Wildlife and Tamed Animals
What’s the difference between a wild animal, a domesticated animal and an animal that has been tamed?
It’s important to fully understand the difference between a wild animal, a domesticated animal, and a tamed animal in order to better understand the importance of the laws protecting flora and fauna.
According to “Webster’s”: “living […] in its original, natural state and not normally domesticated”. A wild animal lives in its natural environment and is self-sufficient, i.e. it is independent and can live in a natural habitat without human intervention. For example: raccoon, garter snake, birds…
According to the “Oxford Shorter”, to domesticate means “to bring under control, to civilize.”
A domesticated animal or pet is an animal that has been living with human beings for thousands of years. Very often, its survival depends on the care provided by human beings. This animal is the result of selective reproduction. Examples: cow, pig, dog, turkey, horse…
A tamed animal is a wild animal that has been taken “under the wings” of a human being, generally when it is very young. It often happens that it is the human being, and not animals of the same species, that becomes the parental figure. An animal that has been tamed is not a domestic animal and remains wild for its whole life. For example: a raven, a squirrel…
What should I do if I come across an animal?
Occasionally you might meet up with an animal that has been lost, abandoned or sick. Should you take immediate action? People often do things with good intentions, but the answer is still NO. Nature works better when there is the least possible intervention by human beings. It is important to remember that the animal may look lost, abandoned or sick, without in fact being so. This means you need to analyse the situation.
Here are some concrete examples :
The snowshoe hare
The female leaves its young alone as of the time of their birth and only comes back to feed them once a day, generally in the evening. This means that if you find the young hares by themselves (which is very normal), it is better not to move them or touch them. Your smell will remain on the young and could consequently upset the mother.
The white-tailed deer
The female hides her fawns in the high grass after calving. They have almost no smell, and this is their main defence mechanism against predators. The mother comes to feed them every 2-3 hours. If you find a fawn and touch it, the female may abandon it, because she will not recognise her young, but rather pick up the smell of the human being.
The best thing to do if you find a nestling that has fallen out of the nest is to put it back in; providing you can find the nest and that it is accessible, of course. The reason is that, unlike mammals, birds don’t generally have a good sense of smell (except the turkey vulture). Consequently, when the parent comes back, it will not reject its young.
For a number of bird species, such as the American robins, the young fledglings, once out of the nest, remain on the ground because their flight feathers have not yet grown. The parents remain close to them and feed them while on the ground. This means that the fledglings
are not lost, abandoned or sick. This is just a normal stage in their development.
As you can see, the more you know about the natural history of animals, the better you can judge how to act. Well-intentioned people sometimes create more problems than not when they intervene with animals: birds, for example. A fledgling that appears to be abandoned and is taken in by human beings will be “imprinted”. This means that the bird will identify itself with the human being and believe that it and human beings belong to the same species. This means that the bird will identify itself with the human being and believe that it and human beings belong to the same species. This can make the bird a dangerous animal, who will behave like a predator when it comes to mating or defending its territory. Since the bird is imprinted for life, it then becomes impossible to release it into the wild. When birds cannot be kept any longer by their “benefactor”, they have to be kept in captivity in placesthat specialise in such animals.
Moreover, since the risk of disease is always there, one needs to be extremely careful and not handle animals, dead or alive, with one’s bare hands. One must always wear gloves. For example, birds can be carriers of West Nile virus or Salmonellosis, and the raccoon is often a carrier of rabies and parvovirus (a deadly disease for dogs). The hare also may be the carrier of flatworm, Cysticercus, which is not dangerous for human beings, but can be so for a dog if it eats the liver or intestines of the hare. Additionally, the hare may transmit diseases to human beings: Lyme disease or tularaemia if one of the animal’s ticks bites us after having feasted on the hare’s blood. To sum everything up, you should avoid touching wild animals or their excrement and, of course, you should take care not to be bitten.
Finally, if the animal you find is REALLY lost, abandoned or sick (something you will find out after observing it for some time), you should contact competent resources, for example a Wildlife Conservation officer from the Société de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec. He or she will be able to help you. You can also consult the Internet site http://www.fapaq.gouv.qc.ca
Laws regarding captive animals
In order to protect our wildlife, Quebec has adopted a number of laws such as the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. This Act includes a regulation respecting animals in captivity. The regulation very clearly stipulates which species may be kept without a permit. Consequently, if in spite of everything you wish to keep a wild animal at home, you must comply with the regulation. Being entitled to own certain animals involves being responsible for these animals.
