Watch for wildlife in need of human help

Bob Bowles

Monika Melichar, of Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Minden, checks on the young deer she raised last year from fawns that will be released this spring once the snow has disappeared. (BOB BOWLES/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES)

Monika Melichar, of Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Minden, checks on the young deer she raised last year from fawns that will be released this spring once the snow has disappeared. (BOB BOWLES/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES)

It has been a long, cold winter with lots of snow and, even in the second week of April, winter has still not released its chilly grip.

It has been a hard winter for wildlife and many members of several species will probably not make it to warmer weather in May.

Many of the Great Lakes froze over this winter, which forced water birds and gulls to new, open locations. The ice left Lake Erie April 8 and Lake Huron April 10, but Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe were still ice-covered this week. SNOWstorm, the American program tracking snowy owls south of the border this winter, reported losing one of its 20 snowy owls that had been fitted with transmitters last week in a blizzard that swept over the East Coast. Sandy Neck had been banded at Logan Airport and moved to Martha's Vineyard near Cape Cod, Mass. This week, she was found dead on the ocean shore in that area after the blizzard. Many birds and wildlife will be facing their hardest times now. Many of you will find wildlife in distress and in need of help in the next few weeks. This article will give you an idea of who can help you save them.

The Ontario Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) no longer has the facilities for wildlife rehabilitation in our area, so that work is now done by not-for-profit organizations run by wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario authorized by the Ministry of Natural Resources. There are about 100 authorized wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario in 10 species categories. Some are trained in birds, songbirds and water birds and some specialize in raptors. Reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, are grouped together in one category. Mammals are divided into several categories. Small mammals, like chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and hares, are in one category, while rabies vector species, like bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons, are in their own category. Semi-aquatic mammals, such as beavers, otters and muskrats, have their own category, as do small carnivores, like shrews, weasels, mink and martens. The large-carnivore category includes wolf, coyote, bobcat, lynx, badger, fisher and opossum. Hoofed animals, including deer, moose and elk, are in one category, while bears have their own category.

Every wildlife rehabilitator has been trained in at least one of the categories. They are the unsung heroes in the nature world, using their time and resources to help wildlife and getting little in return, except satisfaction of knowing, without them, many sick or injured wildlife would not be given a second chance to live. I have great respect for rehabilitators who spend long hours in poor conditions, spending their own money, and they are greatly underfunded as they rescue and rehabilitate the many animals we find out there every day. We need to donate to these organizations to help them do their work, for without them, many species of wildlife would be left to die.

If you find a species of wildlife in the Orillia area this spring that needs help, it will be helpful to know where you can get that help. It depends on the species you have found. The Toronto Wildlife Centre can rehabilitate most species of birds, excluding raptors, and most species of small mammals, but not large mammals, like moose, deer and bear, and not porcupines and beavers. It will take bats, but already has more than 100 from this winter, so it will not take those mammals or other young mammals from our area unless it has room. The Owl Rehabilitation Centre in Vineland Station is the best place to start when looking for help for any owls and hawks you find in distress. Both of the centres are a long way from Orillia and they cannot always provide transport for the animals, but can help if you can get them there.

If you need the help of an authorized wildlife rehabilitator for a species of animal that needs help, start locally and small. If it is a chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit or hare, try Shelly Morrison at Stepping Stones Wildlife Rehabilitation in Ramara Township. Shelly can also help with turtles, as can Kids for Turtles Environmental Education in Orillia when it has its summer staff in June.

If you need help with a bird, including songbirds and water birds, but not raptors, try Janice Enright in Port Sydney. Monika Melichar, at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Minden, can help with bats, birds, water birds, vultures (not raptors) and a number of mammals, but not large mammals, like deer, moose and bear. Gail Lenters at Shades of Hope in Pefferlaw works with birds from songbirds to raptors as well as porcupines, rabbits, skunks and squirrels. Dr. Cynthia Post, at Procyon Wildlife in Beeton, works with coyotes, deer, foxes, groundhogs, opossums, raccoon, weasels, rabbits, squirrels and turtles. Diane Babeckas, of Shortcut to Serenity Wildlife Rescue in Stayner, works with birds, groundhogs, raccoons and skunks. One of the best locations to get help for turtles is the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Peterborough, where you can find Dr. Sue Carstairs.

If the animal you find is large, you need to go north. Janalene Kingshott, of the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau, can help with bears, deer and coyotes as well as some smaller mammals. Mike McIntosh, of Bear with Us in Sprucedale, works with bears, big cats and wolves. Pete Nevin and Christine Kerrigan, of Solitudes Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Kearney, can help with moose.

Bats will need all the help they can get this spring. Check out Nightwings Bat Rehabilitation in Claremont.

There are several other wildlife rehabilitation centres in Ontario and I have only listed those around Orillia or a short driving distance from Orillia.

I have created a file with contact information on wildlife rehabilitators with contact information as well as a spreadsheet listing each wildlife species and the centres that work with that particular species. So, you can also contact me if you are unable to get help for animals you find this spring that are injured or in need of human assistance.

Bob Bowles is a local naturalist. He can be contacted at

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