If you have brought in an orphaned sick or injured wild animal to Procyon Wildlife, you may have met some of the remarkable volunteers who care for the wildlife at the Centre. Since our facility is not open to the public to protect wildlife from as much human interaction as possible, there are many volunteers whom you will never meet but who work hard to care for our patients. Here is an opportunity to get acquainted with what makes Procyon work – our volunteers.

Perhaps, their stories may even inspire you to join us and become a volunteer! If interested, please visit: https://www.procyonwildlife.com/volunteering-at-procyon/

THE SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Amanda McKinnon

First off I just wanted to say thank you so much for the nomination! I am currently off from my shift due to an injured elbow and I miss the center so much! This nomination really means a lot to me. Despite not being able to work my regular shift right now I am trying to keep my hand in by collecting textiles and bottles for the fundraising drives and gathering various donations. Amanda

Amanda does the mid-day on Fridays… she is an amazing woman. Shelly H.

Q.  How did you become involved with Procyon in the first place?

A. I had a friend who had volunteered with Procyon for years and she was always talking about the critters. I was super busy with other volunteer work but always had wildlife tucked away in my mind. During covid, due to the nature of my job, I had to pull back from just about everything to keep the individuals I care for at work as safe as possible. Just as I was able to start thinking about going back to some volunteer work (spring of 2021) my friend posted saying that Proycon was in real need of volunteers. It seemed like perfect timing and I jumped right in!  

Q. What is your favourite kind of critter to work with?

A. Oh I LOVE the deer so very much! But honestly I had to tell Crystal to forbid me to go out there after a few weeks because I knew I was going to make them too familiar with human contact lol Next would be the raccoons. I spend most of my shifts with them and they are a riot! I love watching them grow and it’s amazing to see them when new enrichment is added to their enclosures. They are so curious and almost fearless. They almost instantly start climbing or splashing or playing (depending on what we have added that day) Seeing them go from eyes closed babies to the time/age they can be released is amazing

Q. What do you find the most rewarding part of volunteering here?

A. I think just knowing that I am a small part in helping animals get back to their own homes and environments. I have been lucky enough to do some of the releases and seeing animals venture back into their own habitat and seeing how instantly they know just what to do is a very rewarding experience!  

Q. What do you think is the most important thing you share with those not involved about helping/living in harmony with wildlife?

A. I think one of the most important things is to remind people that animals had this space first. They aren’t invading our homes and yards, we encroached on theirs. So it is really important to have empathy for displaced wildlife and to try our best to live in harmony with them. This can be hard of course when they are tipping your garbage or a skunk sprays your dog or a bunny makes a nest dead center in your lawn. But with patience and sound advice from a wildlife expert (which is not always found on google lol) it’s not so hard to make it work for us and for the animals.  

Q. What is something about you that other volunteers would be surprised if they knew?

A. Oh that is a good one!  They might be surprised to know that I have flown into several very remote First Nations communities to help with spay neuter clinics and once in a pinch I helped alongside a veterinarian to deliver 10 puppies by c-section in an emergency situation. I am not a nurse or a vet tech so these were some pretty epic experiences!  

THE SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Nicole Guy

Wow, I had no idea. The nominations must have come from my Friday night crew. Thanks so much for the recognition!  Nicole

Nicole is a brilliant volunteer. I have described her before as a one man army, working several rooms at once, medicating someone in one room then on to another to sub q an opossum (an adult) who is not the most cooperative, then to the fox who needs topical ointment and eye medication…always on the move, undaunted by the most difficult, most aggressive of animals (it’s fear, we love them) prepared to take on an irascible raccoon in order to get medication down the unwilling participant. ” Give me the gloves, let’s get this done!” She doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome aspects of wildlife care. Her particular love of skunks and bats is well known by all who work with her earning her the sobriquet Skunk Girl. She is kind and caring to all though, skunk or no skunk. Someone said recently, I think it was Mar, that when Nicole is around she feels calmer, confident that all will be okay. I share the sentiment. I too feel that when Nicole is on the scene, we will be able to tackle anything. In addition, she is hysterically funny and keeps us laughing. A sense of humour is definitely an asset in work that is often as heartbreaking as it is fulfilling and…well, awesome, really. That is why I nominate Nicole Guy as an outstanding volunteer. Susan Freedman

Q.  How did you become involved with Procyon in the first place?

A. I go biking every spring with my mom and we stop for lunch at some cute cafe or inn near the trail we’re riding that year. Once we stopped in Inglewood and there was a poster looking for volunteers. I happened to be looking for an opportunity to volunteer somewhere, so it seemed meant to be.

Q. What is your favourite kind of critter to work with?

A. Skunks and bats! The skunks are so sweet and hilarious, and nothing makes a long shift worthwhile like their little black and white faces. (Except maybe the adorable crunching noise a bat makes when eating a bug).

Q. What do you find the most rewarding part of volunteering here?

A. Last year there was a pair of skunks so badly infested with flystrike we thought they were dead. I spent hours cleaning them up even though I was sure it was hopeless, but by the time I was done they rallied and at the end of the season I released them as fully recovered, healthy, perfect skunks. Watching them explore their new home was worth everything we’d gone through to bring them back from the brink. Even though I can’t personally connect with every animal in that way, I know everyone here has a story like that and every animal is getting the love it deserves.

Q. What do you think is the most important thing you share with those not involved about helping/living in harmony with wildlife?

