It’s one of the Toronto Wildlife Centre’s most peculiar rescue missions yet: Saving 200 baby ring-billed gulls that jumped off a Scarborough rooftop to escape high temperatures.
About 50 gulls perished, but the rest were saved. Now, staff say they are struggling to keep up with the chicks’ demands.
“We’re going through lake smelt like crazy,” Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, said. The baby gulls are being fed freshwater smelt and earthworms while undergoing regular check-ups in an effort to nurse them back to health and release them back to the colony.
An estimated 150 gulls survived the leap during last Monday’s heat wave, Ms. Karvonen said. Some died on impact, and others died as a result of their injury or were euthanized.
Many gulls choose to set up colonies on wide rooftops in the city, but the exposure of direct sunlight and lack of shade on some can cause a problem for the little ones. “Their feet were actually starting to burn,” Ms. Karvonen said. Being too young to fly, she said they had no choice but to jump.
People who worked in the Scarborough building notified the wildlife centre of the large number of baby gulls on the ground. This sparked a three-hour rescue mission to capture and treat them for burns, dehydration and fractures back at the North York centre, Ms. Karvonen said.
The rescue team then attempted to reunite some of the healthier babies with their colony, but dozens of them jumped again after a few days. According to other wildlife rescue centres in North America, while baby gulls have been found jumping off of roofs before, the scale of this incident is unprecedented.
The incident has put a strain on the centre, prompting a public call for donations of food, plastic kiddie pools, and cash. Ms. Karvonen said a summer staff member was hired to assist with caring for the gulls.,
“It seems like almost every year we get a mass instant like this,” she said.
In the past few years, the centre cared for more than 100 snakes because their hibernation place was dug up. It also housed more than 100 bats that were displaced because of a construction project, and 115 ducks that were affected by an oil spill.
“We’re at the mercy of what happens out there in the world,” Ms. Karvonen said.