What makes Opossums so cool?

You have seen the meme’s floating around telling you to love the Virginia Opossums because they eat ticks. They do and it is most certainly an endearing quality, but it  is not the only thing that makes Opossums so cool.

The teeth

Opossums have the most teeth of any North American mammal giving them their characteristic smile.  These teeth help these omnivorous scavengers devour road kill and other cadavers bone and all. This bone crunching ability helps them meet their very high nutritional requirement for calcium.

The Tail

Opossums have a prehensile tail. They use this tail as an aid while climbing. Contrary to popular believe they don’t sleep hanging upside down from their tail and being picked up by their tail is painful.



The Feet

Opossums have opposable thumbs on all 4 feet. Again and adaptation to help them climb.nhes0lohqlen7bfvbzsvow_thumb_7e08

The Pouch

Opossums are North America’s only marsupial. This means they carry their offspring in a pouch on their belly like a kangaroo.

20-30 very tiny babies are born after only a 13 day gestation. They crawl their way to the pouch and locate a nipple which they swallow. They stay in the pouch for about two months after which they start leaving the pouch intermittently and often simply ride on the mothers back. They wean after 3 months.

It is important to check on recently killed opossums you see on the road during the summer months. Often if the female gets killed the babies in the pouch who are cushioned by her body survive. If you find any babies who are still alive please contact your local wildlife custodian, SPCA, Humane Society or Animal Control for help.

Although both male and female have a pouch (much like men have nipples) it isn’t difficult to figure out the gender. The testicles of a male opossums have a blue colour to them and are hard to miss.


The Immunity

Opossums enjoy dining on snakes and as a result evolution gave them an immunity to a large variety of snake venoms. We don’t have many venomous snakes around Ontario, but opossums are a fairly recent arrival in our province and brought their venom immunity with them from the Southern US.

Despite their recent arrival they are not an invasive species as many believe them to be. They arrived here on their own accord and are not a human introduced species. This makes them now a natural part of the mammals living in our province.

The Body Temperature

Opossums have a significantly lower body temperature than most other mammals. This is what makes them less likely to contract rabies. They simply aren’t warm enough for the virus to survive.

It is however not impossible for opossums to get rabies as there have been a couple of recorded cases.

The lifespan

The average lifespan of an opossums is 4 years. This isn’t very long and certainly much less than most people expect.

Playing Possum

This is an involuntary physical response to danger which they share with fainting goats. If they think their life is in danger an opossum with go stiff and roll on their side. Their body bloats and starts giving off a putrid smell resembling being dead very closely. After some time passes they eventually will regain consciousness.

Despite the toothy grin they display biting or attacking is not the preferred defence, playing dead is.


Opossums are the definitive host for the EPM protozoa and if an infected opossum’s feces end up in horse feed can cause an unvaccinated horse to contract EPM. It is therefor best to keep opossums away from horse barns.

The frostbite

As more recent arrivals in our great province the Virginia Opossums has yet to evolve into being able to withstand our frosty cold winters. They create dens in which they sleep during the day and they are predominantly active during the night.

However when it is well below zero their naked feet, ear and tail easily freeze, so they often chose to stay in their den to prevent frostbite.

If the cold spell goes on for an extended period of time they have the option of freezing to death or starving to death.

Every year we admit a lot of opossums with frostbite. I hope evolution catches up soon and gives them nice furry feet, tails and ears.






Why bird feet don’t freeze

Many people have bird feeders out and get enjoyment out of seeing birds in their back yard during the winter months.

If you pay attention you will have noticed that birds are well covered with a thick layers of warm feathers with the exception of their legs and feet, yet somehow these naked, spindly little legs and feet don’t freeze.

Birds actually have a nifty heat exchange system in their legs called Rete Mirabile which helps them prevent freezing. They share this system with some other animals such as fish and some mammals such as sloth and lorises.

In bird feet the arteries run really close to the veins causing warm blood heading from the body to the legs to warm the cooler blood flowing back to the body. This system reduces heat loss and is further enhanced by the arteries which relocate from a position closer to the skin during the summer more to the center of the leg during the colder winter month.

