Please, don’t feed us.
Fawn in our care at the Centre. Photo by Jennifer Howard.

by Jennifer Howard

Every year Procyon admits wildlife babies and young to the Centre because they were orphaned, the worst part with some of them is, they were fed by non-experienced people first because they thought how hard could it be? This inexperience in feeding wildlife babies, especially eyes closed, was disastrous and in the case of some their health began to fail after just two days or for others, in one week or more.

Fact: It is illegal to have wildlife in your possession for more than 24 hours, which enables you to find a wildlife rehabilitation centre for the animal. You may need to keep it overnight. If so, follow our instructions. Keeping in mind they would be sleeping all night anyways. Keeping wildlife warm and quiet is the most important thing you can do while waiting for a callback or the next morning when you can transport it. 

Wildlife parents care for their young very well and are the little ones’ best chance at life. When they are ready to leave their parents have already taught them everything they need to know to survive on their own. 

But even with that, only a small percentage of all wildlife babies make it to their first year. There is so much for them to contend with, habitat loss is a huge issue and, more roads means more cars and trucks and people.

Got a mouse problem?

Please do not feed rat poisoning, it kills more than mice since it goes all the way up the food chain. This could be why so many foxes get mange because ingestion of rat poison weakens their immune system making them more vulnerable to catching things and getting sick. From eating poisoned rats and mice. California after doing extreme testing on all animals has banned rat poisoning. They even found traces of it in the deer population. Deer feeding along with an already poisoned animal, in direct contact with urine and feces, were picking it up while grazing, ingesting the deadly substance. Foxes and coyotes love rats and mice, they will keep the problem of overpopulation of rodents in check on their nightly rounds. Use live traps if mice get into your home, and try to find where they are getting in and fix it. 

Garbage

Anything will certainly come if you put food out. Or, put your garbage out without securing it in a bin. This is why raccoons are nicknamed “Trash Bandits.” You can’t blame them as it’s an easy meal, why should they pass that up? Make sure you keep your bbq grills clean as well. Every hungry animal will come out for all those tasty morsels. Make sure recycling is clean, I put my lids back on to be sure because wildlife have keen noses, and it’s not uncommon for wildlife to get their heads caught in a jar, terrifying for them, and if not found can be fatal. Cut every plastic ring from juices, six-pack rings, Tim Hortons drinks, etc. Be mindful of plastic straws, when offered, I refuse them. Before disposal of facemasks, cut the ear loops. Wildlife can get into so much trouble. 

Crows will often start the process with our garbage by breaking the garbage bags open and picking everything out until it’s all over the road. Then others who come along just join right in. But they can be hit by cars as well, so please do secure your garbage right so the animals can’t get into it. 

Camping

Please do not feed wildlife. To put it bluntly, a fed bear is a dead bear. A fed coyote or even fox will become a problem, coyotes can become dangerous as well. Death is their penalty for your mistake. A bear who has broken into a cooler now knows what a cooler is. It’s a food source. Keep all your food inside your car and cover it up with windows up and doors locked. Everything can attract a bear, even soap and toothpaste. 

Feeding wildlife, for example, raccoons, foxes, bears, coyotes etc…, can make these animals unafraid of humans which can end in a death sentence for those animals. Coyotes for example can get used to people and can become aggressive. It’s called food aggression. All wildlife then start to trust that everyone will give them food. If we leave them alone, they will keep their healthy fear of us and stay safe. They know how to hunt. 

Also by drawing in wildlife you may introduce or spread diseases such as distemper or mange, you don’t want to spread either of these diseases. Close feeding among species will very easily spread anything one animal may have to the others. 

For everyone’s safety, keep pets away from wildlife.

If something happens to mom, wildlife babies need our help ASAP. 

The wrinkled skin on this baby squirrel indicates severe dehydration. Babies need their moms, but the next best thing to help them is the staff at Wildlife Centres. Animal care volunteers know the right foods to feed these orphaned babies and how to administer the food in a safe way. Photo by Jennifer Howard

Feeding wildlife the wrong foods can do them harm. Not doing it right with eyes closed tiny ones may kill them since they can aspirate, meaning the fluid has gone into their lungs. Should aspiration occur, treatment entails being put into an incubator on oxygen right away. And possibly antibiotics to fight infection. They can develop pneumonia which for a baby is very serious and life-threatening. 

 We admit babies all the time where people have fed them for a week then brought them to us because all of a sudden they aren’t doing well. They, unfortunately, don’t always make it which breaks our hearts.

We have special tubes for tube feeding the little ones and the proper sized nipples to make sure they don’t get too much formula at one time. It must be done correctly. Volunteers are trained to do this job. After all, we are here to help them and save them when they lose their moms. 

Relocation is not recommended. 

We have guidelines we must follow when we release wildlife. Relocation can put an animal into another’s territory, they could be hurt badly or worse, killed in another’s territory. They don’t know where they are or where their food, water and shelter are.

Animal proof your home. Now is the time to go over your homes, garages, and sheds. Check for a place where animals can gain access. And close it in. If unsure no one is inside, consider installing a one-way door. They can come out but can’t get back in. Do the door only in the late fall as there could still be babies or young earlier on. Very strange this year; we still have late little ones out there.

