Sunday, 11 January 2015

I lost a friend today...

I am very sad to say that I lost a dear friend today.

The gentle orange giant we dubbed Smaug passed away. He lived here less than a year, but he was much loved and well cared for during his time with us.

His story is a sad one and unfortunately a common one. Smaug the Iguana Iguana spent the majority of his life in poor conditions. He was not being cared for properly as evident by the physical and irreversible signs of metabolic bone disease caused by a poor diet and lack of vitamin D and UV light.

Last year he was left in an apartment after his people moved out and that is how he ended up with me. He was emaciated and to sick to eat on his own. We got him feeling better and he was doing well. We did the best we could to make his life good, but you can't erase years of neglect and poor care, nor can you stop the hands of time (he was old). 

Unfortunately many people still get pets without thinking things through and when it comes to exotic pets like Iguana Iguana you really need to know what you are getting into. Most exotic pets are not easy to care for and their care is usually very expensive.

If you are sure you really want to own an exotic pet:
  • Make sure you really think it through
  • Research the animal you'd like and learn all about the care they need
  • Check with reputable exotic rescues to see if they have an animal in need of a home
  • Or purchase from a reputable store or breeder
  • Make sure you are prepared for all the expenses (there will be many)
  • Be sure you are ready to commit to this animal for the duration of it's lifespan
  • Check the bylaws where you live as many counties have a ban on exotic species

 We are very grateful to our wonderful friends at Hamilton Reptile for helping us help this wonderful animal which I will forever remember as the most appreciative reptile I have ever met...

Friday, 2 January 2015

Let wildlife be wild...

We have all seen them…those ‘cute’ images of native wildlife interacting with domestic animals such as dogs and cats. These days they are plastered all over social media and from time to time they go viral.
I get it, it does look cute to see a fawn cuddled up with a dog, but what as humans we often forget is the aftermath. When I see images like that I cringe because I know it reduces the quality of life and lifespan of the wild animal involved significantly.
Many species of wildlife are born without fear of humans (or our pets) and exposing them to either of these at a young age will leave a lasting effect.
Imagine this same dog-cuddling fawn grown up and it encounters a random dog (or dog like creature such as a wolf). Without a natural fear we know this will end badly for the deer. 
Fawn after being mauled by a dog (she didn't make it)
 The same goes for human habituated wildlife. Picture the previously mentioned deer encountering a random human in the wild. What if this is a human with a gun? The deer is suppose to be afraid and run or better yet avoid humans all together but early on in its life it was taught not to fear humans.
Now imagine doing the same with some of our large carnivores/omnivores. Imagine a bear approaching you... In the bears mind he is going to see if the human has food (like he has been taught), or let's think of a fox/wolf/coyote doing the same. These animals in this example will all end up getting shot because they will be considered a threat to humans.
As to how (early) human exposure impacts wildlife varies per species. Some species are more susceptible than others. The fact that I mention a deer in the examples is not random. Fawns (deer) are easily habituated at a young age.
If you find wildlife you think needs help please get professionals involved as soon as possible. You can check our website for more advice and contact information.
I have experience trying to undo human and pet habituation in wildlife and it is difficult and sometimes impossible. It often leaves me frustrated because often people choose not to understand what damage they have done.
I have witnessed fawns having major freak-outs upon first con-specific interaction. They simply have no idea that they belong to that species. It is a sad phenomenon to witness.
The same goes for wildlife photography. As we currently experience an influx of Snowy Owls, stories of photographers baiting these animals to get the perfect shot keep reaching me. These photographers do not realize they are jeopardizing the life and well being of the animal they claim to admire.
Snowy Owl picture taken with a zoom lens and without disturbing the bird

Let’s make 2015 the year where we enjoy wildlife from afar, in their natural habitat, away from humans (and their food sources) and away from our pets.
Let’s stop awarding photographers for pictures of wildlife taken through use of baiting and let’s stop sharing images and videos detrimental to wild-wildlife and natural behavior.
Let’s make it the year where we leave wildlife to be wild…

Friday, 5 September 2014

Herons and Kites don't mix...

As some of you are aware I have been trying to convince fisherman to properly dispose of their fish line because I often have to deal with water fowl and turtles who get tangled in that stuff.

