‘We had to make a choice’: Wildlife Haven no longer treating certain species

It helps sick, hurt, and orphaned animals, but now Wildlife Haven says it’s been forced to make some difficult decisions regarding the care of certain species.

The non-profit organization will no longer be treating invasive species like pigeons, European starlings, and house sparrows due to, “economic shifts and decreased volunteer engagement.”

Zoe Nakata, executive director at Wildlife Haven, says the choice was made through a conservation lens, and wanting to have the greatest positive impact on the Province’s ecosystems.

“We want to make sure that everything that we release can have the positive impact. And that’s where those invasive species were really something that we needed to look at, and re-examine. Because every time you release an invasive species back to nature, you actually have the potential of causing harm to native songbirds, other native species, habitat encroachment, all of those things can happen,” said Nakata.

The rehabilitation centre is also pausing treatment of raccoons for three years due to the high risk of disease transmission and its costs.

“We analyzed our success rate that was actually very small, only a 25 per cent success rate based on capacity…and really, the raccoons in this province are in a state of overpopulation. Their territories are expanding, they’re very adaptable to urban and rural areas. So when you look at it from a conservation lens, it was determined that they don’t necessarily need a whole lot of help from humans. And in fact, a lot of the cases that we saw were from human error,” said Nakata.

Meantime, the centre is also limiting rescues and pickups to specific animal categories that could be dangerous if mishandled. The list includes large raptors and owls (ex.eagles and peregrine falcons), large waterfowl (such as herons, loons, etc.), medium mammals (i.e., foxes, coyotes, beavers, and otters) and bats.

“The cost of treating these animals, invasive species, the raccoons and even the picking up of small animals, like bunnies and songbirds, the costs are quite substantial to the organization,” said Nakata. “So when we look at the amount of money that it takes for those three things, invasive species, picking up all species, and the raccoons, we’re probably in the $100,000 area. So it’s substantial part of our budget, and in a time where we’re having, you know, a harder time raising money, getting the grants, based on the economic situation, we had to make a choice there.”

Wildlife Haven says it’s also coming up on its busy season. During June and July, it can welcome over 50 animals each day, and has over 300 animals on site at any given time.

“So that’s a lot of mouths to feed. It’s a lot of medication, and it’s a lot of people power to make sure that we can provide the optimal care for those animals.”

Despite the cutbacks, the organization says it remains committed to treating over 170 species of native Manitoba wildlife that are sick, injured, and orphaned.

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