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.






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…