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Orphaned and injured wild animals given “second chance” at life

April 17, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The treatment of large cats has been on the public’s conscious since the documentary series “Tiger King” went viral on Netflix earlier this month, but the health and wellbeing of other wild animals is often overlooked.

In New Tecumseth alone, hundreds of baby animals are orphaned in the wild each year, often too young to care for themselves.

To give orphaned or injured animals a second chance at life, local not-for-profit organization Procyon Wildlife has rescued and rehabilitated them since 2009.

But to carry their services forward like they have in the past will be a challenge as the organization implements safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

“With this coronavirus, we don’t have the same amount of [experienced] volunteers that we’re use to,” said Debra Spilar, Director and Licensed Custodian at Procyon.

“We’re going to have to eventually limit our intake of animals because we won’t be able to care for them,” she added. “Right now, temporarily we’re fostering them out to our experienced volunteers [who take them home] but they can only take so many.”

Spilar said she would ideally be able to train more volunteers to foster baby animals, but the training is hands-on and cannot be done remotely.

Usually six to 20 of Procyon’s 150 volunteers look after upwards of 300 animals at the organization’s centre in Beeton, but this has been reduced to just one volunteer at a time to keep everyone safe.

As well, Procyon is only accepting animals to the centre by appointment as they can no longer take walk-ins due to the limited number of volunteers at the centre right now.

“That way we’re still helping our wildlife because there’s still a need, people are still finding babies in the wild,” Spilar explained.

She said with everyone staying inside because of the pandemic, there will be less cars on the roads and people outdoors, which could result in fewer road kills and disturbed habitats.

“We’re hoping that with less human interference there will be less need or less admissions for us so that we can try to stay on top of this thing,” she remarked.

While Procyon was deemed an essential service by the government, allowing it to carry forward through the shutdowns caused by COVID-19, the not-for-profit organization could see financial struggles this year as it receives no government funding and relies heavily on fundraising.

Since cancelling many of its annual fundraisers, Procyon started a program where individuals can sponsor baby animals currently being rehabilitated. Those interested in the program can email and ask for details on how to participate.

Currently, about 70 animals are at Procyon’s Wildlife Centre and 1,000 animals are rehabilitated and rescued by them each season, from spring to fall.

There’s a variety of animals under the centre’s care, such as squirrels, raccoons, minks, moles, raptors, owls, deer, coyotes, weasels, turtles, snakes, and any other native species in need.

Over the winter, Procyon had 110 wild animals in their care who were injured or born too late to survive independently in the cold.

Due to COVID-19, the animals were released in mid-March instead of mid-April, as it would have been too challenging for the centre to continue to care for them with all of the current restrictions.

Spilar said it’s important for the public to call Procyon before dropping off an animal to ensure it’s actually in need of rescuing.

“There’s a lot of times where the animal doesn’t really need to come to the centre, but some people just don’t know the habitat of certain animals,” she noted. “That’s why we always ask when you do find a baby to call a rehab centre first and we can tell just from talking to you.”

Spilar said wild animals do best in their natural environments, so Procyon is a last resort, strictly for those that would die outside of their care.

“Mom gives the best care, we’re second to Mom, so if we can not disrupt a family and keep mom with her babies, that’s what we’re going to do,” she explained.

The animals they treat are usually there due to human interference, so Procyon’s works to undo those harms, Spilar explained.

“We sort of put the balance back in the teeter totter,” she lauded.

Anyone looking to report an injured or orphaned animal can contact Procyon Wildlife at (905) 729-0033.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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