WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc.
Using Homeopathic First Aid in Treating Wildlife in a Field Setting
Shirley J. Casey and Allan M. Casey
WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc.
While wildlife rehabilitators have seen the beneficial effects of treating acute trauma conditions in wildlife with homeopathy, most of the application has been in a controlled facility environment. This article describes some of the challenges of taking this modality into sometimes unpredictable and difficult field conditions, as well as describing the successful results achieved. Additionally, the article discusses some of the hurdles encountered when securing approvals from state and federal wildlife agencies prior to treating a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
An Overview of Wildlife Rehabilitation
Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of providing aid to injured, orphaned, displaced, or distressed native wild animals so that they may survive when released to their native habitats. Wildlife rehabilitation facilities may range from larger rehabilitation centers to facilities that use a dedicated portion of the wildlife rehabilitator’s home and property. Wildlife rehabilitators offer a wide range of services, including consulting on human-wildlife conflicts, admitting wildlife for care, preparing species and age specific diets, feeding wildlife, preparing and cleaning cages, monitoring health, finding appropriate release sites, and so forth. Wildlife rehabilitators are required to hold state and, often, federal permits to be able to provide this temporary care to wild animals prior to release back to the wild.
A wide range of wildlife species with a variety of health problems are presented to wildlife rehabilitators. They may be admitted for a variety of reasons, such as injuries by pets, being hit by cars, being orphaned due to human causes (tree trimming, construction, vehicle collisions, shooting, etc.), electrocution, poisoning, or unnecessary rescue (kidnapping). Common wildlife health problems include shock, dehydration, bruising, wounds, head trauma, neurological injury, and fractures.
The rehabilitator conducts an initial assessment to determine if the animal needs to be seen by a veterinarian or can be treated according to the veterinarian’s previous instruction (heat, quiet, fluids, cleaning minor wounds). In some cases, experienced rehabilitators will initiate more advanced treatments according to the veterinarian’s direction, such as providing medication for head trauma, neurological symptoms, or pneumonia. In other cases, the wild animal will be transported to the veterinarian for more complete assessment (radiographs, blood work, etc.) and treatment (removing a bullet, cleaning a deep wound, putting a pin in a fracture, etc.). In many situations, the veterinarian and rehabilitator decide on the protocol and medications to be used. Care and treatment are provided in a controlled environment with a variety of resources and monitored daily until release.
Increasing Use of Homeopathy in Wildlife Rehabilitation
In the last few years, there has been a rapidly growing interest in the use of holistic health care for wildlife. This has been demonstrated by a growing attendance at holistic programs offered at rehabilitation conferences and homeopathic seminars; articles in rehabilitation publications; purchase of holistic resources; arrangements with holistic veterinarians; and use of holistic modalities with wildlife. Homeopathy has been of particularly high interest due to its effectiveness with wildlife (success with a wide range of conditions, accelerated recovery, treating the whole animal); minimal, if any unwanted side effects; ease of administration; single dose; availability; and low cost.
Rehabilitators and veterinarians generally provide the health treatments, including homeopathy, at a rehabilitation facility or veterinary clinic. Although in some cases, the rehabilitator may initiate treatments (heat, Bach Rescue Remedy® for stress, homeopathic Aconite for severe fear, etc.) prior to transport after accepting the animal from the rescuer.
While the use of homeopathy in a facility setting has shown repeated and successful results in the last several years, there have been some interesting applications of homeopathy with wildlife outside of facilities. These applications, outside the normal controlled conditions of a facility, have provided some special challenges. The following describes just a few of these cases.
Prairie Dog Relocation
Black Tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are burrowing rodents that live in prairie colonies in western North America. They have a highly complex social structure and communication system. Many Black Tailed Prairie Dogs (BTPD) have been destroyed by ranchers who considered them a threat to agriculture and ranching. More recently, BTPD are also being destroyed because they happen to live in areas slated for urban development. It is estimated that the BTPD habitat and population has declined over 90% since the early 1900’s. In response to a recent petition seeking protection for the BTPD under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared a finding of warranted but precluded. This means the species is at risk, but is not being listed yet, since limited agency resources are allocated to other species in worse shape.
