Oklahoma tornado update: through great adversity, wildlife meets unyielding compassion

The American author, Arthur Golden, once said, “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” I have only been in the tornado-ravaged areas of Oklahoma for less than a week, but this quote rings more true here than anywhere else I could imagine. In the past five days, I’ve witnessed first-hand the unfathomable destruction of Mother Nature and the unmatched resilience and generosity of those affected. Humans and their companion animals are the most recognized victims of disasters such as the massive tornado that demolished areas of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th 2013. Yet, when severe weather strikes, there are additional victims who are often unintentionally overlooked, but just as in need of rescue and care in order to survive.

Day old fawns washed away from their mothers by flash flooding. Numerous Mississippi kites battered by giant hailstones. Hatchling hawks thrown violently from their nests, fracturing wings and breaking legs. Box turtles trapped under piles of rubble and timber, barely resembling the homes they once were. Countless orphaned raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, bunnies, and songbirds separated permanently from their parents, who may not have survived the storms. These are the wildlife victims of natural disasters. These are the ones that WildCare Foundation in Noble, Oklahoma, just a few miles south of Moore, are currently receiving in the hundreds. Since the EF-5 tornado on May 20th, only a few short weeks ago, over 600 hundred injured, orphaned, and displaced wildlife have been sent to this animal rehabilitation center as their only hope for healing, recuperation, and eventually a second chance at life as a wild animal.

The WildCare Foundation has been in operation for 29 years and opens its doors to thousands of wild animals annually. Springtime is notorious among wildlife rehabilitators as “Baby Season,” generally the busiest time of the year. Unfortunately, tornado season occurs during this same timeframe, making these past few weeks a tremendous undertaking for the staff, interns and volunteers at WildCare. For the first time ever in this organization’s history, WildCare reached out for help. IFAW answered.

To serve the animals and ease the burden placed on WildCare, fellow wildlife rescuer Diane Treadwell and myself deployed immediately, and we haven’t stopped moving since! We’ve already lost count of bottle feedings, medical treatments, enclosure repairs and upkeep, and successful animal releases that have occurred over the past few days. As the WildCare staff fondly refers to us as the “IFAW Blur”, I believe we have been able to alleviate much of the initial heaviness inflicted on them by this high influx of storm victims. Through the struggles, we have shared stories, smiles, tears, laughter, and most importantly: encouragement.

I cannot express enough the raw and genuine humanity and generosity I have witnessed the people at WildCare provide to every animal brought through their doors. From the tiniest mouse to the fiercest bobcat, every animal is treated with respect, dignity, and unyielding compassion. Their passion and dedication to animal rescue and welfare matches our mission here at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). I believe it will be these core values that will provide a solid foundation for a long-term relationship, allowing our organizations to work alongside one another to continue rescuing wildlife in need. 

The devastating tornados and severe weather that erupted in the past few weeks have embodied the strong wind Arthur Golden spoke about, stripping away seemingly anything and everything in the destructive paths. Yet, there are things these storms could not tear away from the victims: community and inner strength, deep compassion for all living things, and an unwavering perseverance to survive, endure, and live on.

Without our faithful supporters, IFAW could not respond to disasters, such as the Oklahoma tornados, to rescue affected companion and wild animals. I am truly grateful for the generosity that enables our team to be mobilized where and when we are needed. 


Consider donating to help the Moore, Oklahoma tornado’s animal victims.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy