A baby fox with an injured leg is healing at Medicine River Wildlife Centre in this Advocate file photo. (Contributed)

A baby fox with an injured leg is healing at Medicine River Wildlife Centre in this Advocate file photo. (Contributed)

Earlier wildlife births and bird migrations are happening in central Alberta this spring

Medicine River Wildlife Centre staff are noticing accelerated cycles in nature

Some wildlife babies are being born a month early in central Alberta — and migrating birds are returning to this area several weeks sooner than expected.

Whether this acceleration of natural cycles is happening because of global warming, or just a warmer than usual early spring, Carol Kelly of the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, can’t say.

But she’s already spotted baby squirrels and fox kits when they usually aren’t born until mid-April. And she’s noticed geese returning a week or two sooner than usual, while some robins — which generally fly south for the winter — staying here year-round.

Certain out-of-region species have also been sighted in Alberta, such as the Anna’s hummingbird, which is usually found on the West Coast.

Although spring temperatures could easily plunge back to winter-time lows, Kelley believes most of these animals are pretty adaptable.

“Nature has provided for them,” she said, noting that squirrels and foxes make their homes in protected spaces, like underground burrows, so are sheltered from the elements.

Fortunately, more fragile creatures, such as songbirds, are not nesting yet, she added.

The quickening of nature is affecting nature centre operations. Although it’s been a slow winter, as far as animal injuries are concerned, Kelly said her rehabilitation workers have started getting busy by April 1st for the last couple of years — which is about a month ahead of what used to be normal.

The Medicine River Wildlife Centre will soon get a hand from four student interns who are coming to learn about wildlife rehabilitation this summer. They are arriving from Washington State, Ontario and Alberta.

Kelly said final touches are being applied to the new $1.2 million animal hospital, built over the past couple of years with private donations — including a major donation from Ruth and Dorothy Bower of Red Deer.

“We have some cages in the mammal room, some shelves and cabinets that have to be installed over the next month and a half.”

This summer, workers will start reconstructing the large birds of prey compound, which is getting so worn out that some unexpected visitors managed to squeeze inside. “This winter, we went in to feed the eagles and there was an extra eagle that had come in from the wild,” taking advantage of the free breakfast, she recalled.

Kelly has applied for some federal money to start rebuilding the visitor’s centre. About $600,000 is needed for the project, so a $450,000 grant would go a long way, she said.

“We are ready to start building as soon as we have the money. We’re standing here with shovels in hand.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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Medicine River Wildlife Centre