Today I encountered an issue new to me. It involved a Great Blue Heron and discarded kite line...

The home owner noticed this bird up in his tree who tried to fly away, but seem to get pulled back to the same spot every time. 

In this (not so great) picture you see a GBH it got it's wing tangled in a line from a discarded kite. The line is suspended between two trees, so the GBH is dangling by one wing on this line.

I used the zoom on my cell phone to take this picture, so in reality it is a lot higher, so now what do we do...

I made a couple of calls and was very surprised to see the City of Hamilton Cherry Picker Truck and it's crew drive up within 10 min of me making the calls.

These guys are the forestry crew and they happened to be working not far from the location of this bird and where ready for action. After careful deliberation a plan was put into action and standing on his tippy-toes with the bucket fully extended one of the guys was able to cut the line at one end.
with zoom
without zoom to indicate the height

If you look at the no-zoom pic you see a tree in the right bottom corner. The line was suspended between these two trees, so by cutting the one end the GBH tried to fly, but was yanked out of the sky by the other end of the line and was dangling low enough so that I could grab it of the hastily provided step ladder. One of the city guys cut the other end of the line and the bird was safely in my arms.

To my complete amazement other than a painful wing, some damaged feathers and dehydration the GBH is not in bad shape at all. It was suspended by that one wing for more than 24 hours.

The feathers and kite line where so badly entangled that I needed some serious tools to remove it.

before line removal

after line removal
With a little bit of care to help with re-hydration and some specially formulated food this Heron will be back in the sky in a couple of days

I cannot thank the Hamilton Forestry Crew enough for their help. Without their help I have no idea how we could have possibly gotten that Heron down from up there and suspended by one wing would have been a horrible way to slowly perish.

Also a great big thank you to Carol from the Open Sky Raptor Foundation who facilitated the calling for the forestry crew and to the home owners who cared enough to look for some help for this GBH...

Friday, 30 May 2014

Fawning over fawns

It is that time of the year again. Fawns have been hitting the ground running for the past two weeks or so and never before have I had this many calls from people who think they have found an orphaned fawn...

Just to set the record straight. Just because you see a fawn by itself does not make it an orphan. Mother deer leave their babies hidden when they go off and eat. They return 2-3 times daily to feed the fawns.

I will give you that deer are not always smart about where they hide their babies, but as it stands the vast majority of fawns that come into rehab have no business being here but where abducted by humans.

Abduction is of course not always the case: I applaud the gentleman who jumped into the Nith River to save a fawn that had a foot stuck and was at risk of being swept away.


Well done sir! And he did the right thing and turned the animal over to an Authorized Wildlife Custodian and this fawn is now safe and sound and being cared for by professionals.

I also applaud the Brampton Humane Society who brought out a fawn that was found next to its dead mother. Job well done!

Both these fawns need to be here and are doing fine.

This morning I had a call from a long ways away from here from someone who had found a fawn that she felt was in very bad shape because it was just laying there. I had my suspicions and because it was so far away I could not go out there and have a look. I made a call to an awesome vet I know in the area who readily agreed to drive out and go and see that fawn (free of charge). He called me back later and said the fawn was fine and not in trouble at all. He is ensuring the fawn will be returned to where it was found and hopefully the mother deer will come and get it tonight. (Thank you Dr. Ben!)

In my experience the problem is that people generally do not understand the animals behavior and use human standards to make judgement calls. Human standards or even pet standards don't work for wildlife.

The fawn that was just laying there was actually doing what fawns do when they are scared. They will lay flat to the ground and not move and they hope you don't see them...This is natural behavior and just because you think this fawn looks calm it is not.  I can assure you it is scared to death and you might just be inducing a 100% lethal condition called Capture Myopathy in this fawn. Capture Myopathy is on a 2 day delay, so the full effects can't be seen until much later.

fawn hunkered down and trying to hide
Mother deer will gladly have their babies back and will spent 48 hours or so looking for them if they go missing, so unless the fawn is sick or injured I will tell people to go and take it back to where they found it when they call me about a fawn.