Wild Places, a small non-profit organization that is committed to helping the BTPD through education, relocation, and rehabilitation, saw positive results of homeopathic first aid with wildlife in a rehabilitation setting. Their president felt that homeopathy would also be effective during the relocation of BTPD from sites scheduled for demolition to more suitable habitat where they would be safe from bulldozers.
They identified some problems that had occurred during trapping and they developed protocols for use in the field. For example, the stress of being captured in a live trap, moved from the trap to a transport cage, driven to a holding site, and held in cages for up several days (until the whole family unit could be captured) often caused stress-related diarrhea in some of the BTPD. This yellow diarrhea often showed up shortly after they were captured and transported. Gelsemium received a high ranking when the symptoms were repertorized and the description matched when read in Boericke’s Materia Medica with Repertory. So they began using a single dose Gelsemium 30c if a BTPD showed stress-induced diarrhea. They generally saw immediate decrease in the stress, and the stool normalized.
They would occasionally see problems develop after using soapy, sudsy water to slowly flush the BTPD’s from the burrows so they could be captured and relocated. In one example, an adult prairie dog emerging from a flushed burrow seemed normal and was placed in a transport cage. Within 30 minutes, he had loud, difficult breathing and dripping white diarrhea. His case was quickly repertorized and he was given homeopathic Phosphorus in high potency. His breathing immediately improved, and the diarrhea stopped. After being monitored for 7 days with no further problems, he was released with his community.
Wild Places had already eliminated trap injuries, other than the most minor scratches, by using Tru-catch® traps and monitoring them continually. They did see some pre-existing wounds (lacerations, punctures, abscesses). These pre-existing wounds were cleaned, abscesses were opened and drained, and maggots were removed. Depending on the condition, either homeopathy and/or conventional treatment and medications were used.
The Wild Places management found homeopathy to be very useful in the field with a wide variety of BTPD health conditions. The staff had to be careful when using the homeopathic medications in hot, sunny locations that could also be windy and dusty. They also had to be careful and quick with using homeopathy protocols (case-taking, repertorizing, etc.) since the goal was to have the animals released into the new location in 1-4 days. Case taking was more straightforward than with chronic cases since there were fewer health problems that were likely to be encountered as a result of the relocation activity.
Live Trapping of a Threatened Species
In early May, 1998, the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus Hudsonius Preblei) was listed as a Threatened Species under the ESA. This tiny hibernator has been found only in riparian areas along the Front Range of Colorado and Wyoming. Since information about the PMJM was very limited, various agencies began live trapping surveys to learn how to better protect the species and its habitat, and to estimate the remaining population.
Later that same month, the authors learned about the trapping program and approached the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), a key agency conducting field research. The authors are experienced wildlife rehabilitators who have worked with wildlife since 1986, and worked closely with holistic veterinarians since the early 1990’s. When asked about trap injuries, the CDOW PMJM Research Team Leader acknowledged that while trap injuries were rare and they tried to minimize them, some did occur.
The authors described common trap injuries and health problems for small rodents, which the Team Leader confirmed as ones they had seen (see insert). She expressed concern about releasing the animals with injuries, however minor. She also explained that the field biologists were using microchips (similar to those used with pet identification) to identify individual PMJM if and when they would be re-trapped. These micro transmitter chips were inserted under the skin on the upper back of the PMJM with a small needle while the mouse was briefly under anesthesia at the capture site (the mouse was placed in a small plastic bag with a cotton ball that had a drop of anesthesia). Some of the PMJM had difficulty recovering from the anesthesia. The potential for infection at the puncture site was also discussed.
The authors further described how homeopathy had been highly effective in treating similar wildlife traumas, and they recommended it be considered by the survey teams. Several articles on the use of homeopathy with wildlife were offered as evidence of the effectiveness of the modality with wildlife. Benefits of using homeopathy were described, including:
Helped to support the body’s own healing.
Dramatically reduced the amount of time before wildlife could be released back to the wild. This was attractive since the wildlife was to be released as soon as possible (translate: immediately, if possible) in the same spot.
