Tis the season of giving and with it, the coming together of a community and partners to save a colony of 46 big brown bats who found themselves without a winter hibernation home.
Early last week, parishioners at the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in Almonte noticed a colony of bats clinging to the outside stone wall of the church. The bats had been humanely evicted in late summer, but they returned too late to find an above 0C, protected place to roost for the winter. The bats were not flying away. They were using up the fat stores and would slowly starve or freeze with the looming colder temperatures.
The parishioners contacted the Mississippi Mills Field Naturalists, who, in turn, contacted RVWS and the bat specialists at the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF).
On December 8, CWF mounted a rescue effort and managed to save 26 bats and brought them to RVWS. Initial care required a health assessment, and oral and subcutaneous fluid therapy for each individual bat. Their weight ranged from a low of 14 g to a healthy 23 g. Over the course of 24-48 hours we continued to hydrate the bats, and gradually introduced and taught them to feed on non-flying insects, such as mealworms and grubs.
While the 26 bats in care at RVWS were making a recovery, another rescue effort was underway to save the remaining bats, who were roosting as high up as 50 feet on the stone wall.
Thanks to CWF and the Mississippi Mills Volunteer Fire Department, the final 20 bats were rescued and brought to RVWS on December 10. At RVWS, it took two of us over four hours just to assess and give fluid injections to the 20 bats.
We are happy to report that every one of The 46 is doing well. Many are now self-feeding, others still require twice-daily hand feeding and fluid therapy. They are being kept in a warm, humid room in cages of 2-5 bats each, based on gender and weight.
We normally receive about 50 bats each year, nevermind all at once. Together with others admitted, we currently have 56 bats in care and continue to receive calls almost daily.
Once the bats reach a healthy weight, they will be rotated back into hibernation in our bat fridges, where we will monitor their weight and bring them back out of hibernation to feed every few weeks. The bats will be returned to Almonte in the spring, giving them plenty of time to find a new roosting spot.
We estimate The 46’s care to cost about $8,000, including about 160,000 mealworms! We also had to purchase additional specialty mesh cages and feeding dishes.
We already have many people to thank in addition to the community of Almonte and the rescuers. Thank you to:
- our staff and volunteers who stepped up to the plate and helped with this unexpected influx of needy patients
- Pet Valu Kemptville for the significant supply discount
- Karin Mahoney, Joyce Ellis and Dino Reptiles for donating the first 30,000 mealworms
- Bunico Communications Inc. who raised $2,730 to help care for the bats at one of their events
This adult red fox was brought to RVWS after being hit by a car. She arrived unresponsive and in critical condition, but began to slowly improve after several days of rest and intensive care, which included fluid therapy, and anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
Meet wildlife babies, past and present, progressing from their fragile state when admitted, through to their “teenage” years and release back home to the wild. All thanks to our dedicated donors and team of volunteers.
Not long ago, a kind citizen rescued a wounded raccoon. When the raccoon arrived at RVWS, it was obvious that he had injuries to his face and had trouble walking. He was dehydrated and too scrawny to survive the winter.
Someone had shot the raccoon with a BB gun. X-rays clearly showed where the shots penetrated his jaw. He also suffered from a fractured jaw and leg.
We quickly got to work, providing medical treatment, easing his pain with anti-inflammatories and treating his infection with antibiotics. With lots of loving care and plenty of rest, “Bobby” is well on his way to recovery.
Vulnerable wildlife like Bobby would not stand a chance this winter without treatment. The winter can take a toll on wildlife’s ability to forage and the frigid temperatures make it even more urgent to help wildlife in distress.
We need your help to save more animals like Bobby and others like him.
Your gift today will help provide Bobby with the kindness and care, medical support, comfortable surroundings and nutritious food to help him recover and get back home to a life free in the wild.
Pepe the Striped Skunk arrived at the sanctuary as an orphan. He also had mange, a skin mite that causes hair loss and lesions, which can lead to infection and other debilitating conditions.
Fortunately, mange is easily treated with repeated doses of medication over the course of 6 weeks. After several months, Pepe had regrown a healthy coat of fur and added a few extra pounds. He was released with two other skunks from his area in late summer 2014.
When an Ottawa family discovered a groundhog making its home under their front steps this spring, they phoned an animal control company. Unfortunately, the animal control company did not practice humane methods – they relocated the adult groundhog and filled in the hole with dirt.
Luckily, the family were animal lovers. They watched as babies left behind were able to dig themselves out over the next few days and brought them to RVWS. Four of the babies thrived and were released in an appropriate habitat close to where they were found.
Sheldon the raccoon was found at three weeks old, lying on the floor of a storage barn. When he arrived at the sanctuary, our examination showed that he was severely dehydrated and had head trauma from his fall. After two months of TLC, he was able to join other orphaned raccoons from the same area. As they are still too small to be released, they will remain in our care throughout the winter and be released in the spring.
