New Brunswick

Pre-loved Christmas trees bring joy to injured animals

Pam Novak of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute near Sackville collects old Christmas trees to give to the injured animals she rehabilitates.

Old Christmas trees get a second life at Atlantic Wildlife Institute in Cookville, N.B.

Pam Novak of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute near Sackville collects old Christmas trees to give to the injured animals she rehabilitates. 0:34

Gus's Christmas present came a little late this year, but he doesn't seem to mind. He is a porcupine, and his gift was an old Christmas tree, delivered to his enclosure to play with, tear apart and eat.

Playing Santa is Pam Novak, director of wildlife care at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute in Cookville, outside Sackville.

She put out a call this year, asking for discarded trees for some of the 90 animals being rehabilitated by the wildlife charity.

Pam Novak, director of wildlife care at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, is collecting old Christmas trees to give to the bears, porcupines, hawks, owls and crows she is rehabilitating. (CBC)
"It's handy to have," Novak said.

"It's less we have to go cut down in terms of branches or other trees, so it's an easy kind of fix for us in the winter months to give some more food and shelter for a lot of the animals here."

The Atlantic Wildlife Institute provides emergency and long-term care to injured wildlife in New Brunswick and across the Atlantic provinces.

Novak opens Gus's enclosure to bring him his new Christmas tree. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
While Gus and the four other porcupines taking up residence at the institute will most likely eat the greenery, other animals like bears, bobcat, foxes, hawks, owls and crows, will have the trees to add a little excitement to their enclosure or to keep themselves cozy during long winter nights.

Novak inspects each tree for any signs of spraying, as well as for forgotten ornaments and tinsel.

"Obviously, that would not be good for our patients [and] compound the reasons maybe they're here in the first place," she said.

She's hoping to collect a couple of dozen trees from people in the Sackville and Dorchester areas. So far, the community has shown a positive response.

After Gus's mother was hit by a car on a nearby highway, he was brought to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. (CBC)
"It helps people feel involved too," Novak said.

"And it kind of gives the tree that extra extended life, instead of just being in the house for a week or two and put out to the landfill."

And, she pointed out, some people seem to like the idea of doing something a little different.

"And a fun thing too, for people to say, 'Yeah, my Christmas tree is now going to feed a porcupine.'"

Gus let out what might have been a grunt of excitement as he crawled around his new tree. 

"I'll give him a week or two and that tree will not look the same," said Novak, with a laugh. "Then we'll put another one in for him."

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.