QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

There are thousands of rehabilitators in the United States. We all have the same basic goal - to assist wildlife. However, our philosophies and methods may differ. It is important to understand that we speak only on behalf of Kindred Spirits. We do not speak for any other rehabilitator or wildlife organization.

ONCE AN ANIMAL IS TURNED OVER TO YOUR FACILITY, WHAT HAPPENS?

When an animal is taken into our facility, it receives whatever care is necessary - the ultimate goal to return it to the wild. What that care consists of is as individual as the animal itself. Though treatment varies depending on the situation, one thing never changes - we give each animal the best care we possibly can.

WHAT PERCENTAGE ARE RETURNED TO THE WILD?

We arenít fond of statistics because numbers donít reveal the whole story. Any wild animal able to be captured is typically in very bad shape. On average, about 50% survive. That is actually very high considering the condition the animals are in when we get them. Much depends on the species and the type injury. Some species tend to survive more often than others. For example, squirrels have a higher survival rate - in general - than songbirds or baby rabbits. The type of injury plays a major role as well. Cat bites are more often fatal than just about any other type injury. But each animal and its situation is taken on a case-by-case basis. Even though we've been doing this work for decades, we still mourn every single loss just as we did when we first started.  We know that the patients here that donít make it die warm, safe, comfortable, and loved, but we still want to save each and every one. 

As we all know, statistics can be easily manipulated, which is another reason we don't like using them.  For example, some rehab facilities do not count the animals they euthanize, even though they may euthanize 50% of patients at intake.  Others only count those that died after three days.  That, of course, will falsely inflate their percentage of survivals.  At Kindred Spirits, we just tell it like it is.  We count every single death, regardless of when or how it occurred.  If a patient dies within seconds of being placed in our hands, it's counted as a non-survival.  If a patient dies on the drive to our facility, it counts as a non-survival.  If an animal is immediately euthanized due to the severity of the injuries, it is considered a non-survival.  What we consider "survivals" are the animals that survive their injuries, recover, and are able to be returned to the wild.  Anyway, you can see why we don't like to get into the numbers because of how misleading they can be presented.  At Kindred Spirits we do not compare our statistics with anyone else's for that reason.  This isn't a contest.  We do a tremendous job, we have a very good success rate, and we give these animals 100%... and that's the only statistic we really concern ourselves with.

WHERE IS YOUR FACILITY LOCATED SO I CAN COME AND VISIT?

We do not disclose the location of our facility for numerous reasons:

  • It is a strict requirement of our licenses to keep our location confidential.  If we began revealing where we are, our facility would lose its permits and we could no longer do the work we've dedicated our lives to doing.
  • It is critical to our patients' survival and well-being that human contact remain limited to one caretaker and one caretaker only.  These animals are here to either pass in peace (those we cannot save) or recover to be returned to the wild where they belong.  Human contact is contrary to that end.  If this were a zoo or a facility for permanent captive wildlife, this would not be such an important matter, but a steady stream of people will cause some animals to stay in a constant state of distress (which does not aid in the recovery process) while other animals will grow accustomed to the visitors.  When they would be released into the wild, they would see humans as friends, not foe.  This would be detrimental to both the animals and the people.  And this is not just theory.  We have seen it over and over again and the animal is normally who pays the price.
  • Wild animals can carry diseases; some are transmittable to humans. With the large number of animals here, we cannot chance exposing the public.
  • Wild animals are also susceptible to some human illnesses; we donít want to expose these already debilitated animals to unnecessary germs.
  • Sadly, wild animals are sometimes used in black market trade. Black bear gallbladders, for example, are sold as aphrodisiacs in some Asian medicines. Not disclosing where they are located should prevent the theft (and murder) of these animals.
  • If our location were known, irresponsible pet owners would regularly drop off puppies, kittens and other animals on our doorstep, putting us in the position of either finding them homes or taking them to the shelter where chances are high they would be euthanized.  Injured domestic animals would also be dropped off here instead of taken to a licensed veterinarian for treatment.  We are not set up to, or legally licensed for, work with domestic animals.
  • It is a full-time job to run this facility.  If our location were known, not only would it jeopardize the wildlife directly (by exposing them to human contact) but indirectly by taking time away from their care.  Each time a human dropped by to visit would mean time away from our patients.  Because the facility doubles as our residence, we need to retain a small amount of privacy.  Working with patients and the public 24/7/365 since 1991 has taken up almost every iota of our existence as it is.   
  • Liability is an issue. If someone were to get sick, hurt, or bitten, we could be sued.

