The Myth of the 'Quiet Season' in Wildlife Rehabilitation
Ever wonder goes on at wildlife rehabilitation centres during that mythical ‘quiet time’ between hectic spring and summer seasons filled with hundreds of baby wild patients? The truth is, there really is no quiet time in the world of wildlife rehabilitation. The winter months certainly mean fewer wild patients in care, although the risks of living alongside humans in an urban environment – including windows to hit, cars to collide with, free-roaming outdoor cats to escape, and power lines to navigate – mean that wildlife is always in need of a helping hand.
So, what occupies the time of wildlife rehabilitation staff and their dedicated volunteers during the winter? Getting ready for next baby season, of course! After a long and busy 2015 season, in which BC SPCA Wild ARC admitted a record-breaking 2,937 wild patients – an enormous leap ahead of their 2014 record-breaking total of just over 2,500 – the centre was in desperate need of a top-to-bottom clean. Winter is spent clearing out patient wards and outdoor enclosures, storage rooms and linen closets, and making sure every last inch gets scrubbed and disinfected.
In order to care for so many sick, injured, and orphaned patients, last year Wild ARC’s rehabilitation team was assisted by a large volunteer crew who donated over 25,500 hours caring for animals, cleaning the centre, raising funds, reaching out and educating the community, and transporting distressed wildlife. Over the winter, volunteers make sure that the longer-term patients recovering at the facility have plenty of enrichment (like Christmas trees that are repurposed as perches and shelter spots for small songbirds in the Avian Enclosures).
Winter also means time to repair items that were set aside in the rush of the busy summer season, and to create new needed items to better care for next season’s patients. Volunteers have the chance to learn new skills, or create enrichment items or enclosure improvements that came to mind in the preceding months, and Wild ARC’s tools and maintenance supplies get their big annual exercise.
Volunteer work parties are a great way to get the more daunting tasks accomplished, and every year at Wild ARC a team of volunteers bravely tackles all the items in the kennel shed. Everything is taken out, items that are no longer needed are passed along for other organizations to use, and then a life-sized version of ‘Tetris’ is played to fit everything back in as neatly as possible – definitely a team effort!
Winter is also a time to take inventory and order supplies for the coming year, to make sure everything from syringes and bandages to medications and diet ingredients are on-hand for the start of the season. Some supplies are only available by special order, and some ingredient mixes are created especially for our patients, to make sure each wild animal gets the nutrition they need. It’s a complicated business to meet the nutritional requirements of over 140 different species!
By the time the first babies of the season make their way into the world, rehabilitation centres like Wild ARC will be prepared to give help to those who need it. Volunteers play a vital role in allowing centres to care for so many wild patients – learn how to lend a hand this spring season.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.