Avian rehabilitator explains her daily duties as a wildlife rehabilitator

Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT

Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - There is a state-wide shortage of licensed wildlife rehabilitators, and while working with animals may seem fun, it requires a lot of hard work.

The sound of dozens of injured and orphaned birds Julie Rabalais is currently caring for fills her facility. She is a licensed avian rehabilitator who sees hundreds of birds pass through her facility a year.

She has loved birds all her life, but she made the leap to become licensed about four years ago.

“It sort of connected me to my parents, to my youth and to my parents who introduced me to the love of birds,” Rabalais said.

The decision was an easy one, but requires a lot of work that many may forget comes with the territory.

Rabalais’ day starts early and some days end pretty late.

“I normally stick to a good routine, a good regimen of cleaning, filling pools, feeding, all of that,” Rabalais said. “And in between, I will come back here and feed all of the nestlings.”

In addition to constant care, it’s not a paid position by the state and it comes with a price tag. Rabalais explained the costs of care adds up, and rehabilitators often function as non-profits to help cover those costs.

“The cost of rehabbing one bird is really right around $100 per bird,” Rabalais said. “You can imagine food, the enclosures we are require to keep them in, the medical supplies and all of the things go with it.”

Wildlife and Fisheries’ Melissa Collins said they look for quality rehabilitators that will follow the rules, who are willing to build the proper facilities, and understand the goal is to release health animals and euthanize when necessary.

Collins and Rabalais both said another important aspect is educating the public.

“Walking some of the finders through, well is this an orphaned or injured animal? Or is it doing exactly what it should be doing,” Collins said.

Despite it all, Rabalais said the job is worth it.

“It’s the satisfaction you get of knowing you helped a little animals,” Rabalais said.

For more information about licensing requirements, CLICK HERE.

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