March 21, 2019 6:34 pm
Updated: March 21, 2019 9:05 pm

Wildlife rehab centre badly needed in the Okanagan: B.C. SPCA

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It is the B.C. SPCA’s only wildlife rehabilitation centre in the province.

Called Wild ARC, the facility is located in Metchosin, southwest of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

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“It was opened by the B.C. SPCA in 1997 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Victoria SPCA,” said B.C. SPCA’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Sara Dubois. “At that time, the shelter realized they just could not take wild animals into enclosures that had cats and dogs in them, and there was such a need in the community for a place where wild animals to go when they are injured.”

Since opening 21 years ago, Wild ARC has treated more than 45,000 animals.

Wild ARC treats 3,000 animals every year, like these orphaned raccoons.

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“If this facility didn’t exist, it would mean thousands of animals every year would meet a painful death,” Dubois said.

But Wild ARC can only help wildlife from the southern part of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and the need for more centres like it is growing, especially in the Okanagan.

Wild ARC opened in 1997 and since then has helped more than 45,000 animals.

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“There is a desperate need for a wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Okanagan,” Dubois said. “There’s such an incredible endemic of species of wildlife in the Okanagan, and I think that we really want to preserve those animals and give them the best chance.”

As the Okanagan’s population increases, so too do conflicts between humans and wild animals. That, said the B.C. SPCA, makes the need for a rehab centre in the valley that much greater.

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“Especially highly populated places in urban environments, where there is so much human encroachment, it is an absolute necessity, absolute necessity that we have a rehabilitation facility in the area,” Wild ARC rehabilitator Dana Lipka said.

Kelowna SPCA branch manager Sean Hogan said a wildlife rehab centre is badly needed in the Okanagan, adding that during peak spring and summer months, staff field five to seven calls every week about wildlife needing help.

“We just simply can’t provide it to the level that we would like,” he told Global News. “There are literally hundreds of animals that are not getting support.”

There are a few independent wildlife rehab facilities in the Southern Interior, such as SORCO in Penticton and the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops, but the kind of species they can help is limited, and distance can also pose problems for the animals.

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“The distance to Kamloops may not seem long to you and I, but, realistically, to an animal it can be too long and they may not be stable enough for travel,” Hogan said.

And that means, all too often the animal has to be euthanized.

But getting a centre liker Wild ARC up and running in the Okanagan will be a big endeavor, one that will require interested groups and individuals to step forward to help launch such a project.

“The effort of a community and maybe some incredible ambassadors will step forward, people who love wildlife and want to make a contribution and a legacy for wild animals in their community,” Dubois said.

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Hogan hopes more people become aware of the need and open up dialogue to help bring the idea to fruition.

“I think it’s time to expedite this,” Hogan said “And start looking at options that get us a wildlife rehab centre in the Okanagan.”

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