by Jennifer Howard
Every month I try to think of something new and important to write about. A new patient arrived at the centre this month that sparked this topic. Dangers Lurking in our yards, at our workplaces, in parks, in the water, along the roads, and even in our garbage and recycling. We as humans do things, have things around, dispose of things in the wrong way sometimes, and some of us think nothing about how dangerous it could be to our wildlife. Because we don’t know how incredibly unpredictable they can be. How curious and how smart. We have become a disposable species if you will. Although slowly it’s changing how much packaging we have to deal with it’s still not enough. A lot can be recycled, but there is even a correct way to do that to make it safer if our wildlife gets into it. Even in these times of large garbage bins, people overload them and garbage is spilling out etc. tossed out on the side of the road attracting hungry wildlife.
The little patient I want to tell you about is a beautiful little cottontail rabbit. Singed fur, thankfully minor burns, because mother nested in a fire pit. And people didn’t notice them before they lit. Rabbits bury and cover their nests well to keep them covered from predators and weather. Toads go into fire pits too. Baby birds, tiny animals. The update on bunny will be in my animal updates for this month. Always check before you light.
If you find a bunny nest the babies are ready to go on their own around three weeks of age. Keep dogs on leash until then. Keep cats in. These two animals are the leading cause of bunnies coming into the centre for help. They are tiny and delicate and if they get attacked by a dog or cat they must come in for help.
Cat bites are the worst for infection. They must go on antibiotics quickly. Mom comes twice a day, at dusk and dawn to feed her babies. If you are unsure about her presence, criss-cross string across the nest. If she comes you will see that string has been moved. If not, call us. Please watch for these tiny babies, look for nests before you cut your lawns.
Brush piles. I use small brush piles to give my small wildlife a hiding place from predators or storms. But people who build brush piles over time to burn later. Please check those before you light that match. As a wild animal who is pregnant and looking for a comfy quiet dark place to have her young. She has no idea that it may be a dangerous place. Or some just seeking shelter at any given time of year. Maybe mom had her babies but she is away hunting. Her babies are helpless and can’t run, and she will look for them rummaging through the hot ashes and getting burned in the process. Animals are amazing parents. They grieve their losses just like we do. And it’s horrible to see because they don’t understand. They will put themselves in harm’s way to try to get to their little ones. So please always check well before you light that brush pile.
If it’s possible to do. If you have trees that must come down, please try to book that for fall after birds are finished nesting for the most part. Cardinals and goldfinches can nest into the fall season being non-migrants. Watch for other animals as well who may be making that tree home. Squirrels and raccoons may have little ones in a nest in that tree. Trees are home to many lives. Birds’ nests. Have the arborist check closely before he or she starts cutting. Leave 15 to 20 feet up so it can still be a food and shelter source for many years to come. For example, birds like chickadees and woodpeckers will nest in them. And still, find food in them.
Recycling is another issue. Wash your cans and cups. Cut anything that has a ring such as on a juice container, six-pack rings, tops on Mac flurries, or drinks with a lid. The snap ring on wine bottles. I always put lids on jars as so many animals get their heads caught in the jar. They have such a keen sense of smell. Anything that an animal could get caught in. Pop cans can trap little legs in the opening, so try to crush those. Turtles can get caught in juice rings, skunks in cups, etc… even elastics can cause serious injury or death. Years ago a young raccoon was caught and brought to us with an elastic tight around its neck. Cut them before you toss them.
Balloons. If you use balloons to let people know this is where the party is, then please remove them straight away after and dispose of them safely. We do not want them floating away, landing in our wetlands or waterways. They are dangerous. Animals and birds get wrapped up in them, also turtles and even fish. And if you buy those helium balloons. They are really bad. I have one from when my son was born. Still inflated, he is 31. They do not break down. Do not leave them out and make sure they are deflated and disposed of properly so nothing can get into them. They are deadly. In the oceans so many sea turtles die every year eating burst balloons that have made their way to the ocean, thinking they are jellyfish, their favorite food. They suffocate to death, horribly.
Fireworks are a subject about which many people get cranky. But. So many people don’t understand the dangers caused by fireworks to our wildlife, our pets, farm animals, and even people as well as the pollution they cause which goes into the lakes, into trees, and on rooftops. Fireworks have been a problem, especially this summer since we have not had much rain. Fireworks debris could cause fires in trees and on people’s property and if let off by lakes, the debris could also be ingested by waterfowl, fish and mink, etc.
There used to be just a few small fireworks in backyards years ago. Quiet sparklers, burning of the old schoolhouse. We had fun with that. Now they are big bangers that rattle your windows and literally terrify animals of all kinds. They run out of fear, they drop dead of heart attacks, they abandon their little ones, some fall out of nests, run into fences, bolt from their homes, and get hit by trains, cars, and more. Need I go on? To put it frankly. It’s terrifying. For what? It’s put out there every year, yet many of us just don’t get it. It’s not all about us. A lot of lives out there share their space with us. We in wildlife rehabilitation or dog rescues get it. Pet owners with terrified pets get it. It’s awful. In other countries, they have silent fireworks. Here they just get longer and louder. We don’t need this to celebrate, to have fun. Think about it next time you hear fireworks. Think about how many lives are terrified, lost, and die. Especially in baby season. Think about the horses, dogs and cats, and more. Hopefully, you will find a better, safer way to celebrate the next holiday. A kinder, safer way for all.
