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Animal rehab documentary series to be filmed at Medicine River Wildlife Centre

Filming will start in late August, early September
The Medicine River Wildlife Centre, in the Spruce View area, will be the subject of a five-part documentary series to be shot in Late August/early September. The series will available from iTunes in the spring. (File photo by BLACK PRESS news services)

A Calgary filmmaker watched an orphan fawn become “adopted” by a random doe in the forest during a “astounding” release by workers from the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.

“It fascinated me, what those volunteer do. It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Scott Sikma who’s been contracted by Chaos, a Film Company to make a wildlife rescue documentary series about the Spruce View-area centre.

He will be filming a five-episode series there in late August/early September. It will be available for online viewing on iTunes in the spring.

Since Sikma had no knowledge of what wildlife rescue entails, he dropped in to get an preview of what workers do — and left with “huge respect” for how sick and injured animals are treated

Carol Kelly, executive-director of the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, spoke about pioneering the fawn adoption program that’s now in use by many other wildlife rehabilitation centres across North America.

Previously, many orphan fawns were either raised by people in captivity, or handed over to game ranches. But a better option was developed at the centre, using audio recordings of animal cries.

The filmmaker accompanied centre volunteers into a forest to hopefully see an adoption happen.

He watched as centre volunteers first played a tape of a fawn in distress and waited. A mother doe came running, exhibiting signs of preparing to accept the fawn by stamping and making blowing noises. They then release the fawn — who immediately ran to the doe and the two high-tail it into the forest.

Sikma was told these efforts don’t always pay off. Workers can’t wait long in the same place because a distress cry will attract predators, such as bears and coyotes to the site.

But the successful adoption he observed was “amazing,” and made Sikma emotional. “I was in awe all day long, watching what these ladies do…”

Fawn adoptions aren’t the only ones centre workers and volunteers are facilitating. Sikma was told about a mother duck that eventually adopted 51 ducklings. “They are also trying this with birds and bunnies in the wild.”

He added he’s excited to bring video of the centre’s operations to a wider audience.

When Sikma began looking for an animal rehabilitation centre to feature for this documentary, he said he was was constantly directed to Medicine River Wildlife Centre, which has a strong reputation.

His straight-forward approach to shooting the series is what made Kelly agree to take part in the project.

Kelly was adamant that everything that’s being filmed be real and authentic. There would be no set-up shots or made-up story-lines, and Sikma was in agreement with these terms.

“We do not name our animals here,” she added, but usually refer to them by their admission numbers. There’s no room for sentimentalization, Kelly explained, because staff and volunteers understand that some animals will make it, and other won’t — that’s how nature works.

The best outcome is to release the animals back into the wild, if possible, she added.

Sikma, who’s on hiatus from shooting Hallmark movies because of the writer’s strike, has been filming a lot of documentaries lately, including about the raw food movement in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Colombia.

He said he’s hoping to create a second season of the animal rescue series in Ontario.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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