The following are some reasons why we shouldn’t feed wildlife:

Angel wing in waterfowl species: 

Feeding bread. We all have done this not knowing of the danger to ducks, geese, swans. When I got into wildlife rehabilitation I found out how serious it is to feed bread to our feathered friends in the wild. Angel wing is a deformity of the wings caused by eating bread which is high in protein and carbohydrates. Not a part of their diet. This interferes with bone development and the wings form and turn outwards, they can not fly or swim. So please do not feed bread to any wildlife. When you think of it, bread isn’t exactly healthy for us either. This includes cereals too. Compost your foods, don’t give it to wildlife. 

Metabolic Bone Disease:

The opossum pictured here has deformed rear legs which is a sign of metabolic bone disease. Photo by Jennifer Howard.

We also see this in animals, for one example, opossums who come in from being fed the wrong food. Improper balance in the animal’s diet causes this. Not enough calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Also the animals don’t get enough light, vitamin D helps regulate the absorption of calcium. If caught early enough it can be treated with a proper diet. It can be very painful for the animal. 

Signs of Metabolic Bone Disease are bowed or swollen misshaped legs, and can also affect an animal’s jaw, spine and tail. 

Although we try everything in our power to treat these animals, sometimes they end up being euthanized as it just becomes too horrible for them since serious illness as a result of the wrong foods has gone on too long before the animals were brought to us.

Improper food given by a well-meaning person, to this baby and the ones pictured in the featured image caused them to grow with deformities and without hair. These babies were brought to the Centre for urgent care and our volunteers were able to heal some of them. But not all. Source of image; Procyon Wildlife.

 As you can see it is of utmost importance that these little ones get the proper diet and are fed from trained hands. They may do okay for a day or 2 on goat’s milk or kitten formula, however, then their system starts to rebel. They go down fast. They can get bloated, get diarrhea. A tiny baby can not withstand either for too long. Little ones too young who need tube feeding can choke or aspirate, meaning fluid goes into their lungs. Pneumonia usually follows and they need incubator treatment with oxygen ASAP. This is not meant to blame anyone. We know you care and are just trying to help. And we know wildlife rehabilitation centres are not always close by or may be full. But we all work together in this field and do our best to find a rehab centre that will admit the animal or animals you have found. 

Older animals also can get very sick if given the wrong foods. They can become habituated to you. They can become distrustful, destructive to your home and dangerous to anyone else. Meaning us when you realize you can’t keep them. 

Wildlife is wild and must be kept as such. And they can carry diseases. Plus again if a neighbour reports you, the MNRF can come to your home and seize that animal or animals and you can be charged. 

And another very important fact with this is, you could be condemning them to death if they become unreleasable. When we get animals like this, we do whatever we can to wild them up so they can go free in the end, get used to other animals, learn to find food etc.

Why are the rules and laws put in place for wildlife? 

To protect them and us. To keep all safe, believe it or not, a wild animal in captivity becomes very stressed. Even if they don’t seem to be, they are. It’s called capture myopathy. An animal born in the wild needs to be in the wild. They don’t do well in captivity, they are not happy, they are stressed and can get sick. Can get hurt or hurt you. So always do the right thing for them. Call us and we can get them in and out as fast as we can back to their home in the wild. 

One more disease I’m going to mention so you can watch out for it, be aware. 

Chronic wasting disease:

 This hits deer, moose and elk. There is no cure. Caused by a type of Prion, small infectious proteins that cause abnormal proteins in the body which affects the animal’s brain and spinal cord. This is Mostly always fatal and spreads fast. Chronic wasting disease is found so far in 2021 in 26 states in the USA. And 3 provinces in Canada. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec. All near Ontario. The government has put special protocols in place in the hopes of keeping it out of Ontario. This is because many animals are feeding together, should one gets sick in the herd, the disease will spread quickly to the others. So far mostly found in deer/elk farms. It causes major weight loss, stumbling, excessive thirst and excessive urination and aggression. It is spread from deer to deer by direct contact with blood, urine, feces or through indirect contact with soil, water or food. They also lose their fear of people. But so far here in Ontario, we are good with no cases. 

Deer have very complex stomachs. Please do not feed them. Diseases aside, feeding deer the wrong diet can kill them. During winter they utilize their body fat naturally and dig or graze to find their natural vegetation. We do not want them to become dependent on us for food. This can decrease their much-needed nutrition, especially in the winter months. Deer are somewhat like cows, being remnants, this means they have a multi-chamber stomach. A change in diet can cause upsets in their systems. It takes them a long time to digest the new foods and they suffer from nutritional losses.

Even feeding hay can disrupt the microorganisms of the digestive system. Bringing them to one location can higher the risk of disease, getting hit by cars, and putting them at a higher risk of being predated. 

So as you can see each animal has its own diet important for its survival. As mentioned in earlier, articles, Procyon spends thousands of dollars every year on species formulas and foods for every animal species we take in. To ensure they stay healthy and grow strong for that happy amazing release day. 

Let’s keep our wildlife wild. And if in need call your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre for help ASAP. Let us help you and them.

Procyon wildlife 905 729 0033

Leave that message and we will get back to you soon. 

Jen Howard
Volunteer/photographer/writer
Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre
Beeton, Ontario

The following are images taken by Jennifer Howard of animals that are or have been in our care at the Centre.

Please, don’t feed us.
error: Content is protected !!