A Rare Opportunity to Prevent Harm to Animals 

Article by Annette Bays, images Animal Alliance, Jen Howard

As you probably know, here at Procyon, we are in the business of saving the lives of animals that come to us injured and orphaned. Well, right now we have a rare opportunity to preemptively save the lives of hundreds (possibly thousands) of wild animals in the future. If enough of us write a letter to our MP and the Minister of Health now we can save innocent animals from a slow and agonizing death by poison. 

Within a month or so the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Canada (PMRA) will be concluding their re-evaluation regarding the possible approval of the continued use of two poisons – Strychnine and Compound 1080 – to “manage” wildlife. Their decision now could stand for another 15 years.

These cruel poisons are still used in remote and agricultural regions of Alberta. The other Canadian provinces have long realized these toxic methods are ineffectual as well as inhumane, and in many cases, have implemented safe, humane, effective, cost efficient and non-lethal conflict prevention and intervention programs, which are readily available. Let’s tell Alberta it’s high time they stopped the use of these atrocious methods too.

Apparently there have been numerous offences identified as non-compliant with the Pest Control Products over the last 10 years or more. An extensive “Access to Information and Privacy” request regarding any enforcement measures taken regarding these violations remains unanswered since 2021.

These poisons are used to target wild animals (coyotes, wolves, and black bears) who may come into conflict with farm animals and/or the caribou population. Killing these animals doesn’t solve the problem, but it does mean a slow agonizing death to numerous wild animals, including many non-target animals such as fox, ravens, eagles and many others. And, as has been mentioned in previous articles, poison moves up the food chain. When the targeted animal is consumed or fed to babies in the nest or den, they too suffer horribly and die.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is under the purview of Health Canada and reports to Parliament through Health Canada. Through the Mandate Letter, the Prime Minister expects Minister Mark Holland “to ensure Canadians are protected from risks associated with the use of pesticides and to better protect human health, wildlife and the environment…”.

Your MP needs to hear from you. If written by hand, a letter to your Federal representatives has a great impact (but an email will do too!). Tell them how you feel about the continued use of these poisons. Ask the Minister to step in, and ask your MP to encourage him to do so! Otherwise the PMRA will only have the advice of the pesticide producers who are supplying the poisons. 

If you follow this link to the Animal Protection Party of Canada website the details will be explained further. And if you need help with letter writing, here is a form letter you can use or follow. You can find your Member of Parliament and his/her contact information here, and the Health Minister info here. And your letter is postage free.

Thank you for standing up for animals in so many ways.

Where Are All the Critters?

Article by Elizabeth Trickey

Read time: 3 minutes

Nature is both tough and fragile.  Our Earth has been in existence for billions of years, with mammals flourishing for millions of those years.  Over time, many species have become extinct, mostly due to five catastrophic natural events.  Scientists say that 99% of species no longer exist!  Yikes! 

For those species that do survive Earth’s changes, they have needed to adapt to their altered environment, and that takes time.  Lots of time.  Some animals are able to make the adjustments while others perish.


Visit with an Ermine

article, photos and video by Annette Bays

Approx. Read Time 3 minutes

I had never seen an Ermine before, or any kind of weasel for that matter, so when my dog informed me that there was an unusual visitor outside our house and I had a look, at first I had no idea what the small white creature might be. I grabbed my camera and followed it behind our woodshed where it obligingly commenced posing for me on a downed cedar tree before running off through the forest. On inspection of the pictures and a quick perusal of the internet I concluded that our visitor had indeed been an Ermine.

Apparently Ermines are found right across Canada. They are solitary, and maintain territories in a wide variety of habitats including riparian woodlands, marshes, meadows and open pastures near forest or bush. Unsurprisingly, this describes our property. It was no wonder though, that we had never seen one before as they are quite small (under a foot long) and usually well camouflaged (mainly brown in summer, turning completely white in winter – save for the black tail tip). But, as mentioned in Jen Howard’s article Wildlife and Winter, the lack of snow so far this winter makes them highly visible at the moment.

