Although we’re still experiencing lots of snow here in Muskoka, spring will soon be upon us and that can only mean one thing to Aspen Valley – babies, babies and more babies!
Aspen Valley will soon be busy with babies, like this raccoon kit. Staff are appealing to the public to make donations ahead of the spring influx of orphaned animals.
Photo by Janalene Kingshott
In fact, we have recently learned that a rehabber in southern Ontario has already received two baby squirrels. Granted, they generally have less snow there, but it is a keen reminder of what is to come.
There is a good deal of preparation work in order to be ready, and staff prefer to do this during the relatively quieter winter months.
First of all, every cage needs to be given a cleaning, along with the rooms containing them – including the refrigerators and food prep room. We are grateful that there are currently three volunteers, who are doing their school volunteer hours with us, to help.
Supplies are checked and more ordered as needed. When baby raccoons arrive, they are first taken to the quarantine room. Raccoons are one of the rabies vector species found in Ontario and therefore undergo a period where staff and volunteers will wear face masks, gloves and gowns changed for each separate cage, in order to ensure the health of not only the animals, but the humans caring for them. A disinfecting footbath is installed at the entrance of the quarantine room so that any potential disease is not transmitted elsewhere.
We are currently gathering supplies for the spring rush.
We have gathered gowns, facemasks, gloves, bleach disinfectant, different sized baby bottles, and different sizes of tubing for tube feeding animals too weak to suckle.
We are currently still looking for possible donations of gowns, gloves and face masks, as these are items that are disposable and consequently we use large amounts of.
As staff vaccinates wildlife before release, vaccines are ordered in bulk, as well as the painkillers, de-wormers and other assorted antibiotics and medical supplies, including various sizes of syringes, needles, bandages, etc.
Most infant wildlife are lactose intolerant, meaning that cow’s milk would cause serious intestinal problems. There is a manufacturer located in the United States that has created special milk formulae for different wildlife species. They have done a good deal of research to determine the nutritional needs of squirrels, raccoons, beavers, etc. and have developed powdered milk tailored to these species. Although each is quite expensive, staff has had great success using these and, of course, orders have to be made well in advance of the arrival of the babies. Shipping charges are shared with other rehabbers and one bulk order placed in order to cut down costs.
Many people have donated their clean, used sheets being cut up for wipes. As these are thrown out after each use, we need a huge quantity. Likewise, people have donated old fur coats, which are cut up into blankets to provide comfort to orphans who have lost their mothers.
Earlier this winter staff appealed to the public to donate stuffed animals, and the response was overwhelming. These too are used to comfort the babies and are sorted into sizes and suitability.
As we get into less snow, this period of time allows staff to check fencing of the larger permanent enclosures for holes, etc. and to make relevant repairs, as well as to plan for construction and renovation in the warmer weather.
Preparation is an aspect of wildlife rehabilitation that may be overlooked by the public. In order to take care of the orphaned and injured wildlife that arrive at Aspen Valley, there is a good deal to consider, not to mention expense. We just couldn’t continue without the great assistance of donors and volunteers, and thank everyone for your support.
(These weekly 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.)