When concerned citizens encounter injured or orphaned wildlife they often are not aware there are permitted wildlife rehabilitation centres that can help. In Alberta the only facilities that are legally permitted to give long term care to injured or orphaned wildlife are wildlife rehabilitation centres. Not all wildlife rehabilitation centres are permitted to handle every species but all centres work together and will see that the patient gets to the appropriate facility.
Veterinary clinics, if they choose, may offer emergency care at no charge to the public. Unless they have a wildlife rehabilitation permit, they may not offer long-term care.
Just as with humans, the first few hours after the injury are the most critical and the sooner the patient receives treatment the better chance there is for success. Something as simple as a warm, dark place and the administration of fluids can mean the difference between life and death.
* I Have Found an Orphaned Wild Animal
Often well meaning members of the public pick up what they perceive to be orphaned wildlife when in fact they are simply normal young needing to be left with their parents. The following are common cases of mistaken orphans:
- Fawns: Adult deer do not abandon healthy fawns so if you find one and cannot see a doe please remember that it is normal and she is within the area. The doe stays at a distance from the fawn to keep predators away and will meet back up with the fawn at dusk. If the fawn is on the side of the road, pick it up gently and place it in the grass or trees nearby. Your scent will not cause any problems. If a fawn is found wandering aimlessly and calling loudly, found injured, or found near a dead doe it is in need of help.
- Songbirds such as Robins, Crows, Magpies, Blue Jays: These feldgling birds are often seen hopping on the ground, unable to fly. They are likely not in trouble. These species of birds can take up to a week to learn how to fly. The parents stay close by, teaching, guiding, and protecting them the best they can. As long as the parents are in the area and the young are not in immediate danger, the best thing is to leave the young alone.
- Hares: White-tailed Jackrabbits and Snowshoe Hares are born fully haired, eyes open, and eating grass. They may be tiny and look helpless but Mother Nature has provided them with a fur coat and an instinct to stay still and camouflaged. The mother only joins up with the young at dusk and dawn to nurse them and the family go their separate ways once again. Hares taken into captivity almost always die from stress. Leaving them alone is usually best.
If you believe you may have an orphaned wild creature, please call and discuss it with a wildlife centre before taking an action.