Spring has sprung - and with it comes a host of newborn animals in the backyards and woods around Burnaby.
The Wildlife Rescue Association is reminding people not to try to treat wildlife in distress because doing so can put the animal's life at more risk; instead, they are urging people to contact them first on their Wildlife Helpline and get advice on what to do in the situation.
The association's wildlife rehabilitation leader, Linda Bakker, says she understands the urge to want to help but says it often has unintended and harmful consequences.
"No one sets out to hurt these animals, but without an in-depth knowledge of species behaviour, veterinary protocols, specialized diets and suitable facilities, they stand little chance of survival upon release," she said. "Wild animals are not like domestic pets, and they have very different needs. It may feel like the right thing to do, but cuddles and treats can be lethal for wildlife."
"Home rehabbed" animals - those that are taken into a home and cared for by people without training - can often suffer severe dehydration, digestive issues, or physical deformities as a result of malnutrition. They can lose their instinctive ability to forage for food and interact with their own species, and show no fear of humans or predators.
Bakker notes it is also against the law to keep a wild animal of any kind in captivity.
The association notes three cases in recent months in which animals were helped by people with negative outcomes.
In the first case, a nestling robin was found and fed dog food - the robin was unable to digest the food and was left with distended intestines. It needed to be humanely euthanized. In the second case, an orphaned American robin was brought in that had been cared for by people long enough that it would sit on the rescuer's shoulder and would not fly away.
In the third case, a skunk was brought in with blocked anal glands and a total lack of fear of humans. It had been kept by a teen in her bedroom for several months as a pet. The skunk was rehabilitated for several weeks before it could be released.
"If you find a wild animal that needs help, please give us a call," said Bakker. "We've been helping wildlife for more than 30 years, and we have the experience and knowledge to give them the care they need to have the best possible chance of survival."
Contact the Wildlife Helpline at 604-526-7275 or see the website at www.wildliferescue.ca.