Animal funds

Edmonton’s WILDNorth Animal Rescue sees call volume increase and patients during COVID-19 pandemic

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An Edmonton wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization continued to see a sharp increase in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dale Gienow, executive director of WILDNorth, said the organization has seen an increase in the number of animal patients admitted compared to the number before the pandemic.

“Just to put that in perspective, 2019 has been our busiest year yet, and of course we’ve been in business since 1989,” Gienow said.

“In terms of the number of phone calls we received, we have increased by over 60% from 2019 to 2020, and we have kept these similar high numbers until 2021.”

In 2019, the organization received around 8,500 calls on its wildlife hotline, while in 2021, Gienow estimated workers would answer more than 13,500 calls.

The number of animals in need of care and admitted to WILDNorth has also increased by at least 17%, Gienow said.

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He said there has been a lot of interest in the wildlife in and around the city.

“We attribute this to the change in behavior due to the pandemic,” Gienow said.

“I feel like with fewer opportunities over the past two years to do things indoors, people are out and about exploring more and encountering creatures that you may have questions about or maybe being unaware they existed, or even encountering injured and orphaned wildlife.

Many of the calls the organization received were from people curious about the city’s wildlife.

“For example, we’ll get a call and people will say, ‘I’m calling you just to let you know that I saw a porcupine,’ and we say, ‘Yes, there are porcupines in town. . A lot of times people just don’t realize what’s going on, ”Gienow said.

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“I think that while the pandemic has done one thing when it comes to wildlife, it has created a greater awareness of who our wild neighbors are and with whom we share our environment.”

A snowy owl being rehabilitated at WILDNorth, an Edmonton wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization.  Photo provided.
A snowy owl being rehabilitated at WILDNorth, an Edmonton wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization. Photo provided.

But the types of calls change from year to year and recently the organization has seen a disproportionate number of snowy owls. At the beginning of December, the association received 14 of the birds requiring care.

“Most of these arriving birds are young birds of the year who haven’t been able to hunt very well,” Gienow said.

“They came in hungry and need a little maintenance and we have to fatten them up a bit before we can get them back on the path.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created funding challenges for the organization due to cutbacks in grants. However, Gienow said donations were up from the previous year.

“It’s a challenge, we are working on it. It is one of those essential services animals need to be cared for. So we are doing our best, and taking care of wildlife and protecting these animals is a community effort, ”said Gienow.

“Some of these animals brought to us come with donations which is a big help especially during this time of year the work really expects to winter a lot of animals.”

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