Where sick or injured wildlife are healed in the GTA

Last Nov. 21, Shyrose Juma found an injured bird on the road as she drove in Markham, Ont. She brought the thick-billed murre home and called a few veterinarians. When they couldn’t help her, Juma looked to find help online. Eventually she discovered the Toronto Wildlife Centre which took the bird.

“I was so happy once I found them,” Juma said. “Now I know that if I ever find (an injured wild animal) I can always call them.”

Nathalie Karvonen started the Toronto Wildlife Centre in 1992. It’s located near Sheppard and Keele and is the only wildlife centre in the Greater Toronto Area. It tends exclusively to wild animals, providing medical care and rehabilitation to sick, injured and orphaned animals. The Centre always tries to reintroduce the animals back into the wild.

A young coyote receives care and treatment at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Every year, from March through October, the centre answers to thousands of calls about baby animals described as orphans. (TWCyoung coyoteE)

“We’ve worked with over 270 different species of wildlife, because there’s a huge diversity of wildlife that live in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Karvonen, the executive director of the centre.

Originally, Karvonen worked at a humane society facility, but discovered that it couldn’t help wild animals or birds in distress.

Birds make up about 65 per cent of the wildlife the Toronto Wildlife Centre attends. This includes hummingbirds, swans, herons, falcons and owls. Mammals are the remaining patients. In total, the Centre treats about 5,000 animals a year on a shoestring budget.

“There’s no government funding for our work,” Karvonen said. “We operate on donations, so we can only take in the number of animals that we have enough money to pay for.”

A member of the Toronto Wildlife Centre feeds a groundhog at the facility. Along with providing treatment for the wildlife, the centre ensures that the animals are on the correct diet for their species. (TWCGroundhog feedingE)

The Centre pays for the food and medical supplies of the animals as well as enclosures and housing. It also ensures that there’s enough staff and volunteers to care for the animals.

When the Centre reaches its capacity, it tries to network with other rehabilitators to see if they have space and supplies.

“All rehabilitators… get into that situation because there aren’t enough rehabilitators in Ontario for the amount of sick, injured and orphaned wild animals that are out there,” Karvonen said.

In Shyrose Juma’s case, the Toronto Wildlife Centre discovered that the thick-billed murre suffered from severe injuries. The accident on the road had broken the bird’s beak; consequently the bird couldn’t eat and drink properly. The Centre decided to euthanize it.

Although the bird died, Juma said that the treatment the thick-billed murre received at the Centre was more humane than if she had left it on the road.

“My experience with (the Toronto Wildlife Centre) was great. I just wish more people knew about them,” Juma said.