On Common Ground: Cooperative Perspectives of Wildlife Veterinarians, Wildlife Biologists, and Wildlife Rehabilitation Veterinarians
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 1998
Herman F. Dieterich, DVM
Frisco Creek Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Center, Del Norte, CO, USA


A sense of proportion arising from our mutually exclusive backgrounds has separated wildlife veterinarians, wildlife biologists, and wildlife rehabilitation veterinarians by a veil of misconception. A new generation of scientists has begun to understand that the origin, history, characteristics, habits, population dynamics, and health of plants and animals are indivisible, as is the biomedical community. Shared insights of each genre can facilitate rather than handicap our shared goals.

In a world of limited environmental resources and expanding human populations, public interest puts pressure to bear not only on wildlife, but on wildlife stewards. Lay and scientific views of problem solving appear conflicted when we resort to labeling “environmentalist,” “animal rights activist,” “anthropomorphic,” “hunter,” etc. with disdain. Although it may be impossible to completely understand one another’s views, it is practical at least to respect the right to those views and worthwhile to attempt to understand their basis. How can those professionals who deal with wildlife populations and those who deal with wildlife individuals be aware of each other’s concerns and address issues cooperatively? By embracing the knowledge of their fellow researcher.

Personally, I am a veterinarian, retired from clinical practice. As a boarded surgeon, with experience in exotics, I gravitated to an avocation of treating wildlife patients. With an agricultural upbringing and as a traditional sportsman, I understand a wide variety of concerns regarding the role of wildlife in today’s changing attitudes toward its management. That change is all the more reason for a cooperative presence. In my manner, I seek the wisdom of colleagues. In my experience, for every answer found, there are many new questions. In my decision, “it’s your call,” not because I shirk responsibility, but because I recognize the limits of my proficiency. In government and non-government agencies and private research, there is an overlap of analysis, but the unique perspective of the investigative class enriches rather than diminishes the results. I can provide the wildlife biologist a surgical solution to a moose calf’s leg fracture; one can direct its management, nutrition, and resolution. Wildlife veterinarians alert me as a rehabilitation veterinarian to new disease concerns; I report incidents of disease and suspected foul play in patients taken directly from the wild which could serve to avert an epidemic or apprehend a poacher.

Objective vs. subjective, emotional vs. dispassionate: What’s in a word? Semantics is less important than recognizing our common ground, wildlife welfare. Human dimensions escalate contact with wildlife, both consumptive and non-consumptive, promoting a call for medical care of wildlife individuals that cannot be ignored. If we recognize that pragmatic compassion can blend with indigenous population management and sustainable biodiversity, we have an efficacious coalition. Candid dialogue is not wasted on the earnest.

If communication is the responsibility of the communicator, can I emphasize my concerns in a straightforward and diplomatic manner? If awareness of the other party’s worry requires my positive regard, can I put aside prejudice? How do I implement my good intentions? Self-determination forces me to be patient in the company of mental midgets, humble in the presence of mental giants, flexible rather than deadlocked, humorous in the face of challenge. There is nothing more satisfying than an equitable solution, unless as my wife claims, it’s morning “sex.”


Speaker Information
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Herman F. Dieterich, DVM
Frisco Creek Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Center
Del Norte, CO, USA

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