Yvonne has been a wildlife rehabilitator and educator since co-founding Fellow Mortals with Steve Blane in 1985. She graduated from UW-Wisconsin Whitewater with a B.A. in English and an individualized minor in Earth Sciences. Yvonne currently acts as Executive Director, Director of Rehabilitation, Grantwriter, Social Media and Online Fundraising Professional and Advanced Wildlife Rehabilitator.
Fellow Mortals has provided care for 50,000 individual wild birds and mammals to date. Her specialties are captive care of aerial insectivores, including common nighthawk and chimney swift, and the use of wild unreleasable birds for conspecific fostering of wild orphans, a field which she helped to pioneer with the late Marlys Bulander, of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Website: http://fellowmortals.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Fellow.Mortals/Welcome to the Animal Professionals podcast, where our goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved. This podcast is proudly sponsored by duper dot com. Do Bert is a free platform designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only place that automates local rides in transports. Now on with our show, Yvonne Blaine has been a wildlife rehabilitator. An educator since co founding fellow mortals with Steve Blane in 1985 she graduated from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater with a B A in English, an individualized minor in Earth Sciences. If I am currently acts as executive director, director of rehabilitation, grant writer, social media and online fundraising professional in advance, wildlife rehabilitator fellow mortals has provided care for 50,000 individual wild birds and mammals to date her specialties or captive care of aerial insect of wars, including common Nighthawk and Chimney Swift and the use of wild UN releasable birds for con specific fostering of wild orphans. Ah, feel that she helped a pioneer with the late Marles Bolender of U. S Fish and Wildlife Service is Hey Yvonne, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to have you and I’m really excited to learn more about what you’re doing. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and how you came to be a wildlife rehabilitator and all the other amazing things you do? It’s definitely been a journey. So for me, I grew up in the country in Wisconsin and I really didn’t know anything about wildlife, even though I had plenty of places to walk and to see birds and other wildlife. But I was so focused on my books and literature that I really didn’t pay attention, anything that was around me and when I was in school studying English, that was also a probate paralegal and a law office manager. My husband and I were managing a mobile home park for extra income, and I was mowing and I ran over Ernesto baby rabbits. Oh, no, I was hysterical because, first of all, I didn’t know that Baby Rabbits Heather Nest in the middle of lawns had never encountered anything like that when I was mowing. And so I started to call for help from rehabilitate er’s that were pretty far away there really wasn’t anything in our area and the advice I got rain just everywhere from let nature take its course. Just leave them be too. Don’t try to do anything because they’re not gonna live anyway. And yeah, it was more of it. Woz and I also felt really responsible. So it really was my husband who said we’re not gonna let them die. And we brought them inside and we took care of them and we raised them and we released them, and it was such a great experience. And I told everybody I mean, I told everybody about it because I was so excited about it. And that meant that when this same thing happened to other people, they would call us about rabbits and we would take them and rehabilitate them. What I didn’t know is that what we were doing was illegal because you actually have to be licensed to work with wildlife. Doesn’t matter if it’s ah, baby bunny or if it’s a baby eagle or if it’s an injured deer or an injured squirrel. Everything comes under the purview of the State Department. Natural resource is, and in the case of birds, efficient Wildlife Service has delighted you. So when we found that it didn’t stop us, we decided we’re going to get licensed in both My husband, Steven. I went through the process talking to reward at the time and getting permission, making sure we had the facilities. And so we kept taking animals and then legally and worked with rabbits and then with squirrels and then with waterfowl. And then the time came where we realized that we were taking care of a couple 100 animals a year, and I was still working full time and thinking about going on to law school. And we had to make a decision and we decided that we were going to build a while the hospital. So I quit my job in 1991 and shortly after that we were hit with a crisis that we could not have imagined. And it was the case of lead poisoning in a flak of geese on Lake Geneva that winter, 1991 1992. So by this point, we had a federal permit and we got a call about one sick goose down near the lake and it was brought in to us And then we got a call about another. And then we got a call about another and we realized that something bad was happening. You sit down there so we went out to look at the lake in it. I will never forget the experience because there were literally hundreds of geese on the ice and the harking was horrible, high pitched, haunting sound that was echoing across the lake. And these birds