Our mission: To protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

Putting families first: When to help wildlife and when to leave alone

 May 15, 2013

Baby season is underway for wildlife rehabilitators across the province. As infant mammals and birds begin to flood through the doors, centres are busy keeping them warm, clean and fed around the clock.

Spring is also the busiest time for wildlife rehabilitation centres fielding calls from the public. “Most calls are from people wanting to know at what point they should intervene when they come across injured or orphaned wildlife,” says Meghann Cant, animal welfare educator for the BC SPCA. “A certain percentage of calls, however, come from people upset with the fact that a wild animal has taken up residence in their house or on their property.”

During the spring and summer months, wild animals such as squirrels, skunks and raccoons often become more visible. The days grow longer, and females are easier to spot as they make frequent trips to and from nest and den sites to feed their young. Though some people enjoy watching this increased activity, for others it becomes an issue they feel pressed to deal with. “And, all too often, their first response is to trap and remove the animal,” says Cant.

According to Cant, however, trapping is not the solution. Apart from the stress it causes the animal being caught, given the time of year, the likelihood that a litter of babies will be left behind is high. Suddenly orphaned, some babies find their way to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, while others tragically starve to death. “And, even though wildlife rehabilitators do their best to raise orphans,” says Cant, “the fact remains that a wild animal’s own mother will always be better than a human one.”

Permanently separating a mother from her young in this way – though unintentional – creates orphans unnecessarily. Come fall, many nest and den sites are abandoned by animals when their young are old enough to disperse. “So, instead of trapping, wait until the babies have grown up and left the nest,” says Cant. “Then you can go ahead and seal up any gaps or holes in your house, porch or shed to prevent re-entry before baby season begins again next year.”

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.











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