Article and photos by Jennifer Howard
The life of a wildlife rehabilitator can be hectic at the best of times, however, the rewards are endless in saving so many injured and orphaned wild animals. Feeding, cleaning, sanitizing. It’s all part of the job.
During the month of May, admissions handling of wildlife to the centre was challenging since we had to go on a two-week lockdown due to a highly pathogenic avian flu hitting some fox kits. The good news is that two out of three are doing well, while sadly, one passed away. A fourth kit passed at the parents’ den. In order to protect them and our other wildlife, we went under strict protocols. It worked.
Unfortunately, as a result of the avian flu lockdown, we had to turn down many animals, unless they were injured. This was not something we wanted to do, but, we had no choice since we must protect and be able to care for the animal already at the centre. Under these circumstances, we try our best to help rescuers find another rehab centre to call. Although certain things are just not in our control, we appreciated your patience and understanding as we worked with you, and you with us. The situation put a strain on us, and on our new volunteers but we got through it. And you, if you were a rescuer of a wild animal, did too.
So a big thumbs up to all of the volunteers who helped pull us through this difficult time. Who stuck it out and cared for our other animals while our animal care coordinators took care of the sick kits. We made it. And the kits are appearing to be healthy and strong. Still, under vet care, they romp and play and love their food. Playing hard and sleeping hard.
We are still waiting for some test results but the quarantine is over.
Once in a while and thank goodness not too often, cases come in that shock us. We always do our very best to save each and every animal that comes into the centre. But sometimes, in spite of all our efforts and our amazing vets from the National Wildlife Centre, we lose some.
On May 17th, a beautiful female opossum came in. She had been purposely hit by a pickup truck that swerved to hit her and then took off. As witnessed by an 11-year-old girl. When I ran to get her (she was just at my corner where I live) I knew she was in bad shape. Her jaw was broken, and she had road rash and so much swelling. She was put on pain medication and kept warm and quiet. She was probably a yearling.
On May 19th, a young rabbit also probably a year old came in with an arrow through her. It was horrible beyond words.
A vet appointment was scheduled with our Dr. Nelissa for that night for both the opossum and the rabbit.
These two beautiful animals did nothing to deserve such animal cruelty. We deal with injuries to wildlife every day. But these two cases were bad and they hit us all hard.
When things like this happen you must move on and focus on the other animals you can help. It’s been a tough year to date. And we have needed to turn animals away unless they are injured. So most importantly, here are some things you need to know.
Please go over your homes in late fall and fix any areas where a mother may be able to gain access to have her young.
Check sheds or outdoor enclosures and close in the underneath sections if you want to stop animals from coming in. You need to dig down a few inches and bury the wire in the ground to stop the animal from digging under it.
If you have chickens or if you keep your pet rabbit outside, the same precaution of digging wire in the ground should be done. Make sure their enclosures are totally enclosed. The floor and roof must be part of the enclosure to keep them safe from ground animals and from above, flight predators.
Leave wild animals to raise their young if at all possible. It’s the best-case scenario for the babies, and the parents are very dedicated to their young. If you can’t, call us at 905 729 0033 and we will give you suggestions to help to get the mother to move her young on her own. In the case of foxes, the parents always have more than one den. For the people, I have been contacted by this season with fox families in their yards they have all agreed to leave them alone. They have told me it’s the best thing they have ever done. That they thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the family grow. It’s not a long time and then they move on. Come late fall when you know they are gone you can fix the issue if you chose not to allow them back next year.
Watch for rabbit nests in your backyards. They are very hard to see. Be very mindful cutting your lawns, keep cats indoors during baby season and watch your dogs, if babies are taken by a cat, call us. A cat’s bite is extremely toxic to babies and they need help asap. Don’t wait, keep them secure and warm, give nothing by mouth and call the centre. Again it’s a very short period before these little rabbits are old enough to move on.
Basically, call us if you need to, and do not try to care for wildlife on your own. It’s very stressful for an already stressed animal to be handled or to be poked at or be near pets and humans. They all have a special diet for their species and they can aspirate if given fluids they are too young to take. That means fluids can go into their lungs and they can drown.
Rehabilitating wildlife is hard at times but also very rewarding. We can’t save them all but we do our best with every little life that comes in to help them to go free again.
Please do your best to allow them to raise their families, do not relocate mothers, relocating is not kind and then you have orphans, and you have a very upset mother in an area she doesn’t know, in someone else’s territory who may fight her off, no idea where she is or where her babies are, where food, water or shelter are. Diseases could be spread from one area to one that was disease-free. She may die and babies may die.
All wildlife rehabilitation centres are full. We could make life so much easier if we would just let them raise their young and move on or get them to move on their own. The centres would have more space to admit other animals in need. We wouldn’t be run off our feet and you wouldn’t be frantically trying to find a place to take them. We hate saying no. But sometimes we have no choice. And that is one of the hardest things we have to do. Saying no.
Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre
Animals in care at the Centre. Photos courtesy Jennifer Howard.