To quote Maj Birch, I will remember all aspects of my 8 week internship with Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society “fawn-dly.” For approximately 6 weeks of my time at MARS we had five hungry fawns to feed beginning with 5 times a day, which was then cut down to 2 times a day shortly before they were moved to a different centre. One fawn in particular captured my heart as well as the hearts of everybody at MARS and within the community. During my first week at MARS we were on our way back after counting heron nests when we received a call about a possibly orphaned fawn in somebody’s backyard. When we arrived we noticed that she was very dehydrated and skinny, so we decided to pick her up and bring her back to the centre. I was the one who picked her up, she was so small and fragile and I fell for her instantly. For many weeks she was very sick with scours and became affectionately known as “office deer” because she was kept in the workshop and would walk around and visit everybody. Finally, after weeks of tender loving care she was moved into the outdoor pen with the other four fawns where she became known as simply “baby” because her illness had stunted her growth. On the last day of my internship I was able to go visit all five fawns at their new facility and I’m proud to report that all five are doing very well including baby and they will be slowly re-introduced into the wild in the next few months.
Before I came to MARS I wasn’t really a “bird person.” I loved all animals, but didn’t pay particular attention to birds. This summer has given me a whole new appreciation for birds, whether the smallest hummingbird or the largest eagle. I’ve realized that every bird has its own individual personality and I look at all avian species in a new light now. The most important lesson I learned in my time at MARS this summer is that sometimes the best thing for a patient isn’t always the easy thing to do. In the wildlife rehabilitation world you have to realize that the ultimate goal is to return the animal to the wild and if this is not possible there is no point in dragging the process out; it will only be harder on both yourself and the animal in the long run. As an aspiring vet I believe that the realization that euthanasia is sometimes the only solution is a very important message to take with me into my veterinary career.
An internship with MARS encapsulates so much more than just animal husbandry and wildlife rehabilitation. Besides the ever present duties at MARS itself (cleaning, laundry, dishes and baby mouths to feed) there are also opportunities to go on rescue missions, shadow veterinarians, and help out on various field research projects. During my time at MARS I was fortunate to participate in the Western Toad monitoring program as well as count heron nests at the largest great blue heron colony on Vancouver Island. My independent project involved working with the Wildlife Tree Stewardship (WiTS) atlas program monitoring bald eagle nests on the island. This allowed me to get away from MARS for a few hours a day and observe wildlife in their natural habitat. I believe that this is just as important as nursing injured wildlife back to health because it gives you an idea of what you are working towards and of all of the successes out in nature itself. It is sometimes easy to dwell on all of the negatives at MARS and getting out into the field puts everything into perspective.
One of the first things you notice when arriving at MARS is that it is very remote and vehicle access is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there is no way of getting around. There is a local transit system that will take you as far north as Campbell River and as far south as Fanny Bay and it is only a 2km bike ride to get to the closest station from MARS. On my days off I was able to do a variety of activities including kayaking, whale watching, river rafting (go in early July to hit the rapids), biking over to both Hornby Island and Cortes Island, and of course, hitting the beach. All it takes is a little bit of motivation and planning and you can experience all that Vancouver Island has to offer.
Finally, I would like to thank everybody who makes MARS possible starting with the dedicated volunteers who take time out of their day every week to help a great cause. Secondly, all of the interns I had the great pleasure of working with this summer: Megan (my fellow Albertan) who showed me the ropes and made life easier, Camille who was with me the whole way and I could talk about Big Brother with, and both Rachel and Michelle who I only briefly knew, but when I left I knew I was leaving all of my babies in very capable hands. I would like to thank Maj Birch for giving me this opportunity and everything she does; MARS would not exist without her. Also, Ruben and Dixie for always being themselves and not conforming to the wishes of anybody! Lastly, but certainly not least I would like to thank Reg Westcott for constantly going above and beyond to help all of the critters (even the baby birds) and of course for his great stories and comic relief. Reg has a huge heart (just ask all of his animals at home) and it is bigger than his mouth, which is definitely saying something (you know I love you Reg).
Mallory Green June 16 – Aug 13, 2009