A rugged young man with tousled red hair picks at the callouses on his hands. His fast-rocking foot threatens to disengage from his ankle.  Searching the man sitting calmly behind the desk, his voice trembles as he asks, “How will I know if he’s okay? Can I call later? Can you call me?” He has just delivered an injured duckling.

The man behind the desk is Mike Pratt, Rehabilitator & Director of Wildlife Services at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, Bainbridge Island, WA. This is 1 of 2 ducklings delivered to him in less than an hour.

The rescue is warranted both times. The young man mentioned retrieved the duckling after it was dropped by a wild animal. The little critter sustained internal injuries before human intervention offered him the best chance for survival.

Sadly,  human intervention can also be detrimental to wildlife, creating orphaned animals with an increased struggle for survival.


Often times they are not. Baby deer can be left alone for up to 12 hours as mom forages for food. Rest assured, mom is often nearby and keeping watch. Baby birds fallen from nests can be replaced by human hands for resumed parental care, contrary to popular myth.

Be sure to call your local wildlife center before removing an animal from its territory unless you see that the parent is deceased (although the second parent can sometimes care for the youngsters) or there is imminent roadside danger.

For more on how to identify wildlife in danger, visit WSWS’s pages: If You Find a Baby Mammal and If You Find a Baby Bird.


The future of the duckling mentioned above may be uncertain, but he is in good hands. Wildlife rehabilitators strive for a 50% release rate. As Pratt says, “You always wish for better, but it’s hard. Some animals come in too damaged for survival, let alone being returned to the wild.” Still, the West Sound Wildlife Shelter reached 52% last year.

By law, we aren’t allowed in the West Sound Wildlife Shelter’s enclosures or to handle the animals, but our zoom lens got an intimate look at the animals protected behind the scenes (from a respectful distance). See the good work being done and meet some of the residents including a Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, a baby Barred Owl, a Great Horned Owl, baby opossums, and many, many ducklings. To help support them, visit the WSWS donation page today!