Wildlife Center Patients Featured in Groundbreaking Study

Of the thousands of patients treated at the Wildlife Center every year, many suffer injury or illness due to the effects of humans on their world—from window strikes to automobile collisions, from attacks by free-roaming cats to lead poisoning from ingesting spent hunting ammunition. The Center’s public programs and Help & Advice resources feature lessons learned in our clinic about the many ways humans can learn to lessen their impact on our wild neighbors.

Wildlife rehabilitators, and veterinary clinics like the Center, gather an extensive trove of information on animal patients—information that could be used to produce scientific studies and to inform conservation policy. BUT, there's a problem. A lot of these rehab facilities are small, local, keep only paper records, and don't necessarily have the time and the resources to dig through their records if a scientist is interested in producing a study.

Thanks to a decade-long project of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, that barrier is coming down. A recently-published study on human impacts on wildlife, the largest of its kind, is just the latest example of pioneering work at the Center producing pioneering research in conservation. The study, which appeared in the journal Conservation Biology, uses approximately 675,000 patient records from 94 wildlife rehabilitation centers across the U.S. and Canada to examine and evaluate the causes of animal admissions

Of that total, 84% (approximately 570,000) were drawn from the Wildlife Center’s WILD-ONe database. Ed Clark, WCV’s President, and Dr. Karra Pierce, Director of Veterinary Services, appear as co-authors on the study.

Using this data, the paper's authors assessed and ranked causes for animal admissions to rehabilitation centers.

"One significant reason we developed WILD-ONe was to standardize data across rehabilitation facilities so that that large-scale studies like this one could help us understand the forces that threaten the wellbeing of wildlife and the health of the environment. This study, one of the first of its kind to take a “big data” approach to examine human impacts on wildlife. It proves that rehabilitation centers and the veterinary hospitals like the Wildlife Center can contribute substantially to scientific study of human impacts. "

—Wildlife Center President Ed Clark

National media outlets are beginning to feature the story. The principal authors published an account in the non-profit journalism site The Conversation. A story describing the study has also appeared in the research news site Science Daily.