Archives > March 2016

NWRA 2016 Symposium

Each year the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association (NWRA) holds a symposium for wildlife rehabilitators. This year’s conference was held in Norman, Oklahoma, and myself and Stacey (Director of Wildlife Care) were fortunate to attend.

With more than 130 hours of presentations, the NWRA symposium is designed to increase the knowledge of wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, and educators. It goes far beyond this though by truly inspiring and rejuvenating wildlife rehabilitators. Stacey and I left the conference bursting with new ideas and excited to start implementing them at AIWC.

Highlights of the conference included visiting the WildCare Foundation, a wildlife rehabilitation centre like AIWC and the largest wildlife centre in Oklahoma. Each year, the WildCare Foundation admits more than 6000 wildlife patients! It was great to see how such a large centre operates and gave us ideas on how we can improve our space at AIWC.

Meeting fellow wildlife rehabbers is always a treat and we loved discussing techniques and animal care with our peers. We hope to attend the 2017 NWRA Symposium and continue our education so we can provide the best care possible to the patients entrusted into our care.

– Holly, Executive Director.

Join Us in #BandingTogether!

We are very excited to launch our new #BandingTogether campaign!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to view our adorable campaign video, check it out on YouTube here

At AIWC, we believe everyone has the responsibility to take care of Alberta’s Wildlife, and we’re asking you all to #BandTogether and help support our efforts as we promote a strong relationship between Albertans and wildlife. After all, 95% of the animals we treat are injured or orphaned due to interactions with humans, and we admitted almost 1,700 animals in 2015, with a 47% success rate.

There are two ways you can purchase your own #BandingTogether band and show your support ($10 each and all proceeds support our care of orphaned, injured, and oiled wildlife):

1. Online, via PayPal, through our website: http://www.aiwc.ca/banding-together/ 

2. In person at one of our many host stores in Calgary, Edmonton, Cochrane, or Airdrie (full list below)

Once you have your band, make sure you show your support for wildlife by #BandingTogether on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, showing off your band and what you’re doing to help Alberta’s wildlife – and be sure to tag us!

For other ways you can support Alberta’s wildlife, visit our campaign page: http://www.aiwc.ca/banding-together/ and be sure to share our page and the video with your friends!

We thank you so much for your support and help making this campaign a success!

Banding Together Stores

How Language About the Animals We Care For is Changing

Last month there was a fascinating article in the Globe and Mail, by Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne.

Singer noticed how, in the recent news articles about an escaped cow, the media was using the pronoun “who” to refer to the cow, rather than the identifier “that”.  It was the “cow who escaped”, not “the cow that escaped”. 

As Singer notes, this subtle change in common language is significant, and should not go unnoticed; it marks a shift in the public perception of and value of animals.

While those of us with pets do not hesitate to refer to them as he or she and acknowledge distinct personalities, the same affection is not always shared with livestock or wildlife. A dog may be referred to as she – and most often by a given name, even – but it many cases it is still that skunk, this hare, and those geese. Though we are seeing a shift.

And this shift is important as animals of all kinds come to be acknowledged as sentient beings who can experience pain and become victims of carelessness or cruelty, and deserve proper protection under animal welfare laws and regulations.

At AIWC, while we commonly use who, he, and she to refer to the wildlife in our care, we still do not give our patients names. This is a conscious decision; it is important to keep their status as wildlife at the forefront for us, our volunteers, our supporters, and the public. Our patients are wild animals who will be returned to the wild when their care is completed; they are not pets. But personal pronouns are still the preferred way to refer to a patient around the centre – even if someone’s unsure if the patient is male or female, they’ll usually assign a temporary pronoun of he or she in communication, just to avoid the perceived iciness of saying “that hawk”, for example. 

Exceptions to this, of course, are Gulliver and Griffin, our Educational Ambassadors. They are members of the AIWC team for the duration of their lives. They are not pets – they’re both still wild animals, no matter how habituated – but I certainly don’t know anyone who’s met him who would refer to Gulliver as simply “that skunk“. 

