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James Robinson— Rehabilitating wild animals

As a kid, James Robinson of Investigations and Policy (ADMASER-IP) helped rehabilitate injured animals. This passion led him to help found the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation, which raises funds to rehabilitate wild animals throughout New Mexico.
August 29, 2018
  • James Robinson
  • James Robinson
  • James Robinson
  • James Robinson
  • James Robinson
  • James Robinson
“A lot of young wildlife comes in simply because someone thinks a baby has been abandoned, when most of the time that’s just not the case. Such rescues put uneducated individuals in peril—there’s nothing more dangerous than a mama bear. It also puts the young animal at risk because he or she is separated from the parent. Rather than take a rescue into your hands, it’s best to call the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and let them assess the situation.”

Rehabilitating wild animals

James Robinson of Investigations and Policy (ADMASER-IP) has always been fascinated with animals, particularly the wild ones. 

“My first interaction with wildlife was while I was playing tee-ball—I was a terrible ball player,” James remembers. “The only time I ever got to first base, I hit the ball and a Red-tailed Hawk came down and went after it. The kid from the other team let the hawk have his way with the ball, so that’s how I finally made it to first base.”

James never really gave much thought to animal rehabilitation, until he found himself right in the middle of one. James has a good friend named Ty in Española whose mom Dr. Ramsay is a veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator. The two boys were playing in the backyard when they were summoned to help out with a large animal. Expecting to help with a dog, James found himself face to face with a bear.

“So here I am, with Dr. Ramsay asking me to grab hold of a bear’s front paws,” says James. “She needed more bodies to help carry this bear to a cage, as the animal was still groggy because she had just performed emergency surgery on him. This was my first experience where I really got going in the world of animal rescue and rehabilitation.”

James Robinson helps to rehabilitate this injured bear.

The Calm after the Storm

When it comes to animal rehabilitation, the “storm” typically consists of an animal’s rescue and medical treatment. In many cases, animal recovery is a long-term affair, and it is during this calming phase that the chores can be rather mundane, although the reward makes such effort worthwhile every time.

“Every time I hung out with Ty I was introduced more and more into the works of animal rehabilitation,” explains James. “There were always chores to do, such as shoveling poop out of the cages and feeding the animals according their specific dietary needs. Every once in a while, I was able to help with rehabilitation directly, such as holding a bird so that Dr. Ramsay could perform a medical treatment on it.”

As James learned more and more about what it takes to reintroduce an animal into the wild after healing from an injury, he realized that it was expensive just to keep the animals fed. One example was a bear named “Blue Beary,” who had suffered a broken leg. The injury required a long recovery, with an estimated rehabilitation cost of at least $9,000.

In 2012, James and several others formed the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation, an organization designed to support wildlife rehabilitation operations throughout New Mexico. James served as chairman for six years (since its inception), electing to step down recently so that someone else could have a chance to serve and likely expand the foundation.

“Animal rehabilitation of any kind is incredibly expensive,” says James. “I helped establish this foundation to serve as an umbrella fundraising apparatus to support rehabilitation efforts throughout New Mexico. My foundation does the fundraising and paperwork so that these rehabilitation centers can concentrate on getting wild animals back into their environment.”

James Robinson holds an eagle with an injured wing.

Educated Compassion

One branch of the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation focuses on education, a critical component because much of New Mexico is rural, which makes encounters with wildlife almost inevitable. For example, Los Alamos is currently experiencing a bear incursion, with the large mammals sometimes wandering the streets and backyards of the community. Working with the Los Alamos Nature Center, the foundation in 2017 held its first Bear Festival to help people to better understand bears and learn how to coexist with them.

“The primary goal of the Bear Festival is to educate people on how cool bears really are,” says James. “They’re not so scary once you get to know them. We just need to know ‘bear-aware’ techniques so that they don’t feel the need to defend themselves. Most people are surprised that in most cases bears will simply run away when encountering humans.”

It is this fear of humans that those involved with animal rehabilitation must always consider during an animal’s convalescence.

“Other than newborns, birds aren’t easily domesticated once they are several weeks old,” says James, “but with mammals like bears, we walk a fine line. While under rehabilitation, we are their primary food source, and they recognize that, so we practice ‘tough love,’ or educated compassion, to facilitate such an animal’s return to the wild. Yes, a bear cub is cute and fuzzy, a fawn has beautiful eyes and a young hawk is majestic, but all of them in the end must return to the wild. That is our duty and ultimately our reward.”

James Robinson works in Investigations and Policy (ADMASER-IP).


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.