Wildlife organizations respond to claims
made by MNR fact sheet
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.
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
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
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)
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU FIND A SICK, INJURED OR ORPHANED
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.
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
- 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Communications Services Branch
your local Ministry of Natural Resources district office
Natural Resources Information Centre
TTY 1-866-686-6072 (Hearing Impaired)