British Columbia

It's for the birds: Vancouver Island bird rescue society opens new visitor centre

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, or MARS, has been patching up injured birds in B.C.'s Comox Valley since 1995. Now, they have opened a new visitor centre so people can learn about the work they do and the animals they help.

'I think people gain a better understanding of what these animals need from us'

A great horned owl, one of many critters that can be seen at the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre. (Submitted by Hope for Wildlife)

After patching up injured animals since 1995, a Comox Valley rehabilitation facility is opening a visitor centre so people can learn more about the work they do and the animals they help.

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, or MARS, started out in rural garage and now operates an animal hospital on the society's 11-acre property in Merville, a community on the east coast of Vancouver Island. MARS doesn't just treat birds, they also treat small mammals like minks, fawns and raccoons.

Pearl McKenzie, vice-president of the volunteer board of directors for MARS, says the new MARS Wildlife Rescue visitor centre is a great way to educate the public on how animals can get hurt. 

"I think people gain a better understanding of what these animals need from us in order to live safely in an environment with us," McKenzie told Gregor Craigie, host of On the Island.

"It also gives us an opportunity to start a discussion because at MARS, we don't have obviously all the answers. We just know that our patients come to harm often through something that humans are doing."

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, or MARS, has been patching up injured birds in B.C.'s Comox Valley since 1995. (Courtesy Sylvie Moncion)

Into the wild

Visitors to the new centre will get to see ambassador birds — birds that cannot be released because they cannot fend for themselves in the wild due to injury. 

"In one case, our red tailed hawk was taken from the nest when it was really young and never did learn to hunt or look after itself."

They can also see the society's 25 taxidermy displays, including great horned owls.

While injured animals cannot be viewed in person, visitors can see a live webcam of animals in the hospital for treatment. The hospital currently has 14 ducklings and a baby mink admitted.

McKenzie says MARS' aim is to create awareness of the creatures that call natural areas on the island home.

"I know that most of us chose to live here because of the nature around us. But as more of us move to Vancouver Island, we're in real danger of destroying what we love most."

Listen to the full interview here:

The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, or MARS, has been patching up injured birds in B.C.'s Comox Valley since 1995. Now, they have opened a new visitor centre so people can learn about the work they do and the animals they help. 6:34

With files by On the Island

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