by Jennifer Howard
This time of year, we usually get somewhat of a break from animal admissions, giving us time to organize and tidy up and get ready for spring babies. Not this year. Last year was the year of the fox. This year seems to be the year of the bat. By February 10th, we already had 15 in our care. And overall, 51 case admissions; case numbers are not for just single animals but families as well. So one case number could be 12 animals in the case of opossums for instance, with mom and babies or five or more in the case of orphaned babies.
Unfortunately, distemper in raccoons and a few skunks have been prevalent already, especially raccoons; it’s been just horrible. All these factors have made it been incredibly busy at the centre.
Because of all the mouths we have to feed and the amount of food we go through, it prompted me to launch a local food drive to help replenish all the food we go through daily. Our foxes, for example, go through 2 to 3 lbs. of food a day, and there are five foxes in care. It’s an essential part of their daily care and healing to have a variety of good food and nutrition in their bellies.
I want to take this opportunity to give a big shout-out of thanks to everyone in our local communities for all your wonderful donations of food and money, which will go back into food or medical care when needed. And most importantly, our furry friends at the centre also thank you bunches. Lots of lovely delicious foods were brought in for them to enjoy. It’s nice for them to have a healthy variety.
Thank you to our new companies for getting on board to donate; Raw 4 Dogs in Springwater for their incredible donation of raw foods and Brian’s Food Baskets in Barrie for their offer of weekly organic fruits n veggies donations.
Our weather has been rather crazy this year with up and down temperatures, some deep freezes; everything has been thrown at us, snow, rain, and sleet. These unpredictable weather conditions can also upset the balance in our wildlife and diseases. I know I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring myself, with its beautiful blooms, bees, butterflies, and birds arriving back home and new wildlife babies being born.
I am hopeful that people don’t remove wildlife mothers from their attics, garages, or sheds and that they will be patient and call us for assistance in having mothers move their families safely on their own. Wildlife moms will. Please be certain before you act by calling us for help at 905-729-0033. The MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) has clear rules for relocating wildlife, and by not following these guidelines, you may do more harm than good to that animal. If more people were more mindful of wildlife removal guidelines, our wildlife rehabilitation centres would not be overwhelmed. Hopefully, we would not have to turn you away, and babies would be with their mothers or both parents depending on species – a win-win for all.
We still have mangy foxes we are trying to capture to given theme treatment; however, this weather has them coming and going, and breeding season is upon us for foxes and coyotes.
Should you see opossums about, please be mindful that they don’t have frostbite on their tails, toes, or ears. Give us a call at 905 729 0033 if they do, so we can offer you advice on how to capture them and get them to Procyon for treatment.
Distemper is a fatal disease that we hate since it is not treatable. Not being able to make the animals better is the hardest part of what we do.
We had an extremely frigid day and a call about an injured raccoon in trouble with lots of blood surrounding it on January 28th. Our director Debra and volunteers, Melissa and Ashleigh, went out to get it. But it went up a tree. They baited a crate and waited at a distance. As luck would have it, the little one’s hunger kicked in, and it came down. Right into the crate where Debra not being too far away, was able to run and close him in. Everyone was just frozen; the reward was worth it in the end.
You do what you must in situations like this for the animal in need. The outcome for the little guy was very unfortunate. Upon examination by the vet, it was determined that it had distemper. Although a lot of effort was put into saving this little guy, it wasn’t in vain. He was still saved from more injuries, suffering, freezing and starvation. He had a full tummy and was warm and comfortable and surrounded by kind caring people. You see, when raccoons or other animals get distemper they don’t think straight, it affects their brain, they lose their fear and put themselves in harm’s way, like on roads, getting hit by cars, attacked by dogs, approaching people, etc… They just don’t know. It’s one of the saddest things because there is no cure. And it just gets worse with tremors and seizures hitting them near the end.
The spread of diseases such as distemper is why we urge people not to feed animals, and if you do feed birds, keep the area underneath the feeder clean.
The reality is wild animals know what to do; they were born wild and taught by their parents how to survive and hunt. Yes, a high percentage of young do not make it to their first year in all wildlife species. And as hard as that is to accept, it is the balance of nature. Mother Nature doesn’t need our help; she does well on her own at maintaining that balance.
But with the animals that come to us, it is because of human interference resulting from development causing habitat loss, or because of unleashed dogs and cats, feral cats, and of course, feeding wildlife. Those we will always treat. Animals found in distress. Orphaned, injured and sick.
