Originally published on Dec. 24, 2021By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an interesting phenomena happening with wildlife rehabilitation.

There’s a record number of animals who’ve been brought into the hospital.

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“In 2019 we admitted about 13,000 patients. This year we are on pace to admit 19,000,” said Phil Jenni, the Executive Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville.

Jenni said the record increase has more to do with human behavior than animal behavior.

People have been home and outdoors during the pandemic, so they’re coming across injured or orphaned animals more often.

“The silver lining of COVID is that there are more people seeing the injured animals and taking the time to help them,” said Jenni.

Credit: CBS

Over the past year-and-a-half, people have brought in black bear cubs, milk snakes, and small-footed bats. And pretty much everything in between. Someone even brought in an injured blue-spotted salamander.

At the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, it’s a similar story.

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For just the third time in their 50-year history they’ve seen more than a thousand birds come in. A great-horned owl is patient 1,000.

“Her wing is so swollen that the edema or the swelling is literally weeping out,” said veterinary intern Tracy Swanson.

December should be a slow month, but they are seeing three times the number of patients they usually see.

“It’s been unseasonably warm. Birds are hanging around longer. People are outside. And they know where to call if they find an injured bird,” said Executive Director Victoria Hall.

About 50% of eagles, owls, falcons and hawks that come in are successfully released back into the wild. Which is the ultimate goal for both doctor and patient.

“It’s a little bit of good in this world when we can have these success stories with these birds and the community caring enough to get these birds to us. It’s a little bright spot right now,” said Hall.

Veterinarians said the most common injuries are human-related, such as animals getting hit by cars or ingesting lead from ammunition.

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John Lauritsen