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Out on a limb for a baby squirrel

One of our guiding philosophies is that all creatures are treated with equal respect regardless of their rarity or commonality, whether they are large or small, sweet natured or ill tempered.

Consider the case of this baby Red Squirrel. Originally rescued with five nest mates as an orphan, he had a severe foot injury and we were doubtful that he would ever walk again, much less jump from branch to branch in the wild. Tiny in nature but with a big attitude, he stole our hearts. So many people were prepared to go to any lengths to help him, we just had to give him every chance. Dr. Mark Foley at Island Veterinary hospital in Nanaimo offered his micro surgical skills while volunteer helicopter pilot Norm Snihur and transporters Ed and Linda Harris chauffeured him for regular examinations. He ungraciously endured the cone of shame and a mini leg cast for weeks, while being lovingly cared for. To our great joy he healed completely and was successfully reunited with his siblings.

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Catch of the Day

      Jokingly, I remarked that one of the things I liked about seals was that they never get hit by cars. The following morning we responded to a distress call regarding a deer entangled in a fishing net. I couldn’t help but think that a deer in a fishing net should be just as ludicrous as a seal hit by a car. However, on Salt Spring Island, deer dying in fishing nets is all too common an occurrence.
     In our oceans, discarded fishing nets are responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent marine mammals, birds, and assorted “bycatch” species.  On land the nets are given the opportunity to continue their carnage.
     For no reason that I can see, other than the desire to save a buck (pardon the pun), fishing nets are strung around people’s properties, around garden plots and between trees in the forest. These cheap surrogate fences are deadly to unsuspecting wild animals.
     A living being, struggling for life and breath can be witnessed only by the coldest, most hardened individuals among us without almost being moved to tears. The air is so thick with panic and terror that your own heart rate doubles. The deer, usually a buck with antlers, wanders into the netting in the dark of night.  It isn’t until dawn that the gruesome scene is discovered and reported to the wildlife centre. 
     By morning, the netting is wrapped tightly around the antlers of the exhausted animal. Its lungs are screaming for oxygen, but its mouth is tied shut with many layers of netting.  Its eyes are large and protruding and a pale tongue hangs limply through the netting from the side of its mouth.  The ground beneath it has been excavated by a night of futile kicking and straining.  With every leap and spin the netting wrapped around the buck’s throat squeezes tighter and tighter. The approach of humans, even those with the intention to help, sends the deer into a fight or flight driven response that is so horrifying that at that moment you wish you could be anywhere else in the world except right there, adding to that creature’s torment. From a short distance away, projectile sedative darts slam into the deer’s hind quarters, sending him back into a rage and twisting the netting around his throat even tighter, like a clenching fist.
      After what seems like a very long time, the buck has lost the ability to struggle and collapses to the ground.  Rescue must be quick now because the deer’s dead weight against the netting threatens to cut off its breathing altogether.  Quickly and carefully, with knives and scissors, we work our way through the many layers of heavy nylon netting.  Usually the netting is wrapped so deeply into the animal that it is difficult to get our blades between the nylon and the flesh.  Eventually, deer and fishing net are again separate. Drugs are administered intravenously to help reverse the sedation, and with a little luck, the deer struggles to his feet and stumbles off into the woods.
     It’s your choice homeowners. You can keep your little cabbage patch safe, but I promise you will one day inflict horrible suffering on an innocent creature. The staff at the wildlife centre urges you to safely dispose of your fishing nets before it's too late.

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