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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Fawns

Because the majority of the fawns we cared for last year where not actually orphaned or injured, but fawn-napped by people. I am on a mission to better educate people so that they understand the natural behavior of these animals and as a result reduce the number of fawns who get mistakenly end up in care.

First and foremost like with many other species of wildlife babies, 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 kidnapped by humans.

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

Man Braves Nith River to rescue a fawn

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

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

Both these fawns needed to be here and where successfully released.

Last year 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 was returned to where it was found and reunited with its mother.

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.

a short video of fawn behavior

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.

Mother deer will gladly have their babies back and will spent 48-72 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.

Last year there was 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 us from being able to reunite fawn and mother, but it also often results in cases of unintentional cruelty to animals.

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. Fawns who are raised by humans without con-specific interaction will grow up with an identity crisis. These animals do not realize they are actually deer and will not know to approach other deer or how to live in a normal herd of deer. An example of a human habituated deer story

This might look really cute, but is in fact really sad behavior. The animal in that story has no chance at surviving as a result of his human habituation.

Fawns 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 (a dehydrated fawn often has curled up ears) 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.

list of wildlife rehab facilities in ON

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…