The heartbreaking story of a chipmunk

While my partner and I were walking to  Macdonald campus this afternoon to work on some assignments, he suddenly started muttering “oh please don’t be dead.” Following his line of sight, I saw a chipmunk lying perfectly still on the cobblestone path leading to the University.

After leaving a message on  Urban Animal Advocate‘s (UAA) voicemail, we hunted around the school for a box, lined it with a shirt, and walked home. There goes my afternoon of focused work!

We had to borrow Wilbur’s (our fat, grey dwarf  rex rabbit) cage to make our patient comfortable, lining it with a towel. We had one blueberry leftover from breakfast and it was eaten heartily – a fabulous sign! It is now stable, occasionally munching on some apple slices, and happy to stuff its face in peanut butter.

Hopefully within the next few days, it will be strong enough to move around without wobbling, which will help speed up the healing process. Both of “Mac’s” (since we found it at Mac) eyes are infected.   Food is often the best treatment.   If you’re starving, your body’s energy goes to conserving energy.   I doubt Mac would have survived until tomorrow and even with peanut butter, Mac might not make it.

It isn’t legal to bring wildlife into your home, but because Montreal has so few rehabilitation centers, my conscience would not let me leave the chipmunk lying there.   I had to battle my reasoning.   We decided in the end that since we happened to stumble upon it, we had a responsibility to it.

If this urban critter would have been found in a more natural setting, we would have left it.   There are delicate natural cycles that would have  returned the chipmunk to a lower  trophic level.

Urban ecosystems exist, but they are full of elements that force wildlife to adapt to unnatural settings.   If they’re small and fast enough, they learn to cohabit with us and our mess.   I suspect that Mac is in such bad shape because of a cat.   As a cat owner who lets her feline pal outside, I felt partly responsible.

Go to google and do a search on “Montreal wildlife rehabilitation.”   Would you know what to do if you came across a wounded animal?   Certainly not, because the few rehab centers in and around the city are few, as you will see.

They are under-staffed, get next to no financial support and are overloaded with urban wildlife that they hardly have the resources to care for.   When we phoned UAA, we knew that we were not going to get a response from them; not because they don’t care, but because as the only searchable rehabilitation center on the island, they can’t.   How are these centers supposed to operate without support, or the advertising they need to do a job that hardly pays the bills?

When we hear about urban wildlife, it concerns nuisance animals: raccoons in the garbage, a coyote scare, squirrels going after bird feeders.   We need to realize that we share resources with these animals and their sly adaptive behavior has let them become champions of evolution in a world that we’ve changed from anything recognizable to them.   They know the best places to find our unwanted leftovers and the best porches for shelter.   They deserve our respect.

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