If you take a look at this short video you will see that the Ermine was quite interested in me (they are quite intelligent animals) and came back numerous times to investigate. But once he decided to run off he was like a flash, and it’s obvious that if there had been snow on the ground he would have been more or less invisible. This combination of speed and camouflage works to protect Ermines from their natural predators, such as snakes, dogs, foxes and coyotes.

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Although very sweet to look at, Ermines have sharp teeth and are proficient hunters who can overpower prey many times larger than themselves. And due to high energy demands they need to feed often. They move quickly pursuing their prey which comprises mostly small mammals like mice, shrews, chipmunks, rabbits, rats, but when these are scarce they will also eat eggs, birds, fish and frogs.

Ermines mark and patrol territories, but they only defend from members of the same sex. As Ermine females take numerous mates, kits from one litter may have several different fathers. They make dens under tree roots or in hollow logs or they may re-use burrows of animals they have killed. A litter will average 4 to 9 young, and due to the level of predation they experience, their average life expectancy is only 2 years.

Ermines do not make good pets, but being such proficient hunters of small mammals, they do a wonderful job of keeping the mice populations down. So, if you want to welcome them into your back yard, keep an area a bit wild, with a variety of brush and vegetation. Although they are primarily nocturnal they are often seen during the day as well, so keep your eyes open for the little cuties!

Animal Updates – December 2023

Article and photos by Jen Howard

Reading time: Approx. 3 minutes

Mid December a small young raccoon was brought to the Centre. Born late in the year she would not survive without mom. She will be over wintering with us until spring.

Gary the screech owl

Gary has been doing incredibly well, but his feathers were a bit rough. He has gone to a foster home where he can have more space for exercise, and time for those damaged feathers to grow back in. Our little one-eyed owl was very feisty and greeted us with enthusiasm and vigour.

Barred owl

This beautiful owl saw our vet December 15th with the plan to remove his bad eye. Well, that eye has started to improve.  So, we will continue treating him hoping the eye comes back.  Fingers crossed.

Opossum. He came in after being attacked by a dog. He had a bad wound on his back, but after being vet checked he is healing nicely.

Red tail hawk

A red tail hawk was found sitting on the side of the road and picked up. She is a beautiful female. Her left eye was badly damaged. Her vet check on December 15th showed some improvement, but still uncertain as to the outcome of her eye. Meds continued.

Releases: One raccoon was released on December 13th. The volunteer said he knew where he was and wasted no time in getting out there. **We also had some deer mice that were taken out and released. Keep safe little buddies.

Our two new permanent residents, Rusty the Red Tail Hawk and Edgar the Raven are settling well into their new digs at Procyon Wildlife.

Important tips on wildlife:

Distemper is on the rise, so please, call us if you have a raccoon looking or acting strangely or too friendly. Don’t let them suffer and stay out to spread the disease. Call for instructions on securing and getting them to us. KEEP AWAY FROM PETS. If you are concerned, you can always spray down the area (a deck for example) with javex solution. BUT PLEASE MAKE THAT CALL – 905 729 0033

It is looking like raptor collisions are on the rise. Please watch out for these beauties. Hawks and owls have been coming in from collisions with cars.  Also watch for deer, moose (depending on where you are) and other furry friends. As the saying goes, “The Deer isn’t crossing the road; The road is crossing the forest”. Oh, so true. A little bit of awareness and slowing down may save a life. May even be yours in the case of large animals like deer or moose.

If you need to secure an animal, hawk or owl, please secure carefully, keep them warm and quiet. NO FOOD or WATER. Call us asap. 905 729 0033. Call any time of day or night and LEAVE A MESSAGE. Our phone volunteer will get back to you.  If the situation is urgent, state that in your message. Phone volunteers work 10 am to 5 pm. So just keep the animal quiet and warm until you hear back. Be patient, only 1 call please. And thank you for caring.   