Easy administration to wildlife.
Safe use with very small or young animals.
Minimal handling, reducing risk to the handler and wildlife.
Often only a single dose of a homeopathic medicine was needed.
Dose not dependent on weight or complex calculations.
No residual drugs in the animal (especially important since most wildlife species are part of the natural food chain).
Homeopathic medicines were easy to acquire and inexpensive.
Relatively easy to train the field biologists to identify the needed homeopathic medicine for a limited number of acute trauma conditions.
The authors offered to prepare a proposal for the CDOW to use homeopathic first aid with this type of PMJM live trapping, including a general plan, training programs, first aid kits for the field researchers, and help in getting the plan approved. The CDOW Team Leader was willing to consider the approach, but warned that there would be many hurdles in getting approvals. It was necessary to move quickly since the CDOW was only trapping in the summer (the PMJM hibernates from late-September until May).
Several veterinarians, holistic and allopathic, helped develop the PMJM First Aid proposal which was provided to the CDOW in June, 1998. A homeopathic first aid kit was designed with six homeopathic medicines relevant to the most common live trapping problems. Special conditions for PMJM researchers were kept in mind when developing the kits. These included difficulties of administering first aid to a 13-22 gram mouse in grassy fields; low light (they would be checking traps at dawn), wind, sun, or rain; and wearing gloves due to risk of disease. The agency would pay for the homeopathic medicines, with training and instructional materials donated by WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Prior to scheduling the training, the Team Research Leader had to obtain approval for using the homeopathic first aid from her own management and the CDOW wildlife veterinarians. Reaction by the CDOW veterinarians was that basic first aid was acceptable and that homeopathics were likely to have no adverse impact (thus were unlikely to do any harm). The proposal had to be approved by the CDOW Animal Care and Use Committee which reviewed of treatment or research conducted by agency. By July, various authorities approved the training plan and using the proposed first aid for PMJM.
The authors conducted the first training for the PMJM field researchers in July, 1998. The two hour training began with a description of wildlife rehabilitation, the use of conventional first aid with wildlife, and the effectiveness of homeopathy with humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Basic first aid situations and protocols were discussed (minimizing stress and handling, providing a warm quiet place for animals in shock, cleaning superficial wounds, and deciding when to arrange for veterinary care. etc.). Information was provided on administration protocols and on which homeopathic medicines to use for which types of conditions. Researchers were taught how to mix the remedies in water in bottles they would take into the field with them and how to use the 1 ml syringes for oral administration of the medicines. The use of Bach’s Rescue Remedy® was also described (diluting it in a bottle of spring water and dropping a single drop on the animal).
Some of the field biologists who were receptive to using holistic first aid started using it immediately. Others were less receptive and seemed less likely to believe any treatment was necessary or would provide any helpful effects. The field teams took the homeopathic first aid kits with them to the field. Over the summer, the homeopathic first aid was used on a variety of problems related to the live trapping (torn or crushed nails, lacerations, shock). Other common small mammals were inadvertently captured at a much higher rate than the more rare PMJM. These included Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), Meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), and Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus), which were also treated. The field researchers said it was difficult to know the results since the treated animals since they were released almost immediately after treatment, but that they had not noticed problems.
Training More Field Researchers
The next April, the USFWS held its regular pre-trapping season meeting for those involved with PMJM field research. The audience included over 50 academics, biologists, consultants, and representatives from federal, state, and local agencies. The authors presented a 30 minute overview of the reasons why first aid should be considered with animals injured in live traps, and described some basic treatments (warming animals in shock, gradually cooling animals that overheated, etc.). The CDOW Research Team Leader acknowledged that it was difficult to assess exactly how much the field first aid helped, but it had not seemed to do any harm. The authors offered additional training for those interested.
Within the next couple of months, the authors conducted more short first aid training workshops for field researchers working with small mammal trapping. The workshops were either conducted with Rachel Blackmer, DVM or by the authors with consultation with Dr. Blackmer as needed. The workshops followed the same model as that used with the CDOW training and were offered either free or for a small cost. Field first aid kits with six homeopathic medicines and instructions for use were available for purchase.