Bird lower legs and feet don’t contain muscles (just tendons). This causes the legs and feet to need very little energy allowing for reduced blood supply.

When it is really cold however even this system needs a little help and you will see birds sitting down with their feet tugged up into the downy feathers on their chest/belly to prevent their feet from freezing.

Canada Goose Sitting down to prevent cold feet

During severe cold spells we often receive calls from people who think waterfowl are frozen to the ice which most often is simply a case of a waterbird sitting on the ice using its feathers to keep its feet warm. They are often reluctant to move because exposing their naked feet to the cold can cause them to freeze, much like our fingers and toes.


Many healthy birds, particularly waterfowl spent a lot of time preening ensuring their plumage is perfectly oiled. The oil is produced by their uropygial gland which is located at the base of their tail. The oil repels water making it that the birds don’t get wet, but it also prevents them from freezing to the ice.

Waterfowl who are not healthy and therefore have neglected their plumage will often appear wet. These are birds who need help right away. In those causes don’t hesitate to contact you local SPCA, Humane Society, Animal Control or Authorized Wildlife Custodian.

Some of the birds of prey have adapted by growing feathers further down their legs and sometimes even feet reducing the exposed skin portion of the leg. This of course also helps reduce heat loss.


Wildlife and Soccer Nets.

A Sunday morning call had us running around and ready to leave in minutes with all appropriate gear in tow. The call came from The city of Hamilton Animal Services asking for assistance with a deer entangled in a soccer net.

Cases involving deer are so difficult because deer are prey animals with an extraordinarily well developed flight instinct. They will do anything to get away even if they hurt or kill themselves in the process. Sedating an animal in such agitated state is very difficult, unpredictable and has a very mixed success rate.

It took a lot, but we managed to cut the deer free. He ran away while still having netting wrapped around his antlers, but there was nothing we could do about that. Unfortunately he didn’t run far. He collapsed in a ravine below after which he rolled into the water causing his one front legs to get stuck in the netting still stuck to his antlers. I decided I couldn’t leave him like that, so I made my way down the steep embankment and stepped into the creek. As I approached the deer I soon realized he was suffering from the lethal and non-reversible effects of Capture Myopathy.

Capture Myopathy occurs as a result of extreme fear or stress and I have seen it’s devastating effects more times than I can count. It broke my heart, but I knew I had to make the call to save the animal the agony of a slow miserable death.  I made my way back up the embankment and requested police assistance to help the animal out of his misery. Hamilton Police obliged and an officer did the deed.

It made all of us sad. Something so preventable. This is not the first time and likely not the last time I have been asked to assist or received wildlife stuck in soccer nets. Wild animals who move after dark simply can’t see the netting.

Not long ago we received a Great Horn Owl from the Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society who had also been stuck in a soccer net. This story luckily had a much happier ending as we got the owl back to health and returned her back to her wild home.


The solution which will prevent any of this is so simple. Please roll up the soccer nets when they are not in use.

They can so easily be rolled up and fastened with Velcro strips or ties to the top bar and it will prevent so much unnecessary wildlife suffering.

I ask anyone who reads this to please be an advocate and be pro-active not only by spreading the word, but by actually participating. Convince your city, town or township to roll up all soccer nets at the end of the day, or better yet pick a soccer park near you and be the person to do the job at the end of each day.





Barrie’s Lake – a wetland worth saving

This past weekend (September 24-25th, 2016) I was part of a BioBlitz at Barrie’s Lake. A BioBlitz is a gathering of scientific professional and hobbyists to inventory the flora and fauna of a natural area.

Barrie’s Lake is an 88-acre wetland in North Dumfries bordering on the city of Cambridge. Bernice Beal who is better know as “the turtle lady’ owns 83 of the 88 acres of wetland. Bernice bought the wetland some 15 years ago and that is pretty much when the battle to protect this wetland and its inhabitants began. A battle that among other things caused Bernice to purchase and additional 10 acres of land to prevent a gravel company from blasting for gravel too close to the lake.

As an Authorized Wildlife Custodian I became aware of Barrie’s Lake last year after questioning the large number of injured turtles coming to me from the Roseville Road area. Bernice, her daughter Sue and a group of like-minded locals have been doing their best to prevent turtle road casualties for years. Some of the not so lucky ones end up as ‘guests’ at Hobbitstee. Despite everyone’s best efforts, hundreds of turtles get killed each year on Roseville Road.

