About 900 people gathered at the eighth annual Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre’s open house to get a rare insider’s tour of the facilities on March 31 and April 1.
Groups were taken on one-hour-long tours covering avian and mammal wards, raptor flight pens, racoon nurseries and other medical facilities at the Metchosin location on 1020 Malloch Road.
Information on wild life rehabilitation, medical procedures and every day rehabilitation duties were also delivered to the public.
According to Kari Marks, manager at Wild ARC, there were about 20 wildlife animals onsite receiving care, but none were viewable to the public. The centre has had up to 300 animals at one given time, during the peak summer months.
Marks said the animals become very stressed when in the presence of people so public tours are not offered regularly.
“For one weekend a year, we hold an open house for people to come in and see what we can do,” Marks said. “We choose a time of year where there’s the fewest number of animals in care.”
The centre cares for injured, sick and orphaned babies of mammals, birds, raptors, reptiles and amphibians. Duration of stay can vary from one day to 10 months, depending on the injury.
Wild ARC does not have the appropriate permits or facilities to handle large carnivorous mammals like cougars, bears and wolves.
Animals are usually reported to Wild ARC by the public, which are then delivered to the centre or picked up. Residents can also drop off animals at the Central Victoria Animal Hospital for pick up by Wild ARC.
In 2011, 116 wild animals from Sooke were sent to Wild ARC for treatment. This year, only seven animals from the area have been admitted to the rehabilitation centre.
Nearly 2,000 animals of 128 different species were sent to Wild ARC in 2011. Over half of then animals were birds.
“Almost all animals I would say that come in have been impacted by humans in some respect, either hit by a car or caught by a domestic cat,” Marks said, but she added Vancouver Island residents are very conscious of co-existence.
“I’m really proud of people on Vancouver Island, they’re very environmentally aware and really do want to help,” Marks said.
That being said, Marks advised people to contact Wild ARC before bringing an animal in.
She said baby birds that appear to be stranded on land, are fledgings and learning how to take flight. If the parents are seen feeding the bird, then it is most likely fine.
Marks also said fawns seen left alone for extended periods of time should be left undisturbed. The mother leaves the fawn, returning periodically to care for it, because it would be highly vulnerable to predators on foot.
Last year, Wild ARC started a successful program to reunite mother deer and fawns that were removed from their nesting spots by concerned residents. Fawns were returned to the original site of removal, and rubbed with grass to remove human scent. There was success in 20 of 25 cases.
According to Wild ARC documents, the centre has an operating cost of approximately $500,000.
The centre operates on 150 volunteers, eight staff and a caretaker. The Metchosin location is one of 39 facilities under the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA).
Since opening in 1997, the centre has treated 25,000 animals.
Injured animals can be reported to Wild ARC at 250-478-9453.