A. Most people underestimate how important a lot of these creatures are to the ecosystem and our own survival. I lecture everyone I meet on the importance (and cuteness) of bats every chance I get. I should be getting a commission on all the bat houses I’ve convinced people to install! 

Q. What is something about you that other volunteers would be surprised if they knew?

A. I’m actually allergic to a lot of animals! But I power through.  

THE SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Kylee

Wow, thank you so much! Kylee.

I’d like to nominate Kylee for the volunteer spotlight. She is very committed to the care of wildlife at Procyon Wildlife and deserves a special shout-out for her dedication and commitment. Melissa McBride

Q.  How did you become involved with Procyon in the first place?

A. I brought a squirrel to procyon in 2013 and fell in love with wildlife rehabilitation. I went off to school, moved to Kingston and then Toronto, but found that the universe would always show me to wild animals in need. I became a frequent animal dropper to Procyon, Shades of hope and Toronto wildlife centre. I always felt I didn’t have the time to dedicate to volunteering, but continued my own wildlife rehab by safety catching animals in distress and getting them where they needed to be. Often, this was just a warm safe place to pass peacefully as my area was extremely afflicted with rat poison. I knew the symptoms/ presentations of this and was constantly feeling the animals around me in need of help. Unfortunately, by the time this was recognizable, it was far too late. I saw countless rats, squirrels, pigeons, seagulls, doves, raccoons and even an owl die senselessly from peoples’ need to live without wildlife. 

Q. What is your favourite kind of critter to work with?

A. I truly have loved them all. I definitely have a soft spot for the raccoons— especially the older guys. I find I can lose track of time completely enriching the outdoor raccoon enclosures. They are such a huge undertaking to get them where they need to be in order to release, so I hope that extra enrichment will assist in the transition. 

I definitely also have an affinity for cottontails. I have fostered now 40 cottontails in 2022… which has been a labour of love, sadness, frustration and confusion. At first, the decision to foster cottontails mostly stemmed from “oh they’re easy because only 2 feedings.” That was quite misguided but I’m thankful for that decision because I now have so much experience with these very sensitive guys that I would never take back. 

Finding things that work for them in their rehab has truly been amazing and so rewarding. I have released 19 of those 40… with 4 still in my house that are preparing for release. Losing 17 certainly has not been easy for me, but I was able to save 3 eyes-closed newborn rabbits with tube feeding— something I am now very proud of. 

Q. What do you find the most rewarding part of volunteering here?

A. Definitely getting to see them in the final stages. Releasing my own 19 fosters, but also releasing 20+ squirrels, 7 raccoons ( including my own co-fosters) and getting to see what it has all been for— is truly one of the most beautiful things. 

I have had the pleasure of being able to see some of my releases thriving months later; I truly can’t imagine a more euphoric feeling. 

I have been truly so lucky to have been paired with so many dedicated volunteers over the last year. My very first shift I was taught the importance by Charmaine, worked over the winter with Melissa and then over the summer with Marlena. Their dedication to enrichment has made me a huge advocate for it. By the end of my shift, my arms and legs are always a complete mess with scratches, sticks in my hair and burrs on my clothes. I even fell out of a tree a few weeks ago in search of some good branches haha. But it’s so worth it. I’m almost addicted to the happiness that it gives the animals. It’s my favourite part of every shift. 

Q. What do you think is the most important thing you share with those not involved about helping/living in harmony with wildlife?

A. I share a lot of my experiences with wildlife with people outside of wildlife. People mostly get to see cute babies and don’t understand the tough side. Exactly why a lot of animals end up at the centre due to peoples’ inability to live with wildlife. I’ve shared my heartbreak in people dropping off 6 newborn cottontails that were unwilling to even attempt to keep their 10 pound dog away from the nest, despite my pleading. I fostered those guys and lost every one after weeks of effort. So many tears and all for someone’s inability to deal with the slightest inconvenience. Well… wildlife are not an inconvenience. 

I try to advocate to all my family and friends about how to ensure you safely interact with animals in your vicinity. No one who knows me is allowed the use of rat poison, glue traps or even pesticide for their lawns. 

I have also shared a lot of my experience with animals dying of rat poison when I lived in Toronto. I took many photos and videos of animals that are not rats— to show people that what the pest company may be lying about. Many animals die from rat poison. Not just rats. I think if more people knew that robins, doves, squirrels, foxes, raccoons, owls ect can die of rat poison, people would maybe think twice about it. 

 Q. What is something about you that other volunteers would be surprised if they knew?

A. Normally when I answer this question to people it would be about animals. The “I have two dogs, 3 cats, 2 rabbits and a snake” and most people would think that’s very wild and interesting. But I know to this group of people— that does not seem abnormal haha! 

This year, thanks to my experience with cottontails, I was able to hand- raise two Flemish giant runts. I got them from a friend who adopted a “male” rabbit …who had 9 babies! These two girls were rejected by their mom and were slowly dying so I thought I would give it a try. They were 5 days old when I got them and they needed tube feeding until 5 weeks of age… but to everyone’s shock (my vet included)— they survived! And to absolutely no one’s shock (namely my husband) I fell in love with them and they are now permanent family members! 

One very random thing no one knows about me is that I actually went to university for Music and that I was a classically trained vocalist! Don’t ask me to sing for you though— I’ve retired! 😛

Meet our Amazing August and September Volunteers
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