This year there has been an alarming trend with people who have kept the fawn in their possession for a week or more. This is not a good thing as it prevents people from being able to reunite fawn and mother, but it also often results in cases of unintentional cruelty to animals. As was the case here. This fawn was kept by someone for a week and due to lack of knowledge they where feeding it not nearly enough.
This fawn is emaciated and dehydtrated

look at how droopy his ears are

This fawn was unable to come back from this severe condition and I made the decision to euthanize it several days later.

Taking care of a fawn is not easy and it requires a lot of knowledge. It is imperative that the fawn does not become habituated to humans or dogs. It might look cute to see a fawn play with a dog, but imagine what a strange dog might do to the fawn/deer. Human habituation in it self is also detrimental I wrote another blog about that...clifton-hills-pet-deer-oh-deer.html

They also need to be fed properly. Store bought goats milk will do in a pinch, but is not a long term solution.

So if you do see a fawn and it does not look emaciated or dehydrated (like the fawn in the pics above) or it doesn't appear injured please just cherish the moment and move on to let the mother deer return and take care of her baby. If you are in doubt, do not hesitate to contact us or another rehab facility before you take the fawn home. A list of rehab facilities in ON can be found here: Authorized Wildlife Custodions

If you can't reach a rehabber,  a vet, MNR office or your local humane society/SPCA can also assist.

For those of you who are currently in the possession of a fawn or other wildlife note that you are breaking the law and that you are not doing the animal any favors. Please do the right thing and turn the animal over to any of the above mentioned places. What you are doing is not in the animals best interest...

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Cardinal Rules

On March 3rd we received a Cardinal with a partial healed wing fracture. She was non-flighted, but I thought she might regain flight with time, so I set her up in one of our special cloth lined indoor bird enclosures. As we always try to do I made it nice in there for her, with branches for perching, full spectrum lighting and of course food and water. 

This is very important because any other type caging will damage a birds flight feathers rendering it flightless and regrowing these is a painstakingly slow process and the as natural as possible setting will help to reduce stress levels.

With the wing fracture partially healed there was not much I could do for her but keep her safe from prowling cats.

She was in this good size enclosure for some time and kept me entertained with her Cardinal antics anytime I came near. Being fiercely protective of her little habitat I made sure she was in a secluded area as not to stress her out to much.

Cardinal in her cloth indoor enclosure

After many weeks I observed her starting to fly from one end to the other in her enclosure. This was good, she can now fly, so I deemed her ready for a trial release....

Unfortunately she failed miserably at this and could not  manage any flight what so ever. I was so disappointed, because now her whole future was in jeopardy.

It always falls to me to make the decisions on when wildlife needs to be euthanized around here. I take these decisions very seriously and often it is not easy. The criteria for wildlife are much different than pets. One of them is that it is not always in the animals best interest to stay alive if they can not be returned back to their natural habitat. Often being in captivity is highly stressful on wildlife and we do the best we can to keep their stress levels as low as possible, but it still is stressful. It is therefor not always a kind decision to keep wildlife alive if they can not be returned to their natural habitat if that means getting condemned to a life in captivity.

A bird needs to be able to fly or it will fall prey to a predator such as a cat and we all know who cruel cats can be with their prey.

I have a Cardinal Rule when it comes to making these life or death decisions; I need to be 100% sure that euthanizing is in the best interest of the animal and that any other option is not humane.  A squirrel with three legs can do fine in the wild, but a non-flighted bird...

I was mentally struggling with this Cardinal, so sticking with my rule I did not euthanize her and she stayed in her indoor-enclosure flying little bits and defending her little part of the world.

As we started releasing our overwinter guest one of our larger outdoor enclosure came to be empty, so I made the decision to transfer this little Cardinal lady out to the big enclosure to see if she could strengthen that wing enough to fly across it.

To my surprise she started to do better and better every day. Flying a little bit higher and longer everyday. Clearly happy to be outside she made me smile everyday I saw her flying around her enclosure twittering away.

After being with us one day shy of two months we where able to release her yesterday at a carefully chosen locations and she delighted me by flying up into a tree and and flying to the next and the next...

