It's been a really "wild" week here and let's just get right to it...
On Sunday afternoon Angie and I went for a walk. As we looked for migratory birds in a wood lot, following a dirt trail, Angie ahead of me, she spotted a wee little raccoon kid.
He was so small, maybe a body length of 7 inches, if that. He was curled against the base of a tree and he was crying. Oh my god, talk about a serious tug on the heartstrings. Of course our impulse was to immediately pick him up, take him home and some how save him. It was a very cool cloudy afternoon and they were calling for heavy rain overnight. We can't just leave him here! But deep down we knew that was not the right option in this moment.
I tried to contact a wildlife friend for starts, just for some reassurance. No luck. I called Toronto Wildlife and left a voice mail. It's spring. It's the weekend. I knew a call back will not come back in a timely fashion. Angie and I hung around for a little bit, staying back from the little guy, waited and talked about the situation.
We agreed it was best to leave him right where he is, to go home, and figure things out. We weren't going to just ignore him. Where we found him was less than 5 minutes from our home so it wasn't going to be a big deal to check on him again, and again, if need be.
I have no words to describe how pained we were to walk right by this kid and leave him there. It was a serious battle of emotions.
Back at home, waiting to speak with someone from Toronto Wildlife, I started researching on what to do. I pulled out a large manual that I bought from TWC a number of years ago. It is a great resource for many wildlife situations, although no two situations are alike, it helps when generalizing, like finding a baby animal.
I found the section on finding baby animals. Skimmed through the paragraphs and indeed we did the right thing for the time being, leaving the baby where he was, and hoping mom will come back for him.
Finally someone called me back from Toronto Wildlife. We had a discussion about our find. I knew more than what I thought I did about what to do, but in the heat of the moment, and fighting that impulse, I did forget. Monitoring was the best course of action for now. What they suggested was putting him in a small cardboard box, with open flaps. If we could give him a heat source, that would be beneficial. Luckily we have a dozen or so of those hand warmer things you can put in your gloves during the winter walks. They would be perfect for this situation. Also attaching a sign to the box, informing people that the raccoon was waiting for him mother, that people were monitoring the situation and to please not touch him. Also leaving TWC's phone number if someone had any questions. I got all that together rather quickly as it was getting dark fast and the rain was coming.
We talked about the what if mom did not return. I know placing a baby raccoon isn't easy to do as spring is rapidly moving along and centres are filling up with these guys. Unfortunately TWC will not place a lone baby raccoon for a list of reasons aside from being near full. There's a list of wildlife rehabilitation centres for Ontario which can be found online here... some other place may be able to help. I hoped it would not come to this because of the work involved in the phone calls and who knows how many will say "no" as well as the fact that many are out of the GTA and there is some driving involved which is difficult when you work a full time job. I do have a lot of retired friends who might put their hand up. I learned about a Facebook group called Critter Cabs where people volunteer to drive animals in need. The absolute last resort would be to call Toronto Animal Services and he would be euthanized.
Angie prepped dinner and I went down to check on the little raccoon, bringing the box with me.
When I got there, the raccoon was no where to be seen. I searched the parameter around the tree, going 20 ft out or so. Nothing. I returned to the spot where we found him, standing there for many minutes, scratching my head and wondering WTF. Then I looked up the tree again, way up. There was a smallish cavity, an unassuming cavity because of it's size. Lo and behold there was the tail of an adult raccoon sticking out. This was directly above where the little guy lay. Obviously he was monkeying around up there, too close to the hole, and fell out. While we did not witness anything it is safe to assume that mom came down for him when she felt it was safe to do so.
A reminder for some, a lesson for others, to not just go on impulse when finding baby wildlife, thinking they need help and take them away. Assess and monitor before taking action.
Next up, I was on my way to work when I spotted a turtle trying to cross a roadway. I quickly (and safely) pulled over, got out of the car and went to the turtle. A roadway is no place for such a creature. To my astonishment it was a Blanding's turtle! They are a species at risk here in Ontario, unfortunately much like so many other turtles. I have only seen a couple Blanding's turtles in my life and all were out in rural areas, and not in a heavily urbanized area. I moved him to a nearby pond and he quickly went back into the water.
The next day I contacted the Toronto zoo as they run a turtle tally program. I was going to report the turtle but wanted to be certain where I reported it, it was not going to be public knowledge. I recall a number of years ago where someone posted about seeing a Blanding's turtle at a small pond in the east end of the city. Then a couple days later it was reported that 2 men were seen leaving the pond with a Blanding's turtle. I remember us seeing a Blanding's turtle when out with some Bluebird friends west of the city. We came across a small pond area roadside and there was a Blanding's sunning itself. We viewed it, took some photos and when leaving, we were asked to please not post the location of the turtle due to poaching. Of course we kept it all hush hush.
The zoo people were prompt to reply to my inquiry and assured me it was not going to be made public. We had a small discussion about the evil that men do if you know what I mean. I submitted my data and hopefully this may be of some use in the future, be it protecting this wetland or ???
It's really sad that nothing is sacred when it comes to wildlife.
And lastly, I had a big surprise yesterday before work. I'm throwing my lunch together when I see a pigeon come into the yard, landing near the deck. I went to the window for a look, in case it's one of my few buds I have these days. I see a bird at the deck steps looking up at me. My eyes widened, I''m sure my heart rate increased as I was 99.9% certain it was Charlie. Why all the excitement for Charlie? Well, Charlie disappeared around late November or early December. She left with the flock after numerous hawk attacks. This has happened past years, the pigeons finally decide it isn't safe here anymore and they leave. I kept a look out for Charlie all through the winter and she never came back. Our 3 year anniversary was in late February. I was hoping we were going to acknowledge the occasion and celebrate but that didn't happen. Over time I just figured that was it, she left, just as Missus Pierre and the Jerseys did a few years ago. So here we are just over 5 months later and Charlie has come back. If only she could talk and tell me things like where she has been, why she left, why she came back. I recon it would be "I've been down the street at the high rises eating bread and crap the people throw out to me. I was keeping safe from your Cooper's Hawk visitor. I was curious... and hungry... and decided to check out your yard again." Maybe there would be a "because I missed you Rob" in there too? Whatever the reasons, she is back, not just yesterday but again this morning.
Welcome back Charlie!
What a week it has been so far!
How's it been for you out there, wherever you are?