by Jennifer Howard
Fall is upon us and winter, nearby. Our babies except for squirrels have all gone free. Out to explore, hunt, climb trees, some will hibernate, just be wild. We had so many late young squirrels come in this year, those will be overwintering. In fact in the neighbourhood where I live and in my yard I had babies show up the second week of November. But they are foraging and seem to be growing quickly. Absolutely crazy.
Usually, at this time of year, we get somewhat of a break, room to breathe and do other jobs that must wait til animals are released. But this year it just seems that isn’t happening. Distempered raccoons, one of the saddest things we face that just breaks your heart. No cure. Road strikes on animals crossing roads. Please be mindful of wildlife on the move at this time of year while they search for food or new territory. It’s a busy time of year. They need to stash food, find shelter, the young are venturing into a whole new world. And they haven’t yet learned the safety rules of adults. That comes with time. And sadly most young animals never live to see their first birthday. Habitat loss, traffic, pets, predators and sickness. Spring and fall we have migratory birds. Travelling miles, many miles to come to their summer homes. Window strikes happen at an alarming rate. There is even an organization called “Flap”, Fatal Light Awareness Program, that focuses on going around the high rise buildings etc in the wee hours of the morning looking for casualties. The toll is horrible. One of our patients who came in recently, a young red tail hawk, hit a window, likely chasing prey. She had head trauma and some eye damage. But with vet checks and meds she is almost ready to go, she is very alert and such a good patient. As for windows, you can help protect these birds from window strikes. There are lots of products on the market now, Wild Birds Unlimited would be a good place to call or go check out. And of course, googling online is always a good source of info. Glass deck panels are a bad choice for the birds, unfortunately, they just don’t see it and some people put feeders upon their decks just inviting accidents to happen. Remember anything you put up to help prevent this must go on the outside of the windows. The birds are looking at reflections of bushes and trees and this draws them in, putting protection on the outside breaks that image. Do your research, ask questions and get what is best for you and your windows; help save lives.
Porcupines are incredible animals and can get mange. We have one such porcupine in our care. She also has an upper respiratory infection and her nose is constantly running. She is on meds for her problems. Crystal, our animal care coordinator, is doing her best to keep this sweetie comfortable. Who would ever think they would be wiping a porcupine’s nose and even one better, giving one a bath. You see you’re probably wondering how on earth a porcupine gets mange, all those quills. Well, their most vulnerable place is their stomach, no quills, and that is where they can get mange, very uncomfortable for them. So she bathed this one by putting her in a crate and in the bathtub. She did amazingly well. Got her tummy wet down with nice warm water, then used a medicated wash warmed up and squirted on its belly through a large syringe. Then rinsed again. Only her tummy got bathed and then she went and sat in front of a nice little heater till she was dry. Like a day at the spa. After getting her back in her other crate nice and clean and fresh, we rewarded her with a nice juicy apple. This beautiful big porcupine absolutely loves apples. She took it eagerly. All was forgotten and forgiven.
We have had quite a few foxes with sarcoptic mange in our care this year, 23 to date. Hoping to get more, but they don’t always cooperate, they are wild and smart. And if people other than our trap monitors feed them it makes it very hard for us to be successful. And they continue to get worse until they die. Please if you see a sick fox do not feed them, call us and we can work together to hopefully capture it.
