Got a little nature lover, avid reader, or owl enthusiast in your life?
Put a dent in your Christmas list by joining us for our Wild Shopping Weekend, November 12 & 13!
Join us on September 22 for our Annual General Meeting, being held onsite at Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
Early in 2022 Medicine River Wildlife Centre, along with other facilities in Alberta, received protocol guidelines from Canadian Wildlife Service should avian flu arrive in the province. We felt prepared but did not expect the virus to hit quite as hard as it did.
We are very grateful however, for the advance notice and that our new facility is equipped with a fully dedicated quarantine room. Other facilities in the province were not as lucky, either reducing the patients that they would accept, or in a couple of cases, simply stopping admitting certain species altogether.
It was a fairly steep learning curve to be able to understand, diagnose, and treat avian flu but staff at MRWC experienced a fairly smooth and safe transition to the new protocols. The results to date have been more devastating than many realize and MRWC staff are looking forward to seeing official statistics when the year is over. What we are seeing now in our wildlife hospital is a sharp decline in admittance of ducklings, goslings, and also birds of prey. A hungry raptor would happily scavenge from dead ducks and geese or bring the treasures back to their young in the nest. Entire families have been wiped out and the majority of owl and eagle nests that our staff have been monitoring have gone silent. Our large raptor intensive care room would normally be incredibly full and busy this time of year but currently, is completely empty.
Wildlife however, are amazingly resilient and we look forward to information on whether they develop an immunity to this virus. We also know that when numbers of wildlife decline, as long as there is a good food supply, decent weather, and a lack of virus next year, we could see birds having maximum clutches to help replenish the numbers.
More and more often, the staff of MRWC are being called out to help with abandoned, domestic pets. It’s very hard to turn the finders away as often they have few resources to turn to.
We're excited to announce that public hours will begin again on Saturday, May 21! Hours may vary throughout the summer so please always check our website for current information.
It's that time again! With spring on our doorstep, the orphaned and injured wild babies will be filling our ICUs any minute and your help is needed.
Every April hosts National Wildlife Week and this year we want to celebrate by helping our wild neighbours. You can be a part of it!
MRWC sees a large number of Great Gray Owls admitted annually as our facility is right within their range. We are even fortunate enough to have a pair of Great Gray Owls nesting on our property. The most common injury is impact related damage such as concussions and fractures as a result of collisions with vehicles.
We regularly receive a few pigeons each year, but the cold last December brought more than usual. 20 injured, freezing, and orphaned pigeons have come to us in the past couple of months.
Commit to a monthly donation of whatever amount your choose and help us reach our goal of 50 new donors in February.
Our summer intern program is fully back and will be up and running April through October of this year.
Can you spare a few hours a month? Our Drink Container Pickup Service is need of more volunteers in the Central Alberta region.
Looking for a beautiful, nature inspired gift and want to give back to wildlife at the same time? Limited time only!
Migration can be a difficult time for some birds as the juveniles sometimes are not strong enough to make the long journey.
The end of August at MRWC is year end for patient stats as both federal and provincial permits are due in September. Each year, it’s interesting to see how the patients, injuries, and successes compare to previous years.
This is Oscar, the newest addition to our education team. He is a baby Great Grey Owl and lost the ends of both his wings and will never fly again.
When returning wildlife back to nature after their stay in a wildlife hospital, there are actually a few styles of releases. Examples include, a release back into the same family that a juvenile has come from, calling in a new parent to take care of a juvenile when their parents are gone, the release of an adult into appropriate habitat, and then there is the "soft release".
Our small reception and gift shop will be opening to the public again this Tuesday, July 6th!
A huge congratulations goes out to Amanda Haustein from Erskine on her big win in our 50/50 Cash Raffle. She is the lucky winner of $4745!
Sales have opened today for our very first online 50/50 raffle and we're so excited!
As long as winter may feel here in Alberta, it never ceases to amaze us as to how quickly spring arrives on our doorstep.
Our virtual auction gives you the opportunity to not only get a beautiful item, but give back to our wildlife hospital operations as we approach the busy spring and summer seasons.
Each year our staff make use of special deer masks to disguise themselves when raising orphaned deer or moose.
Migration often brings unusual species to MRWC. Some are passing through and some are blown off course as they travel. This year's visitor was a Long-tailed Duck.
Long-tailed Ducks breed in the far north and pass through parts of Alberta as they head for salt water to winter. These attractive, little ducks have three different plumages over a year and are capable of diving to depth of 200 feet!