(I apologize for the poor photographs, but I am never at my best taking pics of many emotions)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Canine Distemper

As we are heading into the the rehab season it has become clear that Canine Distemper is still prevalent among the raccoon population. The first couple of litters of raccoon babies have it. I suspect they ended up orphaned due to the disease.

We need to spread this message far and wide. Canine Distemper can be contagious to dogs. You can reduce your dogs risk by ensuring your dog is properly vaccinated. Please discuss this with your veterinarian. They will know what the disease prevalence is in your area and if your dog is at increased risk for certain diseases.

Canine Distemper is 100% lethal and it is a slow and horrible death for raccoons. Some of the obvious symptoms are seizures and facial twitches. Other symptoms mimic rabies closely, so it is important to report any raccoons who are behaving unusual. Raccoons who are wide awake during the day, circling around, raccoons who are not afraid of you or actually approach you or raccoons with any other unusual behavior.  You can contact your local SPCA, Animal Control or the MNR to report these cases.

There are many healthy raccoons out there, so there is no need to panic. It is important to understand why there are rules and regulations surrounding people being in possession of wildlife. 

If you find (what you think is a) wildlife orphan please use the following steps:

  1. Contact wildlife custodian near you prior to doing anything. Each situation/species requires a different approach. For a list of Wildlife Custodians in ON Click here!

  2. If you can't reach a rehabber right away leave a message and they will get back to you asap. You can also choose to contact you local SPCA, veterinarian or the MNR.

  3. Please ensure that the babies in question are truly orphaned or injured and in need of help. Please observe den/nest sites from a safe distance so that you are not the cause of a parent not returning.

  4. Never handle any type of wildlife with your bare hands. Always wear gloves.

  5. If the babies in question are in immediate danger (in the middle of a busy highway or something) put gloves on, and put them in a secure container (with vent holes), lined with a blanket/towel. Keep this container in a dark, quiet and warm place.

  6. Do not under any circumstances try to feed the babies. Wait for instructions from a rehabber. The wrong type of food at the wrong time can be detrimental to the animal’s health. Hypothermic/Dehydrated babies will die if given food of any type. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

I 'rescued' a wild animal, now what do I do...

For those of you who don't know me personally it is important to note that I make a living working in agriculture. Specifically, I work with livestock.

I often get very frustrated with people who have no prior experience with livestock, but who choose to go out and buy farm animals and think it is much like having a dog or cat. Often these are the same people who have nothing good to say about farmers who are professionals at taking care of livestock.

This is exactly how Lambert came to be. Lambert was born to a ewe owned by people who have no knowledge of sheep. One of Lambert's siblings died during the difficult birth. The other sibling froze to death and Lambert came close to dying from lack of nourishment and cold.

Lambert was lucky to have been helped by one of my volunteers and brought here. As a skilled livestock person I was able to help Lambert. He is not out of the woods yet, but he is making progress. He has food in his belly, is warm and his pneumonia and other ailments are being treated which is the best I or anyone else can do for him now. It would have been better to prevent these issues however. 

 The same happens with wildlife. People come across a wild animals that they assume needs help. Sometimes these animals are truly in need of help, sometimes they are not.

Often rather than seeking professional help they will try to take care of the animal themselves. This means that often when wildlife finally ends up in the hands of a skilled/trained person the animal is beyond help.

It is not as easy as it appears. Every situation calls for a different approach. There are so many variables to take into account when it comes to animal care in general and wildlife rehabilitation specifically.

All though the internet is a great resource for many things, it should never be used as a DIY guide for wildlife rehabilitation. Mainly for the above mentioned reasons, but also because there are a lot of websites out there with incorrect information.

Most of all...We are dealing with animals. Critters who can not speak for themselves. When we as humans take responsibility for these lives we need to first and foremost DO NO HARM. Many of the wild animals I receive whom people tried to doctor themselves at home could be considered 'Cruelty to Animal' cases. I often say 'People kill them with Kindness'.

I understand where the feeling comes from. People try to do the best they can, but simply do not know what is required.

When you think you see wildlife in need of help use the following steps:

For orphaned wildlife: Orphan
For adults wildlife: Adult Wildlife

Try to spread this message far and wide. Let's aim to prevent animals from suffering unnecessarily and never be afraid to ask for professional help...