This means you must ensure that you provide the animals you look after with the proper care, appropriate food, an adequate habitat, clean living conditions, etc. Below is the list of animals that you may own.
Indigenous species that may be kept in captivity without a permit (C-61.1, r.0.0001)
- American toad (Bufo americanus)
- Wood frog (Rana sylvatica)
- North Mink frog (Rana septentrionalis)
- Northern Leopard frog (Rana pipiens)
- Green frog (Rana clamitans)
- Mudpuppy/form of salamander (Necturus maculosus)
- Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
- Red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)
- Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
- Black/Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
- Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
- Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Out of this list, you are allowed to keep no more than 10 animals, with a maximum of 2 mudpuppies, 2 Red-spotted newts, 2 common garter snakes, 1 black/gray squirrel, 1 red squirrel or 1 eastern chipmunk.
To keep or not to keep…
Some people opt for keeping in their home a wild animal that has been found or captured. Why? What is it that motivates this choice? Let us try and make a list, certainly not an exhaustive one, of the advantages and disadvantages of taking in an animal in order to tame it.
- In certain cases, the animal has been saved from certain death
- Some people find it to be a pleasant pet to have, since it is unusual
- Some people use this new pet as a way of playing out their affection for wild animals
- Some people consider the animal to be a symbol of pride, because it represents wild nature
- *possibility of transmitting diseases to human beings and to our pets (dogs, cats…)
- *unpredictable animals because they are wild, even when they are young, but mainly once they become sexually mature
- *these are often nocturnal animals that will create disturbances in the night, when everyone is asleep. They try to escape during the mating season, they require specialized care and appropriate diet, they mark out their territory within the house.
- *charming when babies, but may become aggressive when sexually mature (bites, scratches…) in order to defend a territory or to play out their predatory instincts
- *destroy our property (furniture, house, land…). Also, when you can no longer take care of them, these animals often have to be put down because they are not re-trainable. You may endanger the survival of a species by taking over an animal threatened with extinction
- *the animals often live an unhappy life due to inadequate living space
* = very important aspect
As you can see, the list of unfavourable aspects is very long and, in fact, probably still incomplete. The most important thing to remember is that a wild animal makes a very bad pet. Only domesticated animals are really good pets.
The animals we have been talking about don’t live in isolation, but in close interaction with their habitat. Plant life is an essential element to the survival of wildlife, since it is used by them as food or for shelter. This is why it is important that we include plant life here.
In Quebec, we have an Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species that lists plants threatened with extinction or endangerment. In our region, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, more specifically at Pointe-Bleue, you can find the Anticosti Aster, which is classified as a threatened species. Altogether, 34 species of our wild plant life are considered as threatened or vulnerable. Another example of this is the wild leek that can be found throughout Quebec. Since it is a vulnerable species, its collection is controlled. You may only pick a maximum of 50 bulbs per year. Why bother with the survival of plants?
Why bother with the survival of plants?
There are a number of answers to this question, including the following:
- so as to enable animals to survive
- so as to preserve the integrity of the habitats and biodiversity
- so as to preserve their use: food, medicine, industry…
A plant that disappears is a great loss for everyone, because it may have held the secret for curing a disease. This means that it is our responsibility to protect both our wildlife and our plant life. In other words, we should not pick plants of which we are ignorant or that may or may not be abundant, and we should avoid destroying the places where they grow (by using off-road vehicles, for example).
Consulting the laws
If you wish to consult the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, you can find it on the ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune and select the tab “Laws and regulations”, followed by “Revised statutes and regulations” and, finally,“List of laws”. When you select the letter “C”, you will reach the Act and regulations. If you choose the letter “E”, you will be able to go to the Act respecting threatened or venerable species.
Migratory birds have been protected by a convention between Canada and the United States since 1917. To learn more about this law, the Migratory Birds and Convention Act and Regulations, you should consult Environment Canada. There you will find “questions and answers” that may help you.