This duck was found late last fall on the ground in Red Deer, in terrible condition. It was very thin, had sustained internal damage, and unfortunately did not survive. We did, however, learn a lot about this species in the short time it was with us.
This spring brought five moose calves to MRWC, all within a few days. Moose may be big animals but very easily succumb to a stress related illness called capture myopathy. All the calves were placed together in a quiet, natural enclosure but three did not survive due to the extreme stress they experienced before arriving.
Two however, thrived. We don’t name our patients but do reference their identification tags. "Big Blue" and "No Colour" drank the specially developed ungulate formula readily from the remote bottle station and spent hours browsing in the forested enclosure. Wild moose were occasionally seen visiting through the fence. The calves always panicked and ran when humans entered the area.
Early October is the time of year that two important things happen - local moose begin to gather on MRWC property and calves are weaned off milk. Once these things happen, it is time to open the enclosure doors and let the moose leave to join with others and become truly wild.
Big Blue and No Colour have been seen several times around MRWC's 493 acres, sometimes by themselves and other times in the company of as many as six other moose, but not once have they shown any interest in people. The staff did a great job following protocols and we smile each time we see the calves doing what moose are meant to do.
Every fall MRWC receives patients that arrive late in the season, recover, but miss their chance of migration and have to overwinter, even though they are healthy and releasable. In past years, MRWC has cared for such things as Sandhill Cranes, ducks, or Great Blue Herons. This year is no different. We are currently housing a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, juvenile Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawks and a Cormorant.
Many of the species we house are relatively simple to care for but some, such as the Cormorant, require a bit more attention. Our Cormorant cannot be kept in our pond with the other waterfowl due to his easily stressed personality and the way he needs to feed. Instead, he is kept in a quiet, private room with a large rubber container filled with water. Clean water and fish are put into the container each day an he spends much of his time perched on the edge, dipping fish. We are very grateful to Smoky Trout Farm for the donation of 250 pounds of lovely trout to keep him fed.
Most birds that are overwintered leave Alberta and cross borders during migration and with current regulations this makes it impossible to send these patients over those borders to their normal wintering grounds. Our Cormorant, however, can spend his winter in the lower mainland of British Columbia. This may seem easy, but there are still borders to cross. MRWC has begun the process to put export and import permits into place and hope we will not have to keep this guy for the next five months. I’m sure he feels the same.
Alberta has 6 types of Grebes ranging from the tiny Pied-billed to the larger and very vocal, Western Grebe. These birds are built very much like loons in that their legs are placed at the end of their body near the tail leaving them unable to stand and walk like other birds. They need a long run on water to be able to take off taking about 20 steps per second. This leaves grebes at an advantage if they find themselves on land. We often see “grounded” grebes on roads after a rainstorm. Wet pavement can confuse them into thinking it is a river, so they land on a very hard surface and are grounded, rarely doing any major damage.
We see most of these grounded grebes in the fall and spring as grebes are migrating. People often mistake these birds as ducks and can’t understand why they aren’t flying. This fall if you see a bird with a fat body, long beak, and possibly red eyes, on the ground that isn’t flying, text us a picture for ID and we’ll help direct you as to what to do.
After 16 years of handling the majority of the 150 education programs we do each year, Otis the Owl finally has a little help. Olive the Owl has joined our team after being orphaned this spring. She is not imprinted on people but has been socialized in order to be comfortable in her new role. She is still in training but has now attended several programs, wowing her audiences. Olive is fun and curious and will play a big part in connecting people to nature.
Staff at the Centre recently had a pleasant surprise when checking on the condition of a Big Brown Bat in recovery. As the enclosure was opened and staff reached for the recovering female bat, it was noticed that she had a rather large baby wrapped around her chest! The baby is surprisingly big weighing in at 3 grams. The normal weight of an adult Big Brown Bat is 17 grams. That equates to a human giving birth to about a 30lb baby!
How did this happen? Well, bats are one of approximately 100 species in the world that have what is known as delayed implantation. The bat is bred in the fall but holds the embryo in a dormant state until conditions are good and baby can grow. Mother and baby are doing well but the next challenge will be what to do with the baby if mother doesn’t fly again. We are consulting with leading bat specialists to develop a plan.
