A river otter enjoys a feed of salmon at the SPCA's Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin. The centre has installed five cameras

Wild ARC’s animal webcams serve dual purpose

Public and staff benefit from watching wildlife from a distance

As a hospital and convalescence facility, the B.C. SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre isn’t really set up to welcome visitors.

Recently the Wild ARC made a change to allow animal lovers to see the critters in action – it had video monitors installed in five separate locations around the Metchosin site.

Visitors clicking on to wildarc.com can now find a link to streaming video showing live action in the otter pond.

It’s been less than two weeks since the cameras were set up, but Wild ARC manager Kari Marks said the early feedback has been very positive.

“I think it’s something that will grow over time as people get to know it’s there,” she said.

In addition to the “otter-cam,” others are set up in the deer pen, the flight pen (for larger birds of prey), the racoons’ outer enclosure and in the racoon nursery.

“We’re going to keep (the online feed) on the otters for a couple of weeks, then we plan to shift it to the racoons, Marks said.

A family of racoons wintered at the Wild ARC and are expected to be active soon, she said.

While staff are pleased to give the public a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes at the centre and see the animals progress, Marks said, the cameras provide a double benefit.

“It really does help for us to be able to observe them from a distance, to see how they move with an injury. So we’re excited about both the public aspect and the unobtrusive observation.”

Ironically, the fact Wild ARC is very animal focused partly led to the decision to spend some of its sparse resources on cameras.

“We would love to have the public through here, and it would be great for revenue, but not great for the animals. So this is a really good compromise,” Marks said.

The hope is that by being able to watch what goes on at the facility, people may be more likely to consider donating to its operation.

That’s where an online feature introduced at the same time as the live video feed comes in.

The “Want to buy me dinner?” button is found just above the video picture and encourages people to donate an amount equivalent to the cost of feeding particular animals in the facility.

Wild ARC only opens to the public once a year. Its 10th annual open house happens March 29 and 30 from noon to 4 p.m. To avoid stressing out the patients, the public will not be able to view wild animals, but educational raptors will be on site.

Registration is required to take part in the tours. Visit wildarc.com to sign up.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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