Fishing line is also deadly, it kills slowly. Don’t leave it behind and don’t fish near trees or obstacles where your line can get caught. Again, songbirds owls, fish, loons, waterfowl, turtles, and aquatic animals can lose their lives. And it is horrible how they suffer.
If you see discarded fishline along the shoreline, along a riverbank, or in a tree, please pick it up and dispose of it safely. Owls who fly at night, songbirds or bats, animals, and even pets and people get caught in hidden fishing line left behind or lost fishing lines that break. Much damage can be done to props on pleasurecraft as well causing $100’s of dollars in damage.
After finishing up a survey in a marsh area I was walking and got all wrapped up in some left-behind line. So much of it all over a dyke. It was green, I didn’t see it. Upon my struggle, I heard something. We got me untangled and followed the line back to a baby grackle frantically struggling to get free. It was quite the operation to get that wee one freed with minimal tools, we ended up driving it to a nearby farm where the woman kindly helped with her sewing kit. Mom was still waiting when we got back. What a horrible terrifying experience for that young bird. It would have died struggling for its life helplessly.
A screech owl was found dead hanging from a fishing line along a river during the baby rearing season. Absolutely horrible beyond. Please. Be responsible.
When working on cars, never leave open containers of oil or coolants, curious little animals can fall in. Coolant as most know is an attractant since it tastes sweet but is deadly.
While on the topic of cars. Never walk away and leave your car doors or windows open. Especially if there is food inside. Recently a baby raccoon stowed away and went on an adventure to Toronto. TWC got the call. After a check over the little one was driven home so it could be reunited with its family.
Years ago a car was left open while packing to go away. A big raccoon got in and got into a big bag of cheeses. He left his big cheesy footprints all over the car. And was still hanging around in hopes of a handout in the morning. Looking rather full. He got scooted away. Always check under your cars on hot days and under your hoods on cold winter days. One never knows who may be there trying to keep cool or warm.
If wildlife gets caught in dumpsters. Just put a long piece of wood inside, and stand back until they come out. Then check first, before closing the lid. Dumpsters are a bad place to get caught. In parks, campgrounds, etc. make sure those garbage container lids are closed securely. And make sure your garbage is properly stored as well. A fed bear is a dead bear.
Remember, most of what happens to our wildlife today can be prevented. They are losing their habitat more and more each and every day. They are forced into our backyards. They mean no harm to you, your pets or kids. They are just trying to survive. It’s very sad. If you would like a presentation on coexistence please contact Procyon. Learn how to live together comfortably and safely.
Before I go I want to touch base on a few other things.
Raising babies. Please don’t.
It’s illegal, you can not raise baby wildlife as they are a pet. If you get reported by a friend or neighbor and get caught. You are facing heavy fines or more, even losing personal property. Furthermore, when that baby gets turned over to us. It will be frightened, confused, and will lash out at us and could cause us bodily harm. They are terrified. Never ever keep baby wildlife, don’t handle them, don’t bathe them, and never let them run in your house, with your kids or pets. This could end very badly. Wild animals are wild, some carry things for example raccoons carry roundworm contagious to you and your pets. A friendly raccoon may have distemper. A fatal disease. If your pet is not vaccinated it could get distemper. Raccoons should not be friendly. They are wild and they need to go to a wildlife rehabilitation centre. You could cause them harm by feeding them the wrong food, the wrong amounts, causing aspiration which can both be fatal in the end. Wild means wild. If a wild animal bites you you must get it attended to. It gets reported to the health unit and then depending on the animal, if it is a rabies vector species like a raccoon, it will most likely be euthanized to test for rabies even though it most likely does not have it. We do not make the rules, but they are there for a reason. And must be followed.
As there are not enough wildlife rehabilitation centres out there, you need to let MNRF know we need more. We are all overworked, overloaded, and can only take what we can care for. It’s tough on everyone.
The best case scenario is:
Do not relocate adults leaving little ones behind. We can give you info on how to make mom move her family safely. Relocation is not legal. We can not even relocate healthy animals. Check trees before you remove them, wait until fall.
Check your homes in the late fall to seal up any places wildlife could enter come spring with the baby season. Sheds, garages etc. remember chimney caps.
Do not feed wildlife. You can also attract sick ones spreading diseases such as mange and distemper to healthy animals. And feral or pet cats as you have no control what comes to feed. They are wild, they need to stay wild for their survival.
Do not use rat poisoning. It kills more than the rodents, whatever eats it is also is getting that poison.
Do not use insecticides, they kill more than you’re spraying for.
Everything in mother nature’s world is there to feed another. Or to pollinate our food. Every life matters.
Make the right choices, call us for help and assistance. 905-729-0033 or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be responsible and do the right thing. We can all make it work together.
Procyon volunteer & photographer
Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre
The following pictures are courtesy of Jennifer Howard.