Best Friend’s Wild Friends mourns a long-time resident this week with the loss of Annabel the crow. To honor her memory, we wanted to share her story one last time.
Annabel was taken from the wild back in 2000 by unlicensed individuals and was found with a leg injury that was never treated. By the time she was brought to Wild Friends, that leg injury was no longer repairable, and she was so dependent on people that she could not return to the wild. Wild Friends then obtained state and federal permitting that allowed Annabel to join our Education Ambassadors here at Wild Friends, and for the last 22 years, Annabel has taught visitors and volunteers about the importance of contacting wildlife rehabilitators instead of trying to raise wildlife ourselves. While we would’ve all given anything to have had her go back to the wild all those years ago, she was an incredible teacher with a powerful lesson.
So, what could’ve changed her story? What would’ve happened if, twenty years ago, her finders had given her to a wildlife rehabilitator? To start, her leg injury very well could’ve been repaired. Wildlife rehabilitators are specially licensed and trained in what treatment and medications are needed for injured wildlife, and the materials and training needed are not available to the public.
Second, and even more importantly, since Annabel was such a young crow, they would’ve limited contact with her and tried to get her around other crows her age. Wildlife rehabilitators spend as little time as possible with their patients to avoid imprinting. Imprinting is a process where “a young animal comes to recognize another animal, person, or thing as a parent or other object of habitual trust” (Oxford Languages).
This is what happened to Annabel. She recognized humans as her companions, not other crows. Even without the leg injury, imprinting would’ve disqualified her for release, as imprinted animals cannot survive in the wild. They seek people out for food and companionship instead of their own species, often causing a public disturbance because they won’t leave. You may have seen the outcome of these stories with bears or deer that become too comfortable with people, but it’s just as dangerous for something as small as a crow or a squirrel. It never ends well for the animal.
What we’ve found, though, is that many people hold onto wildlife because they don’t realize they have other options. If you find injured or orphaned wildlife, you can find your closest licensed wildlife rehabilitator at the Animal Help Now app, or ahnow.org online. This comprehensive resource will give you contact information for rehabbers in your area that can safely and legally help these animals.
Not only does this protect the animal and give it its best chance of getting back to the wild, but it also protects you as the finder. It is illegal to hold onto wildlife without the proper permits, and violation of these laws can result in extremely heavy fines and even jail time depending on the species. We want to protect our native wildlife and the people kind enough to want to give them a second chance, and the best way to do that is by immediately contacting your closest wildlife rehabilitator.
We tried to do right by Annabel and give her a happy and active life while she was with us, but in our hearts, we know that she belonged out in the world with the rest of her kind. Help Wild Friends keep her memory alive by downloading the Animal Help Now app and always reaching out to your local rehabber if you fi nd injured or orphaned wildlife.
Our hope is that the more people who know Annabel and her story, the less likely it is that it will happen to someone else. Annabel was a smart, funny, special animal, and while her absence will be felt for a long time, her message will never be forgotten.