Well, spring is just around the corner. Although -35 to -40 windchill factors may have made that hard to believe for a couple of days there.  We actually have had a pretty up-and-down winter thus far with heavy snowfalls and then very mild days. Wiarton Willie said six more weeks till spring. And I for one, am rooting him on for an early spring. This winter has been the strangest, and climate change is up there controlling it all over the world. Climate change is very real and we are doing it.

This month I would like to educate people on the dangers that we as humans, create for our wildlife. Most unknowingly. There is always room to learn. I love learning. As a wildlife photographer for over 30 years, helping with biological surveys, hiking, kayaking etc…, and spending much of my time in and around wetlands, rivers, lakes, and forests, here and in other parts of the world. I have seen far too much I’d truly like to ‘unsee.’ But instead, I use these experiences to educate others. Because education is the key to co-existing. To our wildlife’s safety, and ours. And learning keeps our brains in good working order.

There are many things we can do, so let’s begin.

Fishing line

This left around can be deadly. Loons, waterfowl, owls, birds, animals, and even people and pets, can get caught up in fishing lines, hidden in the grasses, along waters edges, hanging in trees, and left laying in mounds in the rocks. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. (Or is there?) Don’t fish where your line could get snagged in a tree. As kids, I’m sure we all did that, but now as adults, we should know better. Usually, you can tell, stay away from trees, or a known area where the line can get caught up on the bottom. Also never just leave it behind on the shore.

In a lot of areas, they give you canisters to put your line in. Use those. What a great invention; they work. I saw a screech owl hanging in a tree along a river bank, it got caught in hanging line while out hunting for its family. I know you don’t want to hear this but think about if you saw it, if your children or grandchildren saw it, it is very upsetting.

For this particular owl, it was that time of year when it probably had a family and was out hunting to care for that family. That could have made it impossible for one owl to do it all, losing their precious owlets. I have rescued loons wrapped up so badly they couldn’t even dive anymore. Luckily, they got help in time. Swans, waterfowl, songbirds. All going about their business trying to survive in this world.

With fishing line goes lead sinkers. Lead sinkers have been banned from use in National Parks in Canada or wildlife areas. But are still out there. The average Canadian fishermen can actually lose up to 15 lead sinkers or jigs a year, or more. Over the years, this has added up to approximately 460 tons of lead into our waterways. Lead is highly toxic. Lead is the leading cause of death in our breeding Common Loons in Canada. When enough is ingested, it can cause blindness, muscle paralysis, reduced ability for reproducing, seizures and death. A horrible suffering. Swans and bald eagles are also hit hard by lead poisoning. Wildlife prey on wildlife that have died of lead poisoning, they don’t know they are ingesting lead and thus the healthy become very ill.

If caught in time and gotten to a wildlife rehabilitation centre quickly, sometimes the patient can recover. Blood tests are taken to see just how much lead is in their system. But most are not caught in time. There are alternatives to lead sold now. Please do the right thing. Lead from hunting has littered our wetland areas and lakes where waterfowl hunting etc. takes place. While swans for example are grazing for food along the bottom, they also ingest the lead. Lead is not good for you either. Fortunately, there are machines that can scrape the bottom of a wetland to remove it, although this is apparently an expensive project.

Cut plastic rings

Always cut anything you get in your grocery items or any other items that have a plastic ring, or anything that ties something together. Even the veggie or fruit trays, for example, the plastic wrap they hold the lids on with, cut it before disposing of it. No matter how big or small.

Pull tabs off juice and creamers, 6-pack holders, elastic bands, plastic rings around a bottle, and hair bands when they drop can also cause issues, keep tabs on those, empty iced cap or ice cream treat lids are big problems. Please cut them. Anything like these items can cause death, in birds, turtles, fish, and other animals. One second of your time and a pair of scissors can save a life.

Brush piles

Animals will seek shelter in those piles, as they find it a good place to have their young. Please make sure nothing is residing in there before you light that match. You may save a life. Or lives.


Wash and put lids back on, anything a little animal like raccoons and skunks and even foxes, coyotes, and bears can get into trouble with, dispose of it safely where animals cannot access it.

