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!!!!

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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…