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Vancouver Island bird rescue centre closes public access to protect against avian flu

Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society Visitor Centre closes to protect against avian flu
Jan Smith (right) leads by doing with energy and enthusiasm, supporting other volunteers in our education work, restoration of native plants on the property and managing our growing organization. Here she is leading a group tour at the facility. The facility is closed to the public until further notice, due to the discovery of avian flu in the Comox Valley.

Calling it an ‘incredibly difficult decision’ the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society has announced it is closing the doors of its Comox Valley visitor centre and gift shop temporarily.

The recent confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a poultry flock in the Comox Valley, has made it a necessary move, the Merville-based MARS stated in a recent media release.

“Our priority is our commitment to the safety and well-being of our resident ambassador birds (eagles, owls, and crows) and wildlife patients and we hope that this additional precautionary measure will help reduce the risk of on-site transmission of the virus,” MARS spokesperson Jane Sproull Thomson said in the release. “We plan to continue to educate and engage the public in a variety of ways, so stay tuned for updates.”

The Wildlife Hospital remains open, but the temporary closure of our visitor centre will drastically reduce funds at a time when they are most needed. It is “baby season” at MARS and the influx of injured and orphaned baby birds, raccoon kits, and other small mammals has begun.

“Our biggest expenses at this time of year are typically food and nursery supplies, but we also need to purchase additional personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to combat HPAI,” Sproull Thomson said.

“We hope to be able to reopen our visitor centre to the public soon, but in the meantime we are calling on our supporters for help. Any contribution you can make to our animal care fund would be very much appreciated.”

Check the organization’s website for information on how to help.

Some updates to the MARS HPAI prevention protocols are outlined below.

• Increased biosecurity measures for the MARS site. This includes sanitizing footbaths, a separate patient admission building, quarantine zones for different species, and covering the ambassador enclosures. Our infection control plan will be available on our website soon.

• If you are bringing an injured animal or donation to MARS, please remain in your vehicle. Call the hospital at 250-337-2021 ext. 0 to speak to rehab staff. The staff will come retrieve the animal or donation from your vehicle.

• Do not bring deceased wild birds to MARS. Please call MARS at 250-337-2021 for guidance. You can also report suspicious bird deaths to the bird hotline: 1-866-431-BIRD (2473).

• The organization is currently unable to accept donations of poultry, waterfowl, or eggs as food for the animals.

To learn more about the clinical signs of this virus, please visit

RELATED: Comox egg producer taking measures against avian flu

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