The workshops were attended by environmental consultants, field biologists from several different state and local agencies, biology students, academics, and others. A special workshop was held for county biologists who were monitoring a variety of small mammal populations to assess impacts of trails on wildlife, effects of wildfires, and wildlife population levels in Boulder County, CO. They also planned to use the homeopathic medicines with relocation of Black Tailed Prairie Dogs.
A few of the field biologists took the time to communicate positive results. One county wildlife ecologist indicated that the staff had been pleased with the results and wanted more field first aid kits to be able to expand the use with more field surveys. They are collecting and analyzing more information in order to publish the results.
Homeopathy Receives Close Scrutiny in Front of a USFWS Audience
In July 2000, the authors received an urgent call from the USFWS office that one of the county field biologists was on the phone about a juvenile PMJM that had sustained a more serious trap injury. The decision was made for the biologist to immediately bring the injured PMJM to the USFWS office in Denver, half-way between the authors’ wildlife rehabilitation facility and the trapping location. The authors also called two nearby veterinarians to arrange for radiographs or other care if needed. The authors quickly packed some additional first aid supplies (lactated ringer solution, heating pad, and homeopathic medicines), and a small cage, and drove to the USFWS office. During the drive, the authors reflected on the USFWS practice that any PMJM needed to be released in 24 hours or euthanized since there were not facilities established to permanently keep captive PMJM.
The biologist delivered the PMJM to a small conference room that had been transformed to an examination room. Several USFWS senior managers and staff closely monitored the procedure. The 14 gram PMJM and the bedding were tipped from the small live trap in which the mouse had been transported into a very small plastic bag for safer handling. The standard protocol of giving one dose of Aconite high potency (dissolved in water) had been followed when she was first removed from the trap at the trap site, approximately two hours earlier. The administration of the Aconite was indicated due to the animal’s fear from being restrained by the trap overnight and from being handled by humans (very large and predatory for a tiny mouse).
The tiny injured back leg was gently examined. Two toes were curled and swelling was barely noticeable. The animal moved the foot and ankle but did not put weight on it. It seemed that the injury was more likely a bad bruise or sprain than a fracture. The decision was made to give a single dose of Arnica. Since it was an acute serious trauma and the mouse had a high vital force, a high potency was used. The decision was to take her to a veterinarian for further evaluation unless significant improvement was seen in a very short time.
After administering the Arnica, the PMJM was placed in small transparent container with some bedding and natural grains. Within several minutes, she put weight on her leg and started eating. Within 15 minutes, she was exploring the container and showing almost no limp. An hour after the Arnica, she was dashing around the container, stretching to check the sides, and continuing to eat. Based on her significant improvement, the decision was made to observe her overnight and make a decision in the next morning whether to release her or take her to a veterinarian. She was placed in a five gallon aquarium with additional food, grasses, and a place to hide. By the following morning, she was putting full weight on her foot and showed normal activity levels. She was taken back to the exact spot where she had been found. When the release container was opened, she ran away quickly with no evident impairment. She was in captivity less than the USFWS 24 hour limit.
The situation with the PMJM was considerably different from the prairie dog relocation case for a variety of reasons. First, as a species listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and protected by the State of Colorado, additional procedures and approvals were necessary to provide care for the PMJM. Second, in the case of the CDOW administering the treatment, their internal management processes had to be followed and approvals obtained for the training, treatment, and payment for the medicines. A third difference was the need to provide training to biologists who would be administering the first aid in field situations and help them decide when additional help was needed.
Using homeopathy with wildlife in field settings is somewhat different from using it with wildlife more controlled settings, such as veterinary clinics and rehabilitation facilities. It requires considerable knowledge of the natural history of the species and the types of problems that might be encountered in order to be adequately prepared. Knowledge of how to assess if and when veterinary assistance is needed, and the ability to get the animal to help promptly is also needed. The limited time available requires rapid but thorough case-taking, repertorizing, remedy selection, and administration. It is also necessary to have skill in handling wild animals of widely varying sizes that are seriously stressed, desperate to escape, and defend themselves from predators however necessary (teeth, claws, talons, wings, etc.). Being able to administer homeopathic medicines out-of-doors in changing weather and low light is also important.