How about you? How do you refer to different kinds of animals? Have you noticed a shift in recent years?

When it comes to orphaned or injured wildlife, we’re here to help!

Earlier this year a New Jersey woman found herself in trouble with state officials after taking in orphaned squirrels and caring for them for four months.

Just like in Alberta, keeping wildlife in New Jersey is illegal. The squirrels were seized by Fish and Wildlife officials, and she received a $500 fine.

In Alberta, the Wildlife Act governs all wildlife related licensing, and wildlife rehabilitation centres are issued permits prior to operating. Without a proper permit (and meeting the care requirements needed for obtaining a permit), it is illegal to keep wildlife in your residence or business for the purpose of rehabilitation or to keep them as a pet. Convictions of offences in Alberta can result in fines up to $100,000 and up to 2 years’ imprisonment. Many municipalities also have additional by-laws in place regulating the types of animals that can be kept in a home or residence.

Of course, this is all in the best interest of the animals. It may be tempting to help out an orphaned animal – especially babies – but several species require specialized care and nutrition that is best administered with the expertise of our wildlife biologists (for example, cow’s milk won’t provide the needed nutrition to any baby animal other than a cow!).

Not to mention, wildlife rehabilitation centres have access to medication and x-ray equipment that may be required. It’s an unfortunate truth that AIWC has admitted patients who may have spent a day or two in the home of their rescuers before we were called, and were found to be malnourished or denied needed medical attention as a result. These people certainly had their hearts in the right place, but without the right information and expertise, the animal can still suffer as a result of good intentions.

There is also a real danger of habituating an animal to humans when it is rehabbed in a home situation – they will be too comfortable around people and may never be able to be successfully released or survive on their own in the wild. Dedicated wildlife rehab centres have protocols in place to reduce human interaction as the animal’s health improves, so they are sufficiently ‘wild’ in time for release.

These regulations are also for the public’s safety: there is a risk that bringing wildlife into your home can transmit diseases, parasites, and other zoonoses to yourself or any pets in the home.

Luckily, in Alberta, AIWC is one of several legally permitted wildlife rehabilitation centres and we’re open every day! If you find orphaned, injured, or oiled wildlife, call us immediately: 403-946-2361

If it’s after hours, our Wildlife Hotline or website can point you to a 24 hour veterinary clinic who will admit the animal until we can pick them up the next day. If you’re not in southern Alberta, we can also refer to you a closer wildlife centre.

Of course, the impulse to help an animal in need is entirely correct and we love to see the public engaged in and caring about local wildlife. And if you’re looking to get involved, consider supporting or volunteering with your nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre!

Pictured: Orphaned red squirrel admitted to AIWC in 2014.

Do Not Feed the Ducks

The sign says “Please Do Not Feed the Birds”.

You’ve probably seen several of these signs around Calgary’s rivers and ponds. And you’ve also probably seen many people disregarding the request, too.

However, these signs are there for a reason, and unfortunately the city of Windsor, Ontario is the latest example of why: the the fall of last year, city parks officials recovered the bodies of approximately 20 ducks who died as a result of what they were being fed by visitors to the park.

Bread, for example, is ‘junk food’ for ducks. It is not part of their natural diet and though it might be filling, it does not contain the nutrients they need to survive, leaving them to suffer of starvation and malnutrition. 

In most cases, ducks will be able to find enough national food sources on their own, in the wild, and will instinctually move on to a new area when needed. However, when ducks become habituated to human feeding and regularly fill up on harmful food like bread, they will not be as inclined to seek out natural food sources, and their reliance on food from park visitors can turn fatal from them, as was the case in Windsor.

This is why the signs are in place: it is important to keep our wildlife wild. We may be lucky share our urban waterways with ducks, geese, and other waterfowl, but fostering a reliance on humans for food sources – especially substandard ones – only harms the animals we are there to admire.

Photo: female mallard duck patient admitted earlier in February, 2016