A tail of turtle releases and humanity at it’s worst…

Last weekend I decided to combine business and pleasure. Two of the turtles at Hobbitstee where ready for release. One needed to be returned to Mildmay and the other to Tobemory.

We decided to combine business and pleasure and planned a weekend away so that we could enjoy the two gorgeous National Parks located near Tobemory. I rarely have time to do things like this, so I was very excited.

The first turtle release was amazing. That turtle had been at Hobbitstee since September of 2014 and he was in really bad shape when he arrived. He had returned to murky water after having been injured and he had a raging infection. I spent months battling this infection and it took everything and the kitchen sink to safe his life, but he made it and I released him back into the waters of his home.

Snapping Turtle released in Mildmay
Snapping Turtle released in Mildmay

The second turtle’s injuries where less serious, but it was still delightful to release her into a very nice wetland really close to the GSP coordinates given to me by the finder.

Midland Painted turtle release
Midland Painted turtle release

With both turtles released it was time for us to have some fun. Finding a campsite proved to be a bit of a challenge, but we managed. The next morning we started on the list of things we wanted to see and do. High on my list was Singing Sands because I had hopes of seeing a real life EMR. As the only venomous snake in Ontario they are really rare and an endangered species, but there is a somewhat healthy population on the Bruce Peninsula. My hopes where squashed rather quickly.

As soon as we arrived at Singing Sands I was horror struck. The tiny parking lot was milling with way to many people who all where trying to pile on a tiny stretch of beach and in the process they where actively trampling all the gorgeous orchids and other sensitive plant that grow there.

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We walked down the boardwalk conveniently put there so you can enjoy the wetlands opposite the beach. Although I enjoyed seeing the unique flora and fauna I was once again disgusted with peoples behavior. Children left unsupervised where running around through the wetland away from the pathways and boardwalk to chase/catch frogs and in the process obliterating the delicate little orchids that grow there. I bit my tongue for as long as I could, but eventually had to tell the kids to stop doing that.

The throng of humanity present there seemed utterly oblivious of their surroundings. The surroundings that make Bruce National Park so unique. It left me feeling sad. I don’t understand how or why people go there and try their best to destroy what made them come there in the first place. My heart goes out to the Canada Parks staff who have to witness this carnage day after day.

orchid
orchid

It wasn’t long before I simply could not take it anymore and had to leave.  I had to battle utter stupidity to make my way out of the parking lot. We had to forgo the other amazing sights of Tobemory due to the insane # of people waiting for the boats and swarming the hiking trails which really takes the fun out of it for me.

I am sad to say I could not leave Tobemory fast enough…

I write this to remind people to open their eyes and look around. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, but please enjoy the beauty of nature and try not to be an invasive presence in it. Teach your children to respect their surroundings and observe common sense such as staying on designated pathways so that you are not ruining the experience for the next person to come along or even generations to come.

As seen on TV or Google…

I am seeing a trend this year. A very scary trend. It has to do with wildlife being kept in captivity. Something that is a violation under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act in Ontario. According to our laws you have 24 hours to get a wild animal help, but somehow the # of calls I get in regards to wildlife in captivity is on the rise.

Often I get told ‘I have seen this on tv, so I know what I am doing’ or ‘I have googled it, so I can do this’. I hope you can see how this does not make any sense. Caring for injured/orphaned wildlife is a delicate job. Many animals require medical care. Often by the time I receive animals people have ‘tried’ to help and the animals are suffering as a direct result of these attempts and some even die.

Also the zoonotic disease factor is often forgotten. No matter how cute the animal, many can carry diseases that can seriously harm humans

A website giving you detailed ‘DIY wildlife rehab’ information is by definition wrong. There is no ‘one guide fits all’ solution for wildlife rehab. It requires skills and years of experience.

A lady called me yesterday asking me to help her splint a broken wing on a gosling so that she could rehabilitate it. I tried to explain that things don’t work that way. That I will gladly care for the gosling and will deal with it’s broken wing, but she can’t keep it. I explained about human imprinting that will prevent this gosling from having a normal goose life etc. She never brought me the gosling…

This is just one of many examples. This animal needs medical care that the veterinarians I work with and myself can provide, but now it will go without and if the poor thing survives it will have bonded with humans instead of it’s own kind and will have no change of ever having a normal life.

