Two Special Porcupettes

Back in the spring, one at a time, these two tiny baby porcupettes arrived at Procyon Wildlife. The first one arrived an orphan; tiny, dehydrated and in need of help. Our animal care manager, Crystal, took it under her wing. It was touch and go for a while, however, Crystal’s round-the-clock care pulled that precious baby through.

Then another wee porcupette came in, orphaned as well and in a very delicate state. Crystal also took that one under her wing. They both received around the clock care from her, they were pulled through tough times more than once by Crystal. It became an important project to save their lives.

These precious porcupine babies were in good hands but were so small, that they were in extremely critical condition for some time. But then they started to improve; more alert and active and eating well. They were kept in separate cages as one was quite a bit bigger than the other. And the smaller one who was very vocal wanted nothing to do with it.

As they progressed, they got some outside playtime. Although the smaller one was now catching up, she still wanted nothing to do with the other one. She would tolerate him for a little bit but if he got to close or heaven forbid, “touched” her, all heck would break loose. And she would voice her opinion in an exceptionally loud way. Crystal would then come to the rescue. Again.  It was entertaining and very, very sweet or so we thought. Then the day came when the bigger one went to an outside enclosure. He loved it. There were places to hide, branches to eat and stumps to climb. He was just loving every minute out there. It was still a bit before the little one grew enough to be put outside. She was quite happy where she was.

Then finally it was time. She was ready to go outside too. And she was put in with the other one. Well, he was thrilled but she was not so much. She made her porcupine noises to voice her opinion on the whole situation. It was so cute. To us. We kept an eye on them but as days went on, she tolerated him more and he left her alone more than not. But still bothering her sometimes and whenever he did the whole world knew it.

Finally, the time came that they were both ready to go home. Crystal was asked if they would go free together. The answer was no. They were from different locations, and porcupines are solitary animals. They needed to and deserved to go to where their mothers had them, where their homes are located. That is the MNRF’s protocol as well. They will take over the territory where their mothers left off.

September 22nd was the release of the bigger one in the area he came from. As always, the area is carefully and closely scoped out to find that perfect spot and again, when we get there. He did some tap dancing in his crate the whole way there. He was very anxious. No vocalizing though, just a lot of feet sounds. Almost like a little drummer back there. That was this little one’s way of saying, “let me out!” As always, we take some food for them to hold them over until they get their bearings. Carrying this one in until we found a good spot with food and water was not too bad. He just chilled out hanging on and taking it all in. We walked him into the forest and opened the crate. He walked out. Sniffed around and started to turn and go back into the crate. So that was closed and moved. With that, the little dude who didn’t look so little anymore turned away from us and started exploring. He explored everything, branches, leaves, you name it. Occasionally, he would turn and look at us for a minute. Then off he went again. Finally, the perfect moment. He climbed a tree. Higher and higher with great confidence. That was the moment we knew this one would be okay.

September 24th, the second little one went free. She on the other hand was very vocal. We did not get the dancing with this one but got chewing on the bars and singing. Both porcupettes were very different, individual little beings and just adorable in their own way.

It started raining on the way up and that was not going to work well in our favour, however, we kept going in hopes it would stop. Amazingly when we arrived at our destination the skies cleared. So again, we scoped out the new area. We walked in over a km to get to a safe place with food and water. She was quiet, enjoying the ride, face and feet up on the door checking it all out. But this little one did not want to go. She came out of the crate fine but kept coming to us. Unlike the first one, this one ate some of her much-loved rodent blocks. Then explored a bit, found us again, ate some more. Repeat again. This was not good. She did however then start to get sidetracked often with leaves and branches that she had to stop and sniff or taste. This was good. Each time she got better but time was moving along, and the sun was setting and it was time for us to get back to the car.  This one took much longer before we felt confident to leave her. Finally, with a little help from a noisy bag, she went away from us, then climbed a tree. This time she did not look back. She found a nice big branch to hunker in on.

On our way back peace was settling in on this beautiful forest/wetland area. A big great blue heron took off and flew over in front of us aways ahead and by then, the sun was almost down. Fall colours were showing their faces all around us, displaying mother nature’s beauty. The odd bird or two were chirping and settling in for their nights’ sleep while others were coming to life.

We wish our porcupine well. To be safe and to live a long prosperous life in this gorgeous area in which she was born. She deserves to be home, free and wild.

We wish them both well.

Jen Howard
Volunteer/ Photographer
Procyon Wildlife.

Let’s Meet Everett by Jennifer Howard

As this strange summer whizzes by, our residents at the centre are growing up and becoming beautiful teenagers. Some have been released back into the wild to live their lives as they were meant to do. Be free.

But then others are out there running into trouble. Recently, one such case arrived at the centre after a lengthy attempt to live trap him. His name is Everett. He is a beautiful little red fox. Everett was caught in Everett. He was seen by several caring people who knew he needed help. The call was made to us. He has a severe case of mange.

One of our volunteers, Jen McBride, who lives in the area, grabbed a live trap and set it up in hopes of capturing this sick fox. But he had other ideas and kept away from the trap even with the smell of tasty food inside. Foxes are very smart animals. But as mange goes on, their eyes get crusty, and soon they cannot see. They then depend on their keen sense of smell to find food. They can no longer hunt successfully, and then usually they will unknowingly go into a live trap out of desperation for food.

