For the Love of Animals
Northern Alberta Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre Interview
Jillian Vander Vinne
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” – Charles Darwin
Throughout my life it has always been apparent that I hold a deep passion for animals and their well-being. There are many ways that humanity interacts with animals, whether it is through the most common domesticate pet interaction, exotic animals at a zoo, coming across wild animals while on a mountain hike, or wildlife wandering through our neighborhoods. Often people do not think about their encounters with wild animals in the city as positive as many times citizens elect to shoo them away or call someone to remove them. Recently, I had an enlightening opportunity to visit the Northern Alberta Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and met with Kim, who is the Director of Wildlife Services and the woman who spearheaded the not-for-profit organization in 1989. After she worked at a veterinary clinic as an animal health technologist and came into contact with various wildlife that were dropped off for treatment, she decided to start the wildlife center. She acknowledged the human-animal bond with the injured wildlife and how it goes beyond that of only domesticated house pets. Since its establishment, the center has admitted and assisted over 22,000 wild animals such as Great Horned Owls, Jack Rabbits, Red Squirrels, Mallards, Crows, and Magpies. Kim wants people to understand that wildlife in our city spend their day to day lives seeking food and shelter, as they would in the wild, and run into hazards in their increasingly urbanized habitat which can negatively impact their well-being.
As citizens of Edmonton, and any city around the world, we are a part of a community that goes beyond just humans and our actions have an impact on the broader environment, including that of wild animals; we should not destroy animals in the name of economic flourishing and urban development. The main reason that animals end up at the shelter is largely due to human disturbance or interaction. It goes as high as 85% of the wildlife in the center’s care were injured by, for example, power lines, traffic incidents, barbed wire, window strikes, and general human interference such as removing wildlife from their habitats when it is not necessary to do so. To go along with the 85% of animals that are brought in and treated due to human activity, only 35-40% can be re-released into the wild as per a study done in 2016. Their ability to be released back into the wild depends fundamentally on the circumstances and the animal itself. Ducklings have as high as 85% re-release rate while Great Horned Owls are very rarely ever able to be placed back into the wild. Although Kim stressed that they do not look at success or failure rates, as they are just trying to fix something that we humans did to them and allow every animal a second chance, the only other option is to euthanize the animal to remove suffering.
Kim’s role at the shelter varies significantly between animal care, management, administration, permits and records maintenance, current medical protocol and education and, as she described as one of her more important responsibilities, communicating with the public via the hotline. Kim recognized that communications has a huge role to play in the wildlife rehabilitation centre and far beyond it. The center annually fields over 8,600 wildlife related calls and worked to educate over 7,500 people in 2017. To engage the public effectively, specific aspects of communication have to be understood in order to bridge the disconnect between species; the center has created informative pamphlets and works on using concise wording to allow the information to be received and understood most effectively. As an Environmental Studies major with an English concentration and a passion and aspiration to help animals through communications, this was an illuminating and promising conversation.
The goal and mandate of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton is to return injured wildlife back to their habitat once they are healed from their injuries and are able to function normally again. The Northern Alberta Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre works closely with numerous veterinary clinics, The City of Edmonton, and Animal Care and Control to best protect and live in harmony with wildlife. As people passionate about animal welfare, we need to use the tools available to us, such as information, communications, and education to teach the public and those less passionate, conducive ways to interact with wildlife and attempt to alter our behavior to protect wildlife from unnecessary harm.