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Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation sees increase in patient care in 2022

MADDEN, Alta. -

It's been a busy 2022 for staff at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC).

AIWC specializes in caring for orphaned or abandoned animals and treating suffering wildlife for a variety of injuries, and the year saw more than 1,900 animals of all shapes and sizes come through the doors of its facility northwest of Calgary.

"We do have a 10 per cent increase in patient numbers just for the year," said Jenna Anthony, AIWC rehabilitation manager. "It seems like every year, we're continuously increasing in patient numbers and the demand for services."

Veterinarian Cassie Lapham-Simpson started at the facility in July and had many interesting cases to deal with.

"We had a tiny little garter snake come in, which was pretty amazing," she said. "It had some pretty severe trauma and it was challenging because of how small this little creature was and unusual because it's a reptile in Alberta."

Lapham-Simpson says one of the more rewarding cases was a red fox that arrived that had likely been hit by a vehicle.

"He came in really, really sick, just severe wounds," said Lapham-Simpson. "We weren't really sure it was going to make it. He was fairly dehydrated, so yeah, he was quite a project for us but it's been doing really, really well, so it's been extremely rewarding working with him."

Patient intake has slowed down but there are still many animals staying at the facility over the winter.

Most have fully recovered but they missed their fall migration or had no time to find a home in the wild and would have a hard time surviving the winter.

All the remaining animals need to be cared for 24/7, 365 days of the year and it can be expensive to house them.

"The animals that overwinter I mean, we can see costs anywhere from $100 per animal up to in the $1000s, depending on what we're talking about," said Lapham-Simpson.

AIWC is hosting its annual Christmas fundraiser and staff say every dollar helps.

"It literally goes directly to the care of those animals, so whether or not it's medical care, feeding, housing, the staffing to look after them," Lapham-Simpson said. "It can make a huge difference and even a little bit can go a long way, so yeah, those dollars really matter a lot to our institution."

Tricia Sterner is one of the many volunteers who help staff at AIWC.

She's volunteered for more than five years.

"I actually caught and weighed two magpies, cleaned and gave them their food," she said. "Right now, I'm cleaning up some cedar waxwings and clay-coloured sparrow that had overwinter with us. I'm cleaning and feeding them and then I get to pump out the beaver pond."

Sterner is retired and at the facility every Wednesday for a variety of jobs and enjoys every minute of it.

"That's why I'm still here five years (later) and out on a -41 wind chill day," she said. "It's because every time I come out here, it's a different experience, working with different animals or learning something new, that's really key for me."

Learn more about the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation here. Top Stories

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