were all sick. So we reached out to our wardens. We reached out to Fish and Wildlife Service, and one of the first things that we needed to do was make sure that it was a disease, a zoonotic disease that could be passed to people. And so we sent bodies to the national while they’ve health research lab where they did necropsies and found it was lead poisoning. And at that point, we knew that we could act and many people thought we shouldn’t. They thought, What are you gonna do? Keisser common? Because why are you in bothering? But for us, what started Phil immortals and fellow mortals Name comes because of my English literature background. It’s from a poem by Robert Burns to a mouse. And what started our commitment to wildlife to begin with was the fact that we believe individual life is important. And so there’s no way we’re gonna look at those geese and say, Oh, they’re common, there’s too many. What are we going to do? We just did it and we involved people from the rehabilitation community elsewhere in state came to help us. The Audubon Society helped with the rescue. It was a wonderful experience in a very hard time, but we eventually did bring in 150 geese. Over the course of a week, we worked with Fish and Wildlife Service to collect evidence. When a bird died, we kept the shot. It was remote gizzards. We learned to LeBron SJ on a large scale. We were live Asian geese for weeks at a time where you put basically tube into the stomach to remove the lead shock because that had to be removed so that they wouldn’t continue to absorb it into the bloodstream. I had to have a cent to key late the lead out of the bone and out of the blood, and we used the pension plan small pension plan. I have a law office won’t quit to pay for those first drugs that we needed. And in the end we released 10 on Easter Sunday, the following here. It wasn’t that many, but every single one of them represented a triumph over. Some of them had over 600 paces alleged shot. But has that What happened was that because we had worked with Fish and Wildlife Service, we were asked if we wanted to be reversed or if we wanted to help them pursue a case against whoever whatever entity had Carlos thes spurts to be poisoned. And we said we would forego the reimbursement, but we wanted to help them to see that through. And as a result, it was the first case of a Superfund effort under the E p A. To re mediate because of the loss of non human life, and over 20,000 ton of contaminated soil was removed from the site, which was the old Playboy Club. Nearly Geneva was a range, and so that was how the leaded entered the environment. And in the winter months, when that water goes low and the birds were dabbling and the birds, the geese, the docks even. You know, your domestic birds need grip to grind up the food that they take in. And it goes in there gizzard while these birds and just lead shot accidentally. And that’s how they got poisoned. Yeah, all of them together. So when that happened to us, we had just gotten incorporation papers back. We were just able to take donations. We took in 600 animals that year, which was huge Thio. Yeah, but I think it really tested our perseverance and Margaret at a time early in the organization because we’d only been around for about six years at that point, and we knew we were going to keep making a difference. And so when the place that we were managing a mobile home park where we’re managing and it started, felon orders by accident went up for sale. That’s when we started looking for a place where we could build a really wild of hospital. And we found a place where we are today in Al totally Jeeva. Wow! Says somebody There was an English major that was going to go on to law school. Look at where you ended up and I wouldn’t change a thing. First of all, I don’t think I would have been a very good lawyer because I’m pretty sure I even though I have more to speak my mind or her time. Because when you care about something, enough, you learn to speak up you you know it makes you uncomfortable. But also, I think here we can make a difference. And because we’re making a difference not just for the animals who are about to us, but the people who find them that are just like I was. They didn’t know any more, except that their eyes were suddenly open. And for me, that was the thing about the rabbits. It was an epiphany to really think about another species is being important. And in this world that I inhabited and thought that everything revolved around me. I really had never thought about little rabbits that way before I tell you that the thing that really impressed me with them when we first brought in the rabbits and they were small and they weren’t moving around the nest that we make for that. But as they got a little bit bigger, probably about 10 days old, so the eyes open at seven days. Eyes have been open about three days. We made a little box for them to live in, and they kept making a mess of it. And I would go and give them our food. In that box, a dish that I put their food on would be up against the door and there would be something like a carrot that was keeping it in place. And I realized they were thinking they were making that decision to barricade their door to create a safe place in a human environment. Tending is almost on. And so, yes, for me, it’s been and continues to be just an adventure. You living on alien beings. I am so interested to it in space travel, you know, life on other planets. But honestly, we have a life. Us. We don’t