For the past two springs we have been called to help the Parkland School in Red Deer as the snake hibernaculum (the place where snakes gather to spend the winter) on their property has numerous garter snakes awakening and making their way across the school grounds. The school is located a short distance from the Kerry Wood Nature Centre so the snakes are transported to the wetland and forest surrounding the Centre to spend their summer. They would have made their way there anyway but taking them away from the activity of a school ground is safer for both animals and people. This year, as Gwen was moving the snakes, she noticed one that had some spine issue which limited her mobility. It was decided to take it back for some care and recovery. One June 22 that recovering garter snake gave birth to 22 healthy, little garter snakes! Although the female still cannot be released, after consultation with Alberta’s snake expert, the little snakes were released at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre where the mom would have given birth if not injured.
70% of the world’s snakes lay eggs while the others give birth to live young. Live-birthing, or viviparous snakes, tend to live in colder climates. Those who lay eggs require warmer climates to help incubate.
At the end of April 2019, and again the middle of June 2019 we had thieves break in to our building. The first time they got away with more than $10,000 worth of tools and supplies and even took the keys to all our vehicles. The second time they came in during daylight hours, while staff was still working onsite, but didn't steal nearly as much. A huge thanks goes out to the supporters who helped us during this frustrating time.
Red Fox move into towns and cities to take advantage of abundant food sources such as jackrabbits, ground squirrels, or other small mammals. They can be deterred from living under sheds or other structures with lights, coyote or wolf urine (purchased at outdoor supply stores), or a radio playing to give the illusion of people always being there.
Northern Flickers can be seen in Alberta with many even staying all winter to feed on fruit and seeds at backyard feeders. MRWC sees several each year in the hospital, often hit by vehicles due to their habit of feeding in ditches.
Flickers are a type of woodpecker that feed mainly on insects on the ground. Ants are a particular favorite. They are a larger, brown bird with a spotted belly and a black bib. They can be found in two varieties - red or yellow shafted, meaning the undersides of the wings will be yellow or red. In both varieties the male will have a "mustache" but it will be black in the yellow shafted and red in the red shafted. A flash of the large white rump as they fly off is a good field mark to identify the bird.
Flickers are cavity nesters and both male and female work together to excavate holes in dead trees and raise the young. The nests do not have any bedding as once the young are over 2 weeks old they simply cling to the side of the hole and wait for parents to put their heads in to feed. Average clutch is 5-8 eggs.
The population of Flickers is considered in steep decline and has decreased by over 49% since 1966. They are most vulnerable to free roaming cats, pesticides, and vehicles. You can help by eliminating these dangers and by putting up nest boxes if you have appropriate habitat with a mix of open fields and forest.
We received a report of two skunks on the riverbank in Red Deer - one stuck and the other dead. Staff was sent and the healthy one was able to get free and ran away while the ”dead” one was found to still be breathing. She was scooped up and faithfully administered heat and treatment. By the evening she was up and interested in food. The next day she had made a full recovery!
After years of not being a part of the parade in Red Deer, we were very happy to celebrate and join in on all the fun once again. We have used the same skit during the walk since we first took part 30 years ago, and it's still just as popular. A huge thanks to our summer interns for putting on a great show!
We are very excited to have a small reception room open to the public the first part of August!
With the recent change to our intern program, we now have seven fun and eager young volunteers working from May through August/September.
If you don't want skunks in your yard, don't invite them! Being proactive and keeping skunks out of your yard is a better solution than trying to remove them after they have arrived. Did you know that trapping and relocating can actually make the problem worse? Taking away a skunk without removing what brought it in will only lead to another taking its place. Altering the population can lead to females having bigger litters to compensate.
With the recent donation of $70,000 by Ruth Bower we have been able to install the heat pipes, rough-in plumbing, and pour the concrete floor. The shingles were installed and the windows placed. The freezer room has just gone in and the doors are on their way. The indoor wall construction began this week and it's really starting to feel like a building now. March was a very busy and exhausting month as dedicated and cherished volunteers worked to prepare the areas for the professional trades. Thanks to CB Construction, Pidherney's, Cobijar Consulting, Harriman Lumber, and Hurricane Truck & Bobcat for their generous price reductions. Thanks to DJ Will Construction for their ongoing support.
We have just received word that Ruth & Dorothy Bower have decided to contribute once again to the project by giving a further $100,000 to match the funds that we have applied for from the Community Facility Enhancement Program! We'll receive word in July for the final $125,000 to complete the hospital project.
