After a long Canadian winter, nothing screams spring like longer days, warmer temperatures, melting snow and, for the staff at the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, baby animals – lots of them!

For months the Rideau Valley Animal Sanctuary has been preparing for the influx of animals it will receive this spring and summer. From organizing this year’s volunteers and interns to building new rehabilitation rooms, the sanctuary is finally ready for all that the season may bring.

Based in North Gower, Ontario, the non-profit organization rehabilitates injured, sick and orphaned wild mammals and turtles, releasing them back into their natural habitat once they are well again. The sanctuary is the only licensed rehabilitator of its kind in the Ottawa and Rideau Valley region, taking in about 500 animals annually.

“We mostly rehabilitate small mammals,” says Linda Laurus, manager of the Rideau Valley Animal Sanctuary. “The most common are raccoons and squirrels, but we also get rabbits, turtles, chipmunks, groundhogs, skunks, fox, fawns, mice, weasels, mink and flying squirrels.”

Staff at the sanctuary ask that people call with inquiries about orphaned animals before taking any action — in many cases the animal doesn’t actually need saving at all. When it comes to baby animals, the sanctuary helps people determine over the phone if the animal has indeed been orphaned, and if so, what the next steps should be.

In the best case scenario, baby animals should be reunited with their mother; she knows how to care for them best. For squirrels and other animals, a “unification box” can be created which will help keep the animal safe and will promote a reunion between the animal and its mother.

The number of animals the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary takes in every year depends on the donations it receives. This year, the sanctuary is still $7,000 short of the $100,000 it needs to fund the season.

“The sanctuary is run 100 per cent on donations,” says Heather Badenoch, a board member with the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. “We are not government funded, so we rely solely on donations from people who love animals. Every bit is a huge help.”

Signs an animal needs your help

Squirrels A squirrel might need your help if it is cold to the touch, if there are bugs on it, if it is bruised, if it is dehydrated (look for wrinkled skin) or if it is listless or comatose.

Rabbits People often find burrows of baby rabbits and believe that they have been abandoned when they have not — mother rabbits only visit the burrow twice a day, around dusk and dawn. If you suspect a burrow of young rabbits has been abandoned, simply arrange some small twigs over the burrow in a pattern that you will recognize and come back the next day. If the twigs have been disturbed, it likely means that mom has returned to care for her young.

Chipmunk, groundhog or skunk If you find a baby chipmunk, groundhog or skunk, it will almost definitely need rescuing. These animals are kept in an underground burrow where mom keeps close tabs on them. They are not allowed out of the burrow until they are old enough, so finding one alone almost surely means it needs rescuing.

For more wildlife tips or to make a donation, visit or call 613-258-9480. Donations can also be made by sending a cheque to P.O. Box 266, North Gower, Ontario, K0A 2T0.

For wildlife updates and more pictures from the sanctuary visit the Rideau Valley Sanctuary’s Facebook page or connect via Twitter (@rideauwildlife)