The misguided dogma of academic ornithology has provided the leadership to encourage government enforcement (and the nonprofit agencies they control) to guarantee the demise of wild birds that happen to survive in the urban habitat. Read on.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 certainly prevented the extinction of several bird species killed by commercial hunting in the early part of the last century. Now, few people talk of getting rich by collecting bird feathers or eggs. The birds are now facing an even greater threat, loss of habitat by human intervention. Southern California once had two hundred miles of contiguous wetlands, but now almost every species is in a state of continuous decline. There just isn't enough connected open space to maintain a viable population. Surviving wild animals are being forced into suburban and urban life in greater numbers. In addition to loss of habitat, many animals are accidentally killed and injured by human contrivances and pollution every day. Habitat loss was a problem of the twentieth century. The natural habitat is gone.
Michael Novacek, a paleontologist, is senior vice president and provost of the American Museum of Natural History. He wrote this article in the Washington Post THE SIXTH EXTINCTION It Happened to Him. It's Happening to You. He is the author of Terra: Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem--and the Threats that Now Put It at Risk (Amazon.com).
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act does nothing to mitigate the twenty-first century problems, but its Draconian language does a lot of harm. The law doesn't allow possession, transportation, or treatment of injured or disabled wild animals without a license. This has spawned a new genre of political activist organizations called "animal rehabilitators." One organization will control a wide area, since government agencies and private veterinarians won't touch a wild animal. It is, after all, illegal. The basis for licensing is corrupt, since the first step to obtain a rehabilitator license in California is to get a statement from the existing animal rehabilitation agency saying that another is needed. It's like requiring permission from Wal Mart to build a new Target store! The existing agency has autonomous control of what they do. No person may apply for a permit, only a nonprofit corporation may apply.
It can be difficult to find, and even more difficult to deal with a wildlife organization. They present the appearance and management of a large political fund raising and publicity agency, with little interest in animals. In fact, These agencies have a small number of unpaid volunteers who struggle to do what the ordinary person would think would be the main mission of such an agency. If you are in the situation where wild animals are being killed on a daily routine, or actually have an injured animal in hand, you probably won't be able to figure out what to do. The agency's web site or monthly publication won't tell you what to do. If you call the "emergency" phone number, nobody will answer for weeks. If you call the business office, a subordinate employee will answer but refuse to give any information. These animal rehabilitation and rescue agencies only alienate and intimidate the general public.
There are no government agencies, investors, or clients who will come forward to complain about bad service. The rehab corporations do whatever they want. They don't need to communicate with the public to tell people how to use their services. They don't need to support their volunteers by giving them telephones, space on the web site, or public service advertising that would tell how they operate. We need a new name for "non-profit" organizations. You can't help make a profit if you have a company where employees work for free and people give you money for nothing, and the government gives you an exclusive license so nobody can compete with you. Every nonprofit corporation has a built-in conflict of interest. They make money by advertising, fund raising, and promotion for donations from the general public. Any useful work they do is an expense, and they must take in more money than they spend. The end result is lack of support for the volunteers, the people who handle the animals.
The result is that most reasonable people will dispose of an injured animal elsewhere, rather than driving across the county to a "care center" knowing that nobody is there, because they don't answer the telephone.
That was my experience with Project Wildlife in the winter of 2005.
Many wild animals, when considered as individuals, fall into tragic situations caused by human activity. Our sense of fairness and morality gives great appeal to the very small effort on our part that would help one survive. Everyone knows that many common bird species have been reduced in numbers by 85 to 95 percent, and will certainly become extinct. Unfortunately this law prevents the great many people who would be willing to keep a disabled animal on an individual basis where this would be otherwise workable. Reasonable people will and should always view these animal and environmental activists with suspicion, and question their motives. People shouldn't allow special interest groups, animal activists, and other politicians to profit from the certain demise of wild animals.