Muriel the Blanding’s Turtle, a threatened species in Ontario, was crossing a farmer’s pasture when she was kicked by a donkey, losing a large section of her upper shell. We cleaned and dressed her wound, and gave medications to alleviate pain and prevent possible infection. She will remain in our care over the winter to help her shell regenerate.
Homeowners chainsawed a dead tree and unintentionally hit a nest of baby red squirrels. Frankenstein (right) sustained severe lacerations across his back and belly, and lost the tip of his tail. Shelly (left) lost most of her tail.
As animal lovers, the homeowners immediately brought the babies to Dr. Rob Turmel, Richmond Animal Hospital (by chance RVWS’ vet), who sedated them and stitched them up at no charge.
Frankenstein healed beautifully and had his stitches removed a week later. Both squirrels are are thriving in our care and have two more littermates from the same area. They will be released when they are 12 weeks old.
Harriet the Red Squirrel was discovered lying alone and cold on someone’s driveway. Attempts at reunification with mom were not successful so she was brought to RVWS. Harriet was released in mid-September back where she was found.
Red the raccoon arrived at the sanctuary as an orphan with a broken leg. He required frequent trips to the veterinarian, x-rays and bandage changes for three months as his leg healed. Red’s final x-ray showed that his bone had mended beautifully. After several more months of physiotherapy and exercise, he was released back into the wild with his littermates.
This Striped Skunk, one in an unusually large litter of nine babies, was orphaned when something happened to mom. The homeowners watched over the babies, who were nesting under a shed in their backyard, for several days until it was confirmed that the mother was not coming back for them. They were then brought to RVWS to spend the summer.
by Kristen Dolenko
Easily identified by its domed shell and bright yellow markings, the Blanding’s Turtle is one of three turtle species most common in the Ottawa area. It is also considered a threatened and protected species at risk because of road mortality and the loss of wetland habitat in Ontario. Urbanization is at the heart of the Blanding’s Turtle blues.
RVWS has taken in and cared for 59 turtles so far in 2013, almost double those admitted in 2012. Most of these have been hit by vehicles as they cross roads.
When Terry Fox Drive extension (between Second Line and Richardson Side Road) was first proposed, an environmental assessment raised concerns about the potential impact of the road on the South March Highlands Blanding’s Turtle population. So the City of Ottawa added measures to its design and development plans to mitigate negative consequences of the road on the natural habitat.
Enter Dillon Consulting Limited (Dillon). Dillon was contracted by the City of Ottawa to design the new Terry Fox Drive extension. During the design process, several wildlife passages were added, consisting of wet and dry concrete culverts, and associated fencing and walls to help guide wildlife safely under the road.
In addition, the City contracted Dillon to undertake a four-year study of the Blanding’s Turtle in the area. Radio transmitters were attached to several turtles to help identify the most important nesting and over-wintering zones. Based on radio telemetry, Dillon suspects that turtles are using the culverts regularly to pass safely under the road.
However, it seems that Morgan, a female Blanding’s Turtle fitted with a radio transmitter, did not read the crossing signs. In early June, a Dillon employee found a turtle (pictured here) just after it had been hit by a car. Kevin Robinson quickly assessed the turtle’s injuries and brought it directly to RVWS for treatment. The sanctuary treats injured and orphaned wild mammals and turtles, and returns them to the wild once healed.
Although the turtle’s skin between its hind legs and bridge were torn, and both bridges slightly cracked, a veterinarian stitched up its injuries and it successfully recuperated at the sanctuary over the summer. Fortunately, Morgan was released back into the South March Highland area on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.
Ironically, Morgan’s injuries and resulting captivity during the summer may mean a better chance of survival for the turtle’s offspring. Morgan was gravid, or carrying eggs, upon arrival at the sanctuary and laid 15 eggs while recuperating. Thanks to incubation in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, nine babies have hatched. Given less than one percent of Blanding’s turtle eggs survive to maturity at between 16 and 25 years, the sanctuary hopes these hatchlings will have a good head start back in the wild.
Sadly, many turtles aren’t so lucky.
Internal injuries are the leading cause of turtle road mortality. Other injuries, while treatable, are costly. Veterinarian services, x-rays, pain medications, antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, and special equipment account for just the initial expenditures required to save a turtle’s life. Because the healing process takes time, the sanctuary must not only give of their own time, but also provide food and shelter, often up to a full year, to enable a turtle to fully recover.
To find out more about the Blanding’s Turtle and its special connection with the South March Highlands, you can read Dillon’s interim report, Blanding’s Turtle Conservation Needs Assessment, on the City’s website (http://ottawa.ca/sites/ottawa.ca/files/smh_blan… t_final_report.pdf).