So as you can see, there are a number of important reasons why our location is kept confidential.  We often get asked for exceptions to the "no visitor" rule, thinking it's no big deal if we let just them come by.  We have even had people promise a donation, but only if they are able to visit.  However, we are asked for exceptions "just this once" thousands of times each year!  It would be very unfair to allow some folks to come and not others and we would never play favorites like that.  But far more importantly, it is not in the animals' best interest.  It would make no sense for us to completely devote ourselves to this work, then do something that completely undermined it.  It would be sort of like Noah building the ark but then drilling holes in the bottom!  At least you can feel good knowing we say no to everyone so we're not picking and choosing. We do recognize, however, that people are interested in our work and want to know donations are going to a professional facility and not someone with a few chicken-wire cages set up in their backyard (believe me, there are far too many "rehabbers" out there like that).  Therefore, to maintain the needs of the patients while satisfying the public's curiosity, we have a section of our website entitled "virtual tour" where you can see our facility without actually visiting.  

IF YOUR LOCATION IS KEPT PRIVATE, HOW DO ANIMALS THAT NEED HELP GET TO YOU? DO YOU PICK THEM UP?

Except for animals considered extremely dangerous, such as an adult deer, we request people bring us the patient. We meet in a public location about 15 minutes from our facility. We will provide detailed instructions on how to get the animal safely into a cardboard box in such a way that keeps you from being injured and without causing further injury to the patient.

IF I CANíT VISIT THE ANIMAL, CAN I CALL AND CHECK ON IT?

We are happy to have you call (or e-mail) to check on the status and prognosis of your animal. We will fill you in on how she is doing, what has been done for her, etc. If she is doing poorly or she died, we will be honest and tell you. If a small child is involved, we will break the news to a parent and it will be up to him/her to decide what to tell the youngster.  I used to call everyone with the outcome, good or bad, until I got cursed out by people who didn't want to know.  So now we wait for the public to contact us for follow-up information.  We are always delighted when folks do check up on the animal they brought to us, so don't worry that you're bothering us.  On the other hand, we respect that some prefer not to learn one way or the other what happened to the patient.  So it is completely up to you!

WHAT IS YOUR FACILITY LIKE?

Thanks to Peterís building abilities, our facility has really grown since we started in 1991. We operate on 16 wooded acres in the country. We have an indoor nursery which houses babies, as well as critical patients.  This allows us to keep a close eye on those with the most time-consuming needs.  We have a separate wildlife hospital building that functions as our initial intake facility, examination room, and houses animals that are in the intermediate phase of their rehabilitation (i.e. well enough to no longer need the nursery/intensive care room but not well enough to go into an outdoor facility).  Outdoors we have spaces for various small mammals, an aviary for songbirds on the mend, as well as several black bear compounds.  There are other pens we'd like to construct, but those will have to wait until time and money allows.

HOW LONG WILL MY ANIMAL BE IN REHABILITATION?

That depends entirely on the animal and its condition. Those that survive may recover in hours or days. Most take weeks or months. A few have taken over a year. There is no set timeframe.  No animal is ever rushed through their recuperation process.  They can take as little or as much time as they need.  It's silly to put tons of time, money, and energy into getting them through the crisis period only to release them before they're ready.

HOW MANY ANIMALS DO YOU HAVE AT ANY ONE TIME?

That depends on the season. There is never a time when we donít have animals! We usually have between 45 - 70 at any given time, but the number changes daily as more come in, some die, and others are released. In our area, there are babies every month of the twelve! Then, of course, animals get sick and hurt year-round as well. Obviously some months are more hectic than others, but we are busy all year.

DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN A CERTAIN SPECIES OF ANIMAL?

Some rehabilitators specialize, but we take in any size, shape, or species of wild animal. We love and respect them all. In addition, we are firm believers that all creatures are created equal. A sparrow gets the same quality attention a hawk does. A field mouse gets cared for as lovingly as a rabbit. To us, each species has a place on this planet and none are more important, only different.

WHO HELPS WITH ALL THOSE ANIMALS?

Dana is responsible for the treatment, rehabilitation, and care of the animals. It is our belief that having one caretaker makes for a successful release later (even though itís a lot for one person to manage!) She also handles the thousands of phone calls that come in annually. They range from reports of injured animals to general questions about wildlife. We are sometimes able to help without actually taking the animal. (For example, returning baby birds to their nests.) Peter helps (when heís not working a full time job) by building cages, holding animals for procedures, helping with releases, cleaning cages, mixing formula, transporting animals and myriad other things. His assistance and financial support are pivotal to this work.