Thoughtful individuals around the world who happen to pick up and care for injured or crippled wild birds, live in secrecy and fear that the animal they try to save will be confiscated and killed by the government. Whether the individual is aware of the laws and political hierarchy involved doesn't matter, the impact is the same. Tata, the world's oldest crow is an example of your tax money at work. THE ARCTIC RAVEN is another example from Canada. Once in a while, a success story shines out, but anyone who devotes his life to wild birds will have a miserable life. If you are thinking of donating to a non profit organization, first sign up to be a volunteer as I did, and find out how the organization works and what it really does.
Observations From the Secret World of Crows This book should be required reading for wildlife rehabilitation volunteers.
The Nature Center
"The vet came in on Wednesdays, so pity the poor creature that was rescued on a Thursday, as it would have a long wait to be evaluated or treated. An information card was filled out with the help of the folks who brought the animal in, after which it was given a cursory exam by the staff, aimed mostly at determining if it should be put to death immediately. It was then placed in a cage with the appropriate diet for its species. The center was supposed to provide more care than an animal would recveive if taken in by a well-meaning individual and kept in the basement. But in some cases, the basement would have been a better option, albeit an illegal one."
Barb Kirpluk: Caw of the Wild: Observations from the Secret World of Crows
Now it is clear that more money can be made by exterminating wild birds than by protecting them. Between summer 2008 and spring 2009, at least fifty and probably more than a hundred wild birds, chicks, and eggs disappeared from the Chula Vista Marina and RV Resort. Speculation is that it was a "professional" job done by a company from Miramar, or a few employees paid by management (off the record) to exterminate the birds. When entire broods of chicks and hens would disappear overnight in April, it seemed most likely that a few renegade employees were working for themselves. The reason for this theory is that the disappearance of birds stopped when the US Fish and Wildlife Service agent appeared. It's just common sense. However, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service agent, the marina management intended to continue trapping and killing birds. Their efforts at baiting were inept, and there is no indication that any birds were taken after this. They don't know how to trap the birds, and it seems that no volunteers have come forward to help. Still, the loss of life has been huge, and it appears that the marina literally got away with murder.
Penalties under Title 16 can run as much as $5000 per bird, and include imprisonment, because the birds were taken by baiting. Why killing these birds is so important to these people is just inconceivable.
Viewpoint - Hindsight
The primary threat to wildlife for the past fifty years has been loss of habitat. In many parts of the world this is no longer credible, the habitat is already gone. This is certainly the case in the Southern California bight from Point Conception to Mexico. Except for a few tiny isolated spots, the wetlands are all gone. There is just not enough contiguous habitat to support a viable population.
The problem faced by wildlife now affects the few species that have managed to survive by moving into the urban environment. Local government and commercial property managers now work to exterminate the remaining wildlife that are perceived as a nuisance to their operations.
For almost a year, several indications of problems were overlooked because of ignorance of the law and inattention to facts. People are generally naive and have misconceptions about how local agencies work. It's always easier to look the other way, until in this case, it became impossible to ignore. Between fifty and one hundred wild birds have disappeared. Education is always valuable, and in this case it didn't come cheap. The following lessons were learned the hard way from this experience.
Local governments are often exempt from state and federal laws, or act as if they are. They can cause huge damage to wildlife because of their financial resources and the large area of land they cover.
U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service Office Directory For any sort of wild bird problem, call your local USFWS office first. In San Diego call Special Agent Lisa Nichols at (619) 557-5063 or (619) 954-5498. Keep in mind that the purpose of the US Fish and Wildlife Service is to enforce the law, not to protect wildlife.
A warning of a $250,000 federal fine was given in the third week of May 2009, and the same ducklings were seen still alive for several days until the end of the month. Several signs appeared after this.
Unknown individuals are still seen feeding the ducks on a regular basis. According to Agent Nichols, there is no law against feeding the ducks.
The scenario of a typical government wild bird extermination program annotated by the Urban Wildlife Society
Quote: "Suppose you were an idiot... And suppose you were a member of Congress... But, I repeat myself." - Mark Twain