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

 

 

 

 

What to do when you find a baby raccoon

raccoon kitRaccoons in Ontario will start having their kits (babies) around the middle of March each year. They have adapted well to urban areas, so they will often invade our spaces (homes, barns, sheds) to create a den site.

At Hobbitstee we get literally several 1000 calls annually about orphaned baby raccoons. The reality is that many of these raccoon kits aren’t orphaned at all. People forget that mother raccoons also have to eat and to do this they must go out and leave their kits. As the kits get older the mother will leave them for extended periods of time and sometimes the kits wake up and they will cry for their mother.

If you suspect you have orphaned raccoon kits on your property you should observe from a distance to see if she comes and feed them. You need to observe for at least one whole night before you can assume they are orphaned.

When you do feel there are actually truly orphaned you can go and look at them. It is easy to recognize a hungry raccoon kit. Another sign there is no mother caring for them is the excessive presence of external parasites such flees and ticks.

If you are certain the kits are orphaned (ideally you located the deceased mother) than you can put the raccoon kits in a secure box lined with some towels. Put the box in a warm, dry and dark spot while you call your local wildlife rehabilitator.

To locate your local one please visit the following link: http://www.ontariowildlifecustodians.ca/AWCmap.php

Make sure to always wear gloves when handling raccoon kits. They can potentially carry diseases harmful to humans. Keep them away from your pets as they can also be at risk.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) gives you a 24 hour window to locate a wildlife custodian to take the kits. If you are unable to do so, many Animal Controls, SPCA, Humane Societies will assist as well (but they don’t have to, so you can’t make them). Don’t assume the above-mentioned agencies will automatically euthanize the kits. We have a great working relationship with many of these agencies and they bring us wildlife on a regular basis.

Your veterinarian might be able to assist you over the phone and point you towards your local wildlife rehabilitator, but due to a high prevalence of canine distemper in raccoons (lethal to non-vaccinated dogs/puppies) a vet will likely not allow you to bring the kits to a clinic and that is understandable.

Also understand that as wildlife rehabilitators we can only manage to raise a finite number of raccoon kits. Full is full. We cannot compromise our standard of care for the sake of numbers. It becomes a quality versus quantity issue. That is why it is so important to make absolutely sure the kits you found are truly orphaned.

As wildlife rehabilitators we are under distance restriction as outlined by the MNRF rules and regulations pertaining to the care of Rabies Vector Species (raccoons fall under this category), so please make sure you contact your local wildlife rehabilitator.

Eventually all injured and orphaned wildlife does end up with a wildlife rehabilitator, so if you are able you might want to consider making a donation towards the care of the animal you send them. All wildlife rehabilitators are non-for-profit and many have charitable status, so you might be able to get a tax receipt in return.

Never, ever under any circumstances feed the kits. Food is not at the top of their list of immediate requirements. Do not feed them cows milk, goats milk, or whatever else you think they might eat. Feeding wildlife orphans the wrong food at the wrong time can be lethal and once they have ingested it we cannot take it out.

Each situation calls for a different approach and there is no one-size fits all solution. That is why the Internet DIY websites are such a bad thing.

You may also not keep the raccoon kits to raise yourself. This would be a violation of the FWCA. In Ontario Conservation Officers are charged with the enforcement of this act, but our OPP can also enforce the FWCA.

IMG_0061Aside from the breaking of the law, it really is not in the best interest of the animals to be raised by you in your home. Wildlife Rehabilitation is a skilled profession.

In doing so you would be putting your own health and potentially your family or pets health at risk. There are several diseases and parasites raccoons can carry that can be lethal to humans.

If you have questions feel free to send us an email: chantal@hobbitstee.com