Sherry is on the Board of Directors and serves as medical consultant on our really tough cases (sheís a registered nurse certified in neonatal intensive care). She was doing wildlife rehabilitation years before Dana first contacted her and got Dana started in the field. Sherry no longer rehabilitates wildlife due to other commitments, but Kindred Spirits is fortunate she remains a part of the organization.

Dana's father, Bill, helps with repairs to the hospital building, cages, and equipment. He also goes by the post office once a week and picks up the mail. He runs errands and is basically available to help whenever/however we need him.

MY ANIMAL DIDNíT SEEM THAT BAD OFF, SO WHY DID IT DIE?

Most of the time, an animal is much more injured than it appears. As humans we tend to believe everything is minor unless we see lots of blood. In reality, the animal is often injured internally. Cat bites are generally undetectable, but usually severe. Dogs tend to cause internal crushing. An animal can also die from things like severe dehydration, loss of body heat, stress, disease, parasites, being chased, and shock. As mentioned earlier, most wild animals able to be captured are critical. The severity and extent of an animalís injuries/illness are detectable by someone trained in this field after a complete examination, but usually not to the general public.

DO YOU HAVE TO BE LICENSED TO DO REHABILITATION WORK?

Yes, a state license is required for mammals. A state and federal license is needed to handle birds and birds of prey. Our facility has both. We also hold special permits to care for black bear cubs.  It is illegal for an unlicensed person to keep a wild animal in captivity, even if they are simply nursing it back to health and intend to release it later.

CAN YOU HELP WITH A SICK OR INJURED DOMESTIC ANIMAL?

No. Only a licensed veterinarian can assist with domestic animals. We are not permitted, legally, to work on pets. This also applies to stray domestics that people find. These include dogs, cats, domestic rabbits, poultry, domestic birds, etc. If a domestic animal is feral, it is still considered a domestic animal, not wild, and you would contact animal control or the Humane Society for assistance.  That said, we often have people contact us wanting help finding a lost pet, needing help placing a stray, etc.  We try to help people whenever we can, however we can just because we love all animals. 

DO YOU GIVE PROGRAMS TO SCHOOLS OR OTHER GROUPS?

We believe teaching others about wildlife is important since 99% of our patients come to us as a result of humans, whether direct or indirect. In previous years, Dana gave several presentations a months. Now, due to time and health limitations, she has had to cut back. We would love to continue doing programs for anyone and everyone who asks, but is physically no longer possible.  We had to make some tough decisions as to how best use our time.  Although we believe children should be taught to respect animals from birth, we do feel the younger children probably got less out of our programs than older kids and adults.  As such, we no longer do school presentations, at least at this time, but we do still do programs for adult groups and children's groups (ages 11 or older) such as scout groups or environmental clubs. There is no charge for fellow non-profits (such as churches, civic groups, garden clubs, etc.), but donations of money or supplies are gratefully accepted.

Be sure to contact us early if you would like to arrange a program, as we are typically booked months in advance. Due to an overwhelming number of patients in the spring, we do not schedule presentations for April, May, or June. Once a date is set, we will give you a list of items we need at that time, and individuals attending the program can bring an item or two the day of the presentation for the animals.

Most programs are about the work we do, but presentations can be fashioned for your particular group or need. If you want a program about the birds that come to your backyard feeders, about a particular species of wildlife, or about the environment, just ask!  We will gladly gear the presentation to suit your needs.

IíLL BET YOUR WORK IS FUN, ISNíT IT?

Fascinating? Yes. Fun? No. This work can be extremely rewarding, but it is also exhausting, expensive, emotionally draining, frustrating, and heartbreaking. We deal with losing patients, are never able to leave for extended periods of time (let alone take a vacation), our phone rings constantly day and night, and the public can sometimes be demanding and difficult. We are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and have been since 1991. There has not been one single day in that time period we have not personally attended to our patients. Not one. There are no sick days, holidays, or vacation days here. So why do we do what we do? Working with these animals on a one-to-one basis like we do is a privilege and they renew our spirit.

SURELY YOU GET PAID FOR YOUR WORK, DONíT YOU?

Not only do we not get paid, but most expenses come out of our own pocket. Donations don't come close to covering what these animals require.

Donations have always been problematic. People seem to believe wildlife can somehow fend for themselves, therefore an organization dedicated to caring for them can also make it alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Funds are always desperately needed, so please consider sending a donation today. Your contributions (whether money or supplies) are tax deductible, and you won't find an organization more worthy, more needy, and more grateful than ours.  In addition, every cent of your donation is guaranteed to go for food, formula, medicine, or veterinary supplies - period.  Not one penny of your gift is used for salaries, overhead, fundraising, or the like.

