Monday, 19 September 2011

Aside #4: New Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge

September 2011

Meet Lady Goat. She likes her bathtub.

This is a story of how my Husband and I ended up meeting Lady Goat this past weekend and discovered a whole new world of a refuge for wildlife creatures ... goats, deer, racoons, rabbits......

Actually, I need to rewind back a few months and talk about Roxanne. No, not the old Police song. Roxanne the person is a neighbour living 4-5 doors down the street from us who owned a run-down house, not unusual in our inner city-residential area.

In June, Roxanne did the ultimate fix-er-up.  She tore down the house and is rebuilding a brand new infill.  We only knew this when the ground shook one morning and we looked outside to find a small crowd standing on the corner drinking champagne and toasting the $50K backhoe demolishing the property.

Husband decided to check it out and over the next few weeks made almost daily strolls to see how the construction was progressing .....

.... which brings me to one morning in June -- garbage day, in fact, and this is significant -- when, as per usual, Husband was talking to the owner and along comes the manager with a cardboard box.  In it are three small, scared raccoon tykes, their little faces pointed defiantly upward at the folks peering in.  The builder explains that he 'found' the box down the street and it was obviously being put out for the garbage.  Hmmmm... Well, whatever.  

Within five minutes, the box has been placed carefully on our front porch with the young lad from two doors down and his dad guarding it while husband calls the Humane Society.  I tried to give the trio a small can of water ... no interest .. and quickly decided to name them Huey, Dewey and Louie.  Very gender neutral and, yes, I'm aware those names are already taken by Walt Disney's adorable ducks and these were raccoons.  But the names just fit.   

All the while, there is general outrage rippling up and down the block as folks scratched their heads perplexedly trying to figure out what manner of person would discard three baby animals -- ALIVE -- to the trash heap.

Ever resourceful, Husband persevered to find a centre to care for the babies.  He called someone who knew someone who knew another and, lo and behold, he found a wildlife rehabilitator who was knowledgeable and capable with racoons and willing to accept the three little ones.  Turns out this person would soon be associated with a new Wildlife Refuge, which was in the final stages of getting its licence and was located not far from Ottawa.  The Refuge accepts injured and orphaned small animals. 

So off drove Husband with Huey, Dewey and Louie, a couple of old sheets to donate and some money to help with the cost of their food.  The rehabilitator took them in, checked them over carefully and we soon learned that they were very all healthy, very young, should not have been away from their mother, were a bit dehydrated and were being rehydrated and then bottle fed. They would be transferred and cared for at the new Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge when it officially opened.  

Pictures of the three foundlings arrived over the next few weeks to show their progress and eventually, yes, they were successful released into the woods.  I hope they lead a charmed life given the lucky break they got at the start of their lives. 

... which was a long intro into explaining how we came to be driving on a beautiful fall afternoon to the opening of the new Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge.  Nor were we the only visitors.  There were cars up parked up and down the highway and the opening was clearly very successful. Donations were gratefully accepted of course. It is run by a team of cheerful, committed volunteers and is maintained thanks to the largesse of the community i.e., no or little funding from anywhere else. 

The stroll around the Refuge was just delightful.  Lady Goat pictured above was peacefully snoozing in an old bathtub, eyes closed, beard a-waggling, chewing whatever and in complete repose as dozens of people went by her through the gate and into the Refuge grounds.  

The grounds themselves had feeding and water troughs scattered throughout the property and animals ... ponies, horses, alpacas, chickens ...roamed from trough to trough or ambled over for a scritch from one of the guests.  In other areas of the Refuge were large, sturdy cages to hold rabbits and other small or injured folk.  The racoon cages were in the back and not for viewing during the daylight hours.    

And there were Dozens of friendly goats.  The goats are very comfortable around people as they are the Galloping Goat Farm petting zoo, also run by the owner of the Refuge Centre, who uses the funds from the petting zoo to operate the Wildlife Centre.  We watched spellbound as a videographer somehow coaxed two dozen goats to run en masse over small hills, jump a little creek and come toward him as he filmed.  It will be fabulous footage. 

Goats are pushy creatures.  Two persistently nuzzled my left arm which held a water bottle. I learned quickly that you 'pet' a goat by scratching its ears and NOT by touching its horns, which are apparently very sensitive.  No problem, I said, as I gingerly 'pat', 'patted' them.  (The picture, right, was taken by another photographer at the Refuge and shows one of the buildings that house the horses.) 

There was also Patty Pony (my name for her). She seemed blind or at least had her eyes covered with a cloth (yes, picture is sideways... have to figure out how to rotate). She must have been able to see a bit though as we watched her nimbly navigate under the wire fence and head straight for the feed trough. 

As we left the grounds, we said goodbye to Lady Goat, convinced her goat-y friends they were NOT going through the gate with us,  and wished the owner well.  I'm sure we will visit again... or at least donate. 

Volunteer operator was awaiting licence
A Dunrobin woman who says she has spent tens of thousands of dollars of her own money creating a wildlife rescue centre had her facility raided by the Ministry of Natural Resources on Tuesday evening.

Lynne Rowe said she has been working for two years to create the Constance Creek Wildlife Refuge, taking extensive training courses on the care of wild animals, passing exams and building proper housing for the creatures on the four-hectare property where she lives on Dunrobin Road.

She said she has worked to meet all the relevant standards and applied more than three months ago for a licence that she was told would take two weeks to process. She hasn't received it yet.

On Tuesday, at about 6: 15 p.m., Rowe said she was just starting to give a tour to a group of Sparks, the five-and six-year old division of the Girl Guides, when at least four MNR officers showed up.

"They came with a warrant to search my property and they took two juvenile raccoons," said Rowe, who works as a database system administrator in Ottawa and runs the centre as a volunteer service. She said she has received $20,000 in one-time grant money from foundations to set up the centre, but has paid at least as much on her own.

Rowe said she has about 80 domestic animals on the property, which is legal. Most of them are rescues, she said.  Over the years, she has taken in pot-bellied pigs from the Humane Society and lame horses from riding schools. From there she decided to branch into wildlife rescue because the need is so great, so rare are the facilities that will take orphaned or injured wild animals.

Over the summer, she said, many calls came in, the majority for squirrels and raccoons, but some also for fawns. She said she didn't want to turn people away, despite the fact that she hadn't yet received ministry approval.

Now, she said, she will have to appear in court on Nov. 10 to face a charge of unlawfully keeping wildlife in captivity without a licence. She said she's afraid that will prevent her from finally getting the licence.

"Two years of hard work could be wasted," she said. "The irony is that there is a huge need for animal rescue."
No one from the Ministry of Natural Resources could be reached for comment late Tuesday evening.

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