Wildlife centre spreads ‘fostering’ methods

A small Spruce View-based organization is becoming adept at fostering and tracking young animals, and they have the chance to present their methods and findings at a spring conference in the United States.

A small Spruce View-based organization is becoming adept at fostering and tracking young animals, and they have the chance to present their methods and findings at a spring conference in the United States.

Although the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, wildlife hospital and education centre, has done numerous fostering studies through the years, executive director Carol Kelly said last year’s was the first one using radio trackers.

In the past, they have done fostering studies on songbirds, foxes, skunks and ducklings.

Then six years ago, they started working with deer. Initially, they had to get a doe’s attention to connect her with a fostered fawn. Now they use a method of distress calls that attract the doe. It has proved a much easier way to have the doe come to the aid of the fawn.

Before they used radios, the centre would mark the ear of the fawn and have landowners call if they saw a fostered fawn on their property. With radio transmitters, it has become easier to track the young deer.

“Last year, it was UHF (transmitters). It didn’t work out really well and we only did nine,” said Kelly.

“This year, we’ve made a proposal to the government to do 15 with VHF trackers that are guaranteed to work for two years.”

The goal was to identify if the fawns survive four days after being introduced to a new doe.

Four days after the fawns were released, 44.4 per cent had survived and 33.3 per cent died, but none died from lack of maternal care.

They were killed by predators or becoming entangled with barbed wire. One of the fawns was found to have a birth defect.

Kelly said in the wild, 40 to 80 per cent of fawns will never grow up.

“We have to take into account that just because that fawn was eaten by a coyote doesn’t mean our fostering was unsuccessful,” said Kelly.

Fostering is a big part of the centre’s mandate as their overarching goal is to get injured animals back into the wild.

“We thought, what are we taking away from them by taking away their chance to be raised by a natural parent?” said Kelly.

The centre has been asked to speak at the National Wildlife Rehabilitators’ conference in March in Portland, Ore., about fostering. Kelly said they have been given 40 minutes of a four-hour workshop to talk about the methods they’ve used for post-release studying of fostered animals.

She said the methods can be simple. When working with birds in a bird box, they will put a little dab of nail polish on the top of the beak. Then when you introduce the fostered bird to a nest, you can track the fostered bird among the mother’s own brood.

Another method they have had success with is, when fostering foxes, to dab the tip of tail in beat juice. This stains the normally white markings and is easily recognizable from great distances.

Kelly said she hopes by sharing these methods they can help other organizations with similar aspirations.

“All of those people using all of these methods can report back to the association and the goal is gather all this information and within the next five years put out a manual on how to foster successfully,” said Kelly.


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