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AIWC Centre Upkeep

Maintaining the AIWC centre requires a lot of volunteer commitment from a wide range of individuals with varying interests and skills. Each day volunteers work to clean indoor enclosures, ensuring the animals in our care have safe, comfortable, and sanitary environments in which to recover. This also results in numerous loads of laundry every day, meaning AIWC has to repair or replace washing machines and dryers much more frequently than an average household might.

Additional upkeep requires general maintenance like changing lightbulbs and fixing drains, but more significant construction work is ongoing to make sure, not only those animals staying temporarily, but also our resident education ambassadors, Griffin the red tailed hawk and Gulliver the striped skunk, remain safe and secure while at the centre.

Ongoing restoration of outdoor enclosures is necessary to keep recovering animals in and other animals out, while also creating a visual barrier to humans to prevent habituation that may inhibit wildlife release of our patients. You may also remember the severe hailstorms that hit in August 2014 that also caused significant damage to outdoor enclosures, requiring several emergency repair jobs by our volunteer construction team.

Artificial outside ponds must to be filled, emptied, and sanitized throughout the busy summer season. Specialized structures like the runway demand regular upkeep to maintain a safe space that helps recovering birds such as owls practice and regain flight.

AIWC volunteers have completed PVC framing work around large indoor tubs that provide temporary habitat for water-dwelling mammals like beavers and muskrats. Other finishing work has also been done at the centre in recent years (including getting a new sink this winter for the endless dishes we need to do!), and we have plans to upgrade existing structures and build new, necessary spaces to meet our constantly growing patient intake numbers.

AIWC could not provide this level of support to Alberta’s animals without the wide range of rehabilitative facilities available onsite, but this requires significant volunteer and in-kind support. If you would like to help AIWC with its wildlife recovery activities, please consider volunteering at AIWC or contributing to our wildlife baby shower wish list.

By: S. Ruddock, Volunteer Writer

Lessons in Wildlife from a Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus), or, affectionately, roughies, are a common raptor species in Alberta. They migrate each winter from their nesting grounds in the Arctic, passing through Alberta on their journey south to the United States. If the winter here is mild, a few may spend the whole season in Alberta.

The prairies and large, treeless areas are favourite hunting grounds of roughies. Here, they hunt small mammals like hares, mice, and ground squirrels. One characteristic that makes rough-legged hawks easily identifiable is how they hunt: they hover over their prey in one spot from above, rather than circling. Just like other raptors, this species is protected under the provincial Wildlife Act as non-game, meaning no one is allowed to hunt them.

This rough-legged hawk came to us this winter after a responsible member of the public found him in distress and brought him to a Calgary veterinary clinic, who cared for him until one of our volunteer rescue drivers was able to pick him up. He had visible problems using his left wing.

Upon examination, he was diagnosed with a broken clavicle, possible the result of blunt trauma, such as a vehicle collision. Further examination and x-rays revealed he also had pellets embedded inside him, evidence of having been (illegally) shot likely some months prior. It is entirely possible his previous injuries from being shot resulted in reduced mobility for this hawk, and increased likelihood of future harm.

The main concern for his recovery was the proper healing of his clavicle. As with people, if a broken bone is not aligned, it will have limited mobility after it is healed, and for a hawk dependent upon his ability to fly for every aspect of his survival, a broken bone can leave him unable to return to the wild.

Over the course of his care, the roughie’s health deteriorated and it was increasingly unlikely his injuries would heal enough for him to be able to fly, hunt, and migrate. The decision to humanely euthanize him became the only option; he would not be able to be returned to the wild as a self-sufficient bird. Unfortunately, this is a stark reality of wildlife rehabilitation: even the best care cannot heal some of our patients enough that they can be returned to the wild where they belong.

Remember: if you find a hawk or any other wild animal in need of help, we are open every day. Call our Wildlife Hotline at 403-946-2361 right away for help and advice.

Additionally, if you witness any acts of cruelty against wildlife, be sure to report it to the authorities right away – even the smallest squirrel and noisiest magpie each deserve our compassion and play an important role in our natural ecosystems.

By: T. Collins, Volunteer Writer

The babies are coming!

Did you know that few areas in the world have more diverse wildlife than Alberta? Our province is home to 587 wildlife species, including 411 bird species, 93 mammal species, 65 fish species, and 10 species of amphibians.

