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Wildlife organizations respond to claims made by MNR fact sheet

To: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
cc: john.tory@pc.ola.org; hhampton-qp@ndp.on.ca; norm_sterling@ontla.ola.org; robert.runcimanco@pc.ola.org; lisa.macleod@pc.ola.org; norm.millerco@pc.ola.org; rpatten.mpp@liberal.ola.org; jwatson.mpp@liberal.ola.org; pmcneely.mpp@liberal.ola.org; mmeilleur.mpp@liberal.ola.org

December 20, 2006

Dear Premier McGuinty

The information provided as a Fact Sheet by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources "What you should do if you find a Sick, Injured or Orphaned Wild Animal" on December 15, 2006 demonstrates why there is such public dissatisfaction with this Ministry and your Government’s inability or unwillingness to assert any control or direction over its controversial policies.

The Fact Sheet is gratitutous, ill-informed and attempts the same self-serving, transparent and unwarranted fear-mongering that the public is no longer buying from this Ministry.

Orphaned Wildlife

The Fact Sheet states "young squirrels often fall from their nests even before their eyes open". This is incorrect. Commonsense tells you, by virtue of the fact that most people never see a baby squirrel until it is almost adult in size, that baby squirrels, unlike fledgling birds, do not fall or attempt to leave the next prematurely. They either fall or come out of the nest because they are on the verge of starvation. The Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre saw 500-600 baby squirrels each year for more than 15 years and virtually every one that came in had been orphaned, as clearly evidenced by the fact that they were severely dehydrated and had little or very concentrated urine.

The Ministry must stop applying the general rule that animals should be left "for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still there" as that is clearly a death sentence for many animals.

Lack of Help for Wildlife

The Fact Sheet states "if you find an orphaned or injured wild animal, contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for details about authorized wildlife custodians in your area".

In actual fact, there are few wildlife rehabilitators left in the province because of the draconian attitudes and policies of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The unworkable and unnecessary regulations that this Ministry has imposed on wildlife rehabilitation means that Ontario now has the dubious distinction of being the one jurisdiction in North America where, in spite of increased demand due to development and habitat loss, there is dramatically declining help for wildlife.

Local governments, humane societies, veterinarians and organizations like the Ontario Wildlife Coalition are swamped with calls from an increasingly angry public about the loss of help for wildlife across this province. Calls to local Ministry offices either go unanswered or people are told to "leave the animal there and let nature take its course".

Environmental and animal welfare groups in North America are shocked that Ontario has gone from having a highly-regarded progressive wildlife response that was cost-effectively supported by volunteers and public/private partnerships to now being considered equivalent to a banana republic.

Fear-Mongering for Power and Profit

The Fact Sheet’s attempt to use fear to dissuade people from helping wildlife is seen by the majority of the public for what it is – self-serving. It is widely-accepted that the Ministry’s reliance on creating fear about rabies, virtually the least-risk disease in North America, is to support its bloated rabies research and operations budget.

Wildlife disease promotion by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has to do with optics, not reality and certainly not science-based facts. Simply put, this Ministry has had to create a climate of fear in order to compete for millions of public dollars but it is impossible for it to depict rabies and other diseases as a serious threat to public safety when you have wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians caring for these animals without any risk or health consequence. Thus, the need for the Ministry to control and eliminate wildlife rehabilitation in Ontario.

It is disgraceful that multi-millions of tax dollars are being wasted to support the career ambitions of government researchers and vaccine manufacturers for a non-risk disease like rabies while real human health diseases that kill and/or compromise thousands of Ontarians each year go unfunded by your Government.

It is bad enough to see millions of Ontario tax dollars diverted to projects that do not, in any way, reflect public policy priorities but to additionally know that the contrived campaigns by Ministry of Natural Resources bureaucrats to advance such projects have also eliminated important community services to help wildlife, is simply unacceptable.


Whether it is the unnecessary killing of beaver on the University of Waterloo campus based on out-dated advice from the Ministry of Natural Resources, the seizure of a deer from a family in eastern Ontario although others have been granted a special authorization in such circumstances or the increasing criticism of the public given the loss of wildlife rehabilitation services across the province, we can guarantee that the public protest over the Ministry of Natural Resources handling of wildlife issues in this province will continue to grow until your Government finally responds.

