A Father’s Love for Wildlife

Coleen Doucette, Co-Executive Director shares her personal story

Father’s Day is an important celebration for many of us. It is an opportunity to reflect and honour the special bonds we have with our fathers and father figures in our life.

Recently, I had coffee with a friend and shared a very early memory of my father. Afterwards, I thought that this might be a story that our Wildlife Rescue supporters and friends would enjoy as well.  My father profoundly influenced my passion for wildlife from a very young age, and so today, I’m sharing this memory with you. I hope you enjoy… 

My father taught me a love for wildlife that grew into my lifelong purpose. I grew up in rural Maine surrounded by nature and animals. When I was a young girl, my favorite books were about animals. One book I loved was Bambi. So, when I heard that my dad and uncle had two deer in the garage, I was very excited to go see them, expecting Bambi. What I found were two deer that had been taken during hunting season to provide food for our families through the winter. I was about 5 years old and the shock was huge for me. I cried uncontrollably, repeating over and over that “dad killed Bambi”.  

Painting in Acrylic on Illustrator Board by Robert M. Doucette

My reaction had an intense impact on my father, who never took the life of another animal again. He put down his rifle and picked up his camera, pen and ink. My dad is an amazing wildlife artist and I have had the pleasure of spending time with him photographing animals and many hours watching him recreate their beauty on paper and canvas. During my teenage and early adult years, my dad began carving and sculpturing. As he is a detailed artist, you can see every feather on a bird in his carvings. He generally carves nature scenes such as a loon chasing a fish underwater.  

Wood Carving of Common Loon with base by Robert M. Doucette

My first career led me to managing a beautiful gift shop in Acadia National Park where I carried many local artists, including my dad’s work. It was an honor to share his talents with the world. During my time in Acadia, I encountered a family of beavers that had many challenges because of human disturbance. Somehow, the kits lost their parents and I found out that the state highway authority had plans to rip out the lodge with these young, helpless beavers still in it! So, when the equipment showed up to do the job, they found me sitting on top of the lodge with the local newspaper in tow.  I had the National Park Service on my side by then, so the State backed down.  

That was the beginning of my wildlife rehabilitation career as I researched how to care for orphaned beaver kits! For a while I considered flooding the basement of my house. My husband was very pleased when the plan changed to working with a national park biologist to live-trap and relocate the young with their older siblings to safety. I still get reports from the biologist on the generations of offspring from this family every once in a while. 

Sharing my father’s passion for wildlife led me to intercede on the beaver kits’ behalf which changed my life forever. I am forever grateful to have been taught to love and respect animals from a very young age. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY EVERYONE! 

Please donate to help wildlife today.

With warmest gratitude,

Coleen Doucette

Co-Executive Director

How-to: Keep Baby Birds (and Small Mammals) With Their Parents

As this blog is being written, spring seems as though it’s finally sprung. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the Wildlife Rescue hospital is preparing for an influx of baby animals over the next few months.

We all welcome the chance to spend more time outdoors and Wildlife Rescue wants to help you co-exist with nature a bit better. Since it’s also the start of baby bird season, we’d like to offer you an easy list to follow to ensure baby birds (and mammals!) are not separated from their parents.

We offer this since each year we see roughly 300 baby birds who have been, for one reason or another, orphaned – often by human interference.

So What Can You Do?

Before the babies are even born, there are things you can do in your own backyard to encourage “safe nesting”.

Be an early bird and inspect your house now!

  • Check all side vents including gable and attic vents.

Track down active nests by:

  • Checking locations where nests have been before.
  • Listening for chirping, rustling, and fluttering sounds coming from vents.
  • Checking for bird droppings below the vent or nesting material sticking out of them.

Protect your house before birds start nesting

Protective vent products you can use:

  • Hardware cloth—galvanized wire mesh 1/2 in x 1/2 in square openings.
  • Commercial vent covers—dryer-vent specific and general use models.
  • Both are available at your local hardware or big box building supply store.

Provide nest boxes and nesting materials

  • It may seem obvious, but a well-placed nest box can mean the difference between nesting success and failure for a cavity-nesting bird.
  • To best protect their eggs, parent birds select nesting material carefully, and many birds use several types of material to construct a single nest:
    • hair (human, cat, dog, etc.), cotton, wool, dried grass, feathers, bulrush down, bits of fabric, twigs, loose bits of thread, string, and yarn (not too long, so the birds don’t get tangled up).
    • Hang the bag from a clothesline or tree branch in your backyard or drape material over trees or shrubs near birdfeeders or sheltered spots where birds may build nests.

