Tag Archives: fight or flight

Capture Myopathy in Wild Animals

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Photo courtesy of 50 in 50 Marathon Quest

It’s been a strange week.  The Motivator has been in Wisconsin at an EPIC convention all week, and our son AJ and I have been left to our own devices.  Needless to say, this has not been a heavy volume running week for me.  I managed my treadmill workout on Tuesday, but I’m missing a 5-miler and a 3-miler in there somewhere.  AJ and I have been occupying our spare time watching You Tube videos that he enjoys.  He has favorite You Tubers that he watches daily, and I thought I’d check them out with him.  Oh… my…  I should’ve been running.  And oh yes, first day of school was Wednesday.  The child has gone from “I hate school” to “I love school” because the teacher announced there would be no homework this year.  Woo hoo!  AJ’s not the only one celebrating!!  But I digress… tonight I’m here to talk about wildlife…

We’ve been getting a lot of calls at the facility this week about deer.  They’re sick, have broken legs, and/or mom doesn’t seem to be around anymore.   Realistically, deer can only be rehabbed when they’re fawns.  Once they hit about 6 weeks of age, the fear of humans and everything else sets in, and treating deer older than that can do more harm than good.

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Deer (and wild bunnies) are food in nature. And they know this.  Therefore, everything terrifies them.  If we were to contain a deer that has a broken leg to try and fix it, it could then develop a very real condition called capture myopathy.  Capture myopathy is a white muscle disease to where instead of oxygen being used in muscles, stored energy is used, which then leads to a buildup of lactic acid, which in turn enters the bloodstream.  If the heart doesn’t pump enough oxygen through the bloodstream, the muscles start to die, leading to all kinds of complications. There is no coming back from this.  Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it draws out for a couple of weeks.

Imagine this… when you, as a person, get scared, your body starts producing adrenaline in order to give you the “fight or flight” response necessary to survive.  We’ve all felt this and know what it’s like.  Now imagine being in a constant state of “fight or flight” for 24 hours or more. How taxing do you think that would be on your heart?  This is what happens when a wild animal is captured.  They don’t realize you’re trying to help them.

As for the deer issues I mentioned above… if it has a broken leg, determine if it can still get around on its other 3.  There are many 3-legged deer out there who survive just fine.  If it can, then leave it alone and let it be.  If, however, it’s laying down on its side and actively dying, the absolute best thing for it is to either let nature take its course or to call a state trooper or sheriff to put the animal out of its misery.  To think a broken leg on an adult deer can be fixed is just being naive (think what a horse goes through when it breaks a leg, then think about a deer going through that with the added stress of capture myopathy).  And at this time of year, if you don’t see mom around anymore, it’s okay.  By the time fawns are weaned, mom has taught them enough about survival and foraging that they can survive on their own, without mom.

As well, wild bunnies are so high stressed and fragile that you can look at them wrong and they die if they’re in captivity.  A lot of good-intentioned people think they can “rehab” bunnies on their own.  After all, they’re just bunnies.  No, actually, they’re not.  They’re wild animals.  When you think the wild bunny has finally relaxed and “allowed” you to touch it… in reality they’re frozen solid with fear.  It’s cruel and inhumane to keep a wild bunny in a cage and to treat them like a domestic… they will eventually die from capture myopathy.  Guaranteed.  If you come across a hurt bunny, please take it to your nearest rescue center.  It’s their only hope of getting back to the wild where they belong.

My hope here is to educate people that every hurt animal cannot necessarily be rescued, nor does it need to be. Nature is very cruel, but sometimes it’s just best to leave well enough alone. If you are unsure as to whether an animal should be rescued or not, please call your local rescue center. And please don’t be surprised if their answer is to just let nature take its course. Sometimes it’s the kindest thing for the animal.

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The clinic manager’s bunny that I love babysitting and spoiling… this sweetie is a domestic, but he still hates being caged…