Wildlife SOS – What You Can Do!

Wildlife SOS!

Your health and safety should always be your first concern – never do anything you are not comfortable with.

If it is safe to do so, confine the animal to a cardboard box in a warm, dark quiet place. If you have to handle the animal, wear thick gloves to protect yourself. There are, however, some species that may still injure you even with gloves on, and Wild at Heart does not recommend attempting to handle any of the following animals: adult rodents, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, loons, bears, and herons. In the case of a cottontail rabbit, it is best not to pick it up at all as it can kick out and break its back this way. For the above animals, it is better to use a board to gently push the animal into a large cage or kennel cab. In the case of a heron, it is best that the bird be contained in a large cardboard box.

If it is not safe to confine the animal, try to block off the area where the animal is so that it cannot escape while you are waiting for help. Call Wild at Heart at (705) 692-4478.

If Wild at Heart is closed, please put the contained animal in a warm, quiet room or garage, and call back in the morning.

Do not offer the animal anything to eat or drink until you have spoken with a Wild at Heart staff representative. Your instinct to feed the animal may be strong, but doing so can actually be very bad for the animal’s health.

While you are waiting for a call back, please keep noise levels low (including tv and music), and do not look at the animal. Keep pets and children away from the animal. Even if it does not seem so, wild animals find it very stressful to be looked at and talked to by humans. Wildlife instinctively try to look as strong as possible no matter how sick or injured they are, since they know that showing weakness can attract predators. It will feel safest if left alone.

Birds colliding with windows is a common problem, especially during migration seasons.

Some birds migrate during the day, and some migrate at night. The ones who migrate in daylight often hit windows because the glass reflects the trees and sky, making the glass itself essentially invisible to flying birds. The solution has to do with reducing the reflection on the outside of the window. The organization FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) has an excellent website with many tips on preventing birds from hitting windows. www.flap.org

Birds that migrate at night are attracted to light, so office towers and other large structures that emit light are especially dangerous for these birds. You will find helpful information on helping to minimise these types of bird strikes at www.flap.org as well.

There are also situations where a single bird may be repeatedly flying into a window on purpose. This most often happens during mating season, when a territorial bird sees a reflection of itself and tries to attack what it believes is an intruder. This may go on for hours, or even days. The solution is, again, the reduction of reflection on the window. A temporary solution would be to tape newspaper to the outside of the window, or wipe soapy water on the glass. It is important to apply the paper or soap to the outside of the window.

If you have a found a bird that has injured itself by flying into a window, please confine the bird to a cardboard box. If the bird has any obvious signs of injury, like a droopy wing or any blood showing, call Wild At Heart Refuge Centre. If the bird appears stunned (no obvious signs of injury but will not fly away), confine the bird to a cardboard box and leave it in a quiet spot for an hour. Check back, and if the bird still does not fly away, call Wild At Heart.

The first things to know are:

1) Wild animals do not make good pets.
2) In most cases, it is actually illegal to keep wild animals as pets.

Why don’t wild animals make good pets? While domestic animals have had their wild instincts bred out of them over centuries of living alongside humans, wild animals are a very different story. They still maintain many wild instincts even when raised by humans, and this can be dangerous for both humans and the animals alike.

When a young wild animal reaches sexual maturity, it will naturally become very aggressive with whomever it considers its family. To many people, the onset of this type of behaviour seems like the ideal time to release the animal back into the wild. However, by this point, the animal would face real challenges to its survival: not having had the proper training from its natural parents, it would not know how to avoid predators, socialize with its own species, or find its natural food items.

Therefore, while it may seem exciting and exotic to have a wild animal as a pet, it really is not fair to deny this type of animal the life it would have in its natural environment. If you have a situation involving a wild animal that has been raised by humans, do not release it. Call Wild at Heart for advice.

There are always thousands of domestic animals in shelters that need homes – animals that would love to be a part of your family!

Please keep wildlife in your heart, not in your home.

If you have a situation involving a wild animal living in part of your home or on your property, there are solutions that are safe and humane for the animal, and very effective for you, the homeowner.

Trapping and relocating nuisance wildlife used to be considered the best option for resolving these situations, but we now know that there are many drawbacks to this approach:

  • The animal does not usually survive the relocation. When introduced to a new and unfamiliar area, a relocated animal has no idea where to find food, water or shelter, and has to contend with other wildlife defending the territory they already occupy.
  • There is a high risk of causing the orphaning of wild babies. Young of the relocated animal are often left behind, and by the time the babies are found, there is no way to re-unite them with their mother. Relocation can also encourage the spread of diseases such as rabies. As a result, it is now illegal to relocate wild animals.

If you have found a deer fawn sitting alone in the grass, do not touch or attempt to contain it. It is normal for does to leave their fawns alone for short periods of time. Fawns are born scentless and therefore difficult for predators to detect unless attention is drawn to them. The doe will return for the fawn later. However, there are cases where fawns need our help. If the fawn seems sick or injured, is walking by itself for an extended period of time, or is making any noises, call Wild at Heart. Do not feed the fawn.

Wild at Heart does not encourage feeding wild animals for several reasons:

  • Feeding wild animals encourages them to view humans as a food source, when humans should be viewed as the potentially dangerous predators they are. It may be tempting to offer food to a cute raccoon that has been coming to your backyard, but what happens when that same raccoon approaches another person who does not have such good intentions? That person may feel threatened and may harm the animal, not realizing the raccoon has been trained to expect food from a human. Wild at Heart receives many calls about conflicts with wildlife for this very reason.
  • Feeding wild animals discourages them from foraging for their natural food sources. This can lead to health problems, as fed wildlife may not get all of the necessary nutritional requirements from what is for them an unnatural, and very likely unbalanced, diet. For example, many people enjoy feeding bread to Canada geese. Unfortunately, bread is not a nutritious or natural food source for geese, and the result is that they produce much more feces than they would with a more nutritional diet. This is because there is less nutrients to absorb into the goose’s system, so more is passed as waste. It is therefore best to allow the animals to find and eat their natural food items.
  • Feeding wildlife often encourages different species to congregate together when they would not naturally do so, leading to potentially fatal problems for some wildlife. Backyard bird feeders (especially ones that are not cleaned out on a regular basis) often harbour bacteria and other organisms which can cause infections in some birds.

Knowing all of this, it is easy to see that there are many more benefits to not feeding wildlife than there are to feeding them. If you would like to offer a food source to wild animals, consider planting native flowers, shrubs and trees in your yard that would offer a natural food source, while at the same time providing shelter and other habitat benefits.

Wild at Heart has many different volunteer positions, so whether you would like to work directly with our wild patients or would prefer to help in other areas, you will find a position that is just right for you! To find out more, please visit our Volunteers page. Animal care volunteers must be at least 16 years old.

Wild at Heart is a non-profit organization and registered charity. Donations are gratefully accepted and are used to buy items such as food, medication, and building materials for enclosures. Your donation is tax deductible. You can also make a donation in memory of a loved one, or for a special occasion. Visit our Support page or contact us for more information on tribute gifts.

Thank you for your support!

For information on the status of at-risk and endangered species in Ontario, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’s website.