These animals are all curious and always looking for food. And, they have a great sense of smell. How many times do we see something like this posted?

We need to keep them safe. They don’t know sticking their head in there could be the end for them if no one is around to help. It’s horrible to see.

Fixing your home

This is another big one. Spring is coming, which means baby season. At Procyon, we already have our first baby raccoons. Brought in on January 25th during a horrible snowstorm. Just a few days old, eyes closed. Never have we had babies this early. Our climate is changing, and with it comes confused wildlife. Give your house a good going over in the fall. Fix any place where raccoons or mice can get in. If you do have a raccoon in your attic, skunks or foxes under your deck or shed. And you can not leave it if it has or could have young, please call us. We will walk you through getting them to move out on their own. These animals have more than one den. They will move their babies if they are made uncomfortable. Call us. DO NOT RELOCATE. Don’t leave orphans behind. Mom is their best chance. We have removed so much of their habitat, that they have been forced to live near us. Or with us. It’s not their fault. Learn to co-exist.

Rat poisoning

DO NOT USE this to rid yourself of mice or rats. Use live traps or other various traps available. Poisoning is cruel, and it kills predators to, the animal suffers and dies making itself an easy meal to unsuspecting owls, hawks, foxes, coyotes, etc… Even outdoor cats, if they ingest enough, will also be poisoned. Rat poisoning will also weaken wild animals’ immune systems so that they get sick easier with mange or other diseases.


So many people use balloons to let guests know where the party is. But PLEASE, and I can not say this enough, always take them down after the party is over. Deflate them and dispose of safely and properly. Right away. They get away, they have strings or ribbons attached. They are deadly. I have gathered them floating in Lake Simcoe, grabbed them from rocky lakeshores, out of trees and bushes.

In the ocean, did you know that sea turtles’ favorite food is jellyfish? What does a balloon look like?Jellyfish to a turtle. Many sea turtles die every year from ingesting balloons floating on the surface. They suffocate. Helium balloons do not break down and can stay inflated for years. My son is 31 and back then we were given a helium balloon in an arrangement congratulating us. I still have it and it is still fully inflated. Regular balloons are also very deadly. Being smaller and easier for an animal to ingest it.


Yes, I know, I talk about this a lot. However, we still get animals who are sick coming in from feeding areas, or stations, I guess you could call it for some. I may sound like a broken record. But, being here at Procyon I see the repercussions of feeding wildlife in a different light than you may.

Feeding birds! Keep under the feeders clean. Food on the ground brings in rats and mice. They find their way into your homes. They are amazing breeders. They attract bigger predators. Next. Do not feed ground wildlife (animals). They are wild, and they are quite equipped for survival. But of course, if there is an easy meal, they will take it. Right! But then, a sick animal comes in too, perhaps with distemper, however mange is the most common.

Although depending what you are feeding you may even attract a duck or two; mallards will come to feed on the ground, and now that we have avian influenza out there, you may attract a carrier of that disease, or a sick duck, and that is contagious to foxes, mink and others. It too is deadly. The sick ones mingle and then the healthy ones can get sick, taking disease back to a den full of healthy babies. Life over before it begins. Other animals get sick. A vicious cycle starts.

There is NO cure for distemper. It is a death sentence, it is contagious. And it is everywhere right now. And I mean everywhere. It’s no joke. Mange, however, can be treated, as long as you can get the animal to us. Call us for assistance, we will walk you through how to try to get a sick animal. Although, some foxes and coyotes will not allow themselves to be caught. No matter what you do. It is not your fault, it’s just reality. We do our absolute best to try, however, and that is all we can do. Mother nature has her way of keeping the balance. And for that sometimes, we are no match. They are very smart and go into survival mode. There just isn’t much you can do if they won’t cooperate.  

