Joy Huggins, Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, has been advocating for local wildlife for as long as she can remember. Wildlife Haven Waterloo (WHW), a volunteer-run facility, was part of a lifelong journey. She devotes her days (and nights) to rescuing, treating, and releasing wild animals that have been orphaned or injured. If possible, she ensures their release happens close to the area they were found.
“We avoid taming the animals that we rescue because wildlife should remain wild. We treat injured animals and feed orphans until they are strong enough to live independently, and then we release them in suitable habitat.”
“I will try and help an elephant if you brought it to me,” she said.
WHW is authorized by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to rehabilitate wildlife, yet they receive no financial assistance from the government. “This is a labour of love. Our work is carried out entirely by volunteers and funded out of pocket,” says Huggins.
The current State of Emergency has dramatically decreased volunteer numbers, often leaving the small rescue team without enough time or financial resources.
“We rely on the public to help us keep our doors open. It’s so expensive and it’s been hard - it has been raining squirrels and bunnies,” she said. Currently, she also keeps watch over a new litter of weasel babies (found dehydrated), rose breasted Grosbeaks with fractured wings, many baby robins, and baby cardinals.
Huggins says, all of the rehabs are at max capacity, believing it’s due to the increase in people out walking and exploring the outdoors. “We want to always help all the animals we can of course, but it’s getting tough when we are running on fumes.”
Huggins uses social media to educate the public on what to do should you find an abandoned animal. She warns, “be aware that its parents may have left it there for good reason. Infant mammals and birds are often left in a hiding spot while their parents forage for food. The parents may return infrequently, perhaps once a day, in order to keep predators from discovering the location.” She says although we think we are doing a good deed, human presence may actually draw the attention of predators to an infant animal. “If you must check on an animal, do so unobtrusively.”
If you do find a wild animal that appears to need help it is best to watch from a distance. Often they will do better without human intervention. When in doubt, contact WHW or a nearby wildlife facility to handle it.
Following up on a recent call regarding a fawn found hiding in some skids - her team observed before deciding a rescue was the solution. “We definitely don’t want to kidnap a fawn which happens way too much,” said Huggins. The fawn was dehydrated which indicated mom was no longer around. “She got some fluids and is such a sweet little thing. Deer get imprinted very easily so she went off to Shades of Hope where they not only are experts on deer, but also have another little one that needs a buddy,” said Huggins.
She admits that wildlife rescue can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and burnout is very real. They are in desperate need of volunteers who understand the nature of the work.
“We need paper towels, grocery store gift cards, money for a very expensive formula. Each species needs different formulas, pretty much, and they are ordered in from the U.S.”
“We could never do this without your help. You all mean the world to us and the wildlife we help,” said Huggins.