What if you dialed 911 and no one answered? That’s the kind of scenario that the Comox Valley and many of our Northern neighbours are facing if Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) doesn’t find a way to build a new wildlife treatment facility! Our existing clinic is old, outdated; it’s too small and can’t be expanded. The worst crisis that the our west coast wildlife may face would be an oil spill; this has already occurred in a small area in the Vancouver harbour, what if there were a larger event nearby and MARS could not be relied on to help?
The property has never been owned by MARS; it’s actually residential land and the founder and owner has plans to retire, which would require her to sell the property, adding to the urgency of our plight. We have managed to purchase the land we need, due to a bequest from a generous donor, but it’s completely undeveloped. We need to clear it, bring in power, activate the wells, and build the hospital, a residence, and the flight pens.
Why should you support our little facility? In our 20 years of operation we have handled over 10,000 cases and fielded more than 40,000 phone calls; many of them from people needing advice on how to handle wildlife issues, such as raccoons in the attic, what to do with a nest full of baby birds they’ve found on the ground, or a fawn that seems to have been left by its mother. Where will these people turn if MARS is no longer a phone call away?
Many people don’t realize how many challenges wild animals face in our human-crowded world. We’re part of a network of wildlife rehabilitation centers, wildlife conservation officers, veterinarians and SPCA shelters that help wildlife survive in a dangerous world and our mission is to conserve and protect native wildlife and its natural habitat through education and rehabilitation. Volunteers and staff travel throughout the Comox Valley and the island communities with our ambassador birds, educating children and adults about native wildlife and how they can help it survive. We share our knowledge worldwide through our website and social media, spreading the message that we must be environmental stewards in our own backyards. Post secondary biology students come from all over the world to volunteer with MARS and develop their talents for working with wildlife, often moving on to careers in the field. We’re involved in research, sharing findings with our colleagues, and work hard to contribute to community conservation efforts.
In many cases we are not just rescuing an animal, but ensuring that endangered species have a chance to survive, such as Western Screech Owls, Great Blue Herons and Marbled Murrelets. Injuries to owls and Bald Eagles are often due to car impacts. Both birds will scavenge a free meal of road kill on the side of a road, or will prey on smaller creatures attracted to it. If you look up while driving down the Vancouver Island highways you’ll often see eagles or Turkey Vultures soaring overhead, looking for an easy meal. Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous meal as the birds can’t judge the speed of vehicles and often launch themselves into their paths .
Eagles seek more sources of food when fish runs decline and many turn to landfills for meals. If there is a toxic meat source they will quickly succumb to the poison and only swift intervention will save them.
Birds and other small wildlife also face challenges as they deal with our garbage or chemicals. Fishing line or ropes left on beaches or docks can tangle around unsuspecting herons, eagles and seals, just to name a few. Common garden netting becomes a snare for small birds and animals, as does barbed fencing.
Our pets are hard on the wildlife around us, too. In the spring and summer MARS deals with many small birds that have been attacked by cats or dogs. Cat attacks are particularly dangerous, as these animals carry bacteria in their saliva that is toxic to birds if they’re bitten or punctured by claws, allowing it to enter the bloodstream. Suspected bites are treated with antibiotics, but this is often not successful. Other small animals are also prey or chased for sport; squirrels, raccoons, and young deer. Sawyer, our ambassador Saw-Whet Owl lost his wing due to a cat attack.
Creating awareness and respect for wildlife is the only answer to preventing the decline of many species that are having a hard time coping with human encroachment. We need to use all the resources we can muster to help animals survive all the dangers they’re presented with. Please help Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society to survive, also. We need your support to build a new center, no contribution is too small. Labour, materials or a small donation to our crowd funding site or mailed directly to us will all be gratefully accepted. Donate to the Mayday for MARS Campaign
Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society
6817 Headquarters Rd, Courtenay, BC V9J 1N6
Article by Pat Wagar, MARS fundraising volunteer