Olds College has implemented a new program, "Stream Your Dream", which sees students explore other areas of specialty animal care besides the usual vet clinics. These areas can include onsite veterinary specialties to horse ranches and wildlife rehab centres. This spring’s students, Alyson and Jessica, spent the first week of April looking at our information and asking questions to better understand our work.
With much of our focus being on the rebuild of the wildlife hospital, this the raptor flight enclosure project has fallen by the wayside. We are now resurrecting it as our current cages are close to being unusable. Without proper flight pens we will not be able to take raptors in for rehabilitation.
Porcupine tend to be one of the misunderstood animals that live around Alberta, but are truly one of our staff favourites. Numerous urban myths surround them, leaving people in fear of these quiet, gentle creatures.
Porcupine are Canada’s second largest rodent, with the beaver being the largest. We most often think of rodents, like mice, breeding often and having large litters but interestingly porcupine multiply very differently. Females breed in a rather vocal, interesting breeding dance and are then pregnant for 7 months and deliver only one “porcupette”. Twins are considered very rare. These adorable little babies are fully developed with teeth and quills at birth. They are not carefully nurtured by the female and are often weaned by the age of 10 days. They spend the summer following the female and learning from her behaviour.
They are covered in 30,000 hollow, modified hairs called quills that are their only protection from predators. They can’t shoot these quills but do have a flat, strong tail covered in the largest of the quills that can strike an attacker with lightning speed, giving the illusion that they shot the quills. They are not filled with air so it does not help to cut a quill before pulling it from your dog’s face; it really makes the quill harder to grip and pull out.
Porcupines love to eat the inner bark of trees, dandelions, and other vegetation. If they are “loving” your plants or trees you can use a spray that can be purchased at any garden store, Bobbex, to protect your yard. This spray needs only to be reapplied every three months so is very long lasting and effective for porcupine and others like hare, deer, and voles.
Porcupine are hunted by such predators as Coyote, Cougar, Bear, Wolf, Fishers, and Great Horned Owls.
April 7-13 is designated as National Wildlife Week this year. This year the Canadian Wildlife Federation is asking you to #DoMoreForWildlife and to create a healthier world for all living beings and spaces.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22. When we come together, the impact can be monumental.
We are very excited to announce that some of Alberta’s nature centres are receiving funding from the Climate Change Fund.
After spending the winter eating several cases of fish, hanging out with the ducks and geese in our pond, testing our creative abilities, and avoiding the long migration, our Great Blue Heron has been put back in the wild.
We are very thankful to the Ponoka Fish & Game Association for their gift of $1000 which enables us to purchase proper rescue equipment, including on water and in trees. They also donated a lovely trailer in which to haul it all! We regularly get calls requesting our help in dicey situations and we have had to recruit help from others. Now we're prepared to take it on ourselves!
Over the past couple of months we have been sharing the challenges of overwintering a Great Blue Heron. This month we have a video showing how we get our picky bird to eat on his own. It's never boring at MRWC!
by Amanda de Boer, Board Director
After a snowfall, I’m eager to get outdoors early. This is one of the most fantastic times to discover who is living in your backyard. Tracking footprints in the snow can be particularly exciting for folks like me who crave sightings of wildlife. Originally from Calgary, I grew up the lush green community of Woodbine and would get excited to see small critters like squirrels, hares, and porcupines out the window. Still, despite my love of wildlife, I kept a pane of glass between us.
Connecting with nature is an important way to learn about respect for our environment. Allowing nature to scare you, fill you up with adrenaline, and provide for your basic needs only, is how we teach our children to feel alive. But what is out there? What about in the park across the street with the small pond or further, to the outskirts of the city where the farmers work, or further still to the grassy valleys and to the never-frozen river? These places are where one must venture to breathe in nature and set themselves up to explore it.
Tracking footprints can be an awesome activity for you and your spouse, or your kids. Download an app, put on your snow pants and boots, and start walking. If you are aware, you will see tracks right away, and give yourself credit for all the footprints you recognize.
As you begin to get better at recognizing who the track belongs to, then determine if the animal was running, trotting, or standing still. Was it eating in its spot, or standing astute to potential predators? Which direction did the animal come from, and travel to? Was there just one, or a pack?
Doing some research can enhance the adventure; what animal tracks might you find in your neighbourhood? Hares, rabbits, muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, sparrows, grouse, owls, bucks and does, cows and horses – can you find them all?
In your tracking you will no doubt be duped by your own dog; and do not forget to look up once in a while because that buck you are tracking could be standing right before you.
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