Calgary wildlife rescue group asks for steady funding source from city
Non-profit says it would cost more than $1M for the city to recreate its services
The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS) is asking for a steady funding commitment from the city to help them continue what they see as an essential service.
The group is a not-for-profit set up to help heal hurt or sick wild animals, and they're the only place in the city licensed to take in these critters.
Some of the animals at the centre — located in the Calgary's northwest — include magpies, birds and skunks.
Although CWRS's goal is to rehabilitate animals and release them back into the wild, there are also a few permanent residents, including a hawk and two horned owls that can't be released because of their injuries.
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CWRS board president Rachel Wade says they started talking with city officials in 2016 about a better funding arrangement after the economic downturn hit them hard, much like other non-profits in the province.
She said in 2017 the city offered the society emergency funding and at that time there was an appetite to find a more sustainable funding mechanism to help the group in the future.
"We need to reach a space where we can be more stable than that so we can plan for the future and grow and as well as support our staff that work really hard to help Calgary's wildlife," she said.
Funding through donations
Most funds are raised through donations, but last year 34 per cent of the society's budget was covered by grants from other levels of government.
In a written statement, the City of Calgary said the funding it contributed was to cover the society's operating costs. The city says it continues to work with CWRS.
The society is Alberta's most southern wildlife rehabilitation centre and the city's only veterinarian-based wildlife hospital.
Each year, the group answers more than 10,000 calls from citizens who have questions or are in the middle of wildlife-related issues. They also offer eco-literacy programs to more than 5,000 students and citizens annually.
Injured animals are usually brought in after hitting windows or coming into contact with things like power lines, barbed wire, domesticated pets and garbage.
Wade estimated if the city provided a similar service, it would cost more than $1 million per year.
"If the city were to take this on at, you know, city wages, and they needed to build the structures to do all of this, it would cost them a lot of money," she said. "We look at this as a great way for the city to maintain the service for its citizens without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money to accomplish that."
In Edmonton, the city provides 20 per cent of the WILDNorth rescues budget, a similar operation in that area. And Wade said there's precedent in other municipalities to offer that funding to not-for-profits like CWRS.
"Calgary, I would say, is the anomaly," she said. "There's been precedent set in most of Canada around this."
The CWRS had hoped to have an answer on how the city will fund them by this spring, but now that that timeline has passed they hope to have a commitment by the end of 2018.
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