I finally made it out to Barrie’s Lake in person not long ago. I was traveling around returning turtles back to their habitats after they had recovered from injuries sustained as a result of above mentioned collisions with cars and I was very taken by what I saw.

me getting ready to release a Snapping Turtle at Barrie’s Lake

Barrie’s Lake was officially surveyed and designated a provincially significant wetland in 2004, but has not been resurveyed since. After speaking with several scientists I also learned that the wetland surveying is not intended as a full species survey like I had previously assumed making me think that a BioBlitz would be a great idea.

Over the years however scientists have visited Barrie’s Lake and particularly the migratory birds have been well documented. A recent survey of Shorebirds found a variety of 9 shorebirds and that list included Least Bitterns. Least Bitterns are listed as Threatened on the Species at Risk Ontario List, giving them and their habitat extra protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Over the years many other birds that are listed on the Species at Risk list have been spotted at Barrie’s Lake. Among them are the Bank Swallow (threatened), Bald Eagle (at risk), Barn Swallow (threatened), Chimney Swift (threatened) and after this weekends BioBlitz we can add the Rusty Blackbird (threatened) to the list.

The wetland also has been found a hunting ground for Bald Eagles, Osprey, Merlins and a variety of other birds of prey.

During the BioBlitz I had the pleasure of watching a large flock of wood ducks land, while the Sandhill Cranes took flight. It was amazing to watch the Belted Kingfishers dive for fish and the multitude of turtles bask. There was still a variety of butterflies busy visiting some wildflowers while many dragon flies practices their air-acrobatics.



One of the other great features of Barrie’s Lake is the presence of an Oak Savanna. Oak Savanna’s are not common in this part of Ontario. An Oak Savanna differs from an Oak Woodland by the openness of the trees. A lack of density allows for the trees to spread out in width and this creates a very unique landscape.

The presences of Wild Cranberries and Tamaracks are good indicators that Barrie’s Lake is a Fen. Fens are rare in Southern Ontario. They are very sensitive to slight alterations in pH and dependent on a certain nutrient consistency.

During the BioBlitz it was noted by experts that there is very little to no buffer zone  between the adjoining farmland and Barrie’s lake. The subsequent leaching of nutrients into the wetland will cause a change in the nature of the wetland, which in turn will effect the water, vegetation, and inhabitants of Barrie’s Lake. To permanently protect Barrie’s Lake this should be rectified.

Realistically Barrie’s Lake and its inhabitants are constantly threatened by human encroachment from all directions and with each small victory another threat materializes. No amount of laws, designations or mitigation seems to be able to protect this sensitive wetland and its inhabitants from further harm. Our laws intended to protect amazing natural gems such as Barrie’s Lake appear to be full of loopholes allowing for circumvention of protection for the sheer purpose of profit.

After a recent win to prevent the building of a cell tower Bernice and her family are now faced with the threat of a proposed development of the Cambridge side of Barrie’s Lake, which will negatively impact this very sensitive wetland.

However, we need to continue to strive for and celebrate each small victory. This weekend was a success. We cataloged many species of Flora and Fauna for future use while we enjoyed the beauty and peace at Barrie’s lake.

The myth surrounding baby songbirds

Here in Ontario songbird eggs will start to hatch soon. For us that means calls from people who have found a baby bird who has fallen from the nest.

Baby songbirds are very delicate and require the constant care of a parent. Most songbird parents lack the appropriate body parts to be able to pick up their fallen offspring and return them to the nest.

The big myth I want to debunk is that songbird parents will reject their young just because a human touched them and this is not true.

Meaning that it is perfectly okay for a person to pick up the fallen young and return it to the nest if it is within human reach.

I still recommend that you use gloves for your own safety and I would like to add to this that I do not advocate baby wildlife being handled willy-nilly, but when needed you can touch a baby bird without it being rejected by it’s parents.

