Welcome to Rogue Rehabbers!
We're shining a spotlight on one wildlife rehabilitation group that has gone rogue and the negative unintended consequences that come from disregarding conservation rules and regulations.
First, I need to point out the positive contributions many wildlife rehabilitation groups provide to society. Rehabilitation groups often act as first responders in wildlife disease monitoring and help gather data on how animals are doing in terms of their health, behavior, and where they live. This information is vital for studying diseases, understanding how animal populations change, and preserving genetic diversity. Wildlife rehabilitation also lets us see how animals react to things like climate change and helps us learn more about their natural behaviors. It even helps improve veterinary medicine. Plus, it's a good way to educate people about animals and conservation while helping some species that are struggling to survive in the wild.
This story has quite a few moving parts… please read on and I’ll tell you about the wildlife rehabilitation group gone rogue.
This is a real-life example of one wildlife rehabilitation group who in their enthusiasm for treating urban coyotes for mange is contributing to larger ecological problems like loss of biodiversity through the excessive treatment of wildlife. This same group is using a medication that has never been tested on wildlife and the treatment of large numbers of coyotes for a naturally occurring disease that reduces pregnancy rates. By artificially increasing urban coyote populations, this group is likely contributing to increased human-wildlife conflict.
Wildlife Care of Southern California in Simi Valley California started treating coyotes in the field for severe mange in 2017. In a story printed in The Acorn, wildlife rehabilitator Jonsie Reynolds Ross openly discussed feeding coyotes medicine-laced food as part of their treatment protocol. The problem with this type of treatment method is:
This activity is illegal under California Fish and Wildlife Code 251.1. “No person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or furbearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act which disrupts an animal's normal behavior patterns, which includes, but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering.”
By placing medicated food out in the open in an uncontrolled manner other wildlife have the opportunity to ingest medication. Another potential issue with Fluralaner being put out in an uncontrolled manner is Fluralaner, the active ingredient in Bravecto remains unchanged and excreted in feces. Fluralaner persisting in the environment is another concern as it has been found to be "very toxic in aquatic environments." If this feces enters wastewater runoff in urban environments it can find its way into streams, lakes, and the ocean.
Wildlife rehabilitation is typically carried out in a controlled environment to address potential issues. When mange treatment is confined to a controlled facility, it helps avoid situations where wildlife might start to view people as a food source. When wildlife associates people with food, they can become less fearful of humans, potentially leading to habituation and an increased likelihood of conflicts between humans and wildlife.
I think we can all agree that most of us appreciate wildlife and the natural world. Most of us agree that conserving and protecting wildlife and their habitats is important and treating wildlife with compassion is a good thing. So, what’s the big deal? This was one coyote and they helped alleviate its suffering.
The Acorn incident was brought to the attention of the California Department of Fish and Game. Their response was to inform the group the activity was illegal under Title 14, § 251.1 and to stop treating coyotes in the field for mange.
Fast forward another couple of years and people started sharing posts of Wildlife Care of Southern California continuing to treat more coyotes in the field for mange using the same methods.
I reached out to the members of Wildlife Care of Southern California directly and was told not only were they allowed to treat coyotes in the field for mange, but the methods were supposed to be kept a secret as instructed by Cal Fish and Game. Members went as far as claiming the treatment was not technically feeding since medication was given to coyotes using a special device called a Coyote Lure Operating Device (CLOD). They're not using a CLOD, they're simply lying to the general public knowing they have been told this type of activity was already determined to be illegal.
Since California Fish and Game was silent on whether or not there was a secret treatment program, it was time to start filing public records act requests to see what was going on. Here is what was found:
Between 2017 and 2022, the group treated over 250 coyotes in the field for mange. Most of the coyotes were treated after the group was told by CDFW their activity was illegal.
The problem with treating so many coyotes within a short period of time is that it not only prevents coyotes from developing an immune response to the mite that causes mange, but it also artificially increases the urban coyote population. An increased population being supplied food in an urban environment not only changes behavior teaching coyotes humans are a source of food, the increased competition for limited resources will likely lead to increased instances of human-wildlife conflict. (CDFW Keep Me Wild - Coyote)
Genetic diversity, the genetic makeup of individuals within a group, helps wildlife adapt to changing environments. However, treating wildlife for naturally occurring diseases, like sarcoptic mange, could disrupt natural processes, such as the development of immune responses. On the flip side, treated coyotes and their offspring could become vulnerable to a more virulent strain of mange. Treating coyotes for mange may offer only a temporary solution because coyotes tend to maintain territories, increasing the likelihood of future mange exposure when they come into contact with the same areas they frequent that brought them into contact with the mange mite in the first place. It's important to note that sarcoptic mites can survive away from a host, ranging from a few days to a few weeks, depending on environmental conditions.
