Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau has welcomed a family of flying squirrels as their first intake of 2021, and the flyers are more common in Muskoka than some may think, said Aspen Valley’s animal care supervisor Paolina Lloren.
Flying squirrels often go unseen because they’re nocturnal and shy around humans, Lloren said. Some years the sanctuary takes in a few dozen flyers while other years they care for less than 10, making them a much less common intake than grey or red squirrels. When flying squirrels do make their way to the sanctuary, it’s often because residents locate them while fixing up their homes, and this time is no exception. An adult female was the first of the flyers to take up residence at the sanctuary this year and three more squirrels have joined her after a couple in Seguin Township came across the creatures while renovating their roof.
“They set a live trap to catch them because they didn’t want to fully evict them out of the house,” Lloren said. “They called us to just take care of them over the winter until they can be released, and as far as I know, they’re still setting the traps to see how many more [there are] because usually these guys live in big family units or colonies.”
Along with the flying squirrels, the sanctuary has also taken in a bear cub as well as a couple of birds in the new year. The female cub was located in Lively, a neighbourhood in Sudbury, while a member of the public was trying to locate a loose dog in the area.
“They were trying to catch this German Shepherd and a bear walked into the dog trap, and it was really small,” Lloren said. “We told her to bring it in just because it was likely orphaned because a bear that size shouldn’t be out and about on its own without mum, and it shouldn’t be that small to hibernate. She was just under six kilograms.”
The animal care team is working to slowly reintroduce food into her system and the cub is getting stronger every day, Lloren said. The team is hopeful for a full recovery and they plan to release her some time in the spring or summer if her health allows it. When it comes to the other new intakes, the sanctuary is also providing intensive care to a barred owl they believe was hit by a car in Bala as well as a malnourished pigeon from Parry Sound that is expected to make a full recovery.
With the new residents, the team at the sanctuary is currently caring for around 70 to 80 animals, and things will only get busier for them as spring and summer approach. The sanctuary has seen an overall increase in intakes recently, so it’s a great time for those interested in helping out to make a donation or volunteer their time.
“We’ve had an upward trend recently, so 2020 was the year we’ve had the most intakes ever,” Lloren said. “We had 937 animals come in, whereas in previous years we’re usually around, 500, 600.”
Whether or not locals are able to donate their money or time, Lloren encourages people to spread the word about the sanctuary and their services. Their team is grateful to the couple that located the flying squirrels, not just for bringing them in, but also for donating money to help cover the costs of caring for the squirrels during the winter months.
“Instead of just trapping them completely out of the house and forcing an unfortunate situation on them, they called their local rehabber to get help,” Lloren said. “If [you] have animals or see animals that need help, contact your local rehabbers so we can help them out this winter because winter is tough for all these animals.”
If you come across a wild animal in need, contact Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary at 705-644-4122. To learn more about the sanctuary, or to make a donation, visit their website.