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‘It’s a pretty cool thing’: Wild ARC volunteers call out for new helpers

The team of volunteers will help support the centre’s rehabilitation staff
Wild ARC sits on about 10 acres of land in Metchosin and has various pens, enclosures and open-air spaces for birds and mammals. (Thomas Eley/News Staff)

Little songbirds have big personalities at the BC SPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) site in Metchosin. They are among the countless critters who come into the centre needing urgent care.

“We started feeding the songbirds frozen blueberries, and when we switched back to the fresh ones, they would turn their noses up at them, as if they weren’t good enough for them anymore,” said David Guyader, a volunteer with the Wild ARC animal care team.

Wild ARC is in its slow season as the winter months see fewer baby animals, he said, but the 120 volunteers are still hard at work and will need to double that number when spring and summer arrive.

There is a range of different volunteer duties. There is the animal care team, where you feed and look after animals but also help to do everything; the kitchen prep team, who cooks and prepares the food for the animals; and the spit and polish team, which is in charge of laundry and cleaning the pens.

During winter, volunteers go down to two shifts a day but increase to three during the summer months when more babies come into Wild ARC.

Wild ARC and the BC SPCA highlight ways to keep baby birds safe each spring. (Wild ARC/Facebook)

“There’s still animals coming through. And every animal that comes through poops. So there’s a lot of cleaning going on,” Guyader said.

The centre sits on about 10 acres of land and has various pens, enclosures and open-air spaces for birds and mammals to rehabilitate in a wild environment.

The centre is a living, breathing hospital where some animals fight for survival while others only require a few days’ stay. Still, due to this, photos were limited from where the animals were resting as it could threaten their recovery, said Guyader.

“We do everything possible to keep the animals as wild as possible. Sometimes, you can hold on to this baby raccoon that needs you to do everything for them. Three weeks later, they are hissing at you, and they want to bite your face off.”

Guyader, a retired insurance adjuster, has volunteered at the centre for two years as his love for the natural world became apparent.

“I had always been passionate about our local wildlife and when I started looking through my phone, I realized I had more photos of animals, plants and flowers. So that was kind of an indication I should volunteer.”

The team of volunteers supports the centre’s rehabilitation staff, the primary carers for the wild animals at the centre.

“We may not see that initial treatment because that’s all going on behind the doors with the rehab.”

Wild Arc will get busier in the summer, said Wild ARC centre manager Samantha Webb, as once more baby animals are born, their numbers will start to rise.

“We serve between 2,000 and 3,000 patients every year. And so that changes seasonally with how many we currently have on site. Generally, spring and summer seasons are 10 times busier than fall in winter,” said Webb

Four raccoon kits receiving care at the BC SPCA site in Metchosin in 2023. (Wild ARC/Facebook)

Members of the public will drop off animals to Wild ARC, but they can arrive via different means. Once they are admitted, there is a team of vets and ‘rehabbers’ ready to care for them, said Webb.

The team would prefer to have the animals admitted in a case or box that makes the critter feel safe.

“We’ve seen all sorts of things, putting any animal on your lap, using your shirt, bare hands, children, or just putting it into your vehicle. So we really, really want people to make sure that they are appropriately contained before they try to transport it out to Wild ARC.”

The training for volunteers is all done on-site, said Webb and no wildlife experience is needed, just a common goal of doing what is best for the animal and an understanding that these are wild animals.

“We always just ask that our volunteers remember that the goal is to get the animals back to the wild. So this is not an opportunity to cuddle.”

Even though volunteering at Wild ARC isn’t an excuse for a big cuddle fest, the work can still be incredibly rewarding, said Guyader.

“Caring for raccoons that you can fit in your pocket, you know, and feeding them, warming up baby bottles to feed a tiny raccoon, it’s a pretty, pretty cool thing.”

READ MORE: Wild ARC wants Greater Victoria peanut butter fans to divert glass jars from the blue box

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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