So much has changed for wildlife rehabilitation over the decades. Rehabilitation is labor-intensive and time consuming. With new innovations in products and technology appearing almost daily, why shouldn't the wildlife rehabiitation use it to their advantage. And much of this technology is becoming much easier to implement and much more affordable.
Wildlife Gadgets and Other Product Innovations
On the lower end of the budget are smaller tech items that are convenient to have.
- Number one on our list is the LED egg candler, which comes in both a corded and cordless version. Not only does it have great reviews, reviewer have said that it makes checking even dark eggs easier. The battery operated version allows you to check eggs when your out in the field.
- The dual purpose non-contact digital infrared medical thermometer can make checking temperatures so much easier. Check room temperatures, incubator temperatures and even wildlife patient temperatures. If you've never had a digital thermometer before, you should know that that temperatures need to be checked 3 times and should be administered in a room with no drafts.
- For larger mammals, place the thermometer at the ear canal.
- For smaller mammals, place the thermometer low on the abdomen where there is the least amount of fur.
- For birds, place the thermometer underneath, on the abdomen and just above the vent, where there are the least amount of feathers.
- Solar landscape light are a really convenient way to supply lighting and add security to outdoor enclosures without the need to install power. They are great for lighting pathways, but should never be pointed into enclosures.
- Night vision binoculars are nice for checking up on flying squirrels, raccoons and other noctural wildlife from a distance. While they are not true night vision (not for total darkness), they do work in a faint light environment.
- The 3 in 1 pill crusher and cutter is a handy gadget that allow you to both cut pills as well as crush them. This works great when you're formulating a special avian diet that requires supplements, and works equally well for dosage medication in tablet form.
- The collapsible pool is ingenious. Easy to set up, easy to drain, and folds flat for easy storage. No more stacks of oddly sized plastic baby pools piled up in the wildlife storage shed. It comes in 5 different sizes.
Wireless Network IP Cameras
This is our number one favorite item in terms of tech. You can remotely monitor wildlife whether you're on site or away. You can also monitor a specifc animal's recovery progress, to see if it's eating or whether it's mobility or flight capability is improving, without directly disturbing the animal through direct monitoring. Most of these cameras now include cloud storage, so you can record motion-activated activity for later viewing.
We use a variety of indoor wireless IP cameras and can provide some recommendations regarding what you should consider when shopping for a new camera.
- You definitely want a camera with PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) capability. The ability to remotely scan an entire room or focus on a specific animal is invaluable.
- The camera should be capable of viewing both day and night, so it should have IR night vision.
- The camera should contain its own network IP server, built in.
- If the camera doesn't have its own built in server, you'd have to install and set up the server software on your computer, configure your router, adjust firewall settings and get an exteral dynamic IP service in order to view the camera off-site.
- The manufacturer should provide a service to view the cameras off-site. If they provide free cloud storage, that's a bonus.
With that said, here's our favorite camera (of the 3 brands we use).
Game Camera Accessories
Game cameras are really convenient for monitoring outdoor cages and the wildlife within them, especially when the cages are not located near a power source. Since the cameras can run up to 6 months on one set of batteries, they're much less expensive then running power to outdoor cages. Game cameras typically work using motion-detection. When triggered, the camera captures a picture or records the activity for a pre-selected time period.
These cameras can also be used indoors, which is nice if you don't always need them outside. They also usually include time-lapsed options, which we used to record monarch butterfly chrysalis development and emergence.
While game cameras aren't necessarily new technology, there are accessories that make them almost as good as having outdoor security cameras. The picture or recording captured by the game camera is saved to an SD card that is inserted into the camera. To view the images or recordings, you have to remove the SD card and view its contents on your computer.
Having to remove the SD card from the camera, then trek all the way back to a computer in order to view its contents gets annoying if you have to do it regularly. So along come two game camera accessories to make life a little easier. These are an SD card adapter that let you view the SD card using your phone, and a wireless SD card that allows you to access the SD card remotely.
The wireless SD card allows for wireless data transfer. Photos and videos on the card can be transferred over Wi-Fi connection to your computer, phone or tablet. The wireless option is great if you can access a wifi connection at the camera's location. One downside is that files have to be transferred individually, so make sure your camera's photo and video resolution is set to the lowest setting; that will reduce the file sizes.
The SD card adapter is really nice because you can view all the pictures and recordings directly on your phone while you're next to the game camera, without having to trek back to your computer.
Drones really can come in handy; if you can learn how to fly them confidently. There could be many applications for drones in wildlife rehabilitation, specifically in wildlife monitoring, assessments, and rescues. You could use drones to check out any number of things before deciding if you should intervene.
- You could assess renested wildlife without needing a ladder or climb a tree. Need to check up on those 2 owls that were returned to their nest? Take a peek using your drone.
- If you receive a call from a concerned citizen who thinks a goose on a lake might be sick or injured, fly your drone over for a closer look before heading out on the water. Or maybe use the drone to try to herb the goose closer to you.
- We've actually used a drone to slowly herd our domestic geese back into their pen at night. Just keep the drone about 15 feet away at all times and advance it slowly as they being to walk.
There are several types of drones. The most common are entry level drones which are affordable. Their battery life (around 7 minutes) and their range (a few hundred feet) makes them suitable for small tasks. They also come with cameras which can be used to either record aerial footage, or be viewed live from your smart phone or tablet. For entry level cameras, you should look for the following options:
- RTF Ready To Fly - drone is ready to use out of the box
- FPV First Person View - you can connect your phone to the drone's camera and watch as if you were in the air
- Headless - These are easier to fly because there's no specific nose; the drone can try in any direction since there's no specific forward or backward position
- Quadcopter - The drone has four blades
As drones gain in popularity, expect better performance in terms of battery life and distance. We don't have a lot of drone experience outside of the two Syma models we use, which have been very reliable. Links to those are provided below.
Mid-level and higher end models of drones offer many of the same options that entry level drones offer, with additional options available. These drones are use-specific; some are made specifically for aerial camera footage, delivery drones can deliver packages, gps drones follow a specified gps path, racing drones focus on speed, and endurance drones are meant to cover long distances for long periods of time. Mid-level drones have a battery life of 25-30 minutes with a range of up to 5000 meter.
As prices go down and as drone technology improves, we can see many more possible drone applications for use in wildlife rehabilitation, especially in rescues and in addressing nuisance situations. Imagine being able to return a nest of baby squirrels back to the top of a tall pine using a delivery drone.
Heated Water Bowls
Okay, so these aren't high tech but they are product innovations that make life easier when the weather is below 30 degrees. There's nothing worse than having to trudge buckets of water to outdoor wildlife enclosures when the hose is frozen solid. Then, having to repeat the process several times a day because the water bowls keep freezing too. These bowls will keep water from freezing, so you'll only need to haul out water if bowls need cleaning or are empty. The standard sized bowls are a little too deep for small birds or mammals, so we use the heated poultry fountain in those enclosures. The downside is that you'll need a power source near the caging. We opted for several outdoor-rated extension cords.