Henry, a 10 kg Snapping Turtle, arrived early in the season after being hit by a car. He sustained a large fracture on his carapace, or upper shell. He will have to spend the winter at RVWS to allow his shell more time to heal and will be released back into the wild next spring. Snapping turtles are the only turtles that cannot protect themselves by retracting their limbs into their shells. Hence, their seemingly aggressive nature when threatened. As with most wildlife, snappers will flee and avoid any sort of confrontation if given the chance.
Raccoon baby Tyson came to the sanctuary at only 2 weeks old. He was orphaned when an animal control company removed babies from an attic and put them in a heated box next to the house.
Mom moved three babies, but little Tyson was left behind. Tyson was just 218 g when admitted on May 5 and tipped the scales at 25+ pounds in late September when he was released with his buddies.
The release video:
Another great release. Huge thanks to Natalie and Gordon for sharing their gorgeous 85 acre property near Apple Hill with Tyson and his friends.
While most of the raccoons quietly explored and foraged, two of them made a beeline to the creek at the end of the path. One raccoon wouldn’t stop eating long enough to move.
Every fall, we travel hundreds of kilometers and spend hours hiking crown land and the private property of our supporters as we search for the perfect release sites. Hiking Ottawa’s forests with the leaves changing colour is not such a tough job!
By law, we have to release orphaned wildlife within 15 km of where they were found. Some species, such as squirrels, can be released in suburban areas away from busy roads. In fact, many of the people who rescue them agree to release them back onto their properties.
For other species, such as raccoons and skunks, we prefer to release them in rural forests. Watching our charges being released back to their natural environment and enjoying their freedom is our best reward. If you would like to share your property with wildlife, please let us know as we always need more sites.
Every year, thousands of wild animals are injured or killed because of discarded litter. RVWS recently encountered a situation that could have ended as badly had it not been for Mac and Brenda, who rescued a skunk with a tin can stuck on his front leg.
They had first spotted it in a forest and did not see it again until two weeks later, this time in a place that made for easy capture with a live trap. The skunk had likely reached into the can to get at whatever morsels remained but got its paw caught on the half-open lid, which had been pushed down into the can.
Over time, the sharp lid had dug deeper into its paw. It’s incredible that this skunk survived for at least two weeks with a can on its paw, though it was obviously emaciated. We removed the can with tin snips, but veterinary care was obviously required.
Dr. Turmel, Richmond Animal Hospital, sedated the animal, cleaned the wound and took several x-rays. Although the wound was deep and the paw quite swollen, it was a clean cut that did not appear to reach tendons or bone.
“Lucky” stayed with us for twice daily antibiotics until his wound healed and he put on some weight. He would not have survived without intervention, thanks to Mac and Brenda.
The following tips will help keep wildlife safe from litter:
- rinse recyclable containers to remove food and odours
- fully remove lids of tin cans; crush cans
- cut up plastic containers (including dome lids and 6-pack rings)
- use garbage cans with locking lids or use bungee cords to secure
- put garbage cans and recycle bins out for collection in the morning instead of the night before
Little Amelia came to us as a lost orphan with a broken jaw. Her jaw was wired together for six weeks, healed well and she was switched gradually from a soft diet to dog kibble.
Toby, the male 35-lb, 30+ year old snapping turtle, was our most talked-about guest. A gentle creature for a snapper (snappers appear aggressive when threatened because they cannot retract their limbs, head or tail into their shell like other species).
Toby was found at Dow’s Lake Arboretum. A passerby noticed Toby on land with what appeared to be an injured tail. It turned out that Toby had prolapsed private parts—he could not get his private parts back where they belonged. Dr. Auger from Carling Animal Hospital remedied the situation and Toby spent the summer with us recuperating.
Turtles really have their own personalities — Toby had a great appetite and would raise his head out of the water and stare at us to let us know he was hungry (snappers spend most of their time under water and don’t bask in the sun like other species).
Release day for Toby was pretty special — with a bit of a crowd looking on, he swam out gracefully, then came briefly back to shore as if to say thanks or “where’s my fish?”
In 2012, our second year of working with turtles, we admitted abut 30 turtles, compared to 32 in 2011. With seven of the eight native turtle species in Ontario listed as species at risk, saving even one turtle can make a difference. Sadly, less than 1% of turtle eggs and hatchlings survive to adulthood.
This summer, we documented a case about an extremely sick red fox. After several attempts, the fox was successfully trapped and brought to our centre. He had a severe case of mange, a parasitic skin mite that results in hair loss, crusty skin and emaciation.
Severe cases of mange can be fatal but the condition is easily treated, if caught in time, with the proper medication. After more than a month of medical treatment, the fox’s skin had improved, the hair had started growing back and he had gained weight. At release time, he bolted out of the cage, happy to be back on his home turf.