Studies show that a small percentage of coyotes do develop an immune response to mange and that mange can limit coyote populations by reducing pregnancy rates.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife required that Wildlife Care of Southern California, under the leadership of Anna Marie Reams as the Director, provide justification for their treatment of coyotes for mange. Instead, they provided CDFW a list of coyotes and continued treatment without providing justification. Treating coyotes in the field without CDFW authorization.
Wildlife Care of Southern California was conducting experimental treatment of bobcats and coyotes while their permit was pending. The permit is still pending approval. The Scientific Permit Application was submitted for approval in October 2021. SCP ID: S-212440008-21265-001.
Problems found in the unapproved Scientific Collection Permit:
The off-label use of Bravecto (Fluralaner) for treating mange in coyotes.
When a medication is used off-label, it means it is being utilized in a manner not specifically approved by regulatory agencies. This often means that there is limited or no scientific evidence regarding its off-label use. Treating wildlife with medications off-label raises concerns related to safety, efficacy, adverse effects, treatment outcomes, legal implications, and the overall well-being of the animals. It is generally recommended to follow approved and established protocols to ensure the best possible care and outcomes for animal health.
The absence of follow-up care disregards potential secondary infections and recognized side effects of Bravecto (Fluralaner) that may arise after treatment.
The problem with not providing aftercare for secondary infections is that field treatment is only treating the occurance of mites and does not treat the associated bacterial and fungal skin infections that come with acute mange. Additionally, the lack of post-treatment care means that any side effects related to Bravecto (Fluralaner) cannot be addressed. Although rare, adverse side effects listed by the Food & Drug Administration for the oral administration of Fluralaner in dogs include vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and death (FDA 2018).
Remember when Jonsie Ross Reynolds said she wasn’t feeding coyotes to treat them for mange and was using a specially designed device to administer medication? The Wildlife Care of Southern California Scientific Collection Permit Application lays out the exact methods they use in the field. Wildlife Care of Southern California was putting out a medication not approved for wild animals inside meat (just as she indicated in the Acorn article).
Wildlife Care of Southern California received the Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Tax Fund Grants in 2021 and 2022 when they likely did not qualify due to Title 14 and MOU violations.
WCSC has been awarded the Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Tax Fund Grant in 2021 and in 2022, totaling $18,000 ($9,000 each year). The problem is, in order to be eligible for the program, potential awardees must "Be in compliance with all conditions of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Memorandum of Understanding, CDFW permits, and additional federal permits (as needed).” (Monroe 2020)
In order to be eligible for the NWRTF grant, Wildlife Care of Southern California needed to follow the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) they signed with California Fish and Wildlife. In the MOU, this group was required to follow all rules in Title 14. As we already established Wildlife Care of Southern California had been breaking code section 251.1 (Harassment of animals), a rule in Title 14.
The Wildlife Care of Southern California case is a glaring example of what happens when rules and regulations are ignored. Rules play a crucial role in establishing expectations and promoting responsible and ethical behavior for both individuals and organizations. The rule of law is a fundamental principle that ensures equality, fairness, and accountability.
Treating large numbers of wildlife with medications off-label raises concerns related to safety, efficacy, adverse effects, treatment outcomes, legal implications, and the overall well-being of the animals. It is generally recommended to follow approved and established protocols to ensure the best possible care and outcomes for animal health. This is why wildlife rehabilitation has traditionally been conducted within treatment facilities, a controlled environment where wildlife can receive care and any complications that arise can be evaluated and treated promptly and appropriately.
The allocation of $18,000 in taxpayer funding to Wildlife Care of Southern California (WCSC) through the Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund Grant in 2021 and 2022 raises significant concerns about the optics of awarding funds to a group that failed to meet eligibility requirements. It is essential for CDFW to reassess their criteria and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that taxpayer funds are allocated to organizations that meet the required eligibility requirements.
PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION
Wildlife Care of Southern California's rogue actions are impacting our ecosystem and threatening our communities. The unchecked field treatment of coyotes for mange not only defies wildlife protection laws but also endangers public safety and disrupts our environment. We cannot afford to let this continue. Join us in demanding immediate oversight and accountability. Sign the petition to ensure all coyote treatment is done responsibly, within controlled facilities, under professional supervision. Act today to protect our wildlife, our communities, and our environment. Your voice can make a difference!