Jen Howard

Note from Editor: Procyon is looking for telephone volunteers to take calls from the public. If you would like to volunteer to handle our telephone hotline, then we need you!

THE HOURS we need for telephone service are Monday through to Sunday, 8:00 am to 2:00 pm & 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm. You can operate our phone lines from the comfort of your home and you will need to have access to the internet and a computer or tablet to assist our animal care workers with online admissions.

Currently, our hotline is operated from 10 am to 5 pm, but we’d like to extend the hours of our hotline service during the height of the baby season which has already begun!

We will provide remote telephone training. Learn more here!

Wildlife and Winter

by Jen Howard

Read Time: Approx. 3 minutes

We hope everyone had a lovely Christmas holiday and good start to the New Year.

Winter certainly has been different this year. Here one day, gone the next. This is great for us, for driving around and our holiday visits, but is it? Unseasonably warm weather is not good for our wildlife friends, or our environment. Viruses linger in this mild weather where cold is needed to kill them off. Climate change is affecting us all over the world, and it’s not good. Late December, our local skunk could still be seen on my trail camera, out scrounging around in the yard, under the leaves that I purposely left. 

Procyon admitted a very young raccoon in mid-December as well. It’s just been so different. Our wildlife is so confused.  Mother Nature is confused. Certain species of wildlife change to white during winter, to protect them from predators. Hares, ermines* and arctic foxes are examples. Without snow these animals stick out like a sore thumb, so to speak. Hard to hide or blend in when you are white and everything else is green, so natural shelter is very important. 

Remember feeding is not a good thing as you may put them in harm’s way. Wildlife who gets used to being fed become trusting of all humans, putting them at risk or even putting their lives in jeopardy.  Keeping the area under bird feeders clean is very important to keep mice away. Mice attract bigger animals and predators, putting small animals at risk of being eaten. They are wild, they know how to survive. This also is a haven for spreading disease. Even in winter our wildlife has lots of food to eat. Deer’s winter diet consists of the woody portions of leaves, stems, acorns, and grasses which is certainly available so far, and of course apples. Leftovers in farmers’ fields attract all wildlife. Foxes can live on stored fat they accumulated during the fall. But they also eat rodents all year.

Some animals go into hibernation which is sleeping until spring. Some, like bears, enter what they call torpor, where their body slows right down, but technically they are aware. You may see your chipmunks, and even raccoons replenishing their winter store of food on a mild winter day.

One may think a winter like we are having so far is good. But in fact it’s not. Our trees, and flowers also, can be confused into going into bloom. Our wildlife have been having late babies. Our lakes won’t freeze over safely, if at all. And Mother Earth won’t get the moisture she needs. Distemper in raccoons is already thriving.

So, bring on the snow and cold temperatures, bring on winter. We need you. Get out and build a snowman with carrots, nuts and berries. See the magic a cold winter’s day can bring. Get out for a walk, but keep those dogs on leash for the safety of all. And enjoy what you may see. Life is good!

Jen Howard

* Note from the Editor: To learn more about ermines, read Procyon Wildlife Volunteer Annette Bays’ article called Visit with an Ermine

Christina & Sabina Real Estate Team visit Procyon Wildlife

Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre was delighted when Christina and Sabina visited us recently. They met with Crystal Faye, our Primary Animal Care /Triage Coordinator and Director, who gave them a tour of our facility.

Thank you Christina, Sabina and Kate for sharing the video with us and for your ongoing support of Procyon Wildlife. The interview covers the work we do at Procyon to rescue injured and orphaned wildlife and release them back to the wild.

Procyon Wildlife is dedicated to working with our communities in an effort to help wild animals in need of care. Their goals are to rescue, rehabilitate and safely release these animals, and to promote public appreciation for wildlife preservation.

Please consider donating or volunteering with us! Baby season is expected to start early this year with the mild winter we are experiencing.

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