Since our founding in 1993, we have admitted over 250 different wildlife species and spring and summer are our peak seasons for animal intakes. On any given day during this time we can have 200-300 animals in care and admitting up to 30 new patients each day.

The majority of animals in our care in spring and summer are babies that have been orphaned or injured. Some are also “kidnapped”, which means they have been taken by well intentioned members of the public but did not need rescuing. This is common for animals such as: hares, squirrels, fawns, goslings, ducklings, and nestling and fledgling birds. We make every effort to reunite these babies with their parents but unfortunately it is not always possible.

In 2015, AIWC provided care for over 1000 baby wildlife animals! Starting May 1st, 2016 we are asking for your help to raise $12,000 to support our costs during our peak seasons of spring and summer.

Every little bit helps! It can range from $100 to over $1000 to rehabilitate an individual animals and all funds go towards ensuring AIWC can continue to serve the needs of Alberta’s diverse wildlife.

To wrap up our 2nd annual baby shower event, we will be hosting an on-site talk on Sunday, May 29th, from 1pm until 4pm at our facility. More information can be found on our upcoming events page.

It all comes down to this:

“We don’t own the earth. We are the earth’s caretakers. We take care of it and all the things on it. And when we’re done with it, it should be left better than we found it.” ― Katherine Hannigan, author.

Are robins back, or did they ever leave?

Although the majority of robins have migrated back to Alberta from as far south as southern Mexico and Guatemala, some robins actually choose to overwinter in Alberta and the rest of Canada.  That’s because robins base their decision to migrate on whether or not there is enough food to sustain them over the winter, and not as much about the weather – no matter how harsh our winters can be.

In the spring and summer when the ground thaws, robins eat earthworms and insects.  In the fall they switch to eating berries from trees like mountain ash or chokecherries. If they choose to overwinter in Alberta they spend time travelling from place to place in search of more berries.

Male and female robins look very similar, with the main difference being that female robins are a lighter coloring than males. Females have a lighter grey head and a lighter red-orange breast.

Females are the nest builders which takes them anywhere from two to six days, and an average of about one hundred and eighty trips a day of bringing grass and mud to their nesting site to do so.

baby robins colleen 07Robins may lay two to three clutches—or sets of eggs—a year, starting in late April or early May. Both females and males feed and care for three to four nestlings once they hatch, and provide each one with thirty to forty 40 meals each a day.

Nestlings fledge their nest at approximately thirteen days old, where they are vulnerable to predators like blue jays, magpies and other birds, as well as squirrels, cats and dogs until they can fly.

Another thing that is fatal to robins (and all birds) once they are able to fly, is windows.  Two reasons robins fly into windows are:

  • they do not realize the glass is there and just see the reflection of a tree or branch they think they can land on,
  • they are being territorial and think that their reflection is another robin coming toward them.

In most cases, robins don’t sing until they have arrived on their breeding territory – it’s their way of saying “I’m home”.  So give them something to sing about by doing your part to keep them safe:

  • Keep your cats or dogs inside or closely monitored during nesting season (especially if you know there is a nest nearby).
  • Place decals, stickers, sun catchers, transparent film, netting or outdoor shutters on the outside of windows.  If building a new house or replacing windows, consider screens on the outside of the window as an option.

Do you have robins nesting in your garden already?

Some of the information gathered for this blog came from:
Canadian Wildlife Federation at cwf-fcf.org/en/discover-wildlife/flora-fauna/…/american-robin.html
Journey North at https://www.learner.org/jnorth/robin

Increased number of animals being admitted to AIWC

With the warmer weather so far this year, we have seen increasing patient numbers at AIWC. In addition, we have admitted wildlife babies earlier than normal with our first great horned owl (GHOW) nestling admitted in 2016 on March 16th. In 2015, our first GHOW baby wasn’t admitted until April 20th.

As of April 19th, 2016, we have admitted 157 patients to our centre. In 2014, 84 animals had been admitted by this date and in 2015, 74 animals had been admitted.

Our busiest times of year are from May till August and on any given day during these months we can expect to have 200-300 animals in care. In 2015, we admitted 1675 animals!