On November 6th, I got another fox with mange, 2 weeks after the trap was set we got it, her name, Zoro. The next day, November 7th, I got another fox. This one we had been tracking since May, so smart and so skittish. Her name was Benny. She was critical, emaciated, with big open sores on her hips and nothing but a skeleton in her back end. She could barely see as it also affected her eyes. We took her to the vet and when she was put on the table you could have heard a pin drop. Just silence as we all took in the severity of this tiny life. After a thorough vet check by Dr. Nelissa of National Wildlife Centre and her assistant Jordan, we knew the seriousness of this beautiful little girl. She was dehydrated, anemic, starving and cold. Her mange was the least of her problems. She was warmed on the table while the examination was being done. However in spite of all our efforts, the very strict feeding protocol and care ordered by the vet, Benny couldn’t fight any longer. One week to the day after she came in she quietly passed away. When I got the news minutes after she passed I shed a few tears for this little girl, it was hard on her caregiver who arrived just after. She fought to the end but just couldn’t fight any longer. Poor little soul. She was warm and pain-free, she was loved and cared for and passed peacefully. We must remember that we still helped her. When they are so severe their organs can start shutting down and with this little one it was just too late, but there is always hope. And she was so feisty at the beginning. It was a surprise. As wildlife rehabbers, you do everything in your power to save a life. You work with experienced veterinarians and we are very fortunate to have the vets we have. Dr.Nelissa is extremely thorough in her examinations. And takes the time to go that extra mile for our patients. R.I.P little Benny. I think of you every day. As some just hit you harder than others. And we tried so long to get her.
Meanwhile, Shredder our fox from Midhurst is almost ready for release and Zoro will then be ready for her next stages of recovery and will go to our outside enclosure. And meanwhile, I continue to work hard with my trap monitors in getting these other 3 sick foxes. Please if you live in the Lefroy area and are seeing the sick fox there, please do not feed it. Call Procyon to let us know so we can see if it’s the same fox or not. We have been so close but then found out it is being fed in nearby homes as well. You are not helping this fox, we need to get it. And have been trying for at least 4 weeks to date on November 19th. Your job if you see it is to call us. Keep track of the times you see it and its location. And get photos. This all is very helpful, but NO feeding.
Our newest patient came a long way and is a beautiful mink. He was dragging his back legs. His vet check thankfully showed no break anywhere. But he did have puncture marks on his back and behind one eye. He had been attacked by another animal. He has inflammation around the wound and his spine affecting his legs. He was cleaned up and put on medication to help with inflammation and pain. Seems to be doing well. Slowly recovering. Happy and oh so adorable.
As winter approaches we have many squirrels overwintering, a very small squirrel was admitted recently who is too small to make it on his own. We have young opossums and a couple raccoons. Our porcupine with mange who steals all our hearts as mentioned above. Porcupines are just such beautiful and gentle creatures, this one being such a big one with such a personality.
You just hate to see them sick and feeling unwell. But the worst is when you can not help them get better. We are not miracle workers although we sure give them everything we got if there is a chance. Each and every one no matter whether it be a tiny baby mouse to a beautiful big coyote. And everything in between. They are living, breathing animals, they feel pain, they get scared and they grieve the loss of their young or mate for those who mate for life. That is yet another story. What we as people need to do to help our wildlife. Is to let them be wild. They were born wild, they know how to hunt and find food. And for many have had no choice but to learn to co-exist with or near us. So we must learn to do the same. Let them be. They can be near and you may never know it. Each and every wild animal has its place in our ecosystem, they control the pests, they tell us that our wetlands are healthy, they are important. We are the problem.
Let’s hope 2022 is a better year for all of us. And a healthier year where distemper and mange drops way down to minimal numbers. It will never go away. But hopefully, it will be a better year. And don’t forget, feeding wildlife does contribute to these diseases spreading. You have no control over who comes to feed. You can get raccoons, skunks, opossums, fox, coyote, even bears depending on where you are, if you get a distempered animal or mange and they are all feeding closely that sick animal can pass it on, that bear or coyote can lose their fear of people. I will leave you with this line that no one wants to hear, however, it is true.
A fed animal may become a dead animal, especially bears and coyotes, they lose their healthy fear of humans and will approach anyone. And they do not know any differently but we do. Enjoy them from a healthy distance and respect their space.
To all of you from all of us, including our wildlife friends at Procyon, we wish all of you the best. Have a wonderful holiday season, stay healthy and safe and don’t eat too many of the amazing holiday treats that come your way. Enjoy!
And thank you for all your support. We can’t do it without you.
Talk to you next year.
Need us, please call: 905 729 0033
or email us at: Info@procyonwildlife.com
Procyon Volunteer/ photographer
HELP is in YOUR hands…it’s in ALL OUR HANDS!
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Howard, taken of previous patients at the Centre.