understand it. Just a simple thing like that that really just set you down this path. So how do you go about learning? I mean, are you a veterinarian? Do you? How do you learn all these things? Toe? Take care of the animals. So while every location is really a very young field and I equate it to when we used to have country doctors and people did the best they could, and then as people figured out that there were certain protocols that could be followed and result in our certain result, there became structure, and it’s the same thing that’s happening with while they for rehabilitation. So when I ran over, that has to baby bunnies. That was 1985 and rehabilitation really started in the seventies. So when we got involved, there wasn’t much. They’re for us for training, but we did reach out and find other rehabilitate er’s who we could speak to. And there was a wonderful woman who I didn’t know about when I ran over the bodies who lived nearby. And she weren’t on Lee with Rick Owens. And she was excited that here’s this young couple that loved bunnies and could do these other animals because she was a teacher and she couldn’t do it all. And so she was really happy to have some help, and one of the things she told me I’ll never forget is that God doesn’t make any garbage, and that’s one reason why today we work with all species of wild birds, including a non native species that have been here for a couple 100 years. The English sparrows, the European starlings, the rocked ups because they are life and they’re established. And when people find an animal in need of help, they don’t want to be told. Oh, that’s not good enough for you to break to us. So some of them are more specific toe particular wildlife. Yes, so people do different things. And so as time has gone on or more people have learned about different species than they can help other people coming up. And no, in 2020 we have symposiums and we have places where people go for training. And in Wisconsin, because husband and I saw the need for that kind of structure, we realized that some of what we learned would have been better taught to us by someone who had done the same thing before. We really were pro and helped to get the regulations in place for wildlife rehabilitation in Wisconsin. So today, if you want to be license, you first have to work with a person who has advanced wildlife rehabilitation permit because that means that they have X number of years of experience, and I have gone through a certain training, and you need to work with them long enough to get the experience of ours on the species you want to be licensed for. Rehabilitator has to have a consulting veterinarian to make sure that those animals were getting proper care and that drugs are being used and properly so that we don’t create the antibiotic resistance that you know everybody’s worried about. You need to be worried about on a larger scale. You also have to have specific facilities so that if you’re Kate Kara, a species, you can show that you can take care of it 110. It comes to until the time it’s released. The Department of Natural Resource is inspects your facilities, so we do have oversight that way, and we have to take a test, and it sounds like maybe a lot. But the way that I look at it, as is our lives, they’re important. They report to the animal. They’re also important to the person who brings the end, what to rehabilitate, and they should have some assurances that animal’s going to get a better quality of care than that would by someone who’s just doing the best, right? So how many wildlife rehabilitator czar there? For example, in the state of Wisconsin right now, I believe there’s around 120 license rehabilitate er’s mistake, and some of those people might take care of a couple of batches of Funny’s a year, and that’s very important because that’s time consuming and they’re very sensitive species. Some of those rehabilitate Ear’s only work with birds some only work with adult birds. Some Onley work with one species. There are a few. I would say there are less than 10 larger facilities across the state, and they operate differently depending on the region. So are some places. It works better for rehabilitation facility to have volunteers to help him with animals. Here in other places, it makes more sense to have a group of license rehabilitate er’s or cut a central location. But no matter how a place operates, or how many animals they provide care for their still all doing the same thing. And so we’re a small community of very passionate, committed people. Yeah, I love that, and one of things I think is really amazing is you guys at fellow mortals have provided care for more than 50,000 animals to date. Yeah, over the last huge number. 