Edmonton-area wildlife rescue asks for annual donation of Christmas trees

An owl at WILDNorth animal rescue on Dec. 28, 2020. Les Knight / Global News

A local wildlife rescue is hoping Edmontonians will donate their real Christmas trees at the end of the season for animal enrichment.

WILDNorth, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation society in Parkland County, is accepting donations of Christmas trees — free of all decorations and unbagged — until Jan. 8, 2021.

“When animals are in captivity for any length of time, enrichment is really important for them,” said Dale Gienow, executive director for WILDNorth.

“These Christmas trees provide that very valuable enrichment. It gives them something to hide under, it gives them something to perch on. Or we can perhaps attach some food to it, the animals can learn how to take food off that natural foliage.

“These guys are used to being in the wild. This is a very unusual strange circumstance for them,” he said.

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“So having something a little closer to home — in this case, some trees to furnish their enclosures with — is really important.”

WILDNorth provides compassionate care to injured and orphaned wildlife in the northern Alberta region, including Edmonton.

During this time of the year, the centre rescues many owls, but also other animals like foxes, porcupines and birds like geese and ducks.

While most animals at WILDNorth will use the Christmas trees for climbing or hiding, porcupines like this one may even eat the wood. Les Knight / Global News

Gienow said it’s less about populations that are at risk and more about providing care for all wild animals that may need it.

“For us, it’s an opportunity to look after them. It’s the right thing to do. It’s good for the community to look after their wildlife.”

The centre is accepting tree drop-offs at its Parkland County Rehabilitation Centre, about 15 minutes west of Edmonton.

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Pine and Spruce varieties are preferred over Fir.

While the centre does not accept artificial trees, Gienow added that monetary donations are just as needed as the non-profit is one of many that has struggled through the pandemic.

“Right now, WILDNorth is finding a little rough go of it,” he said. “COVID has been hard on everybody, including small charities like ours. So we really do depend on the public support.”

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Monetary donations can be made through the WILDNorth website. The centre also has a wishlist for donation items needed to care for the animals.

The City of Edmonton will begin its annual Christmas tree collection program starting on Jan. 11, 2021.

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Last year, the city said 8,570 trees, weighing more than 95 tonnes, were collected in January 2020 for composting.

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