Monday, 11 April 2011

Wildlife Rehab in Ontario

By Barry Kent MacKay

A supporter recently wrote about an all-too-familiar problem.  He had an adult raccoon in the attic and called an animal control service.   The company live-trapped the animal in order to relocate it.  But after catching the animal they called back to say “...they had killed the raccoon for no apparent reason.”

I won’t name the company, but I will say that I have had complaints about the same company before.

Then, according to the correspondent, the company called back to say they thought the animal they had killed had babies.   That should have been determined before trapping was even considered.

The writer checked the attic and found six baby raccoons.  He wrote, “This seemed like a very sketchy company from the get go and when my mom had told them that we found the babies and were looking for a  home for them, they immediately came and picked them up (I was not aware of this).  I talked to a good friend who works for the ministry [of natural resources] and she informed me that the babies cannot live without the mother and since the mother was already dead, the babies were killed as well.  I am absolutely furious that they killed the mother knowing it had babies.”

The writer claimed he had “found a place that would have taken care” of the baby raccoons, but that the wildlife control company “...told us that it is illegal to posses these wild animals and that they had to pick them up right away.”

The story illustrates exactly what is wrong in Ontario and with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The “good friend” who works for the Ministry was wrong.  Orphaned raccoon babies can be raised by humans who are properly trained and equipped to do so, in a manner that allows them to survive in the wild.  The process by which this happens is called “wildlife rehabilitation”, or “wildlife rehab” and it and the knowledge and procedures to do it successfully for raccoons are very well established.  Success, in terms of giving the orphan babies a chance equal to what they would have experienced had their mother been left alone, has been confirmed by research.

Of  course the mother animal should never have been removed, let alone killed, and a reputable service would never have done any of this, seeking first to leave the animals in place for the short time it takes until the mother could tend to the young away from the attic, and then rendering the attic raccoon-proof.

But here is the irony.  In order to qualify for a license to do animal control, you face virtually no restriction, and can pretty much do as you please, and neither the public nor the animals are protected against unscrupulous companies providing bad, and lethal, “service” and lying about it, as well.

But to qualify for a license to do wildlife rehab one must face onerous restrictions and control, some of which seem designed to prevent people from ever wanting to acquire the necessary permit.  Also, some of the restrictions do not allow, in the opinion of many wildlife rehabbers, the best likelihood of the animals surviving.  Many would-be rehabbers have been forced to either quit providing this service, or to go underground, meaning they can’t make their services known, and thus are not known to the public who needs them.   The result of this is that many people who lack proper training and equipment try to raise orphaned animals on their own, often with disastrous results to the animal.  It is illegal to move an animal more than a kilometre from where it was captured so even if the animal control company were to move the animal, it would return.

I am as angry as our correspondent is at the wildlife control company involved, and others who are no better, but to stop them requires better legislation than exists, and that includes laws that support, not oppose, the practice of wildlife rehabilitation, the most important part of which is educating the public about the nature of “problem” animal situations and how to deal with them effectively and humanely.  But mainly I blame Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government for reneging on promises to reform the situation to allow a more balanced approach with wide representation from the wildlife rehab community to address the problems and work out resolutions.   It was a sham, and results in the deaths of animals who could be and should be saved, and in putting the public at risk to the shoddy charlatans who too often inhabit the animal control industry.


SquirrelWhisperer said...

Your post is so very sad, but so very true for so many.
As a mother and animal lover I have always had a very special place in my heart for those people or creatures in need of assistance.

In 2009, I found myself in the care of a litter of 5 baby (Black)Grey Squirrels. I called the Toronto Wildlife Rehab and was told several things. 1. You are out of area. (I'm in Oshawa, in the GTA) 2. We do not take in squirrels until they are 'furred'. (out of luck there as these 4 girls and their brother were no more than a day or two old. 3. I was told to place them back outdoors (a FREEZING March day) so Mama Squirrel could pick them up. She never did.

By the second day the babies were dehydrated, and had suffered greatly from the cold conditions (even though I kept warm water bottles in the box constantly). When I called back, they told me the babies should be killed.

NOT ON MY WATCH. I worked round the clock trying to bring the babies back up to snuff... but unfortunately they had suffered too much time away from care. I lost all but one, "Bonnie", a lovely squirrel-girl that made my life just the ultimate bit of chaos... but I adored every minute of it. I pre-released her in July, and released her in August 2009. She is my buddy.. comes into my lap and hops on my shoulder to get her favourite snacks ever since.

Last year, a female juvenile, about 5 weeks of age was brought to my door in July, at about 1 am one night. Scared the daylights out of me to get a knock so late. My daughters gf had found her in her backyard, having fallen from her drey. She too was raised by me, pre-released and released.

I am SO hoping there will be no need this year, but if there is, I truly hope the folks will think of me (a non-licensed squirrel-whisperer) for the sake of the poor orphaned fuzzle-loves. I don't care WHAT the Province thinks... I will not stand by and watch an animal die, needlessly!

Kudos to you for your loving attitude... I do wish everyone had a heart as big as yours.

Keep up the good work - AWARENESS is the BIG picture here. :)

Jac said...

What an incredible story. I find myself searching for an answer about what to do. We had a mommy and babies living in the 'fake window peak" between our neighbours house and ours. The neighbor called what seemed to be a licensed trapper of which i WILL name, They layed 2 traps - one on either side of the house. They caught mommy -- left her in a hot trap on Sunday (38 degrees) for the entire day -- we fed her and put ice cubes on her cage so she could get water. They picked up the mom and said they would back for the babies in a few days -- that the babies would get hungry and come out and that's when they would retrieve them.

Four days have passed -- they were right in the sense the babies are coming out of their home -- one fell off the roof and died, one the neighbor pulled from the eaves trough (sp?) -- neighbor called Hawkeye again and TODAY the company said they aren't coming back ... that it's too high up for them (we are a two story) -- that if we wanted the two remaining babies out then we had to remove the window etc etc. REALLY?? today they say this? My heart is breaking that there are babies in there in need of their mommy (is she still alive?), in need of food and water .. its 41 degrees out today! I don't know what to do. They are so very expensive -- $150/animal they pick up -- we are up to $450 because they first caught a skunk.

The website says they are licensed ... what did the do with the mommy? Is it not illegal to remove the mommy without her babies? Who can I report this to? I need to save the remaining little creatures. I don't want them living in my roof but I most certainly don't want them to be hurt or suffer -- this is all heart breaking.

Someone please give me some direction?

June Watchorn said...

I have saved grey squirrels raised and released
I live in country on over 7 acres of bush
I loved that little boy and it cared about me as I saved it from death
I'd do it again if needed I would aswell take in orphans to raise and release on my land in a heart beat
I love animals have saved many wild and tame animals in my life
Anyone can contact me if they need too
Aka Elle Mae