briefly outlines its habits and diet. She gives recipes for infant mammals and birds, describes how to care for them, when to give basic first aid, when to call the vet, when to humanely euthanize, and when and how to finally release them. Also provided are instructions on how to safely capture an injured wild animal or bird, and how to build various cages. She describes her work with the public visiting schools, libraries, nursing homes and hospitals to give educational programs on wildlife, always taking along several animals- particularly those which for one reason or another could not be released into the wild again (other animals that were too disabled to go free were often given to zoos).

Actual stories were few, but I still found it interesting reading. I learned a lot about different birds- songbirds, owls, hawks, seagulls, etc. I was surprised to learn that owls are so sensitive they can die from heart attacks caused by fright at being mishandled. I learned the answers to some questions A Paddling of Ducks had left me with. In that book, the author described coming upon waterfowl with oil on them, and his attempts to clean them. First he tried gasoline; the fumes killed the bird. Then he tried industrial soap, which stripped the birds' natural oils. When re-released into the water, they died soon from the chill. Collett dedicates an entire chapter to the care of birds caught in oil spills- she explains clearly that gasoline or industrial soaps will kill birds; and even after proper cleaning they have to be kept dry until their natural waterproofing is restored. Sometimes this takes months, until after the bird has molted and grown new feathers.

There's another entire chapter about an otter, kept by one of Collett's friends, which made me think of Ring of Bright Water... I wouldn't say that My Orphans of the Wild is a very compelling book to read, or particularly fun. (My four year old even got bored looking at the photos- she liked the cute baby raccoons, squirrels and bunnies in the front part of the book. Then it was all birds and she said "is this it? just more birds?" and quit) But it's a very thorough resource, especially considering that when Collett wrote the book, there were no general handbooks published for wildlife care (at least, she couldn't find any).

I read this book for the TBR Challenge.

Rating: 4/5                  288 pages, 1974


  1. This sounds interesting, but I think I would enjoy stories more. Great review.

  2. It felt like the only flaw, really, but as it wasn't the author's aim I can't complain much.


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