If you can’t reach the nest or if the nest was destroyed for whatever reason. You can use something like a small margarine container (with holes in the bottom so it can’t fill up with water) lined with paper towel and hang it as near as you can get to the original nest site. Some metal wire can be helpful in securing it.

Now make sure that the area is as quiet as possible without human/pet presence to allow the parents to come back and adjust to the change.

At Hobbitstee when we get healthy songbird babies in who have been orphaned for some reason we often look for surrogate parents. Many, but not all species of songbird will readily care for a hatchling of the same species that is not their own.

We do this to allow the young to grow up like a normal songbird. No matter how hard we try as humans we make poor substitute wildlife parents.

When we get hatchlings in who are injured or we can’t foster with other birds we will raise them. This is a very delicate and time consuming undertaking. The feeding schedule for many baby birds is every half hour during daylight hours. There is also a huge variance in diets between species of songbirds and we work very hard to mimic their natural diets as much as we can so that they can grow up healthy.

One of the things that happens often later in the season is that people see fledglings and assume them to be orphaned. Fledglings are almost if not fully feathered and have left the nest to learn how to fly. The bird parents continue to care for the fledglings and if you watch (from an non-invasive distance) you can see the parents fly of and on with food.

House Finch Hatchling
Cedar Wax Wing Fledgling

It is therefor important to differentiate between baby birds who do and ones that don’t need your help. If the baby bird is almost fully feathered and is not injured it is likely a fledgling.

If you see a baby bird with little to no feathers out of the nest it does likely need help to either get returned to the nest if at all possible or to a rehab facility.

One of the common mistakes people make is to syringe water directly into the birds mouth. This can cause the bird to aspirate. Baby bird hatchlings actually don’t drink water. They get their fluids from the food they are fed.

Choosing the right diet for the right bird is important. Feeding a seed based diet to an insectivore as an example usually ends up killing the bird.

Determining what type of baby bird you are loking at can get really complicated when they don’t have feathers yet. Luckily at Hobbitstee we have some songbird identification experts on speed dial we call when we get stumped. It is important to get a correct identification so we know we are feeding an appropriate diet.

We also need to ensure that the hatchlings learn to be birds and learn appropriate bird and species-specific behavior. Imprinting on humans does not help the birds live a happy free bird life.

In Canada all the migratory birds are protected under Migratory Bird Conservation Act and in Ontario most non-migratory birds under the Fish and Wildlife Act meaning that without the appropriate permits it is a violation to be in possession of either.

Due to the time sensitive nature of baby birds it is appreciated that you get in touch with a wildlife rehabiliator as soon as you can and if at all possible help with transporting if need be.

The reasson why you should not feed injured/orphaned wildlife

Anyone who knows me has heard me say ‘Please don’t feed them’ over and over. This message can not be repeated often enough, but it was brought to my attention recently that I rarely take the time to explain why this is so important. My reason behind the lack of explanation is that it is a complex issue, but I have tried…(see below)

When you find what you perceive to be  wildlife in distress there is a process to follow to determine if the animal truly needs your help. I have discussed that process many times and we will move on to why you should not feed them.

Often the animals are cold meaning they lack the energy to maintain their own body temperature and they are in shock. Usually dehydration of varying degrees is also an issue.

To give food to any animal compromised in such a way is a death sentence. It takes energy to digest food, energy a lot of compromised wildlife already don’t have enough of. Every last bit of energy is being used to maintain critical bodily functions and simply put to force energy away from these critical functions for something as non-critical as digesting food will cause organ failure and death.

The process we go through here at Hobbitstee when we receive wildlife (who are always compromised) is a very delicate one. The process starts with warming them up.  Doing this takes away the energy requirement for the animal to maintain their own body temperature. We do this by using incubators, but also warmed IV fluids. This process takes a minimum of several hours and can take several days. We do not feed them until they are completely warm and re-hydrated. This is not something you can simulate at home. It requires knowledge, specialized equipment and products.

This is a fawn someone tried to raise for two weeks. This fawn was fed way to little of an already not appropriate food source. This fawn was euthanized due to irreversible organ damage as a direct result of improper care. 

The question than becomes what do we feed them? We feed our mammal orphans specially formulated milk-replacers custom made for us and custom formulated to meet the nutritional requirements (to the best of our ability) of the mammal orphan in question.

