B.C. wildlife rescue facing challenges due to COVID-19

B.C. wildlife rescue facing challenges due to COVID-19
WatchIsland wildlife rescue gets flood of new babies, as COVID-19 dries up donations

As a badly wounded bald eagle lays the side of a busy stretch of highway in Northern Vancouver Island, one wildlife rescuer could not stop thinking about COVID-19.

“So I’ll just get you guys to stand back a bit,” North Island Wildlife Rescue Centre’s Derek Downes tells a group of people gathered around the injured bird.

Downes, like every other wildlife rescuer, is trying to stay healthy, as the pandemic happens to come during their busiest time of the year.

This week has already been very busy.

“Been out on owl, eagle, bear rescues all within the last week,” said the North Island Wildlife rescue worker.

The newest arrival at the Errington rescue is Crumpet, an orphaned baby bear cub found earlier this week in the woods of French Creek. The small bear was week, alone, hungry and weighing only 2 pounds.

“The important thing now is that we have the cub and it’s not going to perish,” said Downes.

Robin Campbell, the founder of North Island Wildlife Recovery, says it is normal for activity to ramp up this time of year, but we’re seeing “far” more.

Mother nature has rolled ahead as usual in the pandemic, but the funding to help the influx of animals has not.

The non-profit rescue was forced to shut its doors to the public in March, effectively cancelling all revenue that could have been made from tours. Donations have also vanished, at a time they are needed the most.

“We’re just like everyone else We’re hooped. We’re in trouble,” said Campbell.

“We lost all the people that we’d get in Spring Break and weekend traffic. We’re in trouble,” he said.

The Errington rescue saved 780 animals in 2019 and expects that number to rise as more people are out in the trails due to COVID-19.

“It is leading to a lot more people seeing animals that are in distress,” said Downes, “A little bit more out there in the wilderness where they might not have seen them before.”

So the wildlife rescue is needing a helping hand now too as the work that hasn’t stopped, but has actually picked up during the pandemic.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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