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Woman ordered to give up pine marten

June 19th, 2003, 08:27 AM
Woman ordered to give up pine marten

By David Redwood
The Daily News

Lawrencetown – An animal rescuer and the government are in a tug-of-war over a baby pine marten named Gretel.

Hope Swinimer saved the critter in April, but was told last week she must stop showing the 10-week-old animal to schoolchildren and surrender it to the province. But Swinimer said she’s only raising awareness about endangered species by showing a marten that can’t otherwise be released into the wild.

“We are doing a good job. We’re following the rules. I don’t understand why they are so hung up on this,” said Swinimer, founder of the Eastern Shore Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility.

Pine martens are furry, weasel-like animals with big ears. They are found around North America, but are listed as endangered in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Gretel, and another baby marten called Hansel, were part of a group being studied at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. The pair came to Swinimer in April after their mother died.

The 21-day-olds — part of the non-endangered North American marten population — were both sick. Hansel died, but around-the-clock care saved Gretel. She’s healthy enough now that Swinimer took her to presentations before the Halifax Field Naturalists and three home-school programs last week.

But the Natural Resources Department got wind of the marten and, on June 9, they ordered Swinimer to turn Gretel over by the end of the month.

“The department does not support the keeping of wildlife as pets or to take such animals to schools, meetings, seminars or any other public gathering,” wrote Natural Resources wildlife director Barry Sabean.

The marten will be sent to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Centre until a zoo or another facility in Canada agrees to take it, Sabean said in an interview Tuesday.

Gretel can’t be released into the wild because she’s not native and research hasn’t determined if marten in Cape Breton are genetically distinct, said Sabean.

Sabean said bringing a real marten to educational presentations can send the wrong message about wildlife.

“People sometimes get the wrong idea and feel that it would be neat to have, say, a pet marten because they are cute and cuddly-looking,” said Sabean, who said Swinimer was told last year that she couldn’t keep martens.

Swinimer said education is a huge part of rehabilitation work. She said she’s presented to about 3,000 kids about wildlife and hopes the government is flexible enough to allow her to keep the marten.

“That’s the whole idea, to get people talking about endangered species in their own backyard,” said Swinimer.