Fewer injured amphibious animals will have to be flown to Vancouver for care after Wild ARC opens a new aquatics facility this spring.
The Metchosin-based wild animal rehabilitation centre doesn’t currently have space to care for water mammals such as river otters, beavers or mink, and its two pens with pools for sea birds and waterfowl were poorly designed and face frequent plumping problems.
“In a pinch we’ll pull out a kiddy pool to keep an animal wet,” Wild ARC administrator Angela Kendall said. “After we’ve treated it’s immediate injury, if we can’t keep it here, it can be transferred to Vancouver … but, it won’t always survive the flight.”
A 1,500-square-foot aquatics facility currently under construction will allow more wildlife to stay onsite, improving survival rates. Of the 2,000 critters that pass through the centre each year, about 400 should be in an aquatics pens.
The new stand-alone facility will have five land-water pens, its own examination room, a kitchen to prepare food for the animals and a laundry facility. The pens will have ramps between the land and water to allow animals to move naturally between environments.
Two enclosures will have three-foot pools for mammals, two others will be designed for waterfowl such as geese, ducks and swans, and one pen will be suited for seabirds such as gulls and murres.
“It will be a significant improvement over what we work with now,” Kendall said.
The $100,000 project is the centre’s first major expansion since it added a series flight pens for raptors in 2007.
Kendall said the biggest challenge for the non-profit centre is fundraising for projects such as these. To spread out the cost of the construction, the facility is being built in two parts — first the pens will be completed then the support rooms will be added on as funding allows. The first phase is expected to be complete in time for the spring rush.
“We’ve had some amazing in-kind donations from construction and concrete companies that have helped a lot,” Kendall said.
Some of the funding also came from money put aside to lay a watermain to WildARC for access to municipal water. Those funds were redirected to the aquatic facility after the centre was denied a Build Canada grant to help pay for the connection, which would have cost around $400,000 to install.
“We decided to focus on something else we needed, which was more in our price range,” Kendall said.
To deal with its lack of tap water, Wild ARC has 3,000 gallons of water trucked into the facility every two or three days.
Kendall doesn’t expect the new facility will add much to the centre’s water use.
“All the water in the pools will be recirculated and filtered,” she said. “We’ll probably save water, because we won’t have to drain pools as frequently (compared to the current pools).”
The only wildlife rehabilitation centre on the south Island, Wild ARC is part of the BC SPCA and is not government funded. It relies on over 150 volunteers to provide care for injured, orphaned, sick and distressed wildlife.
February is volunteer recruitment month at the centre. Orientations sessions for new volunteers will run throughout the month. Applications are also being accepted until March 1 for full-time unpaid summer interns.
For more information visit www.wildarc.com or call 250-478-9453.