I say to the best of our ability because not much research is being done into the nutritional requirement of many of the species of wildlife we care for. This means we are constantly tweaking the formulations to get the best possible results.

These milk-replacers are not commercially available, so it boils down to that puppy nor kitten milk-replacer is appropriate for wildlife mammals. Neither is cows milk, almond milk, human baby formula or anything else that you can purchase at the store.

When it comes to baby birds their nutritional requirements are even more complicated and it is very species specific. Some birds are insectivores and need a large variety of insects to thrive (meal worms nutritionally are no more than filler).  Some birds strictly eat seeds, so their offspring needs an appropriate variety of hand feeding formula every half hour. Some birds are fructivores, so berries and such are what they need…Never mind the strict pscivores who can only eat fish.

A common mistake made is using bread. Bread is not a good food source for any specie of wildlife plain and simple. Don’t use it.

You see that all this can become very confusing and the wrong food to the wrong animal at the wrong time can also cause serious gastric upset or death. If the wrong food is given at the wrong time diarrhea is a common result.  The animals in our care are already compromised in some way (that is why we have them in the first place) and their bodies can’t handle diarrhea on top of their other issues, so death is a common result of feeding the wrong food source at the wrong time.

This is an Eastern Grey Squirrel Baby someone attempted to raise, it did not survive more than half hour after it came into my care. The cause of death dehydration/undernourishment as a result of diarrhea caused by the feeding of an  inappropriate food source.

Another question becomes; Do you know how much to feed them? We use complicated scientific calculations to calculate how much of what food source our wildlife need to eat to grow/develop normally or to recover from an injury.

Any website that gives you DIY information on injured/orphaned wildlife is by default wrong. It is illegal for people to have wildlife in their possession, so these websites are encouraging people to break the law. Aside from that there is no one-size-fits-all type of information I can give besides get the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as you can.

That is how you help injured and orphaned wildlife best. Make the time and take the time to get the animal the appropriate care as soon as you can. We need to make sure the animal in question is truly in need of care. We establish that by asking you questions. Please have patience with us, answer our questions and please do as we ask even if you don’t like it. We always have the wildlife’s best interest in mind and sometimes that means we have to hurt people’s feelings.

Only Authorized Wildlife Custodians are allowed to care for sick/injured/orphaned wildlife. Don’t get angry if we ask you to drive to us. We get hundreds of calls a day and we all operate on a non-for profit basis without any type of government funding. We simply don’t have the time or funds to drive and pick up each and every animal.

Help us by driving the animal out asap and maybe leave us with a donation towards the animal(s) you are asking us to care for if you can…and PLEASE DON’T FEED THEM





Animals and Volunteering

This blog post will not be entirely wildlife related, but I feel compelled to write it anyway.

I am a huge proponent of children getting positive experiences and encounters with animals of all sorts. Often children who are more introverted seem to be able to express themselves better if they can engage with animals.

I have spent my lifetime being an extreme animal lover (ask my parents, it is true). Now as an adult I find nothing more rewarding than using my skills and knowledge to teach young people and often adults about animals. For the couple of years or so I have had the opportunity to volunteer with my dogs at our locale Youth Prison. This facility houses youth (teenagers up to the age of 18) who are incarcerated because they have committed crimes.





It is amazing to see my dogs do their thing. They give these often troubled boys an hour to run around, play and laugh. They will sit and be petted and hugged. The youth will often ask me to tell or retell the story of the individual dog’s live. However corny it might sound, there is a little lesson there…The dogs had a rough life and behaved badly because of it. They got a second chance and they learned right from wrong and now they have a good life.

It is so rewarding to see the boys play, goof and cuddle with the dogs and in the process learn all about empathy and caring.

During last years spring kidding season (unrelated to joking, but goats having their babies) I occasionally would swap out a dog in favor of a new born goat kid. The boys and staff got great enjoyment out of this. One boy in particular made me laugh by telling one of the prison guards to stand back from the goat kid the boy was holding. The goat kid had been sleeping in the arms of the boy and the guard startled it by walking up and abruptly petting it. This display of caring for this particular boy was new.