If you have a very sick animal that needs to be caught or is coming to you for food. If you feed it too much, it can die. Overfeeding an emaciated animal is an invitation for its death sentence. Refeeding syndrome can cause the animal’s organs to slowly shut down. If they come in like that, we make them comfortable and do our very best to bring them around, but sometimes it’s just too late. When we get a very sick and emaciated fox or coyote in with mange, as much as it seems unfair, as they are very hungry, we put them on a very strict slow feeding protocol. Tiny protein meals 4 or 5 times a day. Very tiny. Then next week a bit more, and so on, until it is safe for them to have a full meal.  But this can save the animal’s life as its organs back by eating slowly.

 As quoted by Crystal, our animal care coordinator, “When an animal hasn’t been eating and is given carbohydrates, it causes electrolyte imbalances. That causes a huge fluid shift in the body, it can cause seizures, heart failure, and damage to other organs “.

 If you think about it, even these tiny amounts a few times a day is way more than they would get on their own in the wild. Especially if they are sick and unable to be successful on the hunt. So please, you are not helping them, do not feed wildlife, do not tame them, do not touch them. No, they do not like us to touch them, that terrifies them and they could lash out at you, we are their predator. They are not meant to be pets or buddies if you will. Let them be wild. They will thank you. Enjoy when you do see them and take their beauty in, but please do not feed them, and always respect their space. Call us if you have a sick or injured wildlife species and we will do our best to help you.

As for those who think feeding birds is the same, it is not. I have fed birds for over 30 years. I have been a part of various feeding programs and Birds Canada’s feeder watch program. I monitor my feeders almost daily. Keep notes on behavior. And birds where ever I may be. If there is plenty of natural food out there as was the case for most of this winter when temperatures were mild, my birds did not come to my feeders. They were in the trees getting their own food. There are insects in the trees, pine cones, larvae, and leaves on the ground which hold a variety of food such as grubs, which is why we highly recommend, we leave the leaves on the ground until spring. Birds would much rather eat their natural food. If it is available. If it’s not, they substitute with our feeders. I keep under my feeders clean so when I see a raccoon or skunk, fox, etc. go through, they just waddle on their merry way. There is nothing to keep them there. And that is what I want. I love seeing them, but I know they are healthier for what I do.

And this is also healthier and safer if you have pets.

If we need to catch a sick animal, then we will give you instructions on how to do it. Otherwise, please, keep it clean.

If you see an animal that you believe is sick, injured, or in distress, don’t wait, call us and we will talk to you and figure it out together. By waiting, the animal gets worse and may leave. If you encounter an injured animal on the road stay with it, try to cover it to keep it warm and calm, and call us. However, your safety is always first. Always state in your message if it is an emergency. We check our phone lines every hour from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you have animal control where you live call them. A lot of wildlife rehabilitation centres work alongside animal control organizations.

Innisfil has no such help for wildlife. Nothing. We are going to set up an appointment to go in to stand before the town council to try to get this changed. Please sign the attached petition. This petition will accompany us. As I hope many of the community members will as well.


Finally, Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre is just that. We rehabilitate orphaned, sick, and injured wildlife. And we educate. We are not a rescue. We have a limited number of volunteers at this time of year with only one shift a day. Soon we will be running 3 very busy shifts a day. We are just not equipped to do rescues. We can only take as many animals in as we have volunteers to care for them. Our volunteers also work or go to school. And come from all over.

If you can commit to a shift a week in animal care, cleaning, food preparation, laundry, and dishes, please complete our new volunteers application form. Our Orientation Day is March 4th at which time you can learn more about volunteering at Procyon Wildlife or learn more by visiting https://www.procyonwildlife.com/volunteering-at-procyon/

Please contact in**@pr*************.com if you are interested in attending.

We are gearing up now for the spring rush. We will train you and help you along the way. It is very rewarding work to do, however, with animal care, you must remember those cute tiny babies grow up, produce a lot of pop, and can be messy. It all must be cleaned. But then, an extremely special day comes; release day. We get to say goodbye and set them free. The most beautiful thing you will experience. Job well done, all that hard work has paid off.

That my friends are what we at Procyon are all about. And these things are what you can do to help keep them safe. Keep you safe. Remember, make that call. We will return it.

905 729 0033  or email us at in**@pr*************.com

Jen Howard

Procyon volunteer/ photographer


Let’s Talk Wildlife
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