Alberta wildlife hospital seeing annual surge of animals
CALGARY -- The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) knows from experience that in the coming months its staff will care for more than 1,000 animals, the majority of them injured and orphaned wildlife babies.
Springtime is wildlife baby season but this year staff at the wildlife hospital have already seen a 21 per cent increase in patients admitted compared to the same time last year.
In 2020, the facility saw a 30 per cent overall increase in animals it cared for.
"We broke the record for the most amount of animals we've ever cared for in our history," said Holly Lillie, AIWC executive director. "This year we are still busier compared to the same time last year."
This year marks the organization's 10th Annual Wildlife Baby Shower event. It has set a goal of raising $20,000 by May 28.
"We are a non profit organization," said Lillie. "We're not funded by the government and throughout the pandemic we have been an essential service so we've operated every day."
Erin Casper is a wildlife rehabilitator for AIWC. She's seeing orphaned wildlife babies coming in earlier this spring than others.
"Right now is when we start to get nervous," said Casper. "Because soon enough we'll be seeing 10, to 30, to 50 patients coming in a day."
Staff are already taking care of some young patients, including six fox kits, week-old goslings, red squirrels, flying squirrels and a fledgling house finch.
Several have somehow survived on their own for days.
"They're typically in really bad shape, so very dehydrated, sometimes starvation can occur with these babies," said Casper. "Then other trauma's like falling from a nest, when you live 30 feet up in a tree and you're very tiny and fall that can cause a lot of injuries."
The young can be high maintenance with constant feedings around the clock. Baby birds need to eat every 15 minutes for a stretch of 15 hours.
"Some of our baby mammals do need to be fed 24 hours around the clock," said Casper. "So they go home with staff members and the staff members wake up every two hours and feed those babies and care for them so it is very taxing on the staff and volunteers."
Animals are often injured or orphaned because of human activities like window strike, vehicle collision, barbed wire, domestic cat and dog attacks. Staff also say kidnapping is an issue. That's when a healthy baby animal is taken from the wild.
"(People) see these baby hares and baby deer and they assume that they are injured or orphaned," said Lillie. "Most of the time they're not, it is their natural history that those species in particular are left alone during the day."
Learn more about the AIWC annual wildlife baby shower online.