It may seem like that baby bird or rabbit in your backyard has been abandoned by its parents, but that is likely not the case.
When it comes to wildlife, Chantal Theijn from the Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge in Jarvis, Ontario, says it’s important not to anthropomorphize wild animals. Chantal founded the Refuge in 2007 with modest ambitions and has since grown it into an important resource for wildlife rehabilitation, education, mitigation, and research.
“Wildlife is wild by definition, and you cannot measure them against the same standards that we measure our dogs and cats,” Chantal says. “It’s dangerous to anthropomorphize wildlife because, unlike dogs and cats, they aren’t domesticated. I want people to be aware of the wild nature of wildlife and the need for them to be wild.”
More Harm Than Good
When someone sees a baby animal on its own, they want to save it and take care of it, but Chantal says that can be harmful to the animal.
“If baby animals aren’t fed and raised properly, it can ruin the rest of their lives. Things like metabolic bone disease and lack of certain nutrients in their diet cause so many problems, much like it would in a human.”
She says it’s more likely that the baby has been temporarily separated from its mother, not abandoned.
“Animals – like humans – aren’t quick to abandon their young. It’s baby deer season right now. Fawns are notorious for moms leaving them alone for extended periods of time, and it’s very difficult to talk people into leaving the fawns alone. Unfortunately, a lot of baby wildlife are removed from the wild by mistake because people think they’ve been abandoned.
Chantal says that reuniting or cross-fostering a baby animal is preferred and bringing it to your local wildlife rescue should only be done if the wild animal is injured or sick. You can read more about the reuniting process on her blog.
Expansion is on the Horizon
Chantal and her team of volunteers are always busy. More than 3,000 wild animals find their way to the refuge every year.
“Our main function is to rehabilitate sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife, particularly wildlife that’s in distress as a result of humans. We try to release as many as we can back into the wild. We also work with other agencies to help identify and mitigate high-problem areas, such as sections of roads where turtles are often hit by vehicles.”
Chantal says her team is running out of space, but they’re working on a plan to expand.
“We want to rehabilitate more animals, but our building isn’t big enough to accommodate more volunteers. Expanding would also allow us to have bigger and better outdoor enclosures for wildlife. But one thing I’ve always wanted is an onsite lab. Wildlife diseases are often overlooked, and we consistently have issues with the existing labs. It could be used for research so we can get a better handle on the prevalence of certain diseases in the area.”
As restrictions on gatherings ease, Chantal hopes to resume fundraising events so that the Hobbitstee team can continue to educate and raise awareness about the importance of keeping wildlife in the wild.Interested in learning more about the Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge? Follow their page on Facebook or sign up for their newsletter to get connected! You can also follow Chantal’s blog by clicking here.