London Free Press
January 7, 2005

Also published in the January 5 edition of The Middlesex Banner in the letters to the editor, under the title: "Volunteer wildlife custodians fighting mad!".


When you rescued those two cute baby raccoons crying beside their dead mother on the side of the road last year, you could call an Authorized Wildlife Custodian who volunteers under the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) to raise and release healthy babies back into the wild, where they belong.

OMNR presently grants ‘authorization’ to individuals who have demonstrated appropriate skill, training and commitment to care for these animals. The government makes the regulations but offers no other support to the custodians. Now they are proposing changes that will virtually eliminate rehabilitation. 

OMNR provides no funds or resources to rehabilitators so most custodians work out of their own homes, hoping for small donations, and are very limited in the number of animals they can rescue. But they have been able to lean on a large number of assistants (called foster parents) who also work out of their homes and help with the raising and release of the babies. Together, they help a large number animals.

OMNR has released a set of proposed guidelines to “improve care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife”, according to Minister David Ramsay. Unfortunately, the proposed guidelines could produce exactly the opposite result. One of those new guidelines will no longer allow the assistants to work from their homes, although they can go to the authorized wildlife centres to assist. Unfortunately, there are very few wildlife centres in Ontario and OMNR is not planning to open one in your area any time soon. There are other unsupportable changes planned as well.

After reviewing the proposed changes, many wildlife custodians state the regulations, if enacted, will likely result in all responsible wildlife custodians returning their authorizations to the Ministry and withdrawing this valuable public service. The proposals are completely unacceptable for the custodians and the wildlife for whom they provide care.  

So what happens to those baby raccoons? You will have two choices: you can pay to have them killed by a local veterinarian (the Humane Societies have already said they don’t want to do it); or you can leave them at the side of the road to starve to death.  How does that improve the care for orphaned wildlife?

So who will care for the animals? Many people will not leave those babies to starve and untrained people will take them in, putting themselves and the animals at risk. They will not know how to prevent animal deaths or how to protect themselves from diseases. And it is illegal for you to take them in and raise them yourself, with a potential $100,000 penalty if you are caught.

The proposed guidelines do not meet internationally recognized standards for wildlife care. Minister Ramsay and Premier Dalton McGuinty know the rehabilitation community is opposed to these plans but they are relying on the support of one small and frequently disparaged rehabilitation group as proof that rehabbers are onside with the government. Ramsay and McGuinty are wrong, or not telling the truth.

Rehabbers need your help. If you are concerned about the care that will be available to orphaned and injured wildlife, and do not relish the idea of simply leaving an orphaned or injured baby animal to starve to death in the wild, please contact your Member of Provincial Parliament in writing immediately. You only have until January 29, 2005 to make your views known or these changes will go ahead and many baby animals will needlessly suffer or die.

Paul Harris
Denfield, Ontario
N0M 1P0

Click to view scanned letter as it appeared in the Middlesex Banner

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