Wildlife rescuers deserve support: foundation

Wildlife rescuers should be considered almost an essential service, says Colin Weir, the co-founder of the Alberta Birds of Prey foundation.

Wildlife rescuers should be considered almost an essential service, says Colin Weir, the co-founder of the Alberta Birds of Prey foundation.

They are on call for 24 hours a day and are often the first place people turn to when they come across injured wildlife, said Weir, who was speaking at the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Conference in Red Deer on Saturday.

“There’s a very high level of expectation if they go to the trouble of rescuing something that there’s at least going to be an effort made to see if that bird can be helped back to the wild.”

Case in point: In 2007, a woman from a ranching family found a injured golden eagle and drove the large bird 90 minutes in the back of her minivan to the foundation’s facility in Coaldale, Alta. Blinded by a pellet from a gun, eagle named Spirit now lives at the facility, which receives 100 to 150 injured birds of prey a year.

Yet, most of Alberta’s rehabilitation centres are run on shoestring budgets, relying heavily on volunteers and are funded almost entirely by donations.

Weir isn’t knocking the government, which he says has been supportive of many non-profit groups. Nobody goes into the wildlife rehabilitation expecting government subsidies, he said.

But there is a case to be made that wildlife rehabilitation centres, such as Central Alberta’s Medicine River Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, near Raven, west of Innisfail, offer valuable help to fish and wildlife officers, undertake much educational work with schools and student veterinarians and provide excellent service for the dollars invested.

Lottery funding might be one avenue that could be pursued, said Weir who has been working with rehabilitating injured birds of prey and releasing them back into the wild for 30 years at the 140-acre Coaldale facility.

“The services we provide is an almost essential service so a little bit of support to wildlife rescue groups across the province is a good destination for lottery funding that provides a lot of incremental benefits back to the province.”

Kim Blomme, president of the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Association, agrees wildlife rescuers need to do more to trumpet the work they are doing and approach the government for funding help.

“Anything we can do to kind of help direct some funding to our organizations would be really helpful,” he said.

Blomme said the association plans to do more to promote what a valuable service they provide.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com