Friday, March 9, 2012

Director of St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital Receives CSI Training

by Catherine Greenleaf

There is no question that if you pursue a career in wildlife rehabilitation, you will eventually encounter situations in which animals are brought to you who have been neglected, abused, tortured and killed by human beings. Sadly, it's just inevitable.

And if you want the criminals involved brought to justice, it is imperative that as a rehabilitator you become trained in wildlife forensic techniques. In this way you can help ensure that federal investigators from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife department will be able to identify the criminals, make the arrests and successfully prosecute them.

There had been several cases of severe abuse over the last few years that compelled me to apply for this training. These cases involved the shooting deaths of Broadwing Hawks and Northern Goshawks, which involved both guns and arrows from high-powered bows.

Now that I am trained in wildlife forensics, I have learned exactly what to do when I receive a bird at my facility who shows signs of foul play. Most importantly, I have been instructed in what NOT to do, since it is very easy to alter or damage evidence. The handling of evidence is absolutely critical in pursuing a successful conviction in court.

During my training, which was given by Fish & Wildlife officials, I was taught how to differentiate wounds from handguns, rifles, BB guns, shotguns and bows and arrows; how to identify the caliber of bullets used by examining entry and exit wounds; how to measure the distance and angle of the shooting by calculating trajectory of the bullet or arrow; how to remove and store DNA evidence; how to examine and gather gunpowder residue; how to properly document findings; and how to present oneself as an expert witness in federal and state court cases involving cruelty to wildlife.

Working side-by-side with Fish & Wildlife investigators in the crime lab, I learned firsthand of the many challenges involved in removing and preserving evidence. It was fascinating to be able to look over actual evidence for upcoming criminal trials and to hear the details of each individual case they were working on.

I am now in the process of building my own CSI kit, which is a bag containing everything I will need to properly remove and store evidence for possible prosecution. This is a kit I will be bringing with me to every rescue site, in case I encounter criminal activity involving wildlife.

More on this subject, as 2012 progresses, since I usually receive at least a half dozen birds a year who are injured/killed under questionable circumstances.

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