At Aspen Valley, wild animals needing a bit of help come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with a wide variety of misadventures stories that force them to require care and rehabilitation.
The good, and the bad of animal care.
Staff and volunteers work to remove a pop can from an unfortunate skunk.
Janalene Kingshott photo
Often, those misadventures are the result of human carelessness.
Recently, staff received a call from a Huntsville resident who reported a skunk had somehow gotten its head stuck inside a pop can littering the neighborhood. The caller said the skunk appeared exhausted, running into curbs and other objects in a state of tired panic, and eventually laying beneath a nearby vehicle. The caller also said one resident had tried to rescue the panicked animal, but couldn’t pull the can off of the skunk.
Two Aspen volunteers traveled to Huntsville and easily ushered the blinded skunk, can and all, into a cage. Back at the sanctuary, staff and volunteers wrapped the animal in a towel to prevent it from struggling, and used a pair of tin snips to remove the can. It was well-lodged, and the skunk would never have likely been able to get out of it on its own.
After a couple days, after staff and volunteers made sure he was eating and drinking, the skunk was returned back into the wild. The only other casualties were one staff member and one volunteer, who took the brunt of the skunk’s spray during the rescue.
Several times this year, Aspen has received turtles that have also been victims of various encounters with people.
Although Aspen doesn’t rehabilitate turtles, they are often brought into the sanctuary, where they are stabilized if possible, and forwarded on to a centre that specializes in turtle care.
One such turtle arrived at the hands of two caring anglers who inadvertently snagged a snapping turtle on their fishing line. Rather than leave the tortured turtle to suffer in the lake, the anglers brought it to Aspen, and we forwarded it on to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre for the best possible care. The anglers have remained in touch, and will return the turtle to the lake it came from when it has recovered.
Not all such encounters are accidents though. Some are the result of pure malice.
Last week, someone brought in a loon found on a road. Initially, staff thought it might be a loon that had landed on land (loons are unable to take off without water). But, with advice from a bird rehabilitation expert, Aspen determined the loon did not seem to be recovering properly, and it was transferred to a veterinarian.
There, the vet found a pellet lodged in the loon’s skull. It had apparently been target practice, and it had to be euthanized.
The stories always differ. There are those where kind-hearted people who understand the impact we have on our wildlife, but truly care, take responsibility and try to get the best care for the animals they encounter. And then there are others.
(These articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)