Sophie, a blind Great Gray Owl stands on her perch at the Red Deer Market last year. The owl ambassador for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was quite a draw for people making their way through the market. (Advocate file photo by Jeff Stokoe)

Sophie, a blind Great Gray Owl stands on her perch at the Red Deer Market last year. The owl ambassador for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre was quite a draw for people making their way through the market. (Advocate file photo by Jeff Stokoe)

Medicine River Wildlife Centre’s new hospital slowly moving ahead

$100,000 in donations would allow for matching grant application

All the prep work is done — now the Medicine River Wildlife Centre just needs about $100,000 to make Carol Kelly’s dream for a much-need new hospital materialize in 2017.

As fundraising continues, the charity, which saves hundreds of creatures’ lives every year, needs to nail down $100,000 in donations so it can apply for a matching funds grant to finish the project.

The centre rehabilitates and releases back into the wild injured and orphaned animals — everything from porcupines to greater white-fronted geese to fawns. It also offers education programs and promotes habitat preservation.

Kelly, executive director of MRWC, said Thursday that the new hospital needs a building now to go up around the work that’s been done already, that being the foundation, new septic system, and relocation of gas and power lines.

“The building is going painfully slow but it continues to go forward,” Kelly said. “We are so ready for it.”

The centre is located southwest of Spruce View. It was established in 1984, and that year 14 animals were treated. Last year, MRWC assisted over 2,100 wild patients. It grew into something bigger than ever was imagined, Kelly said.

The old hospital became unusable and was dismantled last year. Animals have been temporarily relocated into an old public wing.

Once the new hospital is up, there are many trades people who have offered to voluntarily help finish it, Kelly said.

The new hospital will have a small interpretive centre open to the public until a new large one can eventually be built. Hardly a day goes by, in the summer especially, where people want to tour the centre, Kelly said.

They have to be turned away because there is no building anymore. “We’re also turning away a lot of tourism dollars. … It’s on the back burner… first we need to get the hospital and playground, and cleanup in the area done.”

There will be a unique outdoor educational playground at the centre as part of the new hospital stage. It will feature wildlife homes — an owl nest, fox den, beaver lodge and bird house.

Things are quiet at the centre right now. The busiest time is May, June and July when birds are migrating and having young. “It’s an absolute madhouse here then,” Kelly said.

Nine international students will come from places like Germany, Austria and England this summer to stay a few months to volunteer, Kelly said. This program is in its 10th year.

The new recycling container program has become a big success, Kelly said. People donate their bottles and cans and tax receipts are issued at the end of the year. They already have 63 clients, and 14 volunteers who pick up in seven different communities involved. They are looking for more volunteers, Kelly said.

To participate, call the centre at 403-728-3467 or email info@mrwc.ca.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com