On February 6th, one such animal needed help asap. A beautiful, healthy, male coyote had been caught in a snare trap. The snare was wound tightly around his neck. He came to Procyon in critical condition, and since our vet was not available, we rushed him to Shades of Hope in Pefferlaw where they did everything in their power to save him. In times of need, wildlife rehabilitation centres work together. They have an X-ray machine and fortunately, their vet was available. The coyote was given pain meds before his trip; our animal care coordinator Crystal Faye told me it was horrible. As they were dealing with his immediate care to stabilize him to travel, she said he lay there helpless, watching her every move with his beautiful eyes as she readied his pain meds. Do they know we are helping? Personally, I believe they do, yes.
But his injuries were too extensive to be able to save him. He tried to stand, his last attempt at life. But this magnificent coyote had been beaten by the cruelty of a human. Absolutely horrific for everyone involved. He most likely has a mate who will mourn his loss. They mate for life. There are no words I can say to tell you how something like this affects us all. Whether you were there or not, it breaks you. This act of cruelty is not going unnoticed; it was reported to the authorities.
Please I urge you, when you are out walking with your dogs and your children, stay on the path and keep your dogs on leash. This is the second animal we have treated that was caught in a snare trap.
The last one, Captain Lucky, a raccoon, lost his back leg to a snare trap. He was in rehabilitation for a year, and it took a lot of care and money to make sure he could survive in the wild before he was given a “slow release” (introduced back to the wild gradually). But it was a life, and all lives matter. He was amazing. He was, well, Lucky. He was released successfully.
Last year, Bear Creek got a raccoon that had been caught in a leg hold trap. The trap was the same size as the raccoon. The poor thing was nearly consumed by it. Miraculously he is slowly recovering. This poor coyote, on the other hand, had struggled so hard against the snare; his injuries included a broken neck, fractured trachea, and were just too extensive to save him. It’s just wrong. Very wrong and it is cruelty to the max. Thank you to all who worked so hard and tried and gave it their all to try to save this beautiful boy.
I know during the winter months, we all feel that wildlife needs our help. But these animals were born wild and it’s imperative they stay wild and don’t get tamed by people feeding them. I have many stories on animals that have been fed, however I’m going to focus on the most recent. A lady in Ajax contacted me, a friend of my brothers. She had a deer show up on her property. She was very concerned as this was not normal. Their home backs onto a lovely property with trees and trails. He stayed at the back nibbling on trees which is what they do in winter at first. He looked healthy, but she felt concerned. He left but had clearly bedded down one night in her yard. When he returned a couple of days later, she took photos of him looking in her windows, and he didn’t want to leave.
photos supplied by Jill Maria.
As much as you hate to, I told her to chase him off as he was looking for handouts. Someone was feeding him. Deer don’t come that close unless they have been fed. And like all wild animals, if you feed them, they lose their wildness and fear of humans; they need that wildness and healthy fear of us to survive. Can you imagine a tame deer out there amongst hunters, near roads, or entering a place with dogs, no fear of any of the above, because they have been fed and now trust all? The thought is horrific. It doesn’t stand a chance. You’re not being kind. This deer was a beautiful, healthy-looking animal.
A few days later, he was found dead on a trail (photo supplied by Vince.) Feeding deer never goes well during winter when you think they need help. They know how to feed and what to feed on. Their system adjusts to their winter-feeding routines and foods available to them. They have a very sensitive digestive system. And being fed by people can actually kill them. Do not feed. Aside from losing their fear of people, they are now open to predators too. Deer are incredible animals but if tamed it’s hard to break them of that. You need to chase them away and make them understand we are not all friendly and they are wild. Stamping your feet, clapping hands, car horns, flapping a green garbage bag. It’s for their own good to do this. It can be life or death for them.
Feeding deer can cause a condition called Acute Rumen Acidosis. Deer are ruminants; a deer’s stomach is like a cow’s or goat’s stomach in which they have four chambers. The first chamber is called Rumen. Acute Rumen Acidosis is a rapid drop of the pH in the Rumen that will cause the deer to become very ill when too many nutrient-rich foods are consumed in a short period of time. It often causes death – a horrible loss of a beautiful innocent life. This is only one of many sad stories of feeding wildlife going wrong.
Many diseases can also be spread from sick to healthy animals by feeding. Where you have no control over who you attract. For example, mange, distemper, and raccoon roundworm.
Keep your ground clean under bird feeders as mentioned earlier, and let our wildlife do their own hunting.
Learn to coexist with our wildlife, respect them and their space and let them be wild. Watch them from a distance and learn from them. They are amazing teachers.