Many of the wild animals in care provide a unique opportunity for learning about environmental conditions and wild animal care and rehabilitation. Wildlife conservation and health research often involves capturing wild animals in nature and taking samples or placing monitoring devices on them. With wildlife already in our care, we are easily able to take samples, and can attach monitoring equipment with relatively less stress during their regular care regime.
The following are examples of the research and monitoring projects in which Wild ARC has been involved:
Lyme Disease tick research project
Wild ARC monitors migratory passerine birds and other species in care for the presence of ticks between April - August. Live ticks are collected and sent to the project coordinator in Ontario where they are then identified. These ticks provide valuable information on the dispersal of ticks across Canada, especially during spring migration of birds. Ticks are vectors for several serious diseases of humans and animals including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others.
West nile virus monitoring
The West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne virus that was named after the West Nile region of Uganda, where the virus first appeared in 1937. Most people who become infected experience no symptoms or have very mild illness. The elderly, the very young, and those with suppressed immune systems are most at risk for severe illness. The virus not spread by person to person contact or by bird to person contact.
WNV is primarily an avian virus spread by bird-biting mosquitoes. The virus has been detected in over 225 bird species. Most bird species survive WNV infection, however, corvids (crow and jay family) have a high fatality rate, and testing of dead crows helps determine when WNV is active in an area (BC Centre for Disease Control).
As part of this montoring project, During the West Nile Season (May to September), Wild ARC was a WNV monitoring site for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. In addition to receiving dead birds from the public for submission to VIHA, Wild ARC collected larval mosquito samples from local water bodies and captures adult mosquitoes for testing.
Cryptococcus occurs naturally in the environment and has historically been responsible for a small number of infections in British Columbia each year, but reports have increased significantly since 1999. A fungus that causes cryptococcal disease has been found growing on trees native to Vancouver Island. This specific strain of fungus is more frequently found on trees in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Exposure to the spores of the fungus can lead to an infection of the lungs and nervous system in both humans and animals (BC Centre for Disease Control).
In 2004 and 2005, Wild ARC was a site of sample collection for cryptococcus testing in wild mammals for the following research project: Identification of Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii in wildlife on Vancouver Island, BC - Dr. John Campbell and Dr. Colleen Duncan, Department of LACS, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon.
Although 28 animals tested in the summer were negative, an adult mink that died mysteriously in care in September 2004 was found to have high levels of Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii.
Presentations and committees
Wild ARC staff also participate in professional development by presenting at conferences and sitting on different wildlife committees:
Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC AGM 2015 - Volunteer Coordination Roundtable - Heather Schmitt
- Victoria Natural History Society 2015 - Wildlife 911: When Our Wild Neighbours Need Help (and When They Don't) - Heather Schmitt
Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC AGM 2014 - African Penguins: Survival of a Species from the Brink of Extinction - Christina Carrières
Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC AGM 2011 - Sustainable Wildlife Rehabilitation - Christina Carrières
Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC AGM 2011 - Rehabilitation Lab Techniques - Melanie Gordon
- Oiled Wildlife Society of BC - Christina Carrières (Vice-President); Wallis Moore Reid (Director-at-Large)
Oiled Wildlife Society of BC - First Responders Committee - Melanie Gordon, Wallis Moore Reid
Rocky Point Bird Observatory - Wallis Moore Reid (Board Member)
BC Western Purple Martin Recovery Program - Wallis Moore Reid (Coordinator)
Oiled Wildlife Trust - Christina Carrieres (WRNBC Representative)
Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of BC - Christina Carrières (Secretary), Heather Schmitt (Director-at-Large)