Wild animals don't belong in your home, Calgary rescue group says

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is fielding concerning calls from people who have taken in wild animals, looking for help.

Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society flooded with calls asking for advice on raising wildlife

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society said it's seeing a concerning trend this summer — people taking in wild animals to raise as pets. (Wings Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre)

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society is fielding concerning calls from people who have taken in wild animals, looking for help.

Melanie Whalen, CWRS' director of animal care, said people may have more time on their hands because of the pandemic or have been inspired by heartwarming online videos, but the end result is almost always damaging or deadly for the wild animal.

"The problem with people taking these animals as pets because they're often, you know, very cute and very easy to handle when they're young," Whalen said. "We see everything from skunks to ducks to raccoons. People are finding baby raccoons, baby birds, magpies, crows, squirrels, you name it."

Squirrels, skunks and raccoons may look cuddly as babies, but Whalen said they can quickly ruin furniture and become aggressive.

Whalen said they had a case where a moose was found as a calf. Thought to be abandoned, the moose lived in a barn and was fed cattle feed for a couple of weeks before it got sick and CWRS was called.

There's a laundry list of reasons not to take an animal in — including diseases that could affect pets or family members. 

"We never want to shame anybody, we want to educate people," Whalen said. "It's always best to take it to trained professionals … we have the facility, we have the knowledge, we have access to special diets and veterinary care that the average person does not have looking after this animal in their home."

Numerous calls a week

Earlier in the summer, Whalen said they were getting nearly four calls a week, where people were asking for advice and help. That has slowed down as the summer progressed but the call volume is still significant, she said.

"By the time they contact us at that point, they're fairly attached and they do look at these animals as a pet," Whalen said. "Our biggest challenge with these calls is just trying to educate people and make them understand that they are doing the best thing by bringing animals to us."

Pet stores helping out

Whalen said CWRS has started connecting with local pet stores to try and spread more information about why it's so important to keep animals wild and seek the proper care for animals that need it. 

Kelsey Watkiss is the manager at Pisces Pet Emporium. She said people occasionally come to the store looking for formula or information on how to care for wild animals.

"It is our policy to send anyone who has wildlife to [CWRS]," Watkiss said. But we can only do so much." 

Liz Blake has worked as a veterinary technician, she's volunteered with wildlife groups and even cared for wild animals in her home in Ontario before moving to Calgary. 

Rescue the best place for animals in need

But those were special circumstances. The town she lived in didn't have a rescue, and she was supervised by a veterinarian, with access to the clinic.

"The time and the money that it costs are astronomical," she said. "You're literally getting up every two to four hours to feed the animals through the entire night for the entire summer. There is no break." 

She said having a resource like the CWRS is the best hope for injured or abandoned wildlife. In a home setting, so many things can go wrong.