Community Papers

Busiest year creates challenges for Wildlife Rescue Association

Karen Becker and Ana Mendes feed a snowshoe hare brought into the Wildlife Rescue Association from Whistler on New Year
Karen Becker and Ana Mendes feed a snowshoe hare brought into the Wildlife Rescue Association from Whistler on New Year's Eve. The rabbit was injured, possibly by a car, and malnourished because of parasites.

A brown pelican and snowshoe hare may not be typical dinner guests.

But keeping them happy, healthy and fed is all in a day's work at the Wildlife Rescue Association.

The warren of little houses, sheds and aviaries on the south shore of Burnaby Lake has been helping injured and sick animals for 34 years. Last year was its busiest ever, with more than 4,000 patients admitted to the care centre. That's 22 per cent more than were treated in 2011.

"The long winter, the salmonella outbreak in the spring which saw the arrival of dozens of pine siskins, and the closure of Monika's wildlife shelter in Surrey have all contributed to the increase," said Yolanda Brooks, the WRA's communications coordinator.

But giving so many injured birds, mammals and rodents a second chance comes with a price.

The care centre is bursting at the seams. Cages and enclosures are tucked into every corner. When an x-ray machine became available, the room dedicated to the care of baby animals was converted to accommodate it. On Thursday, the propane heater that supplies warm water gave out necessitating some hasty improvisation.

"We're here to help as many animals as we can," said Anita Cymet, WRA's development coordinator. "But we face a problem of space."

And increasing demand for supplies like food and medicine. In any given week, the centre's staff and volunteers will go through hundreds of towels to carry animals from cage to care room, swaddle them to keep them warm, cloak them to keep them calm.

"There's definitely big challenges," said Ana Mendes, between pitching small sardines to the brown pelican, that arrived between Christmas and New Year's from a care facility in Courtenay after it was found in Tofino in early December with wounds to its feet, neck and pouch. "It puts a lot more pressure on us."

To keep up staff and some of the pool of 200 volunteers can work double and triple shifts. Some help out with the transport of animals on their days off.

It's hoped a portable trailer will be converted to a care room for young animals in time for the spring hatching and birthing season. The quest for funding is ongoing.

Only 20 per cent of the WRA's annual budget is supported by local and federal government. The rest comes from donations, grants and fundraising events like the annual Walk For Wildlife.

A gala ball, planned for November, will be the WRA's biggest fundraising event to date, said Cymet. And given the increasing demand for the work they do, it won't come a moment too soon.

"We need the community to step up," said Cymet.

To find out more about the Wildlife Rescue Association and how to help, go to


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