Bird in Distress? How to Assess!

The very first thing to do whether you’ve encountered what appears to be an orphaned baby bird, duckling, or mammal, is to first observe the situation.

Observe the Situation

If you think you have found an injured or orphaned bird, stop, observe, and ask yourself the following questions…

  • Is the bird obviously injured? Can you see exposed bone or blood? (*)
  • Is the bird on the ground?
  • Is the bird fully feathered?
  • Is it naked? (*)
  • Is the bird able to walk or run?
  • Is the bird vocalizing?
  • Is the bird gaping? (opening mouth for food)
  • Do you see predators or have you witnessed a predator attack? (*)
  • Is it covered in bugs or insects? (*)
  • Does the bird look sleepy? (*)

Call for help if needed

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions indicated by a star (*) human intervention is required. Get in touch with Wildlife Rescue’s information and helpline immediately at 604-526-7275.

If not, hang back and watch

If help is not needed, but you’re still concerned, it’s best to hang back and watch. It’s possible your presence merely scared the parent away and within an hour or two it’s possible the parent will come back.

Both baby bird and baby mammals outgrow their nests and will spend some time on the ground, testing their abilities and exploring.

Want to Do More?

Once again, waiting the situation out can be best, but if you’re concerned then here are a couple of things you can do:

Play a distress call – If you know what species the animal is, take out your phone, open the YouTube app and see if there is a distress call that you can play.

This can cue the parent to come and pick up their baby.

It’s true! In April, 2017 Wildlife Rescue was able to reunite an orphaned squirrel by doing this. It can take quite a bit of time, but the payoff is well worth it.

Find / make a nest – If you’ve found a baby bird, particularly if it’s pink and naked, look in your immediate area for signs of a nest.

If you can’t find one the best thing to do is to make a nest yourself. You can do this with a container, such as an empty sour cream container.

Be sure to puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and have some towels put in place as bedding.

Contact Us!

If in any of these cases, whether you think it’s an emergency or simply want some information, please contact us at our helpline at 604-526-7275.

You can also take a picture and tweet us @WRAofBC. Be sure to include the exact location and the date/time.

We’re always happy to help!

How to Help Backyard Birds Survive Freezing and Snowy Weather

Animals and humans both need to manage through winter’s adverse conditions of freezing weather and snowstorms. When we’re all tucked up in our warm homes, it’s easy to overlook what we can do to make winter survival easier for wildlife in our backyards.

Photo: © Mike Hamilton

Many people care about and enjoy the birds visiting their backyards and want to provide them with nourishment during the winter. Bird feeders filled with seeds or hummingbird feeders are popular amongst people as well as birds. Please keep the following steps in mind to help prevent issues and illness of the backyard wildlife:

Hummingbird Feeders

  • Use the following recipe for sugar water. Mix 4 parts of boiled water with 1 part of white sugar. Stir, cool and fill up the feeder. No need to use food colouring, honey or other products. This will prevent bacteria and fungal growth in the feeder.
  • Use a feeder warmer or rotate feeders during freezing weather. Remember that hummingbirds have very high metabolism and feed constantly from dawn to just after dusk. Frozen nectar in feeders can literally starve hummingbirds, causing them to suffer very low levels of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), their body’s main energy source.
  • Although hummingbirds also feed on insects they can find in tree bark, hummingbirds are very dependent on backyard feeders to survive in freezing and snowy weather. To avoid freezing, alternate two feeders when temperatures drop towards zero and replace the one that froze overnight with one that is warm and fluid in the morning before you head to work. Another option is to purchase a feeder warmer that keeps the nectar from freezing.
  • Clean feeders regularly to prevent disease spread. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned once a week at a minimum during winter and more often during the summer. The feeder should be emptied, the sugar water in the feeder disposed of, and the feeder and its ports cleaned using a bottle brush with a mild solution of dish soap and bleach.

Seed Feeders

Bird feeders can provide songbirds with extra nutrition during the winter, but can pose some risks as well. The birds species found in our area are adapted to survive the winter and natural food sources are available to them.

