Recently I received a call from several counties away about an injured songbird. The lady was sure it was a woodpecker—“one of them extinct kinds”, in her words. I said I’d be willing to take the bird if she could get it to me, since she was about 75 miles away, and she hemmed and hawed about not having the gas or the gas money. I explained that I pay the expenses for my wildlife rehab efforts out of my own pocket and that she would need to meet me at the site I designated in order for me to assist the bird. She said she’d call me back the next day…and then proceeded to call me back about four times that night, the last time at nearly 10pm.
The next morning the calls started bright and early. The last was as she was headed out to meet me, and she informed me that she would need reimbursement and tried to get me to meet her somewhere other than the designated site. I told her again that I didn’t get paid for what I do and that was the only place I would meet her, and she huffed a bit but still indicated she was meeting me.
When she arrived at the designated meeting site, she had the bird in a box with dingy rags that reeked of stale cigarette smoke. (Rant here: people, birds have tiny lungs compared to humans, aside from which, they’re highly sensitive to chemicals. Tobacco smoke is even less healthy for them than it is for a human, especially if they’re already stressed from illness/injury! Show some common sense, dammit, and don’t smoke around injured/ill wildlife!) I had her fill out my intake form—I’ve found that giving people paperwork gives me time to examine the critter without “assistance.” On my intake form I have a short list of the approximate costs of rehabbing several more common species, a note that LWR receives no state and federal funding, and a disclaimer that any VOLUNTARY donations are tax-deductible.
I then started to leave and this…genius (sarcasm, people, heavy sarcasm) informed me that she had no gas money to get back home. Against my better judgment, and because she did bring me the bird when she could have let it die, I gave her the only cash I had with me that night—not much, as I don’t take a lot with me on night calls, but it should have been enough to get her back home. I could tell she wasn’t pleased, but hey, my concern’s the animal, not the person.
A little over an hour later, she called me, ranting and raving about how I lied to her, I cheated her out of money, that the state and feds reimbursed me at the end of the year for all I did, and on and on. I did attempt—briefly—to reason with her before referring her to the Georgia DNR. They get paid to deal with idiots; I VOLUNTEER my time, efforts and money to aid our native wildlife, not to be verbally abused by delusional souls who’re out to make a quick buck any way they can.
You see, given her comments about this bird being “extinct” and her insistence that she needed “reimbursement,” I’ve come to the conclusion that she was expecting payment for the bird—in effect, selling a bird that didn’t—and couldn’t ever—belong to her. A wild bird. A FEDERALLY PROTECTED bird. Yep, some people will do anything for a buck these days. (And if someone at the state and federal levels could please tell me what forms we rehabbers are supposed to fill out for our “year-end reimbursement,” I’d be eternally grateful; here all this time, I’ve apparently been misreading the paperwork that tells me I DON’T get reimbursed. Sarcasm again, folks…)
The bird at the heart of this close encounter of the weird kind? A pretty little female yellow-bellied sapsucker.