I have said it before and will say it again. Having good intentions does not serve as an excuse. Cruelty to animals is cruelty to animals. If your dog gets hit by a car you take it to the vet, but somehow people feel a need to try and ‘fix’ wildlife themselves.

Orphaned wildlife needs to be raised by people who know what they are doing. People who keep the wild nature of the animal in mind and will understand what it needs to survive in the wild. Wildlife belongs in the wild, needs to be left wild. No human/wildlife interaction ever benefits wildlife…it always benefits humans.

I write this because it breaks my heart to see the well intended cruel acts people perpetrate on wildlife claiming to do the right thing. I wish people would use their energy to truly do good for wildlife. Things like protecting habitat, helping turtles safely cross a road or planting native plants and trees that benefit wildlife etc.

When people see images, videos or real life incidents of human habituated wildlife they often smile and think it is cute…I want to cry because it is unnatural behavior for such animals and it hurts me to see it.

I recently had the opportunity to have a discussion with Dr. Don Hoglund (More on Dr. Hoglund), a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and animal trainer extraordinaire. We discussed the battle we both wage on anthropomorphism (giving human thoughts and feelings to animals).

The discussion was related to that we humans have no idea what animals think. We can not read their thoughts. We don’t know if they are happy or sad, all we have to go on is natural behavior. We can in someways measure their health through blood tests etc and as a wildlife rehabilitator and farmer I look for natural behavior to judge how the animal in question is doing and that is all we have to go on.

I can not tell you how many times I have been on the receiving end of an animal in shock or worse and had the person bringing it out tell me it is fine because it is calm and quiet…It appears calm, but that is due to shock, not due to the fact that it is comfortable being cradled by humans.

Wildlife is per definition wild and needs to stay that way. I have made it my mission as an Authorized Wildlife Custodian to speak for the animals who can not speak for themselves. Understand that in that process I might hurt your feelings, this is nothing personal. It is merely an effort on my part to get you (people in general) to see the other side of things.

I am appreciative of every call I get where people ask me advice before they act. I love it when people call and say I just found an injured …(whatever the animal), can you take it. My answer is always yes. It is what we do here at Hobbitstee. It’s what we are good at…We appreciate it when people bring the animals to us. Wildlife rehabilitators receive no funding. Much of the expenses are paid out of pocket by me, so not having to drive helps me financially and saves me time.

In the last couple of days: Thank you lady from Ingersoll who found the turtle and thank you lady who found the itty-bitty baby bat. You are both awesome! Thank you lady who called about the fox kits she was worried about. Thank you for calling before acting!!!!

Water Fowl are in trouble.

With the cold temperatures we have been having, many waterfowl are running into trouble.

Many waterfowl are depleting energy reserves in an attempt to find open water; energy they otherwise need to stay warm. Many of the waterfowl arriving at our wildlife rehabilitation facility are underweight, or even emaciated, and many are injured.

Another issue we deal with right now is stranded waterfowl. Several species of water birds such as Loons and Grebes can’t really walk. If you look at them closely you will see that their feet are placed really far back. Those feet are great for swimming and diving, but not for walking.

We are currently getting a lot of calls for these types of birds. They get exhausted and are forced to make an emergency landing. They are subsequently unable to take of in flight from dry land or walk their way to open water. They are also unable to find a viable food source on dry land because many of them are strict piscivores (fish eaters).

So how can you help?  You can help stranded water birds by safely containing them in a cardboard box lined with a towel, and contacting an Authorized Wildlife Custodian (licensed wildlife rehabilitator) near you. Make sure to keep the box with the bird in a dark quiet place while making your call. Your local Animal Control/Humane Society/SPCA or a veterinarian might also be able to assist, but ultimately all the birds will end up at a wildlife rehabilitation facility.

All wildlife rehabilitation facilities operate as a non-for-profit. Please consider making a donation towards the care of these birds as resources are being stretched due to yet another cold winter.

Make sure to use caution when you attempt to handle any of these birds, always wear gloves, and remember to remain cognizant of potential traffic around you; so that you can avoid dangerous situations.

It is important to note that under no circumstances should you attempt to feed these birds. It is a delicate job to re-hydrate an emaciated bird, and this is best left to professionals. Solid food could be lethal, and to feed a piscivore anything but fish can also be lethal.

As a side note, bread is never a healthy or useful food source for any type of water bird at any time.

