OTTAWA, April 2, 2003 – The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC) isn’t able to respond to the thousands of frantic calls from people seeking advice for a wildlife problem this Spring, but it has launched a new web site to help residents make the right decisions.
The web site, http://wildlifeproblems.ncf.ca draws on the OCWC’s 15 years of first-hand experience in handling over 6,000 calls annually from distressed residents seeking help for a wildlife problem. It gives the city and animal welfare organizations somewhere to direct the public, and it provides residents with the information they need to make informed and cost-effective decisions about wildlife problems.
“It took a tremendous amount of hard work and lots of committed partners over many years to develop a service that was well used and highly valued,” says OCWC President Donna DuBreuil. “Ottawa city councilors have always been supportive of the service and their commitment to continue the Hotline has encouraged Centre staff and volunteers to join forces to provide an important interim safety net for the community.”
The OCWC was forced to shutdown its rehabilitation centre and telephone hotline in December in response to new restrictions introduced by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) – restrictions that effectively prohibit humane or responsible wildlife rehabilitation throughout Ontario. The new rules require that orphaned baby animals, once rehabilitated, be returned to within one kilometer of where they were found, almost always to a busy, inappropriate area where they would have no chance of survival. As well, the expansion of the high risk zone for raccoon rabies into Ottawa means that all baby raccoons, skunks or foxes must be left to die where they are found, or euthanized even though there has never been a case of raccoon rabies in Ottawa.
With the wildlife season barely underway, residents are already complaining about being shuffled from one agency to another. It is the lack of any humane help that has people most upset. “We’ve gone from having one of the most progressive wildlife responses in North America to now being the only large city on the continent without any help for wild mammals – something you’d only see in a banana republic – and certainly not in keeping with Ottawa’s depiction of itself as an environmentally progressive place” says Ottawa resident, Yasmin Jackson.
The arrival of spring and the wildlife birthing season is when most people need advice. It could be a mother raccoon with babies in the attic, a skunk living under a front step or a tiny, eyes-closed, baby squirrel found orphaned and hungry. The OCWC’s main message for residents is, DO NOT call a “pest control” company.
“Removing animals during the birthing season is not the solution” said OCWC Board Member Debbie Lawes. “These animals have moved into people’s attics and garages because they are nursing babies. It is a temporary situation. Relocating the mother means babies are left behind to die. Besides, under the government’s new laws, you can’t relocate the mother further than one kilometer from your home. Our advice is to leave the mother where she is until you’re confident that her and her babies have moved out. Then you can look at animal-proofing your home.”
There is growing support at city hall for reinstating a progressive wildlife response in Ottawa. “The MNR and city staff dropped the ball on this one. A model program has been lost and the expansion of the raccoon rabies high-risk zone, without justification or benefit, has created public health and safety problems for both animals and people where none existed before”, said Wendy Stewart, Ottawa councilor for River Ward. She added, “I am committed to seeing a wildlife rehabilitation program re-established and call on the ministry and provincial MPPs to respect public opinion and get the issues resolved to make this happen as soon as possible.”
At the same time, Kanata councilor, Alex Munter will be making the case for the City to continue the Hotline service, something it has funded the Centre to do these last 15 years. “It is essential to continue to provide residents in the nation’s capital with progressive and humane alternatives for dealing with wildlife concerns, a service they’ve come to rely on given that the problems are caused by extensive development in this region. Also, it will be, by far, the most cost-effective solution as experience elsewhere has shown that prevention costs half that of reactive measures over which there is little control,” says Munter.
Next week: The Wildlife Centre will provide some important and timely tips for dealing with wildlife problems at this time of the year. In the meantime, remember to turn to http://wildlifeproblems.ncf.ca before taking any action. It will save you a lot of grief. And, remember to keep this web site information handy for future reference.
20 out of 21 states in the United States allow for vector species (raccoons, skunks and foxes) to be cared for by licensed rehabilitators because it is clearly much safer than leaving a compassionate public no choice but to care for wildlife themselves.
Photo attachment – squirrel.jpg