Wildlife habitat compromised by subdivision development, says vet

The veterinarian with the City of St. John's Animal Care and Adoption Centre says wildlife habitat is being affected by subdivision development in the city.

The veterinarian with the City of St. John's Animal Care and Adoption Centre says wildlife habitat is being affected by subdivision development in the city. 

"We have new subdivisions everywhere ... so what used to be wetland and normal nesting areas, now there's a storm drain in the way, so I think development plays a role in it," Heather Hillier told CBC.   

Heather Hillier said so far this spring, six groups of ducklings have been rescued.   

"It's been a busy spring. It seemed like it all happened in a 72-hour period of time, and then we've been getting storm drain calls. So the majority of our calls have been related to that." 

Hillier said a mother and her ducklings crossing Pitts Memorial Drive recently caused a multi-car pile-up on the busy highway. Last week, a group of ducklings had fallen through a storm sewer outside the Dr. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in St. John's, when a nurse saved the life of one of the baby ducks by giving it mouth to beak resuscitation.

When in danger

Hillier said people these days are more likely to call the city if they see wildlife come into harm's way.

"The biggest thing is the human heart. You see mom in distress, and you know the ducklings are down in the storm drain, and how can you just walk by? But we have to respect that they are wild animals — and mom is very protective. She'll hiss, she'll stomp, she'll charge, she will do it all," Hillier said. "And the ducklings, their instinct is to be afraid of us as well. The biggest challenge is to keep everything calm, and as many people away from the situation." 

Hillier said anyone in the city who sees wildlife is in danger can contact Animal Humane Services at 311.

"We'll respond to anything within city limits. It is a coordinated effort, so if we're working with a storm drain, we have to involve streets as well. They have to section off the area for us, and they're the ones that can safely open the man[hole] cover. So having a citizen that can direct us, keep an eye on mom, and try not to catch the animal themselves, and understanding it might take us a little bit to get to them."