It took Jen 6 weeks to catch this fox. The help of the community was much appreciated and needed, since at the time, Jen was also volunteering four nights a week at Procyon. Getting permission to set the live trap in someone’s backyard was the icing on the cake as the fox took to drinking from their pool. After the trap had been set in three other places unsuccessfully, this last location was worth a shot. Setting live traps means a lot of regular monitoring since other animals can be trapped instead. An opossum and as Jen put it, a very fat raccoon entered their way into the trap and were caught, and needed to be released quickly. Rebating of the trap for the little fox to hopefully to come along then had to be done.

Jen searched for the den in a large area of fields and empty lots in this new subdivision without any luck. She would get upwards to 100 plus calls from people saying they had seen the fox, those calls often coming on the nights she was at Procyon. Patience and perseverance paid off in the end.  As I mentioned, foxes are smart animals. It’s tough to fool them. Everett apparently was living off roadkill at that point and could no longer hunt on his own. So, the temptation of that wonderful smell finally paid off and he was successfully captured. This was a great accomplishment by the Town of Everett and Jen.

Mange is 100% treatable. This case will take time though because he is in such bad shape. The vet treated him right away. He had a swollen leg that was thought to have been an injury. But it turned out to be an infection from the mange. He was put on medication for the infection, treated for the mange and given ointment for his eyes. The medication for mange is given at least three times, once every two weeks. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for the animal to get better, keeping in mind that any wounds must heal and hair must grow back before release. Upon release, they are treated topically to protect them for their first month back in the wild.

This beautiful fox was in terrible shape, he was scared, he was hungry, he was uncomfortable. But he sure did not lose that appetite. He loves his scrambled eggs and mice etc. He cooperated when it was time to have his eye ointment put in. He took his medication. In fact in 24 hours after the first dose of eye ointment, he started to open his eyes. In less than one week he was feisty enough to be wanting out of his crate and tried eating his way out one night. He then graduated to an outdoor enclosure.

One week after he arrived, Everett is feeling much better, bringing smiles to all at Procyon. His caregivers are thrilled with his improvements to date. Some of his meds are given in his food now with no problem at all as he still has a healthy appetite. We got a wee peek at him when I was there. But he is now acting like a fox again. Which means he does not want anything to do with us. He has a great outdoor enclosure. He hangs out in his favourite shelter, he has a few, and peeks out before he comes out to eat. He could see us standing off in a corner outside the enclosure but in the outside enclosure; there are two in order to make sure that if an animal gets out they are still contained. He stood there looking at us with those beautiful open eyes. I was overwhelmed to see him looking so good in just a week. He doesn’t look like the same fox I saw a week ago. Eyes open, ears cleared up. There is much more healing to go yet, however, the healing has started, and he is clearly feeling so much better.

This is Sarcoptic mange, caused by a tiny mite. Although humans can get it, all you will get is itchy, the mites won’t survive on you for more than three or four days. So wearing gloves and a mask is important for us while handling an animal with mange. Dogs can get mange as well from an area where a wild animal has been recently; keeping dogs on leash while out and about can keep them safe in many ways where wildlife is concerned, and keep the wildlife safe as well. Mange can only be caught from contact with another infected animal. This is prevalent in dens where the whole family can be infected if one contracts it from contact with another infected animal since in the den they are touching each other, mothers feeding little ones, etc… The life cycle of mange is three weeks, however, once the eggs hatch, if the animal isn’t treated, the infection starts all over again, therefore getting worse and worse as time goes on. The animal loses fur, can develop sores, eyes crust over and close shut and they can’t hunt for food. If not helped they can die a very slow horrible death. And it is so easy to treat. So, don’t let them suffer, call us. It’s not rabies, and they deserve a chance to live.

The medication we give them is an injectable one, the animal needs to be weighed so the correct dose is given. DO NOT MEDICATE YOURSELF by leaving medication out in the open. You can under medicate, or worse, over medicate. The wrong animal may get it, even yours or someone else’s pets may get it. It is a toxic medication if given wrongly. This is a job for wildlife rehabilitation centres. The animal will be weighed right away and examined and given the proper dose of medication and anything else it needs to recover calmly and safely under the watchful eyes of the rehabber. Your job is to make that call to our rehab centre and then we will start the process in motion. Yes, it takes time, and yes, the animal will get worse, however, it is curable.

This beautiful sick little red fox unknowingly brought the community of Everett together in their efforts to find and trap him. This one little life brought many lives together in these difficult times and has given people a purpose and meaning in their own lives while saving another.

These days, we hear so many upsetting things in the news, and it seems to be all we hear. To hear a great story such as Everett’s, well, it warms the heart. It shows there is still human compassion amongst us and it shows people still care about our wildlife in need.

As fall approaches, the animals in our care will be returned to the wild, one day at a time, one group at a time, all vaccinated to keep them healthy, keeping siblings together. We thank all of you out there who took the time and effort to save these little lives and call us. Yes, we had to turn some of you down. We hope and pray you found a place for them to go as per our instructions. But please know it was not an easy decision to say no. Every life means a great deal to us all. We appreciate more than you know the wonderful donations of things on our wish list and for the cash donations, you have given us. Every little bit helps. Especially now with COVID-19. It keeps us going. So, a great big THANK YOU from all of us, animals included, at Procyon.

As for little Everett, we will keep updating you on his progress. I will try to get more photos. But knowing he is improving every day is the best news we can give. A life is a life, no matter what it is, big or small.

Just remember: “HELP IS IN YOUR HANDS”

Jennifer Howard

Procyon Volunteer / Photographer

Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre