HILDEN, N.S. – Allister Mombourquette knew the little groundhog in his yard wouldn’t survive if he didn’t do something. The animal was out in the cold and snow on a day when other groundhogs were tucked up inside their dens.
“He didn’t look very good,” said Mombourquette, who lives on Brookside Road in Bible Hill. “There was no energy in him at all. He was lying down and his fur was stuck in the snow. I put a box down and pushed him in. He never tried to bite or anything. He was pitiful looking and I didn’t think he was going to make it.”
He first noticed the animal on his property about three days earlier, but he worried more as the weather got worse.
“I love animals and I don’t want to see them suffering,” he said.
Mombourquette had heard about the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) so he called. “I didn’t get an answer so I just put him in the car and took him out.”
When Dr. Helene Van Doninck, who runs the CWRC, saw the groundhog she knew there was a good chance it wouldn’t survive.
“She’s the skinniest one I’ve seen,” she said. “She was probably one of the young from last year, who didn’t get fat enough for hibernation, or was flooded out of her den. After she got here we were afraid she would seizure.”
The little animal had very little energy and was fed a critical-care solution for the first days. She also needed supplemental heat. After a few days she was eating greens, apples, nuts and rodent chow.
“We could pick her up at first,” said Van Doninck. “Now she doesn’t want us to, which is a good sign. She’s also starting to show more interest in what’s going on around her.”
Van Doninck did hibernate a groundhog in her garage one year, but this one is too skinny to survive hibernation.
If things go well, the little mammal, who has been named Ghog, will be released in a remote area in the spring.
The centre currently has about 40 birds in residence, with eight of them being eagles. Several owls, hit by cars have come in, and Van Doninck expects there will be more when the weather worsens, as they have trouble breaking through snow and ice to catch prey.
She did have a few domestic ducks, which had been abandoned, but they’ve now been rehomed.
One of her most difficult patients is a snapping turtle, who came from Shortt’s Lake. He arrived in September, after being struck by a car, and had to have his shell repaired, but he snaps at humans every chance he gets.