Wildlife Clinic of Rhode IslandJun 30, 2022 09:31AM ● By Wendy Nadherny Fachon
Every year, hundreds of wild animal babies are taken into the care of the Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island, the state’s only fully functional clinic dedicated to the veterinary care and treatment of orphaned and injured wild species native to Rhode Island. Responsible for an entire state’s worth of wildlife, this nonprofit clinic works closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM).
The organization began in a two-car garage space 29 years ago and is now situated in a three-story facility. The main clinic is on the lowest level, the lobby and surgery suite are on the second floor with an intern room, and the raptor ward and locked rabies vector ward are on the top floor, along with the veterinarian’s office. In 2021, the clinic treated more than 6,000 animals, including eastern cottontail bunnies, salamanders, bats and songbirds.
Wild animals are state-owned, and the clinic is highly regulated. It requires a full-time veterinarian, licenses for rehabilitators and attentive oversight of medications. While the nonprofit is largely comprised of volunteers, it has many expenses, including the veterinarian’s compensation, antibiotics, formula, food and other supplies, as well as training and licenses for staff and volunteer rehabilitators.
The organization has been running without state funding assistance. Executive Director Kristin Fletcher says, “Regarding funding, we currently operate through private donations, grants and fundraisers, but we are in need of a guaranteed stream of funding to pay a veterinarian. Without a veterinarian, all of our licenses, including that of the facility, are in jeopardy as that is a requirement of the state. We are waiting for the state Finance Committee to bring forth a bill to pay a full-time veterinarian. In the meantime, we nickle and dime to make sure our animals get the best.”
The youngest baby birds require feedings every 15 minutes, which is why the clinic always needs bird rehabbers. Baby mammals require feeding every couple of hours, depending on age. Patients are maintained in captivity only until they can live independently in the wild.
The public can bring wild animals that need care to the clinic. While the clinic can assist with the rabies vector species (raccoons, woodchucks, foxes, skunks and bats), actual suspected rabies cases should be handled by RIDEM due to the public health issue. People can call the Wildlife Clinic at 401-294-6363 or the RIDEM at 401-222-3070 for assistance.
Baby gifts and donations make it possible to save the several thousand infant and juvenile birds and animals received by the clinic over the course of the spring, summer and fall. The Wildlife Rehabilitators Assocation of Rhode Island (WRARI) posts adorable photos and videos of Wildlife Clinic animal babies on its Facebook page.
Location: 2865 Tower Hill Rd.,Saunderstown, RI. For more information, call 401-294-6363, email [email protected] or visit RIWildlifeRehab.org.
Wendy Nadherny Fachon is an environmental educator, who hosts the Story Walking
Radio Hour on the Dreamvisions 7 Radio Network. Visit Storywalking.com to find
and download informative and entertaining environmental podcasts.