article and photos by Jennifer Howard
I know I sound like a broken record. Every month mentioning the do’s and don’ts. But this is education and since times have been different, we need to make sure you know what to do.
Google is not the answer to all things. Sometimes the internet, in all its glory, is our worst nightmare as wildlife rehabbers. You find a fawn, a baby bird, orphaned baby skunks or raccoons or squirrels. What do you do?
Don’t go to the internet for advice; don’t keep them, don’t try to care for them yourself.
I get posts sent to me all the time. “Nestling found on the ground, what do I do?” Someone replies, “Oh I cared for one last year. I’ll take it.” STOP. All babies need special care, special food, special know-how. Is it a nestling, is it a fledgling?
If it has little pin feathers and is not hopping around, it’s a nestling, more than likely having fallen from its nest. Please do not try to care for it. They can easily aspirate, meaning fluid goes into their tiny lungs and if not treated immediately by being put on oxygen, they can get pneumonia and may die.
This is true for all tiny babies. They need trained volunteers to care for them. So please make that call right away at (905) 729-0033. If it’s late and we are closed (our phone volunteers work till 8 pm), please put the baby in a warm secure container and keep it quiet. Do not offer it food or fluids. Call and leave a detailed message and when we start at 8 am, we will call you back. Make sure there are air holes in the container, but not too big otherwise they will escape. Never use tape in places where they may get caught on it. Why do I mention these simple things? Because people do it without thinking. We mean well, but in a heated moment, we may not think straight. And since these things have been done, I’m mentioning it so we can hopefully avoid it happening again. It can have devastating effects on an already stressed or injured animal or bird.
First, however, try to reunite them with their parents.
Birds; if you see the nest try to put the baby back in there. If it’s too high, make a nest and put it as close to the real nest as possible. Make sure it is secure. Place the baby in there and watch from a distance. Parent birds should go and care for it. It’s okay to touch a baby bird to put it back, parents will still go to it. Wildlife are great parents.
Fawns; don’t be a fawn napper. Does leave their fawns alone to protect them. The mother comes at dusk and dawn to feed them, they don’t have a scent so are usually put in what the mother thinks is a safe spot. A fawn with ears standing tall is healthy but if it has ears that curl (a sign of dehydration), or if it’s constantly crying, it’s orphaned and needs help right away. But if you just find a fawn curled up, you want to be sure whether or not the fawn is orphaned. Make sure you watch the fawn from afar and out of sight because if mom sees you, she will not come. Wait 24 hours. Mom usually will come to feed and move her fawn to another location. But she will not come if she sees you.
The same is true with rabbits. Mom comes at dusk and dawn to feed her little ones. They choose your backyard because they have chosen you to be the guardian. Even if you have dogs or cats they think it’s safe. So please try to keep cats in and dogs away from the nest until they leave. During the day you can protect the nest by putting a small playpen over it or something that will keep other animals out. But removing it so mom can get to them later in the day. She must be able to access her little ones. And please, when you cut or weed whack your lawns watch out for baby rabbits or other babies in your grass. They are tiny and vulnerable, check your lawn before you cut. We have had quite a few come in recently with wounds from lawn cutting and trimming, some too bad to be saved and some arriving already too late. It’s heartbreaking and so unavoidable.
With all babies their best chance of life is with their parents, their second best, is with a wildlife rehabilitation Centre. Foxes or coyotes and many other animals, for that matter, may be seen carrying their little ones to a new den site, perfectly normal, so don’t interfere, please.
If you don’t want an animal under your shed or in your attic, call us first before you do anything, we will walk you through what to do. So many babies are orphaned when people trap and remove the mother, later finding out she had babies left behind. Trapping and relocating is not kind. That animal’s home is there, it’s food and water source, shelter, its safety, is all there. You moving it outside its area puts it at risk of many things. No shelter, it doesn’t know where to find food or water, doesn’t have a home and it may be in another’s territory causing it possible harm or even its life in territorial battles. Let us help you. We can help you to get that mother to move out on her own, to move her babies safely on her own. Make that call. Then fix the area when all is clear to make sure they can’t move back in. It may take some time so be patient. Lives depend on it. After all, it is they who share their space with us, we have taken their homes away. More green space needs to be made, not taken away all the time.
If you see a dead opossum on the road please check it to make sure there are no babies. They are our only marsupial animal meaning the babies could be in their pouch, alive and desperate. Bring the mother into us after calling. We will do our best to save those little ones. If you see an opossum baby by itself. Pick it up and call. A baby alone needs help right away.
Help turtles cross the road safely in the direction they are going. Never pick them up by their tail as that is part of their spine and is attached to their shell. Always go in the same direction because they will not stop until they get across. Always check hit turtles, they may be alive and if dead they may be full of viable eggs that can be removed and incubated. Beware of snappers’ mouths, beware of nails. Try to wear gloves and always wash and or sanitize your hands after. Never drive over the top of a snapping turtle thinking you can clear it. Snappers can not tuck into their shell, but will more often than not stick their head up and get up on all fours to try to get away out of fear. Often suffering horrible injuries to the head and shell/spine. Drive around them or move them by hand. Please be kind.
Each and every animal is a very important part of our ecosystem, telling us the health of a wetland for instance. Taking care of insects, rodents etc. Mother nature takes care of her own. Upset that balance and things go wrong. Everything has its worth in this world. Yes, even those pesky mosquitos that feed bats and birds, have their place.
To date this year we have admitted 700 plus animals to the Centre. We are overloaded with mouths to feed and care for. Donations are always welcome. But always call first as our volunteers need to know you are coming and will meet you in the parking area. The public is not allowed into the buildings. We are extremely busy caring for animals and cleaning their enclosures etc. It seems some days the work is never done before it starts all over again. Never just leave an animal. It could get missed.
With the pandemic we are trying to run as safely and as smoothly as possible. We appreciate your help, your patience, your caring. We are all in this together, working together as a team. And for that, we thank you kindly.
“ Help is in YOUR Hands”
Procyon Volunteer/Wildlife Photographer
Note from Editor:
If Procyon Wildlife is not in your geographic area, and you have encounter wildlife in need of help, please click on the following link for a complete list of wildlife rehabbers.
Public List of Authorized Wildlife Rehabilitators
Animals Currently in Our Care at the Centre; photos by Jennifer Howard