Gloria Morissette doesn’t have to travel far to get to Turtle Pond Wildlife Center. The refuge can be found right in its backyard.
She currently has over 200 wildlife animals under care, ranging from turtles and squirrels, to porcupines and birds.
What people don’t realize is that the majority of those are orphans. And Morissette said Turtle Pond in Greater Sudbury, Ont. is now at capacity with the number of animals it’s taken in.
This year, Morissette said she’s taken in over 40 baby racoons, alone.
“I’m getting four or five, six calls a day about orphaned babies,” she said.
In the past, Morisette has been able to transfer animals to other centers. But at present most are at capacity, as well.
“The closest center to me is in Parry Sound,” Morissette said, “and I heard that Thunder Bay is looking to possibly open a center.”
In 2019, Wild at Heart, a Sudbury refuge for animals, closed its doors due to a shortfall in funding, and increased demands for intake.
At the time, veterinarian Rod Jouppi said the decision to close was not easy.
“We have never been able to bring in enough money during the year to do what we do and it’s expensive,” he said.
“We do not get any payment from any level of government or anything on an ongoing basis so it’s a struggle every year,” explained Jouppi.
Fundraising efforts, bank loans, and even personal loans were not enough to keep the center afloat.
That means people have been looking to Turtle Pond – and Morissette’s staff of volunteers – to handle the load.
What to do with animals you find
Morissette stresses that disposing of the mother animal isn’t always the solution, as that could open the territory up for other animals and leave orphans behind.
It’s especially become a problem for people who find rabbits or snowshoe hares on their property.
“We get a lot of calls about snowshoe hare babies and people pick them up in their yards because they feel they’re orphans,” Morissette said.
“There’s no mother with them and they took them in their house for a few days.”
“But then they start feeding them different things and I just wish people would just leave them be,” she said. “Because what mom does is she comes back at night to feed and she leaves the babies during the day.”
The baby rabbits, Morissette said, stay in one place quietly and wait for the mom’s return. Which is often where homeowners find them.
“If people come across them in their yards or they’re mowing their lawns…they might be hiding under shrubbery, things like that.”
“If you’re worried about your dogs [finding the rabbits]you can protect the rabbits by putting a laundry basket over the top of them.”
“But don’t take them in the house,” Morissette said. “Don’t intervene, don’t try to feed them. They’re usually totally fine.”
The mom, she said, would likely come and pick them up that night or two.
“Usually she does move them after a while.”