35 years. That adds out. So that’s true. We take in about 2000 animals a year now. I think the most we ever took in is 2300 and one year it was only 1200. This last year was about 1800 so that reflects the variety of animals that we see. It also, unfortunately reflect the effect of a declining population of birds, and we’re definitely seeing that here. We’re seeing fewer chimney swifts and Nighthawks, American Castro’s. And so a big part of what wildlife rehabilitator do is also sound the alarm that Wait a minute, we’re seeing a problem with this population. What’s happening? Whether it’s West Nile virus or it’s creased, you serve and circumcised. True. I mean, we see all of those things, even on tax, that quote unquote deterrents like tangle Front, which is a sticky substance that people put on their places like boat docks to keep the swallows from testing that doesn’t keep their nesting. It kills them and that the babies die. So it’s a constant, you know, struggle to educate to prevent the animals having to be brought to a rebel, a traitor as well as providing care for those. There’s no way to keep it. Yeah, I was just gonna say, It sounds like a lot of your job is about education and preventative to try and keep the animals from coming to in the first place. Absolutely. And every single person who brings us an animal gets individualized education about the animal. First of all, they go away from us. We’re a copy of any admit record that has a picture of their animal on it. It explains what the prognosis is. It explains what the injury is if we know what the causes and for those people. Also, we want them to know what could have been done to hurt next time, if anything, sometimes nothing. And they also learn about species, and we usually try to also give that information on the phone when people call in there getting stomach that were is the educating on our website Facebook. We do formal programs as well. So yeah, education. You can’t rehabilitate without education because you wouldn’t be making the best use of your time. I mean in an ideal world, we wouldn’t exist. The wildlife wouldn’t need us. But we’re not there now. What types of animals have you had the privilege of helping over the years, So we didn’t really have a plan for building a facility and doing stuff in particular. We just wanted to meet the knee and cottontail rabbits are by far the most common animal brought in to rehabilitate ER’s Anywhere followed, I would say, by squirrels, squirrels and then by raccoons and then, probably by various species of songbirds and raptor. Well, they captured the attention of the public most easily. They account for less than 10% of what comes into rehabilitator anywhere. So we work a lot with small mammals and what we found out early on. I mentioned to your one of the first rehabilitate ear’s who helped us worked with acorns, and when I would go to visit her and handle those animals and come back to feed the squirrels, they were very frightened. And because I am the one that was doing the care and we still do that, they rehabilitate ER’s care for the animals across the facility. We realized that combining Predator and prey species at our location was not the way to go. And because prey species are by far the most common and most commonly coming to cure, we focused on them. So today we work with any species royal bird, from how scored the eagle and with any species of predatory mammals. So that summer mouse to beaver were the only place that works. Bieber in the state of Wisconsin currently. And we’re also the only facility that is equipped and license to provide care for injured on orphan dear fun for the entire southern part of the state. So now what are their common things that are bringing these animals to you guys? Yes, well, and coming back to rabbits again Very commonly. It’s the same thing that introduced me to the whole idea of wildlife having a right to share this planet and its long going or it’s a dog going on. The are discovering it s by mistake, or it’s someone doing their yard work and raking up a nest. Or it’s a nest in the middle of a playground that people find. The wonderful thing about cottontail rabbits is that because of their natural history, and the mothers only feeding them evening hours then, as can be protected all day long for human activity for domestic pet activity, even predators like crows and hawks that might take the babies by simply covering an S. And as long as that cover has taken off at night, I can get that. She knows that they’re so you know, there’s common things with the funds. The most common thing is just the fact that people see them alone. They’re fragile. It could be a smaller £3 there, curled up there, not moving. And I think there’s something wrong with them, and so they might get picked up when they don’t need to be picked up at all. And so we really try to get ahead of all of these things before the season starts. Which for us, it’s gonna be early march. We start to get the calls for more information. We can get out ahead of time, the better chance we have people feeling comfortable that they can leave that animal there. And I never think the question is stupid because I know that we have very intelligent people from the legal community from the business community from the education community or, you know, the medical human medical community that don’t know the difference between a species. They don’t know the difference between a goldfinch, say, and even a Robin or hawker hearing. I know that that doesn’t mean that they’re ignorant. It just means they don’t need to have that information, and that’s why we’re here. I love that. I think that’s just a smart philosophy. I mean, I always say it’s just that they haven’t learned it yet, right? That’s right. I’m one of those people that believes that I could do anything. I just need the opportunity to learn. And I think that’s a very smart approach that you’re taking to non judgmental because they just haven’t been exposed to that area of knowledge yet. That’s right. I feel the same way. I feel like the whole world is just know how to choose. I remember when I was first in college, and I’m sure you do to it at anyone. All of a sudden. It’s all choices to make go in any different direction. We can’t do