It was a day that Megan Buemann had been looking forward to for months.
On July 4, Buemann and her colleagues at the North Island Island Wildlife Recovery Centre finally got to release a Great Horned Owl back into the wild that they had been nursing for months.
“I’m very happy, I’m almost nervous excited,” said Buemann, an animal care worker at NIWRA. “It’s very fulfilling to see them off and free and healthy.”
They chose Little Mountain near Parksville, a popular hiking spot where on a clear day you can see for kilometers, as the place to release the now recovered Great Horned Owl.
But upon releasing the raptor, Buemann saw a disturbing sight over the cliff – piles of trash including appliances and televisions, at the base of the mountain.
“Looks like a TV screen down there,” said Buemann as she was surveying the bottom of the cliff.
“It’s kind of disheartening you know we wanna create a good environment for ourselves and wildlife and then there’s junk down there.”
Sadly, Little Mountain is the same place where volunteers with Parkville Rotary and BC Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have hundreds of hours over the past two years lifting out 14 tonnes of garbage by helicopter.
Bill Rawlins, a Parksville Rotary Club member and organizer of one of the big cleanups around Little Mountain, said it was heartbreaking to learn that all their effort had been disregarded.
“I’m befuddled that people would actually go and do that; after the work that was done,” Rawlins said.
Rawlins and other Rotary Club members actually hadn’t seen the trash piles themselves because COVID-19 had cancelled their annual cleanup earlier this year.
Either way, the news was crushing.
“I’m just absolutely disappointed. So disappointed,” said Rawlins.
It’s a feeling that Ryan Anderson knows too.
According to Anderson, illegal dumping has been such a problem on his road in the Regional District of Nanaimo that he has started going through it looking for clues.
“If I find an address I’ll load [the trash] in my truck and take it to the address and dump it there,” he said. “It is amazing what people throw out.”
Volunteers whose cleanup was stopped back in May due to COVID-19 are already organizing to get back on the ground in July.
“It’s gonna mean that we’re going to have to do some more work,” said Rawlins.