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200 volunteers at Wild ARC in Metchosin rehab 3,000 animals per year

Only 40 per cent of the animals will be released back into the wild
Mona Holley, a volunteer trainer, said that nearly 200 volunteers are needed at Wild ARC to help look after animals such as eagles, raccoons and squirrels. (Thomas Eley/News Staff)

When Mona Holley, a volunteer trainer at BC SPCA Wild ARC, started training other volunteers, she didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as she does.

During a four-hour coaching exercise with new volunteers, Holley said she tends to go on tangents and tell too many stories about her experiences at Wild ARC.

“I have to watch that, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” Holley said.

Wild ARC cares for birds, small mammals, and the occasional baby seal, but it has a permit to care for only certain animals. Marine mammals are under the federal system while squirrels and most birds are under the provincial one.

Over a years time, about 3,000 animals will come into the centre, and not all of them will be released back into the wild.

“We expect about 30 to 40 per cent of that 3,000 to be released,” Holley said.

The others are either euthanized on arrival or die at Wild ARC.

“All of those decisions are under very careful consideration by the staff.”

Most animals brought into Wild ARC are there because they have been in contact with humans through car crashes or cat attacks.

A young great horned owl gets a second chance at a wild life after being reunited earlier this week with its family. (Sam Webb & Rob Shoemaker/Wild ARC Facebook)

Animals that survive will be released close to where they were found, which makes it easier for the survivors to be in the area they are familiar with, Holley said.

“We try to find a suitable area within a one-kilometre range of where they were found.”

The animal’s release will also depend on the permit from either the federal or provincial government states.

Holley said that about 200 volunteers are needed at Wild ARC and that there are many different areas where people can help.

There is the animal care team, where you feed and look after animals but also help to do everything including the kitchen prep team who cooks and prepares the food for the animals and the spit and polish team, which is in charge of laundry and cleaning the pens.

Wild ARC volunteers can choose from three shifts: 8 a.m.-12 p.m., 12 p.m.-4 p.m., and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Five volunteers are needed per shift to help care for the animals.

Anyone over 19 years old can volunteer, and comprehensive training is offered to anyone who wants to help at Wild ARC.

According to Holley, the shifts will be focused on feeding and cleaning the enclosures where the animals are kept, but human contact will be kept to a minimum.

“We don’t want them to habituate to humans. So the more we’re in their enclosures, the more they get used to us.”

According to Holley, Wild ARC will attract volunteers from around Vancouver Island and worldwide. Some will come from Europe, and others from Campbell River to Cordova Bay.

Wild ARC is a live hospital and is more about saving the lives of these animals rather than just being able to give a cute critter a lot of hugs, said Holley.

“Our role here is not to cuddle them, talk to them, or treat them like pets. We want to keep them wild.”

Helping these animals still brings a lot of joy, and there is still the opportunity to get up close and personal with a baby squirrel or bald eagle, said Holley.

“You are still formula-feeding squirrels, and there is still contact with animals.”

As summer progresses juvenile raccoons are on the move and starting to explore as they seek food and shelter, says the BC SPCA. (Photo by Michael Woods/Courtesy Wild ARC)

Holley said she has always been interested in helping animals, has worked with BC Parks for most of her career and has a degree in zoology. Now, she gets to a part of caring for these animals and helping them recover.

“You’re a part of feeding them, looking after them and caring for them.”

The new volunteers will be recruited by June and Holley will have to train the latest recruits to care for the animals correctly.

“Because then we’re just not going to have time to train people. We’re going to be busy ourselves looking after the animals,” Holley said.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a pretty cool thing’: Wild ARC volunteers call out for new helpers

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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