For more information you can visit our website @ www.hobbitstee.com

Let wildlife be wild…

We have all seen them…those ‘cute’ images of native wildlife interacting with domestic animals such as dogs and cats. These days they are plastered all over social media and from time to time they go viral.
I get it, it does look cute to see a fawn cuddled up with a dog, but what as humans we often forget is the aftermath. When I see images like that I cringe because I know it reduces the quality of life and lifespan of the wild animal involved significantly.

Many species of wildlife are born without fear of humans (or our pets) and exposing them to either of these at a young age will leave a lasting effect.

Imagine this same dog-cuddling fawn grown up and it encounters a random dog (or dog like creature such as a wolf). Without a natural fear we know this will end badly for the deer.

The same goes for human habituated wildlife. Picture the previously mentioned deer encountering a random human in the wild. What if this is a human with a gun? The deer is suppose to be afraid and run or better yet avoid humans all together but early on in its life it was taught not to fear humans.

Now imagine doing the same with some of our large carnivores/omnivores. Imagine a bear approaching you… In the bears mind he is going to see if the human has food (like he has been taught), or let’s think of a fox/wolf/coyote doing the same. These animals in this example will all end up getting shot because they will be considered a threat to humans.

As to how (early) human exposure impacts wildlife varies per species. Some species are more susceptible than others. The fact that I mention a deer in the examples is not random. Fawns (deer) are easily habituated at a young age.

If you find wildlife you think needs help please get professionals involved as soon as possible. You can check our website for more advice and contact information.

you found wildlife you think needs help…

I have experience trying to undo human and pet habituation in wildlife and it is difficult and sometimes impossible. It often leaves me frustrated because often people choose not to understand what damage they have done.

I have witnessed fawns having major freak-outs upon first con-specific interaction. They simply have no idea that they belong to that species. It is a sad phenomenon to witness.
The same goes for wildlife photography. As we currently experience an influx of Snowy Owls, stories of photographers baiting these animals to get the perfect shot keep reaching me. These photographers do not realize they are jeopardizing the life and well being of the animal they claim to admire.

Let’s make 2015 the year where we enjoy wildlife from afar, in their natural habitat, away from humans (and their food sources) and away from our pets.

Let’s stop awarding photographers for pictures of wildlife taken through use of baiting and let’s stop sharing images and videos detrimental to wild-wildlife and natural behavior.

Let’s make it the year where we leave wildlife to be wild…

This fawn was mauled by a dog and had to be euthanized.
This fawn was mauled by a dog and had to be euthanized.

The Snowies have arrived.

We are very fortunate this winter to have a large number of Snowy Owls migrating into Southern Ontario. This happens once every so many years at random (or so it appears to us humans).

I have been receiving regular phone calls in regards to these magnificent creatures, mostly due to some of their perceived un-owlish behaviors.

Snowy Owls are actually diurnal. This means that they are awake and hunt during daylight hours, as opposed to the majority of their owl cousins, who are nocturnal.

Snowies also have a habit of sitting on the ground for extended periods of time. This is normal behavior for them and is no cause for alarm.

To distinguish a healthy Snowy, from one who needs help or care, it is important to observe the bird from an unobtrusive distance (binoculars are handy). If the bird is alert and looking around, and/or turns its head to acknowledge your presence, it is exhibiting normal behavior; and is not likely in need of assistance.

If the animal is sitting, while fluffed up, and is either not mindful or cognizant of its surroundings, it should be considered a red flag. If you have noticed this bird in the same location and position for a second day in a row, it should be considered a second red flag. It is in these circumstances (and those cases alone) that you should carefully approach the bird and see if it will take flight. If it does not attempt to take flight, or is simply unable to, you need to contact the closest wildlife professional immediately.

Another issue that occupies my phone are concerns about photographers who feel inclined to either get close up shots, or to antagonize the animal so they can get a shot of the owl in flight.  Some photographers take this one step further and will attempt to bait the owls with live prey, in order to get an action shot. These types of practices fall under the harassing of wildlife, and this is not only illegal as per the FWCA, but they also defy ethics.

If we as humans don’t respect the wildlife we so desire to photograph, these animals will simply go elsewhere and not come back. Meaning that we are literally depriving future generations from ever seeing these magnificent animals in the wild.

Let’s make 2015 the year where we enjoy wildlife from afar, in their natural habitat, without disturbing them.