many, a close encounter with
injured or orphaned wildlife may be
our first direct experience with
the impact of human activities on
the landscape and the creatures
that inhabit it. For fifteen years,
the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
provided wildlife rehabilitation
and educational services to
residents of Eastern Ontario and
the Ottawa Valley.
In the summer of 2002, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources imposed strict
relocation and release constrictions on Ontario wildlife rehabilitation centres,
ostensibly to deal with presence of raccoon rabies in Ontario. The so-called
rabies "high risk" zone was expanded to include Ottawa.
In the fall, MNR officials with a strong police presence forcibly removed dozens of animals from the care of the Ottawa Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC)
-- 34 raccoons, five skunks and one fox -- and transported them 270 km away to a research facility near Codringham,
Click here for
information on animals seized.
Note: The animals were kept in tiny cages over the winter and "hard"
released in early May 2003 without the benefit of further rehabilitation.
They were released in a rabies "hot" zone in Southeastern Ontario.
Under the current restrictive regulatory climate, the OCWC has found it impossible to operate and in December the facility shut down its operations, probably permanently. Rehabilitation and education services provided to a broad swath of Eastern Ontario are no longer available.
Citizens now have few options open to them should they find orphaned or injured wildlife, and as spring birthing season approaches this is a significant concern. Rather than choose to have injured or healthy but orphaned wildlife individuals may attempt to care for them secretly, exposing both themselves and the animals to risk.
Furthermore, if relocation constrictions applied to wildlife rehabilitation centres are so necessary to prevent the spread of disease, it is perplexing why the same strict standards do not apply to pest control companies who remove unwanted wildlife, or hunters and equestrians who continue to be permitted to recreationally chase with hounds wildlife such as foxes, raccoons and coyotes, for considerable distances across the countryside including in the "high risk" zones.