If you’re a small wild animal in West Virginia, your life is in danger. From the government.
Many individuals and groups interested in protecting wildlife across the country establish private wildlife rehabilitation centers, on their own property. They take in small animals, such as opossum and raccoons, found abandoned, sick, or injured. They then nurse the animals back to health and return them to the wild.
In West Virginia, this is prohibited by law. And anyone found rehabilitating wildlife can be fined and have the animals destroyed.
That’s what happened to Patricia Hoffman-Butler of Martinsville, W.Va. And that’s also what happened to Sarah Stapp of Parkersburg.
State Division of Natural Resources agents showed up at Hoffman-Butler’s home on Oct. 27 and killed all of the raccoons she had rescued.
“We felt there was a significant disease threat with returning them to the wild,” said Paul Johansen, assistant chief of DNR’s wildlife resources section.
“She knew that it was illegal, what she was doing,” said Maj. Jerry B. Jenkins of DNR law enforcement. “It was unfortunate that the animals had to be put down, but she’s the one that created the problem.”
DNR sent 19 of the carcasses to a veterinary lab for testing. None had rabies, and all appeared to be well fed, Johansen said. One had parvovirus, a potentially fatal disease for animals, and half had roundworm, which can infect people. Both are relatively common in wild raccoons. — Washington Post
She created the problem? She didn’t create the problem. She was trying to solve a problem, and the government, by prohibiting something that isn’t even wrong in the first place, caused the problem, not to mention destroyed wildlife. Of course, that’s what DNR does: destroys wildlife.
Hoffman-Butler had to pay a $20 fine.
For several years, Stapp has rescued baby opossums from certain death after their mothers were killed, usually by an automobile. People brought her baby opossums, often smaller than a golf ball. She fed them special opossum formula, weaned them and continued her care until they were strong enough to survive in the wild. . . .
Stapp cared for the opossums until they were about 50 days old and are fit to be returned to the wild. Those that were unable to make it on their own, she keeps as pets. She was able to obtain pet permits for those, because they couldn’t survive in the wild. . . .
“If I took in the baby opossums, I could be prosecuted. I’m not a lawbreaker. I’m more than willing to comply with whatever law they pass, but the question is what to do with all these babies between now and then. I’m afraid if I took them in, it would force the DNR to take action against me. That’s not me. I don’t want to break the law. This isn’t just about me, it’s about everyone who helps wildlife, game animals, songbirds, all of it,” she said. — Parkersburg News and Sentinel
Of course, the usual government solution to this is to pass a law to establish licensing for anyone who wants to perform wildlife rehabilitation. That’s what they want to do in West Virginia.
While licensing is definitely an improvement over the current complete prohibition, there’s little good reason to have government regulating the environment at all in the first place. Government regulation causes far more environmental damage than it could ever hope to prevent. It’s conscientious, committed individuals such as these, acting without government restraint in a free society, who can best protect the environment and its wildlife.