Bird feeders make wildlife susceptible to cat and predator attacks, disease spread, bacterial infection, and territorial aggression. To prevent these common dangers, here are some tips that are helpful year-round:

  • Clean the seed feeders every few weeks and wait to re-hang the feeder for a week. This will disperse the population and lessen the chance of spreading disease or causing birds to get aggressive due to crowding. Disease spread is not uncommon and can include viral or bacterial infections in their eyes (conjunctivitis), or scaly leg mites (microscopic insects that live underneath the scales on the bird’s lower legs and feet), an uncomfortable and often fatal condition.
  • Replace bird seed regularly and thoroughly wash the feeder. If left too long, bacteria and fungus will grow and either kill or weaken the birds so they don’t have a fighting chance for winter. Use small amounts of seeds and wash the feeder regularly with a 10% bleach solution. Clean underneath the feeder regularly as some birds forage on the ground.
Photo: Paul Steeves
  • Keep cats indoors. Birds at feeders can be easy pray for cats that don’t need to feed on wildlife to survive. Protect both your cat and birds by keeping them indoors or provide them with a catio.

In summary, while the extra boost of calories and nutrition from bird feeders can help birds gain strength needed to survive the inclement winter months, some simple steps will ensure good intentions don’t become bad.

All about Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees are expert pollinators and DON’T sting (the males don’t even have a stinger). They are metallic blue/black and are smaller than typical honeybees (so they look like flies). Bee populations have dropped by 50 percent in the last 25 years! Habitat loss, climate change and pesticides have all contributed to this decline. But we can help by making backyard habitats for these solitary critters!

Re-useable Mason Bee Home Materials

  1. Container (empty coffee can, flower pot)
  2. Tape
  3. Bath tissue rolls, brown paper or newspaper.
  4. Pencil
  5. Scissors
  6. String
  7. Peat moss (optional)

Remember to build with an adult!

1. Prepare the Container.

Thoroughly clean it, inside and out. If using an
empty coffee can or similar, remove the lid but
leave the bottom intact. If using a flowerpot,
cover the drainage hole with paper and tape.

2. Make Nesting Tubes.

Create a nesting tube by first cutting, then
rolling the tissue rolls (or paper) snugly around a pencil to make a
sturdy tube. Secure with a few pieces of tape, and gently slide out
the pencil. Close one end of the tube by covering it with tape.

3. Assemble the Bee House.

Place each nesting tube inside the container with all open ends
facing out. If available, add moss in the gaps between tubes for
insulation, support and a comfortable environment. Tie the sting
tightly around the container so you can hang it. (Or bunch holes in
the side of the container and knot the string inside)

4. Find the Right Site.

Choose a south-facing spot in your yard that
will be protected from rain, and hang it about eye level. Trees and
fence posts are natural choices if available.

5. Housing Care.

In the summer or fall careful take out the rolls
and empty the bee cocoons from them. Store cocoons in a dark and
cool place until early spring when you will set them beside your
bee house, with brand new tubes that you now know how to make!

6. How to Encourage more Mason Bees to Visit!

  • Set up more than one mason bee house in different locations.
  • Have plenty of flowering plants growing nearby to provide the
    bees with nectar and pollen.
  • If you notice birds pecking at the bee house, cover the entrance
    with chicken wire.

Sarah and Sam the Snow Geese

Snow Geese are a type of animal we only see in winter at the Wildlife Rescue. Can you guess why? The answer is because they migrate!

Migration is the movement of a group of animals from one place to another. Animals migrate for many reasons, but Snow Geese migrate because it is too cold and there is not enough food in Siberia and the Canadian Arctic, where they spend summers. Sometimes these amazing geese can fly all the way from their summer homes in less than two days!

No wonder, then, that two snow geese came into the Wildlife Rescue in November looking very skinny and very hungry. The first to visit the Care Centre, Sarah, was fully grown and found in Vancouver at English Bay. She was so tired and hungry she could not even hold up her head when she came in. The Wildlife rescuers were very nervous that she would not recover because for days they tried to help her but she only kept getting more sick.

Two weeks later another juvenile snow goose, Sam, came to the Wildlife Rescue. He was also tired and hungry, like Sarah. After flying so far away he would not have sur­vived on his own without help from the Wildlife Rescuers. Snow geese love their families: they mate for life and children migrate with their parents. This gave the Wildlife Rescuers an idea. They put Sam in the same enclosure as Sarah to see if having company would make her feel better. Sure enough, she immediately started improving.

Sam loved following Sarah around and doing what she did. When she swam, he swam. When she ate, he ate. Two weeks later, Sarah and Sam were able to be released weighing almost twice as much as they did when they first came in!

We hope they live happily ever after.

Cat Injury

One of the most common reasons birds get injured are cats. At the Wildlife Rescue over 300 birds are brought in with injuries that are caused by cats every year.