Wildlife rescues increased by nearly 40% this year, says institute

A wildlife rescue centre near Calgary has seen an enormous uptick in animal patients since the start of the pandemic.

Director says with more people at home, they're more likely to find injured animals

Pictured above is a short-eared owl at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation. The institute says it has taken in 2,042 animals this year. (Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation)

A wildlife rescue centre near Calgary has seen an enormous uptick in animal patients since the start of the pandemic.

The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, which is just north of Airdrie, says it's taken in 2,042 animals this year — a 37 per cent increase compared with 2019. 

Holly Lillie, executive director of the institution, says it's hard to say why there was a rise in numbers but notes demand increases every year.

"What we think is happening is that with people more at home, they're finding wildlife that would otherwise not have been found, or potentially, you know, there is more human wildlife encounters," she told the Calgary Eyeopener.

She says staff have also noticed the wider range of animals that have come to the hospital, and that this year alone, they've taken in 160 different species, including twin moose calves.

"We're seeing a greater variety of animals of different species, especially some of the migratory songbirds," she said.

"Over the weekend, we admitted a juvenile bald eagle … this bird was found by a kayaker on the banks of the Bow River. So that was a bit unusual that, you know, the bird was down in that area," she said.

The director says that to take care of the bald eagle — who had to be tested for lead — it costed $300 for just the weekend alone.

"It can range anywhere from $100 to well over $1,000 for an individual animal," she said.

"There is lots of costs, you know, some diagnostics to medical care to food. We spent over $16,000 this year on just meal worms."

Since the institute is considered an essential service, Lillie says COVID-19 hasn't had large impacts. However, she says the volunteers had to be put on hiatus for a couple of months, but the institute has now found a way for people to help from home.

"For example, a wildlife hotline, which is answering calls," she said.

"But even with that break of some of our positions, our volunteers have still donated over 6,000 hours this year. So it's fantastic all that they do, from fundraising, to taking photographs and so forth. We really have a fantastic support."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.