The Wildlife and Conservation Medicine Signature Opportunity is an integral part of the veterinary educational experience at Tufts and is a key program under the umbrella of the Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine. Bandaged FoxEstablished in 1983, the Wildlife Clinic provides medical care for orphaned, sick, and injured New England wildlife. Individual animals are brought to Tufts by concerned citizens, local wildlife rehabilitators, and regional state and federal fish and wildlife agencies. Approximately 1600 wildlife patients are admitted each year, including animals that are designated as threatened or endangered species, with the ultimate goal of release back into their native habitat. The Clinic is housed in the Bernice Barbour Wildlife Medicine Building, with state of the art animal care and medical facilities. Working in a clinic specifically designed for wildlife care enables participants to provide optimal treatment for all patients.

The practice of wildlife medicine requires clinicians and students to apply knowledge gained from a solid foundation in domestic animal medicine to a diversity of wildlife species. These include a wide variety of native amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Students gain experience in handling and restraint, diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, and making decisions about case management. The Clinic educates two groups of veterinary students. For those students who wish to make their careers in wildlife, zoo, and environmental fields, the clinic provides a wide range of core courses, elective courses, rotation experiences, and opportunities to work in their chosen wildlife field. But even for those students not interested in those careers, the core education insures that all Tufts' graduates are exposed to the basics of wildlife medicine and are aware of the larger environmental issues that surround the animals in their care. This enables these graduates to act as knowledgeable resources in wildlife medicine for their communities.

In addition to educating students and practicing veterinarians about wildlife-related issues, Tufts Wildlife Clinic also works to educate non-veterinary audiences, wildlife biologists, wildlife rehabilitators, educators, and policy makers about wildlife and conservation issues and the roles that veterinary medicine can play in responsible conservation. Wildlife Clinic faculty and staff regularly lecture and provide consultation services for these varied groups.

Increasingly, the Clinic is playing an important role in monitoring and spearheading policy concerning public health. Wildlife species often act as important sentinels of ecosystem health.

  • Student projects have revealed troubling antibiotic resistance patterns in admitted wildlife patients. These findings reflect a larger concern in the medical community about the increasing development of resistant bacteria.
  • Clinic personnel are taking the lead in working with a number of state agencies to monitor infectious agents, such as West Nile Virus and tularemia, in live and dead wild animals. This effort is part of a larger program aimed at the detection of potential agents of bioterrorism.
  • An ongoing study on mortality of common loons has shown lead fishing gear to be the most frequent cause of mortality in adult loons in New England's freshwater lakes and ponds. This study is credited with initiating legislation in several states banning the sale or use of lead fishing gear.
  • Studies initiated by the Wildlife Clinic since 1983 have revealed elevated levels of mercury in fish-eating birds from our region's lakes and rivers. Tufts students and faculty have played a pivotal role in bringing this issue to the attention of health agencies and policy makers.
  • The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET), a project coordinated by Clinic personnel, is a network of researchers, citizen scientists, veterinarians, and wildlife rehabilitators who work together to monitor the health of the marine environment from Atlantic Canada down to Delaware Bay. A database of information regarding seabird populations and threats to population health is being compiled. Volunteers conduct beached bird surveys to obtain real time information on causes of seabird mortality. An Atlantic Beached Bird Fieldguide is being compiled to assist in the identification of birds that are found during these surveys.

The combined efforts of teaching, outreach, and research activities are all important components of the Wildlife Medicine Program. Students have a unique opportunity to participate in any of these activities as part of their veterinary school curriculum. Upon graduation, all students should understand the importance of healthy wildlife populations, serve as responsible sources of wildlife-related information for their communities, and be able to balance the sometimes conflicting needs of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans.