Animal Stories

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with mange from Elliot Lake, Summer 2017

This mangey fox was admitted from Elliot Lake after bylaw officers caught the sick fox in a live trap. The fox was brought to our Centre by kind-hearted volunteers right away for treatment. It had lost vision from the mange, was underweight and weak, and was friendly to humans as it looked for food. Our staff immediately put the fox in quarantine to prevent the spread of mange to any other animals at our Centre. After giving it its first round of medication, our next focus was helping the fox regain weight. Natural foods like mice were offered, as well as places to hide and den in the cage. As the fox recovered, its beautiful coat returned. It was released back into the wild where it had originally been found. Thank you to everyone in Elliot Lake for all their help!

Orphaned White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Fawns, Summer 2017

Orphaned white-tailed deer fawns are bottle-fed specialized formula, and stimulated regularly to ensure proper digestion. Their milk has specific nutrients and diet requirements for ungulates, or hoofed mammals, and cannot be purchased at a grocery store or pet store. They are very social animals which need to be raised with other deer to ensure a successful release back into the wild. Wild at Heart admitted two fawns in the summer of 2017. As these fawns grew, they were offered a variety of branches, grasses, and fruits and vegetables around their cage so they could practice foraging techniques. They also grew up together: oftentimes they could be seen cleaning each other after eating, and following each other around the cage! As they grew stronger, they grew more curious of their cage, and explored and ran about. They were successfully released to the Fielding’s property on Manitoulin Island on October 19, 2017.

Weasel Feeding

Weasel Feeding

Raccoons Get Zucchini Boat Treat

Zucchini Boat Treat for the Raccoons

Orphaned Groundhog (Marmota monax), Summer 2017


This groundhog was admitted as an orphan on June 6, 2017. It was found in scrap yard with no obvious injuries. It was weaned off formula while at our Centre, while also being offered fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as browse and lots of dirt. We also provided natural branches and plants like dandelions in the cage. As he grew in age and strength, he was moved to an outside cage (pictured), where he had more places to explore and hide. He was successfully released back where he was found on July 7, 2017.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) with broken leg, Summer 2017


This young red fox kit was admitted to our Centre with a broken leg, and couldn’t weight-bear on the leg. Our veterinarian sedated the fox and added a splint and larger cast to stabilize and support the leg. As the leg healed, our team kept getting x-rays to make sure the bones were setting properly.


The fox also had mange, which meant it was losing its fur and losing weight. It was given some medication to treat the mange. After a month, the cast was removed, and small enrichment toys and structures were added to its cage to help it regain strength in its leg muscles. It was successfully released back into the wild on August 5, 2017.


Rough-Legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) Banding and Release, Spring 2017

Raptors (birds of prey) require a special release process, and require a more involved rehabilitation process due to their injuries and diet requirements. This rough-legged hawk arrived early in 2017 after being hit by a car, and slowly began to recover with the help of enrichment surfaces and perches in its cage.

Raptor Banding & Release: Wild at Heart "Vet Techniques"

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) Banding and Release, Summer 2016


This great horned owl came to Wild at Heart as a fledgling on June 10th from Timmins, ON. As a fledgling, it did not have its adult flight feathers in, strong flight muscles, or strong hunting skills. The owl was moved to a large flight cage where it could practice hunting and flying with very minimal contact from our restricted animal care interns to prevent imprinting. Before raptors are released at WAH, we band them (pictured) to track where they migrate to. On August 10th, 2016 this owl was driven back to Timmins where it will grow stronger in the wild as a top predator.


Fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) Eating Browse

Fawn Eating Browse

Orphaned Porcupette

Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum

This porcupine arrived from Sheguiandah on May 12th from a farmland. The rescuer found the mother killed by a farmer’s ATV after finding her with track marks on her. The porcupette was brought in after it had been walking around alone for a few days. We raised the porcupine on species-specific formula, while transitioning to solid foods like fruits, vegetables, and rodent block. She was moved to an outside pen where she had less contact with people and could practice climbing branches, trunks, and through containers, preparing her for life in the wild. She was successfully released at the end of summer 2016.


Injured Adult Snapping Turtle Update

Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina

13701075_1041713185905997_6346630903040168330_oThis snapping turtle came in on June 10th after it was found hit by a car near Azilda. It had sustained an open wound on its carapace (shell). To treat the wound, we have13734934_1041712249239424_8930079837761469286_o been flushing the wound with a disinfectant (Proviodine) daily. Over time, the wound has closed so we can now scrub it to prevent an infection. We also noticed the turtle has parasites on its skin, which were removed and treated. This turtle was released in the spring of 2017 after it over-wintered with us recovering.

Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes

This fox came in February 2016 with a severe case of sarcoptic mange. This is a very common disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Mites burrow into the outer layer of the skin to form tunnels. In these they leave eggs, faeces, shed shell, and digestive secretions which causes severe skin irritation.

