“You can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try so hard, sometimes you’ll get what you need” the Rolling Stones
In this newsletter you will find a short piece by Colin Gillin describing his new wildlife veterinary job working with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). I personally take great pleasure in this because of childhood memories of summers in southern Oregon along the Rogue River, because of ramblings across Oregon for several decades, because Oregon is still tremendous wildlife country, and because for years I taught courses on wildlife capture to ODFW and know how many fine biologists they have, how open and eager they are for veterinary input. So it is really great to see Oregon join the ranks of those States with a wildlife veterinarian working for their resources agency. As I jokingly told Colin, he will probably be given a 7 year old surveyed pickup truck, some Army surplus medical supplies and used lab equipment, and cardboard storage boxes. That’s what many of us started with. But, a number of wildlife vets plowed the ground that Colin now finds himself planted in. Jack Mortenson and Mike Dunbar are both in Oregon working for USDA and USGS respectively, and Dick Stroud and Rhoda Ralston working for USFWS. So Colin is not alone, there are other wildlife vets in Oregon and he has the Corvallis veterinary faculty to entice into helping him.
Similar situation exists in other States. Kim Beckman now has the Alaska Game and Fish veterinary job, but John Blake at University of Alaska Fairbanks, Pam Toumi at the Seward Sea Life Center, and Kathy Burek in private pathology practice in Anchorage are deeply involved with and committed to wildlife. They also have the wisdom and experience of Al Franzmann (see story this issue), Bill Taylor and others to draw on if needed.
Briggs Hall has western Washington and Kristin Mansfield has eastern Washington and they each have additional veterinary resources at Washington State University - College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Washington and Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, and several practitioners like Randy Hine that have provided help to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for many years (as Jim Foster at Woodland Park Zoo did in the 1970-80’s).
Michigan now has two vets, Steve Schmitt and Dan O’Brien and a total staff of 12 working on wildlife health issues. Idaho now has two wildlife vets, Mark Drew and Phil Mammer and they have the Caldwell facilities. Wyoming has two vets (Terry Kreeger and Walt Cook) and at least two pathologist (Todd Cornish and Beth Williams). Long suffering Julie Langenburg in Wisconsin finally gets a number two vet this month. And thanks to CWD (the wildlife veterinary full employment act) Mike Miller now has veterinary and laboratory help. Because USDA “program” diseases are present in all these States there are USDA resources and veterinarians to work with. In each of these States a core of wildlife health professionals exists, and along with colleagues in from public health, at universities and colleges, with NGO’s and non-profits, and in Federal agencies like USGS and NPS this allows for the formation of informal cooperative wildlife health groups.
I started working for California Fish and Game (CDFG) in 1977 as the first staff veterinarian, now CDFG has 4 full time vets, Ben Gonzales and Pam Swift at the Wildlife Investigations Lab, Joe Maret at the Fisheries Disease Lab, and myself at the Marine Wildlife Lab (and we are very likely hiring Melissa Miller as our pathologist next month – making us the first State to 5 wildlife vets !!). CDFG also provides the funding and many of the job priorities for 3 to 4 additional veterinarians at University of California, Davis – Wildlife Health Center. We have access to almost 50 faculty with wildlife health interests or research programs through the U.C. Davis (where 20 years ago Walter Boyce was considered an odd ball because he focused on wildlife as a new faculty member), and access to several dozen colleagues at zoos, aquaria and wild animal parks in San Diego, Escondido, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco and Sacramento, as well as others in non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and research centers.
The bottom line is that there has been an incredible and perhaps unrecognized growth in the veterinary expertise and resources applicable to wildlife health and welfare issues over the last 20-25 years. So, I get a little impatient when aspiring wildlife veterinarians complain there aren’t the jobs out there for them. The jobs are out there for those who have the fire in their belly to find them. The resources are out there if you just look and if you try and see the “win-win” in it for someone else. Not all of the resources you’ll need are ever going to be found in State resource agency budgets. The same is true of Federal agencies or universities. Like many of the newer successful corporations the appropriate business model is one of lateral growth, cooperation and collaboration, not vertical growth and a command structure. It is up to each of us, as wildlife veterinarians, to seek out, and where mutually beneficial to exploit the resources wherever you find them, to build a collaborative group or your own state or regional cooperative. Sometimes you just need to bloom where you are planted.
Many of your colleagues will not have “wildlife veterinarian” in their title. For half of my 27 year career I was not classed as a veterinarian, let alone a wildlife veterinarian, but that didn’t change what I did or its value to conservation. I hope we all recognize that it is our interests, the work of our hearts and minds, that bind us together, not a job title or an even an employer. We are not alone, unless we choose to be.
It is easy to identify what you want, what you don’t have, what you think you need. It is easy to be unhappy. I have been deeply dissatisfied and anxious at times about my job and my work, but when I have found patience, have persisted and involved others I have also found great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in seeing wildlife veterinary needs filled. Sometimes that has meant seeing others finish what I started, doing what I once enjoyed. Sometimes that has meant giving resources to younger colleagues and having the grace to get out of their way, or even promoting ex-graduate students above me. Frequently it has meant taking a subordinate role in a collaboration. I think Ronald Reagan is credited with saying “Great things can be accomplished if you don’t worry too much about who gets the credit.”
As I look back I can see that I didn’t always get what I wanted (thank goodness !!), but I almost always have gotten what was needed to accomplish good things for wildlife.
On another issue I would like to direct your attention to the draft letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman (se in this issue) which voices support for the National Veterinary Services Act and for inclusion of wildlife veterinarians in it. Please use this as a template and send her a letter as soon as possible. Now is the time you can influence these decisions. This Fall we will have the opportunity to lobby congress people to provide the appropriations that would be required to implement this act if wildlife veterinarians are part of it. Paul Barrows will be heading up that effort if it becomes appropriate.
“Whither thou goest, I go”.
I decided it would be O.K to use this quote from the Bible book of Ruth when I heard the Mushu character (Eddie Murphy) in the Mulan II cartoon movie use it. How can anything Eddie Murphy says seem too pompous ? AAWV is at a crossroads. We are now at a place where we will decide by ballot what our future primary affiliations will be. This is the most important decision AAWV has faced since it was founded in 1979. PLEASE VOTE.
I will not urge you to vote for one option or the other option. That is your decision. Since taking the office of President of AAWV I have tried to make sure that both paths toward the future that our younger leaders have identified are allowed equal time. I am willing to lead the organization in whichever direction you choose. Whether we take advantage of the historic opportunity to combine our strengths with our colleagues who work more on captive wildlife, or whether we restructure AAWV into a stronger and more stable solitary organization, we need to make some significant changes in our Constitution and Bylaws (which have not been revised to reflect a number of changes voted in by the membership, dues changes, the availability of electronic communications to discuss and decide issues, and other operational realities). Whichever way the balloting goes we have a lot of work to do to make AAWV a more functional organization. But, “Whither thou goest, I go”. I will serve you to the best of my ability for the remaining portion of me term. I hope our other officers and leaders, and all of our members, will show that same loyalty and will support AAWV in which ever path of affiliation the membership chooses.
Senior Wildlife Veterinarian