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Rocky View County-based wildlife conservation society sees soaring demand for services

“This holiday season, we are asking Albertans to support wildlife in need and include AIWC as part of their Christmas giving in whatever way they can,” read an AIWC press release. “Wildlife needs us, and we need them.”

The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC), a Madden-based non-profit organization and champion for the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife, has witnessed an increase in demand for animal rehabilitation in 2022.

According to Holly Lillie, executive director of AIWC, more than 1,900 animals have been cared for at the facility this year, amounting to an approximately 10 per cent increase in patient admissions from the previous year.

“We’ve cared for over 1,900 animals so far and we still have a month of the year to go,” Lillie said. “This is quite a substantial amount when you think that’s 1,900 individual lives.”

Lillie added the organization has taken in an assortment of wildlife, including 149 different species so far.

“That could be anything from a chipping sparrow to a great horned owl, [to] a tiger salamander, black bear cub, and eagle,” she said, remarking on the abundance of wildlife that comes through AIWC’s doors every year.

Animals cared for at the facility this year include three orphaned black bear cubs, a poisoned bald eagle, and an injured red fox.

She said most animals admitted to the facility are injured or orphaned due to human conflict in some way, ranging from animals hitting windows, being injured via vehicle collisions, or attacked by people’s pet cats and dogs.

“There has been a rise in the amount of human and wildlife encounters, so the majority of animals that we see are a result of human conflict in some way,” Lillie confirmed.

Adding to AIWC’s spike in demand, this year brought a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) to Alberta. Lillie said dozens of animals that were admitted to the facility this year were suffering from this deadly virus, which unfortunately does not have a cure.

“They are all in very poor condition, and that is something that we haven’t seen in recent years,” she said. “A lot of them were in good body condition and had just been brought down by the virus, unfortunately.”

She said there has also been a “huge” increase in calls to AIWC’s wildlife hotline – a phone-in service offered to all Albertans to answer questions or concerns about injured or orphaned wildlife.

This year, AIWC cared for a red fox with severe abdominal trauma. Though the animal is still in the organization’s care, he is on the mend thanks to the non-profit’s efforts.

“He was found in a field and we’re not too sure what happened to him,” Lillie said. “That’s one of the challenges of wildlife, is they can’t tell us what happened, so it’s a lot of investigative work for us to figure out potential causes.”

According to Lillie, the fox came into AIWC’s care and required a couple of surgeries.

“He was inside for quite a long time, and he had a cone on his head to protect him from eating or pulling out his stitches,” she said. “He had a really long road to recovery and he’s still with us now.

“Just in the last couple of weeks, he’s recovered from those surgeries. He’s recovered from his wounds, and he’s now outside one of our enclosures, which is pretty miraculous.”

The executive director said AIWC wasn’t sure the animal would make it, but he is now well on his road to recovery.

“We are going to keep him over winter because he’s still growing some fur back,” she said, adding winter is not the ideal time to release an animal back into the wild.

“There’s a ton of snow on the ground and he’s been in care for several weeks, so we’ll keep him through winter to ensure he stays healthy, and then he will be released in the spring.”

Away from treating animals, December is typically one of the busiest months for AIWC in a fundraising sense. The non-profit launches a fundraising campaign – Give the Gift of Saving Wildlife – every holiday season.

Lillie said through AIWC’s website, there is an opportunity for Albertans to symbolically adopt an animal being cared for at AIWC, including the red fox.

“Individuals can adopt animals on our website, and they can either receive an email or mail certificate or photo [of the animal]” she added.

Though the cost for AIWC to rehabilitate an individual animal can vary greatly, Lillie said in most cases, it is more than $100. Sometimes it can cost upwards of several thousands of dollars to treat one animal.

“This holiday season, we are asking Albertans to support wildlife in need and include AIWC as part of their Christmas giving in whatever way they can,” read an AIWC press release. “Wildlife needs us, and we need them.”

Lillie said monetary donations make the most impact to the organization, as most supplies needed are specialized and must be ordered from elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.

She acknowledged it has been a tough year for many people, so if they can’t support AIWC financially, she encourages them to spread awareness of the organization and its mission.

“If people aren’t able to donate, if they’re able to share our posts and social media, that would be a tremendous help as well, because I think the more we can help educate people about wildlife and the natural behaviours, the more wildlife that we can help,” she said.

Lillie added the organization hopes to educate the public about AIWC and how people can assist the Rocky View County-based organization in its goal to help injured and orphaned wildlife.

“Every year, our biggest goal is to raise monetary funds to keep supporting our mission, but part of our mission is providing education as well,” she said.

To learn more about AIWC or to donate to the organization through its Give the Gift of Saving Wildlife holiday campaign, visit aiwc.ca

“We’ve got a fantastic selection of items [in our online shop], and all the proceeds from both our Christmas campaign and the store sales go to supporting our mission,” Lillie said. “So, you can’t go wrong with either of them.”

Additionally, if you come across an injured or orphaned animal, or you have questions about AIWC, please call the wildlife hotline at 403-946-2361.


Carmen Cundy

About the Author: Carmen Cundy

Carmen Cundy joined the Airdrie Today team in March 2021.
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