SPRING’S WILD ORPHANS WHAT TO DO AND WHY THEY HAPPEN
Wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release back into the wild is undertaken by accredited WILDLIFE REHABILITATION FACILITIES (see 2, below) all of which are staffed by trained personnel, funded through donations and operating under Alberta Environment & Parks, AEP, issued Permit.
Alberta Environment & Parks, AEP is responsible for wildlife management in the province and has provided educational Fish & Wildlife Guides: https://www.alberta.ca/fish-and-wildlife- administrative-documents.aspx.
While it has never been part of the Mandate of Alberta Environment & Parks or the Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Branch to rescue, rear and return to the wild orphaned wildlife, it is within their Mandate to address the issue in several ways: It is possible for AEP to be directly involved in picking up or arranging pick-up of injured/orphaned wildlife of provincial Endangered species. AEP are also involved because AEP issues Wildlife Rehabilitation Permits to accredited facilities, like CEI, enabling them at no cost to the government, to deliver the essential rescue, care and rearing necessary to return injured or orphaned wildlife back to the wild. For example, under typical circumstances, the process for black bear cubs going to a facility might involve AEP wildlife staff and/or Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Branch staff.
SEE 2 (below) for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres in Alberta operating under Government issued Wildlife rehabilitation permits, many of these Centres have particular areas of expertise for different wild species.
WHAT TO DO
If you, as a member of the public, encounter orphaned or injured wildlife here is what you should do:
- Stop, look carefully. If it is a bird, look around and note what you see (just so the wildlife rehabilitator has some idea of how the bird got hurt) if it is an animal, do the same. If it is a larger animal, make sure there is no sign of any other animal of the same species in the area. Take photographs if possible.
- Contact a wildlife rehabilitation facility:
Cochrane Ecological Institute (403 932 5632)
Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (403 239 2488) www.calgarywildlife.org
Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (403-946-2361) https://www.aiwc.ca/
Medicine River Wildlife Centre (403)728-3467 www.medicineriverwildlifecentre.ca
Wild North, Edmonton (780) 297-3979 www.wildnorth.ca
- The Rehabilitation Facility will provide you with direction as to how to proceed.
- If you as a member of the public are part of the rescue plan, think carefully about how you are going to go about the rescue, plan what you are going to do, and then, act with confidence. This will take a little time but it is time well spent. Following a plan and acting with confidence will keep you safer and will reassure the animal you are handling.
- Check to see if you have a blanket, or a coat or something big enough to cover the animal, check to see if you have gloves. Check to see if you have a box or something to carry the animal in.If the animal is lying helpless on the ground: Cover it carefully with a blanket or a coat. Once it is in the dark it is less likely to fight, more likely to relax.
- If it is a bird of prey, baby or adult, make sure the cloth/blanket/coat or whatever, covers its head and its feet…the talons of birds of prey are the most dangerous bit of the bird but if they have a good grasp of cloth with their feet and their heads are well covered up it is easy and fairly safe to handle them.
- Talk gently to it as you would to a domestic animal, dog/horse.
- If the animal appears to be an orphan, LOOK around very carefully before you touch it. Baby bunnies/hares and deer fawns should be left alone (unless you see the mother dead beside the fawn).
- Once wrapped in the cloth/blanket/coat/or whatever you have covered it with, pick up the animal and put it in a box.
- Do not show the animal to anyone.
- Leave the box in a cool dark quiet place until you can get it either to a rehab facility or a rehab facility volunteer can collect it.
- Do not worry about feeding the animal.
WHY DO WILD ANIMALS BECOME ORPHANED?
“Wild ecosystems are the homes of wild animals. They are expert at living in the wilderness because everything they need to survive and thrive is there. Spring is the time that most wild animals have their young. If these baby animals are born in wild places, they usually survive until they are old enough to leave their parents. The first year of life for most wild animals, even under perfect conditions, is the riskiest and once they have successfully made it past 18 to 24 months they will probably live a long and productive life in the wild.
Cities and communities, roads, railways, telephone wires, farms and ranches, industrial and recreational use all change wild ecosystems to a semi domestic or domestic landscape. These changes influence the lives of the wild animals who lived in the area long before these human initiated changes were made. Although there are wild life species that can live compatibly within the domestic landscape, there is also an unintended result of the human impact on the wild
environment: and that is that orphaned wild animals from birds to bears can come into human hands.
Often, in the case of deer fawns, and leverets (baby hares) the animals found are not orphaned and, if left completely alone, the mother will return to them. For birds of prey, like owls and hawks, nestlings develop their wing muscles by holding tight to a branch and flapping, but a strong wind can carry them off and if that happens the parent bird will find and feed the nestling. If a nestling is found on the ground it should be placed as high as possible in the nearest tree and a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre notified so someone can keep an eye on it. The ideal is for the parents of wild animals to bring up their young if at all possible.
Some Wildlife We Have Helped
Black Bear Management in Alberta
Following the requirements of the Alberta Wildlife Act and Regulation, the successful rescue, rearing and return to the wild (re-wilding) of orphaned indigenous wildlife, including bear cubs, was undertaken on the government’s behalf and under government permit, but at their own expense, by Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres in Alberta. In 2010, the Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resources Department’s Fish & Wildlife Policy Branch made a decision to prevent the rescue, rearing and re-wilding of a wide range of orphaned indigenous wildlife, including orphaned Black bear cubs in Alberta.
Cochrane Ecological Institute is happy to announce that the Government of Alberta, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) on April 18, 2018, reversed their original decision and released the “Alberta Orphaned Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation Protocol”. The existence of the “Alberta Orphaned Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation Protocol” enables those facilities that have been approved by AEP to once again accept, rear and re-wild orphaned Black bear cubs.
Cochrane Ecological Institute successfully accepted, reared and returned to the wild (re-wilding) orphaned Black bear cubs from 1985 to 2012 and is one of the few facilities in Alberta that has the purpose built enclosures with proven design enabling the successful return of orphaned black bear cubs to their suitable native habitat.
If you find an injured or orphaned Black Bear Cub this is what to do:
- Contact your local Alberta Environment and Parks office or Fish and Wildlife Officer to report the cub.
- If you cannot contact AEP or a Fish and Wildlife Officer Contact:
Cochrane Ecological Institute (403 932 5632) or Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (403-946-2361) https://www.aiwc.ca/
- Monitor the situation until either the government or the Rehabilitation facility responds to your request for assistance.
We would like to thank the province of Alberta for their work on this protocol and their acceptance of Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation and re-wilding as a positive Conservation Activity.