Friday, June 10, 2011

CANADA: Downtown ducklings, gaggle of goslings helped by Toronto Wildlife Centre

Finding someone to help with injured wildlife can be difficult.  Believe me I know, I rescued an abandoned Peking Duckling, the "AFLAC" kind, after Billie was abandoned in a city park only 2 months after Easter.  (The short story -- a parent forced their young son to abandon the duckling - still in fuzz, dehydrated, and absolutely terrified.)

The fiasco involved in trying to find a safe place for her was ridiculous.  It was the folks at a Virginia SPCA emergency group who were willing to help us identify her breed and tried to help find a local bird rescue to place her with.  (They did offer if we couldn't find a local home and could meet them in southern Virginia they'd place her up there - a great offer with a lot of mileage involved.)  VA SPCA gave us a few associations locally that rescued birds.  Yay, right?  No, this part wasn't as easy as it sounds.  The domestic bird rescue folks considered her wild.  The wild bird rescue folks considered her domestic.  The humane societies didn't do ducks.  The vet's couldn't make any suggestions because she was wild.

It was finally the nice folks at Saddle Rack and Feed store in Elkmont, AL (to whom I am very grateful), some miles away, that said, "Sure, we'll take her.  We love to have baby ducks around and the farmers and kids are always looking for ducks."

So Billie Duck was delivered to the Saddle Rack and Feed menagerie.  These folks have rescued all kinds of animals -- several of them are actually on site.  A pot belly pig found wondering in the road.  A domesticated tom turkey - nobody knows where he came from but likes to strut his stuff.  A red parrot - very vocal and loud greeter.  Too many cats, goats, ducks, geese and such to count.

In another incident, I and two other people sought help for a pregnant female Woodie and her male companion, another Peking.  The ducks had been driven away from the large pond next to the office during breeding season and taken up living at the front among the bushes.  Well, anyone who's been around ducks and geese at mating season can tell you it gets a little rowdy -- the males, up to 4 at a time -- were still after Missy duck and Aflac was doing his best to pull them off.

They were a cute couple - they nestled together, enjoyed a good meal (courtesy of the staff), and stuck together like glue.  It was this tight bond that probably got them both injured one weekend when they were both hit by a car.  It looked like her leg and wing were broke.  He had a huge black smudge across his shoulders.  She couldn't escape the continued "advances", let alone predators or even make it to the water or food. So we found a local wildlife rescue lady - who after much effort caught Missy on one day and returned 2 days later (after listening to 2 days of squawks and complaints) to retrieve a wandering and upset, Aflac.  He, still with his huge smudge, was captured and joined Missy and both peacefully settled down to nest.

It's often hard to figure out where to turn when your "do the right" thing.  The lines blur, the budgets short, and the tender-hearted are left to struggle to find a solution -- hopefully before it's too late.  Hopefully, this will help someone in Toronto save a life.

Below is an article from the Toronto Star about the efforts of the little known, Toronto Wildlife Centre.

Thanks for joining me aboard the Animal Ark!

Originally appeared in the Toronto Star,
Nicki Thomas Staff Reporter
If there’s one thing that Andrew Wight wants people to know about the Toronto Wildlife Centre, it’s that it exists at all.

When city dwellers spot an orphaned gosling or a sick fox, they often don’t know who to call, he says. Hours pass as they scour the phone book, calling Animal Services and veterinary clinics before landing on the TWC, where Wight is a Wildlife Rescue team leader.

By then, it may be too late.

Take the case of the downtown ducklings. There’s a courtyard in the financial district where four highrises meet and lush greenery surrounds a pond. There are no predators, and lunching office workers keep the bread crumbs coming.

That makes it a perfect spot for a mama mallard, who returns year after year to have her babies. But, unable to fly and receiving no nutrients from the treated water, the ducklings can starve to death.

Wight, one of two TWC employees who traverse the GTA rescuing orphaned, trapped or injured animals, has successfully rescued flocks from the courtyard four years running. But this season, the building’s maintenance staff waited too long. By the time Wight arrived on a recent Monday, the ducklings were dead in a garbage bag; their mother circled the pond alone.

“It’s a disappointing call on all levels,” Wight says as he drives away, after explaining to onlookers why the ducklings died and the importance of notifying the centre sooner.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” he continues. “Now with the education they have, hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Living alongside wildlife in the city is a delicate balance, and an influx of babies can cause it to tip. That seemed to be the case last week, when Dong Nguyen allegedly attacked a family of raccoons destroying his garden.

Some Toronto Star readers came to the man’s defence, saying they’ve been pushed to edge by the city’s raccoons. “Good for him!” one reader commented on a column in support of Nguyen. “He did what most people thought about doing or were too afraid to do.”

Some might wonder why Wight and his colleagues work so hard to save the animals they view as destructive, like the raccoons, or threatening, like coyotes, or just plain populous, like squirrels. Why not let nature take its course, they might ask.

It’s an argument Wight won’t wade into.

“There’s an injured being and it deserves to be helped. And these animals are injured because of human impact,” he says. “You’re not going to change the world. But at least you’ve made an attempt to help.”

The Toronto Wildlife Centre, unlike city-run Animal Services, focuses solely on helping the city’s wildlife and is funded completely by donations. Once the animals Wight rescues are healthy and rehabilitated, he reintroduces them to the wild. This is the busiest time of year at the centre, where staff and volunteers are fielding around 200 calls a day.

For Wight, disappointments like the downtown ducklings are countered by everyday successes. When he sets off from the centre in Downsview Park one recent morning, he takes four orphaned goslings and heads for a known Canada goose hangout: Seneca College’s Markham campus, where a large scenic pond supports all kinds of wildlife.

Canada geese are one of the only birds that will accept unrelated babies into their flocks. Wight has a particular family in mind. He spots them as they’re headed toward a patch of trees leading down to the water. Wight carries the orphans over, sets them down under the branches and steps back.

After a few moments of confusion, the goslings head down to the water. They exchange curious glances with the other geese and moments of hesitation pass before they continue on together. The orphans mix with the other goslings; it’s impossible to tell them apart. They have a family now.

Urban threats to wildlife
The ducks, snakes, turtles, raccoons and coyotes that call Toronto home have to watch out for all manner of threats. Cars and power lines are obviously deadly. Garbage also poses a danger, including kite strings and the lids of iced coffee drinks, which get stuck around raccoon’s wrists.

Then there are diseases. Mange causes the fox and coyote population to fluctuate. Distemper has been a major problem in recent years, affecting raccoons and nearly wiping out skunks. Two years ago, Wight says, he rescued 50 baby skunks. Last year, that number fell to just two.

Nathalie Karvonen, the centre’s executive director, also says outdoor cats cause grievous injury to songbirds. She wants people to rethink letting their cats roam free.

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If you are in the Toronto, Ontario area and need the help of the Toronto Wildlife Centre or you would like to donate to them:

Toronto Wildlife Center

60 Carl Hall Rd., Unit 4
Toronto, ON M3K 2C1

For concerns about sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife, or any other wildlife-related question or concern, please call:

TWC Wildlife Hotline: (416) 631- 0662

 Our Hours of Operation:

Open from 9AM until 6PM, 7 days a week, year round*

 *Please note that on
December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st, and January 1st, hours are 9am to 4pm.

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