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Toronto Humane Society documents obtained by the Star appear to show the THS has violated provincial regulations by releasing wildlife captured in Toronto to the Newmarket-area farm of a board member.

Under Ontario rules for authorized wildlife custodians such as the THS, rehabilitated adult wildlife must be released a maximum of one kilometre from the site of its capture, "immature" wildlife a maximum of 15 kilometres. But according to kennel cards obtained by the Star, three raccoons captured in downtown Toronto in 2007 were released to "Bud's farm"– the farm of board member Bud Walters.

A THS employee who requested anonymity also provided kennel cards to the Star for other animals he said were released to Walters' farm, including a sparrow, an owl and squirrels.

Those cards did not say "Bud's farm" on them, the employee said, because THS managers asked employees to throw cards for such animals in the garbage knowing that the Ministry of Natural Resources might inspect them if they were kept.

The ministry executed a search warrant at the THS facility on River St. on Tuesday morning.

Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield said the warrant targeted the log books in which information about release locations is stored.

"They have to have accurate recordkeeping practices," Cansfield said.

She did not allege any recordkeeping impropriety, saying it was too early in the ministry investigation to know if the THS had violated any regulations.

Cansfield warned, however, that the ministry could revoke the THS's wildlife custodian authorization if major breaches of any type were found.

Reached at his home in Toronto, Walters readily acknowledged that raccoons had been released on his farm. He said, however, that it had not happened recently.

"It has happened in the past, but a long time ago," he said.

Told that cards appeared to show that raccoons were released on his farm in 2007, Walters said: "Not to my knowledge. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen, because they have access here any time they want. Heavens, I don't lock things up. It's all forest, 90 acres of forest. I've got three ponds – it's a perfect spot for animals."

Walters, 85, struggled with his memory during the evening telephone interview, at one point having difficulty recalling that the three-minute conversation was about raccoons.

Told that raccoon releases at his farm would violate provincial regulations, he said, "I don't know anything about that, anyway."

THS acting president Bob Hambley referred questions to spokesman Ian McConachie, who did not respond to requests for comment. It is not clear why the THS would release raccoons so far outside of the maximum distance allowed, though some in the wildlife rehabilitation field have criticized the limits as overly restrictive.

According to the kennel cards, raccoons released on Walters' farm were captured at Gerrard St. E. and Broadview Ave., Queen St. E. and Sumach St., and at Queen St. E. and Boston Ave; two other cards which said "Bud's farm" did not have capture information. Newmarket is approximately 50 kilometres away from downtown Toronto.

Ministry conservation officers removed all animals from the THS wildlife centre on Monday. On Tuesday, Cansfield became the first McGuinty government official to reprimand the beleaguered THS, criticizing its officials for confining a red-tailed hawk to an insufficiently large cage.

The hawk was one of eight animals, including two painted turtles, a mallard duck, a mourning dove and a sparrow, taken from the THS to the Toronto Wildlife Centre in Downsview Park.

"A hawk needs space," Cansfield said. "It can't be confined to a small cage."

The wildlife centre comprised a tiny fraction of THS operations, housing fewer than 10 of more than 1,000 animals. It has been the target of frequent criticism since its founding in the mid-1980s.

In 2006, a former veterinarian, a former veterinary technician and an official at an outside rehabilitation agency told the Star that conditions at the centre were poor. On Tuesday, Nicole Richer, a trained wildlife rehabilitator who spent two months at the centre before she was dismissed, said "everything was wrong, everything."


Original Star Article »

mayor_hazel_mccallionMississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion got up close and personal with 'Sam', one of Hawkeye's Harris Hawks, while inspecting a local landfill.


Jim Salter | St. Louis — The Associated Press Published on Monday, Jul. 26, 2010


Heavy storms and scorching temperatures have failed to deter rock bands from performing at an outdoor stadium in St. Louis, but a bombardment of pigeon droppings proved too much for the Kings of Leon.

The band halted their Friday night gig at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre after three songs when the infestation of birds in the arena's rafters dropped their onslaught of feces.

A statement from the band's management company, Vector Management, said bassist Jared Followill seemed to be a particular target of the pigeons, whose droppings were a potential health hazard.

“I'm surprised they stayed on for as many songs as they did,” Andy Mendelsohn of Vector Management said in the statement. “Jared was hit several times during the first two songs. On the third song, when he was hit in the cheek and some of it landed near his mouth, they couldn't take it any longer.

“It's not only disgusting — it's a toxic health hazard,” Mendelsohn said. “They really tried to hang in there. We want to apologize to our fans in St. Louis and will be back as soon as we can.”

The crowd grew restless after the band walked off, then an announcement was made that the show was over for “safety reasons.” The concert promoter, Live Nation, did not respond to interview requests on Monday but said fans will get a full refund.

Mendelsohn said band representatives had been warned of a “significant” pigeon infestation in the rafters, but were told efforts were being made to correct the problem.

The opening bands, The Postelles and The Stills, performed and were apparently hit with their share of droppings too.

“We couldn't believe what The Postelles and The Stills looked like after their sets,” Followill said in the statement. “We didn't want to cancel the show, so we went for it. We tried to play. It was ridiculous.”

Health experts say pigeon droppings have been associated with three diseases: Histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis. Histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis are fungal diseases with symptoms that can include fatigue and fever. Psittacosis is a rare infectious disease characterized by fever, rash, chills, headache and sometimes pneumonia. Only about 50 cases of psittacosis in the U.S. are reported annually.

The Kings of Leon performed Saturday night in Chicago. Their tour was continuing Monday in Cleveland and Wednesday in Toronto.

The venue in Maryland Heights, Mo., had another infamous incident nearly two decades ago. In July 1991, Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose became enraged when a concertgoer was spotted filming the show. Rose jumped into the audience and tackled the fan, then returned to the stage, blamed security and said, “I'm going home!”

The abrupt end to that concert set off a riot that left dozens injured. The concertgoer sued Rose, and a settlement was reached after the trial began.

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