Mail your donation to: Kindred Spirits, P.O. Box 1222, Graham, NC 27253.

Need ideas on other ways to help? If you have a business, consider offering our note cards for sale at your facility. Put out a money jar for us. Have your friends at work gather supplies for the critters. In lieu of another present for yet another birthday, ask that a donation be made in your honor. Host a yard sale, car wash, book sale, or other fundraiser for us. A friend having a baby? When planning her baby shower, ask friends and family to bring an extra goody bag for the wildlife babies. Baby food, juice, baby wipes, etc. If you are an artist, create something special to sell or raffle for us, or donate to us to sell or raffle. There is no limit to the ideas out there, so put on your thinking cap and create a fundraiser for the wildlife.  (See Ways to Help)

HOW ARE DONATIONS ACKNOWLEDGED?

Thank you notes are always sent. Whether you are donating one dollar or one hundred, you will be sent a handwritten, personalized thank you note and a receipt for tax purposes. If it's your first donation, you will also receive one of our flyers and our business card.  If someone sends a donation in honor of another, the donor still receives all the above, while the honoree gets a card (or letter) announcing the gift, a flyer and one of our cards.  The amount of your contribution is never disclosed.

If the donation is a memorial, notification is sent to the family of the deceased (or whomever you indicate). If the occasion is a birthday or holiday, the note is festive. For memorials, the notes are respectful and properly subdued.

Honorariums and memorials are sent out quickly. Regular thank you notes are sent out within four weeks of receipt. if you do not receive a thank you note, please let us know. Thank you's are very important to us and we don't ever want to fail to express our gratitude.

Some organizations publish a newsletter and publicly thank donors there. We do not have a Kindred Spirits newsletter. We also do not thank donors on our website for a couple of reasons. First, we are so busy with the animals that we don't get around to updating the site with any regularity. Second, we write our thank you's privately and personally. Not everyone wants to be acknowledged publicly.

IF YOU NEED FUNDS SO BADLY, WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO CASH MY CHECK?

Sadly, donations are few and the bank is far. Rather than waste a precious resource (gasoline) and spend funds unnecessarily, we do not drive to the bank every time we receive a check. We typically go to the bank every 4 - 6 weeks when we have several checks instead of just one. The fact we don't cash your check immediately is not a sign we have plenty of money and don't need it, but quite the opposite.. we don't have enough donations to warrant the trip to the bank. Our dream is to someday have enough donations pouring in that a weekly trip to the back is warranted! Wouldn't that be wonderful?

HOW ARE DONATIONS USED?

Donations go to help the wildlife...period. We do not get one cent for what we do. We do not personally profit in any way. Contributions go to buy food for the patients, formula for the babies, medical supplies, medicines, cages. Here are just a few examples of how your donations might be used:

$100 will buy a five pound bag of formula powder for a bear cub. $75 will pay for a five pound bag of formula for the small mammals in our care. $5 will buy a bag of apples or a rawhide chew. $10 will buy a bag of nuts or  bag of grain for a baby deer on the mend. $20 will buy a bag of birdseed. $30 will buy a microwaveable heat disk to keep wild babies warm. $15 will cover the cost of a heating pad. Your $75 donation will buy a roll of hardware cloth to help create a cage. $45 will cover the lumber and hardware to finish that cage. $8 will pay to have a roll of film developed so we can document our work and share pictures with others of the darling creatures we have helped. $3 will buy toilet paper to wipe a baby mammal's bottom or clean up the formula dripping down a baby bunny's chin. $7 will purchase a bag of food to feed some species of baby birds. $12 will pay for a waterproof pad to go under a cage.  An $18 donation will buy an indestructible ball for a bear cub. $2 will pay for three or four jars of baby food, or a cake of suet for an injured woodpecker. $45 will cover the cost of a roll of postage stamps. A dollar will buy a can of dog food or a jar of baby juice to disguise the flavor of life-saving medicine. $4 will buy a water bottle for baby chipmunks or a bottle of rehydrating fluids to drizzle in a parched baby's lips. $9 will pay for herbs to help a patient's heart work properly. $7000 will take an injured newborn bear cub from birth to release (at 18 months of age).

So as you see, donations of any size will help. Obviously the bigger, the better, but whatever you can send, the money will be used to purchase something very important for some very special patients. Don't let the fact you can only afford to send $5 or $10 keep you from sending anything.  If every person in our county sent in a single dollar, we'd have more money than we could ever dream of.