In the case of a private organization, such as Wild Places with the BTPD, the decision and approval process to use homeopathy was similar to other private clients. However, the use of homeopathic medicines by a government agency required considerably more approval processes, particularly if a protected species was involved. The use of first aid by field biologists who were not generally providing medical support for wildlife was also different, as well as educating them as to the selection and use of homeopathic medicines. In addition, in some cases it also meant convincing them that such treatment was needed and appropriate.
The collaboration of committed, flexible, and creative people was critical to using homeopathic first aid to help animals in field locations. People willing and able to work through the management approval processes were also important. Knowledge of the laws, procedures, species, potential situations and problems, and homeopathic first aid protocols were all needed. Thorough planning and attention to detail was also vital to the success. While there are many challenges in using homeopathic first aid with wildlife in field trapping situations, these examples show it is possible to meet them.
For more information about the use homeopathic medicine with wildlife trauma, or to volunteer to help rehabilitators working with wildlife, contact Shirley@Ewildagain.org.
Blackmer, R., A. Casey, and S. Casey. 1997. Beyond conventional allopathic medicine: options considered by wildlife rehabilitators, Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Winter: 7-13. www.Ewildagain.org.
Blackmer, R., J. Facinelli, A. Casey, and S. Casey. 1997. Exploring the concept of the minimum dose: wildlife rehabilitators consider homeopathy, Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Spring: 14-21. www.Ewildagain.org.
Blackmer, R., A. Casey, and S. Casey. 1999. Considering homeopathic first aid for wildlife. NWRA Quarterly Journal, Autumn: 14-16. www.Ewildagain.org.
Boerike, W. 1927. Materia Medica with Repertory. Boerike and Tafel, Santa Rosa, CA.
Casey, A. and S. Casey. A survey of conditions seen in wildlife admitted to rehabilitation. Wildlife Rehabilitation – NWRA Conference Proceedings 2000, Saint Cloud, MN: 143-160.
Casey, S. and A. Casey. First Aid and Trauma Care for Wildlife Seminar. Two-day seminar offered to rehabilitators by WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation and homeopathic veterinarians at various locations. 303-670-3309. www.Ewildagain.org.
Casey, S. and A. Casey. 1998. Homeopathy and Wildlife Rehabilitation. Homeopathy Today, November: 24-25.
Casey, S. and A. Casey. 2000. Jumping to the rescue. ESA Today, Fall: 1-4. www.Ewildagain.org.
Casey, S. and A. Casey. 1998.Wildlife Rehabilitation and Holistic Veterinary Care. Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, May-June: 37-39.
Casey, S. and T. Bush. 2000. Homeopathic first aid used with a sample of wildlife cases. Wildlife Rehabilitation – NWRA Conference Proceedings 2000, Saint Cloud, MN: 67-74.
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Many thanks to the people who helped with cases above, including Dr. Rachel Blackmer, West Barnstable, MA; Dr. Janice Facinelli, Denver, CO; Dr. David Manobla, Evergreen, CO; Dr. Tanya Shenk, Fort Collins, CO; Susan Miller, Boulder, CO; Cari Richardson, Boulder, CO; and Natural Health Supply, Santa Fe, NM.
Curious about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator?
See the booklet titled “Wildlife Rehabilitation: Is it for You?” at www.Ewildagain.org
Shirley J. Casey and Allan M. Casey
WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc.
Evergreen, CO USA 303/670-3309; fax 303/670-8938;
Shirley and Allan Casey are licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Evergreen, CO. They have rehabilitated and released over 1,600 small mammals, including 17 species of small rodents. They are co-founders of WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc. which also conducts research and presents a variety of training programs around North America. Over 500 people have attended the one and two day seminars on homeopathic first aid for wildlife that the Caseys conduct in partnership with homeopathic veterinarians. Shirley was appointed to and serves on the Recovery Team preparing the USFWS Recovery Plan for the PMJM.
Reprinted with permission. This article was first published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, July-September, 2001.
2002. © WildAgain Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc. All Rights Reserved unless