Symptoms of mange include: extreme hair and weight loss, red blotchy skin, a ‘hunchback’ appearance when standing and walking, frequent scratching, and an overall dull and confused demeanor. To treat mange, foxes are given two doses of medication, 2 weeks apart. You can see the drastic improvement in the fox from the pictures below. All foxes are under restricted access at Wild at Heart to prevent them becoming at all tame to humans.

Did you know? Foxes are smaller than most members of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, coyotes, jackals. They are omnivores and generally do not live in packs. Foxes rely on their incredible hearing to alert them to the presence of rodents.

Short-tailed Weasel, Mustela erminea

Did You Know? Short-tailed weasels live about 4 to 6 years. They often will kill all of the prey they encounter and save it to ensure that they have food during the harsh times of the year. Weasels have the same hunting and killing tactics as a jaguar.


A Bit About Me: This weasel was found in March 2016 in someone’s kitchen and suffered from minor head trauma. The weasel chews on many different enrichment toys in his cage – he is always busy! To clean his cage we put on thick, leather gloves that go all the way past your elbow to protect us from his bite. The weasel is usually fed mice and canned cat food that is measured based on his weight.

Herring Gull, Larus argentatus

Fun Fact: Herring Gulls are the most familiar gulls (often called just ‘seagulls’) in the North Atlantic. Herring Gulls prefer to drink freshwater, but can drink salty seawater when necessary – they have a special gland located over the eyes, which allows them to discrete the salt that would otherwise dehydrate them!

This herring gull was brought in December 2015 because it was unable to fly. One wing had an old break, and the beak, feet, and wrists had wounds. The wounds were treated with antibacterial cream, and the gull was provided with a variety of soft surfaces to help prevent the development of more sores on the feet. The gull was also given padded boots to wear (as seen in the picture below). Eating fish and lots of fresh fruits and veggies, this gull is recovering quickly, and is often seen enjoying a bath.

Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus

This snowy owl came to us from Blind River on January 30, 2016, and was released March 4th by the rescuer. When determining if a raptor is ready to be released, we:
1. Check the bird is flight-ready and has been self-feeding well.

2. Release the animal within 15 km of where it was found so they know where resources and shelter can be found, and are adapted to the local environment and any pathogens.

3. Make sure the weather for the release day is good.

4. Band the raptor (as seen on the right) so people can go online and report the migration routes and successful release of the bird.

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Massage a Bald Eagle?

At the end of February 2016, Wild at Heart admitted an injured bald eagle. As you can see in the picture, this eagle is quite large and is probably a female (they are 1/3 larger than males). She was caught in a snare on Manitoulin Island and suffered a fairly serious injury to her right wing with a lot of damage to her patagium. The patagium is the leading (front) edge of a bird’s wing between the shoulder and wrist. When extended, marks on this part of the wing can be useful for identification particularly for birds of prey or raptors – hawks, eagles, etc. The patagium is thin and flexible, giving birds better aerodynamic flight and allowing them a high degree of control over their maneuverability.

She was radiographed at Walden Animal Hospital and thankfully had no evidence of bone fractures. However, injuries to the patagium can be very serious and during healing, the tissues and ligaments can contract and form scar tissue which could interfere with flight. Raptors need to be very accurate in their flight in order to capture their prey while flying at full speed. Less than perfect flight can result in starvation and death.

Researchers in Spain have just completed a study on this type of injury and have discovered that they could get good results by the following protocol: hot water massage followed by Z massage (massage along the long axis of the ligamentous structure on the front lead of the wing by massaging the tissue in a perpendicular fashion to the long axis) (seen on left). This is then followed by extension and flexion of the wing and finally stretching the wing (seen on right).

Finally, we applied honey to the injured skin (it has been found that honey often outperforms other medical ointments to treat infection). These procedures are all attempted to help decrease any chance of contracture and shortening of these tissues during healing. So yes, eagles can benefit from a massage. If held firmly with her head covered, she was quite resigned to having this procedure done. But beware, her talons could go right through your hand in a split second.

After this type of care for a couple of weeks, we will transfer her to another center in southern Ontario where she can relearn the fine points of flight in a 100 foot long flight cage. We hope to have a flight cage one day but they are expensive and we will need to save our dollars for a while.

Bald Eagle Physiotherapy

Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos

A bit about me: Brought in all the way from Timmins in December 2015, this duck was unable to fully extent its wings when flying. It had small injuries to its wing, but no fractures. Once the wounds had healed, our interns began physio on the left wing under the direction of a veterinarian volunteering their time. The video below shows one of interns doing the physiotherapy with the goal of extending the range of motion, which has been successful thus far. In the spring, we will look to release this duck within 15 kilometres of where it was found. This ensures an animal is returning to an area it is adapted to – conditions, food, and immunity to diseases in the area. Wild at Heart strives to release all animals within 15 kilometres of where they are found and when it is safe to do so.