The difference for us this year is that we are getting busier a lot earlier than normal. This impacts our planning for the summer, it can take months to prepare for our busy season, and our costs are increased as we are caring for more animals in what is typically our “quieter” time of the year.

Higher than average temperatures are what we attribute to be the main reason for our increased patient numbers. Animals that have migrated back to the province are able to mate and nest earlier than normal, and larger numbers of animals are also choosing to over-winter here instead of migrating.

How can you help? If you see injured or orphaned wildlife please call us at 403-946-2361. If you’d like to support an animal in our care, we have a variety of ways you can help, visit here for more info: https://www.aiwc.ca/support-us/

Pictured: Eurasian-collared dove currently in care. 

Respecting Wildlife in Off-Leash Dog Parks

Did you know that it is illegal for dogs to harass wildlife encountered in parks and natural areas? This includes barking at, chasing, and biting other animals.

All natural areas are home to a variety of wildlife, particularly off-leash dog parks, and it’s important to be respectful of wildlife for everyone’s safety. 95% of the patients admitted to AIWC are a result of human-wildlife conflict, including being attacked by dogs. We believe every Albertan should be a stakeholder in the care of wellbeing of our wildlife animals.

Here are some tips to help when visiting off-leash dog areas with your family pet(s):

  • Ensure your dog responds well to your voice, sound, or visual commands. This will help protect your pet from wildlife, cars, and hostile dogs.
  • Make your presence in the area known to wildlife by wearing a bear bell and/or putting a bell on your dog’s collar.
  • Keep pets in your sight at all times.
  • Avoid going near areas that look like den sites and areas that have thick vegetation.

One of the most common wildlife and pet encounters is when dogs attack porcupines. Porcupines do not shoot their quills, so for your dog to be quilled, contact has to be made with the porcupine. Which means the porcupine can also be injured from the encounter. And even if they don’t appear severely injured, bacteria from our pets’ mouths can still infect them and they should be checked out by a wildlife rehabilitator, rather than assumed fine.

Following these guidelines will help keep parks and natural areas safe places for both the dogs and wildlife who enjoy them.

If an encounter does occur, please report any wildlife who may be injured, making specific note of the animal’s location, transporting the wild animal to the vet with you in a box if you have one on hand, or leaving someone behind to keep an eye on the animal while our rescue driver arrives.  After calling the vet for your pet, call our wildlife hotline for the other animal: 403-946-2361

Remember, we all have a responsibility to both control our pets and protect our wild neighbours.

It all comes down to this:

“We don’t own the earth. We are the earth’s caretakers. We take care of it and all the things on it. And when we’re done with it, it should be left better than we found it.” ― Katherine Hannigan, author.

Great Horned Owls Continue to Make Headlines in Alberta

March was been a high-publicity month for great horned owls in Alberta!

Mid-month, we admitted our first baby animal of 2016: a great horned owl nesting who had fallen out of the nest and was brought to the centre. As is often the case with nestling birds, he was found without injury and had a short stay in care before he was returned to the wild.

Thankfully, the finder made note of the nest location on the University of Calgary premises, and our volunteer rescue team was able to return him to his parents and two siblings right away.

Of course, being located on a university campus meant the owl family became instant celebrities, and you can read more about them on CBC news here, and hear AIWC talk about them on CBC Eyeopener radio here.

AIWC has been able to keep an eye on the owlets’ progression on campus and was pleased to see all three owlets fledge successfully, and they’ve been able to move on from their initial nesting site, which was too busy for them to stay too long.

Calgarians were lucky to be able to appreciate urban wildlife so closely, but the crowds they started to draw also started to become a risk to their successful growth and development.

Also making headlines were nesting owls in Kananaskis country. Alberta Parks has closed some climbing routes at Grassi Lakes to minimize disturbances, and you can read more about the closure notices on the Alberta Environment & Parks website here.

Great horned owls can have a long lifespan in the wild (approximately 13 years), but the first year is the most crucial to their survival and where they have the highest mortality rate, as they learn to hunt and adapt to their surroundings. A constant human presence at a great horned owl nest site can cause stress and distraction for the owlets and the adult owls focused on keeping them alive, and it is always best to give them a wide radius so they can be appreciated long-term.

Do you have any owl nesting sites in your area?

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: https://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: https://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?

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