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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.

Wild animal

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…

Domesticated animal

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…

Tamed animal

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 a wild 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. Their main defence mechanism against predators is camouflage. The least suspicious noise will cause them to stay very still and blend into the background. The mother comes to feed them every 2-3 hours. Humans must avoid getting too close or touching the animal.

Birds

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 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 places that 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 Quebec Wildlife Conservation officer. He or she will be able to help you.

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.

Before deciding to keep a wild animal captive, it is vital to recognize that it is a huge responsibility. Being aware of the animal’s needs is crucial to providing proper care and food, creating an adequate, clean and stimulating habitat and delivering medical care as required. Before committing, it is essential to understand the pros and cons of having a wild animal at home.

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.

Favourable aspects

• 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.

Unfavourable aspects

• Possibility of transmitting diseases to human beings and to our pets (dogs, cats…).

• Unpredictable animals because they are wild, even when they are young and even a red squirrel, but mainly once they become sexually mature.

• If the animals are nocturnal, they cause disruptions at night.

• They destroy your property (furniture, house, land, etc.).

• These animals often lead a miserable life because of inadequate living conditions which prevent them from behaving naturally.

• They try to escape during the mating season.

• They require specialized care and an appropriate diet.

• They mark out their territory inside the house.

• When they can no longer be taken care of, they often have to be put down because they cannot be retrained and there is no room for them in shelters.

• Taking in an animal threatened with extinction could mean endangering the survival of the species.

• Stress and bad treatment could shorten their life.

• Keeping wild animals in captivity can sometimes be a violation of federal and provincial laws and one could face charges.

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.

Consulting the laws

You can find the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife on the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs Website, along with the Regulation respecting animals in captivity.

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 the Environment and Climate Change Canada website. There you will find “questions and answers” that may help you.

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