it all, so you have to choose and that’s what we’ve done to hear it fellow mortals. We can’t do it all, not doing all I’m doing well. And what we’ve chosen to do is the species we work with rebuilt his large facilities as possible. And that’s all due to the sport of the community. I mean, we no matter what our commitment or passion, we wouldn’t be here without the tremendous support and generosity. Are individuals businesses in foundations and there a CZ much particle immortals as I am? That’s really cool. And it’s really amazing to me, the journey, like you said that you’ve had in the last 35 years. Sure, it seems like a long time. And yet such a short time at the same time. I mean, is this is this really, really thought you were going to end up when you look back? No, no, I I think the other part of it is I didn’t really have a plan. Maybe that’s a bad thing, but for me, it’s a good thing. I live in the moment and I think you have to. If you’re feeding baby bunnies for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening, if you’re cleaning the same cattle cab day after day after day for literally years, you have to find a way to enjoy being in a moment. And for me, what will make it all worthwhile is to have clean bedding play. McQueen, Callen, Captain, moving a possum. That scene is something that maybe isn’t the most beautiful animal. Maybe is the most sweet, silly animal. Maybe it’s covered with scabs and is then has parasites. Put that animal until Kendall Cabin. Watch him of his face on the cream bedding and you’re safe. That makes it all worthwhile for me, E. I mean, we work with egos. Sure, that’s exciting. We have a permanent eagle here. We work with Beaver, and they’re fascinating. But if tomorrow the only thing that I was allowed to work with was rabbits would be okay with that because it’s about us. When you really are working with animals for the right reason and you really are making a difference, you’re gonna do what I eat it and you’re gonna enjoy it. And that’s very well said. And I’m sure you’ve got some amazing stories and really understood the human animal bond. And it’s more and more people become educated and experience of themselves the connections that they have with animals you can have with animals. I really think it’s gonna make a big difference. I think so, too. And it all starts with one experience, which is why it’s so critical that we support people when they first had that experience and call us. One of the biggest frustrations and our people have is that they call it I get our answering machine. But the fact of the matter is we can’t afford to have a reception’s. We have a very small parades staff and because wildlife rehabilitation is still struggling to be seen as a field where professionals provide the care, there isn’t the funding for the staff that would make it easier for us to respond immediately. It’s really for us to get the best advice to the public. It needs to come from a rehabilitated and I has experience and knowledge. So when people call us, they always get the machine because we are working with the animals were standard easily. I live on site, so I’m here when an animal needs help in the middle of the night. But we always call back. We tried to do that within 1/2 hour, and we will always get back to people if they leave a message. That’s amazing. This has been really interesting, You bond. I’m so glad you came on. And we’ll certainly direct everybody to your website. Fellow mortals that or is there anything else you want to mention before wrap things up today? That’s a good question. I think the most important thing for people to think about is that every action of a human as a consequence, even if you can’t see it and we’re really going to be able to make this world a better place, is to be able to step back and think about what’s the consequence of my deciding to buy a case of bottled water as a post, too. Getting a water filter? What’s the consequence of my using a glue trap? Because I don’t want to have a most in my garage as opposed to the suffering that means that animal is gonna go through. You know, we can’t remove animals from their environment because they have nowhere to go. So if you have a house that needs to be read paired because yes grows and there are things you can do, like Sonics or other types of hazing to get the animals to move on their own. But you cannot remove an animal and drive a 10 miles anymore that you can take a person for their home and drive them 10 miles dropped in at somebody else’s backyard and say, Here you go. This is like, yeah, doesn’t work and what we need to stop being is so selfish. We don’t own the earth. We don’t really own our backyards where the where they’re supposed to go. And if we could just think about them. And yes, and Heather prioritized because they have families, they can’t feel pain. They can feel hunger. They need a place to hide. They deserve to be safe. And we have to stop putting everything that we as humans warrant before what all the other species actually eat. I think that’s very well said, and I’m really glad that you came on to talk with me today. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. Well, I really appreciate you choosing to speak with us. Thank you very much. Thanks, Yvonne. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. Be sure to subscribe to your favorite podcast platform and sofrito. Leave us a review so we can help even more animals. 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