With that experience in mind I hatched an idea and with the help of the prison staff AG-DAY was born. I got permission to bring livestock into to the big fenced in yard of the prison and the kids where allowed to come out in small groups and visit with the animals. I brought my goats and their kids, Molly the Wonder Donkey and a gorgeous Jersey cow borrowed from a neighboring farm. One of the prison staff brought several riding school horses. This turned into a day I will not soon forget. One of the youth stepped out into the yard and exclaimed out loud ‘I am in heaven’, he walked up to one of my goat kids picked her up and sat down with her to pet her and did not let go of her for an hour. Seeing all of these rough teens with huge smiles on their faces as they took turns riding a horse, feeding carrots to the donkey and milking my goats was a sight to see.

With the help of a wildlife rehabber friend and some borrowed educational wildlife we had a Wildlife day this year on Valentines day. The science teacher and myself had met prior so the youth had been learning about nature and turtles and raptors in particular for several weeks prior to getting an up close and personal experience with them. Their questions and observation where so interesting. I was the one with the turtles of course and several of the boys asked me if the turtles could actually see and hear them. They also got to name one of the turtles and the name Leonardo was the one picked.

I am sure me taking just a couple hours out of my day has saved turtle lives. These boys will never purposely run over a turtle after meeting several up close.  Several found a new respect for wildlife that day. Something they probably never thought much about in the past.

Where am I going with this you might ask? I want to urge all readers of this particular blog to find a volunteer activity somewhere that gives you as much satisfaction as volunteering at the youth prison gives me. Pick whatever you think will make you smile. There is something for every one…Go walk dogs at your local SPCA, read the paper to people in nursing homes, volunteer at a school or a prison. Don’t tel me you don’t have time, make time! I can guarantee you will not regret it.

At Hobbitstee we have some very special volunteers as well, but that is not for everyone. We need volunteers in all capacities. Drivers who can assist with getting animals from point A to B are in very short supply and high demand. We also need help with paperwork, grant applications, fundraising and we have cages that need building, so if you are handy you are welcome too…

Visit the volunteer page on our website for more information on volunteer opportunities at Hobbitstee

Volunteer Opportunities

If you have never done volunteer work give it a try, you will find you get more back than you give every time!

Wildlife Orphans


It is the time of year when wildlife mothers start having their babies. Raccoon kits and the first litters of baby squirrels have already been born

Every year we receive thousands of calls in regards to wildlife orphans. We try to assist in as many ways as possible, but we are limited by funds and space. This is one of the reasons why we try to ensure the babies we care for a truly orphaned and we might ask you to return the babies back to the nest.

However, the main reason we want to ensure babies are truly orphaned that no matter how hard we try humans make a poor substitute for actual species appropriate parents. Try as we might it is near impossible to replicate the care wildlife mothers bestow on their offspring.

Wildlife mothers really just want their babies back and that they are unlikely to reject their babies because a human handled them. I don’t advocate for the random handling of wildlife and this should be reserved for cases where it is absolutely necessary.

This year it is especially important to keep wildlife handling at a minimum because there have been rabies positive raccoons and skunks found in our area. All mammals can contract rabies, so use caution.

Please don’t try to raise the babies yourself. This is not only a violation under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, but it is also not in the animal’s best interest and it could potentially put your and your family’s health at risk.

And please DO NOT FEED THE BABIES…no matter what Google says. The wrong food at the wrong time will cause death.

We can be reached at: 519-587-2980

Our website has more detailed information on what to do when you find wildlife in need of care: www.hobbitstee.com

For a full list of wildlife rehabbers visit: Wildlife Custodian Map

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. Please follow the instructions…we know what we are talking about.


  1. 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 MNRF.


  1. 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.


  1. Never handle any type of wildlife with without gloves.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.

To help us help more wildlife, please make a tax deductible donation

Click here to donate


The great Blanding’s Turtle migration…

I have to get this of my chest. I can’t stop forming images in my head of Blanding’s Turtles walking down the road carrying all their worldly belongings in a suitcase as they make the epic journey down to the newly created wetland.