Ontario Wildlife Coalition
Volunteer Wildlife Custodians
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

MNR Fact Sheet (posted December 15, 2006)



Fact Sheet

Members of the public should avoid handling wildlife to protect the health and wellbeing of both wildlife and humans.

When an inexperienced person attempts to handle wild animals, bites and scratches are common, and many species of wildlife can carry disease and parasites that are harmful to humans. Also, every year many well-intentioned people needlessly remove young wildlife from a healthy, natural life in the wild. People who see young wildlife alone often think these animals are sick, injured or orphaned but that is usually not the case.

Orphaned Wildlife

It is common for young wildlife to be left alone for a period of time, especially during the day. For example, female deer spend much of the day away from their fawns in the weeks following the birth. Fawns are very well camouflaged and, by staying away, the mother minimizes the chance of predators finding the fawn by following her scent trail. If a human approaches a fawn, they will leave a scent trail putting the fawn at risk.

Young squirrels often fall from their nests even before their eyes open. Usually the adult squirrel waits to retrieve the young and return it to the nest when it is safe to do so.

Also, young birds learning to fly and forage for food often fall to the ground. The adults may wait for the fledgling to return to the nest, or they may feed it while it is still on the ground. It is safe for a person to return a young bird to its nest if it is uninjured. Most birds have a poor sense of smell, so the adult will not reject the young if you touch it.

The best approach is always to a leave a young animal alone unless you are sure it has been abandoned.

To determine if young wildlife is truly orphaned:

  • Check the animal periodically for 24 to 48 hours to see if it is still there, but keep your distance to make sure you are not scaring off the parent.
  • Keep the area quiet and free of cats and dogs. The adult will not return if it is noisy or if predators or people are nearby.
  • Observe the animal to see if it is well nourished and active. The animal probably is not an orphan if it is healthy and well fed.

If you find an orphaned wild animal, contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for advice. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, a person cannot keep wildlife without approval. There are exceptions for up to 24 hours to transport sick or injured wildlife to a custodian or to transport a nuisance animal for release. Otherwise, it is an offence to keep a wild animal. It could endanger you and your family by exposing you to diseases such as rabies.

If you must handle wildlife, always wear appropriate protective equipment to avoid injuries and the potential transfer of diseases.

Sick or Diseased Wildlife

If you come across sick or diseased wildlife and you suspect there is a public health risk, such as rabies or West Nile Virus, contact your regional or local health unit immediately. Symptoms of illness in animals can include tremors, aggressive behaviour, partial paralysis, convulsions, and loss of fear of humans.

If there is an immediate public safety issue with a wild animal, contact your local police department.

For a list of Ontario Public Health Units, visit http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/contact/phu/phuloc_mn.html

Dead animals suspected of being rabid, that have been in contact with humans or other animals, should be reported to your local Animal Health Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) office. For a list of CFIAs offices, visit http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/directory/offbure.shtml. You can also call the automated information line at 1-800-442-2342 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Injured Wildlife

If you find an injured wild animal, contact your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for details about authorized wildlife custodians in your area. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the only people who may care for sick, injured or young game, or specially protected wildlife, are veterinarians for medical care, or authorized wildlife custodians for rehabilitation.

Nuisance Wildlife

Landowners are responsible for managing unwanted wildlife on their properties, including any costs. The preferred option is always to address the reason wildlife is attracted to your property instead of relocating or humanely killing the animal. New animals will continue to arrive if there is shelter, food, or some other feature attracting them.

The Ministry of Natural Resources can help landowners by:

  • assessing options for deterring nuisance behaviour, and
  • providing information on animal control services.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act allows property owners the option of capturing, harassing or humanely killing nuisance wildlife where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the wildlife is damaging, or about to damage, property. This option to capture, harass or kill nuisance wildlife does not include deer, moose, caribou or elk.

Property owners can remove the unwanted wildlife themselves or use the services of a wildlife control agent. Under the Act, wildlife captured in defence of property must be released within 24 hours within one kilometre of the original capture site. Returning the animal to where it was originally captured is essential for preventing the spread of diseases such as rabies. It also ensures you are treating the animal in a humane manner by releasing it within its natural home range. If you release it beyond its home range, the animal will have to fight for territory and resources.


Media Enquiries

Jolanta Kowalsk
Communications Services Branch


your local Ministry of Natural Resources district office http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/csb/message/mnroffices.html

General Enquiries

Natural Resources Information Centre
TTY 1-866-686-6072 (Hearing Impaired)


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