But wait a minute…it is not going to happen this way because we lack the skills to properly ‘notify’ the Blanding’s Turtles and other wildlife of the impending threat to their existence.

Blanding’s Turtle we helped recover after getting hit by a car in a protected area

All silliness aside, I am referring to the recent proposal made to the provincial government by a major developer.

link to the proposal

This developer would like to build a subdivision on a protected wetland area near Ottawa. This area is protected because it has Butternut trees (listed SARO endangered), Least Bitterns frequent it (listed SARO threatened)  and Blanding’s Turtle’s live there(listed SARO Threatened).

Least Bittern we had in our care after it sustained a head injury from the slipstream of a truck

In the proposal it states that the developer will create a wetland at an alternate location to ‘make up’ for the one that will be destroyed. That is great, but turtles are not exactly the serious migratory type…So despite the romanticized fairy tale I used earlier, in reality this means putting a subdivision on top of the Blanding’s Turtles…and destroying their habitat which will mean the majority (if not all) of the Blanding’s Turtles currently present in that wetland will die and it will also greatly effect the other herptiles who live in that wetland.

Granted female turtle’s will travel to lay eggs in a location that meets their criteria, but I can’t see how they can be motivated to move at mass to a newly created wetland within a time frame designated by a developer.

Turtle’s do everything slow…Look at them, they are modern day dinosaurs. Evolution can’t even make them hurry.

The proposal also request permission to remove 120 Butternut trees, but the remaining trees that are there will be fenced in so that they are protected…and they will collect seeds and replant seedlings…but 120 mature butternut trees will be destroyed…

The developer makes many suggestions in the proposal in an attempt to appear to minimize interference with the current SARO listed species present in this wetland,  but a lot of those measures seem unrealistic and far fetched to me.

I can’t help but think…if a new wetland can be created in an alternate location…would it not be much simpler to build the subdivision in this alternate location and leave the existing wetland and the species it harbors alone?





Rabies in Ontario

Recently several raccoons tested positive for the raccoon strain of rabies in our area. Until December of 2015 we had not seen a documented positive case since 2005 of this type of rabies.

In the past fox strain and raccoon strain of rabies was brought under control through strategic dropping of vaccine-laced bait by the MNRF who developed and administers this program.

With the recent resurfacing of raccoon strain of rabies, bait dropping will be increased for the effected areas and hopefully this will work as well as it has in the past and bring raccoon rabies back under control.

Ontario has however never been rabies free. Bats do not eat vaccine laced bait, so we have always had positive cases of bat strain rabies in Ontario.

Just because this type of rabies is called raccoon strain it does not mean that only raccoons can get it. Realistically any mammal can contract any strain of rabies. Raccoons are simply more susceptible to the raccoon strain.

Early January of this year a cow in Perth County (Stratford area) tested positive for the arctic-fox strain of rabies. The how’s and why’s are a whole different story, but it proves my point about rabies strains being non-discriminatory and a health concern to all mammals.

Symptoms of rabies can vary and can basically be summarized as an animal behaving oddly (no fear of people, being overly aggressive, biting at thing, super excited behavior etc). Unfortunately these symptoms closely mimic the symptoms of Canine Distemper. Our raccoon population has been plagues by canine distemper for some time and visually the symptoms look pretty much identical to rabies. Both these diseases are usually lethal and testing for either disease is done post-mortem.

Rabies is considered a human health concern and Canine Distemper is a dog health concern (as the name indicates). It is important that you ensure your pets are up to date on their vaccines. It is actually mandatory to vaccinate your dogs and cats for rabies. Canine Distemper is also included in a basic vaccination protocol for dogs as are other commonly occurring diseases such as Parvo. Both the rabies and distemper vaccine for dogs has been proven to be effective in most cases.

Transmission of the rabies usually occurs through contact with saliva of an infected animal and is lethal in most cases. For humans we have post-exposure shots available. If you think you have been in contact with a rabid animal it is important that you contact your local health unit immediately.

If you see a mammal behaving oddly contact MNRF rabies hot line: 1-888-574-6656

If you suspect a domestic animal has been in contact with a rabid animal please contact OMAFRA: 1-877-424-1300

In all cases please err on the side of caution and don’t take any unnecessary risk.