Now that September has arrived, the hectic days and nights are almost over. Most of the rehabilitated wildlife has grown out of around the clock feedings, and there are few night feedings of baby orphans – just five orphaned baby squirrels born late in the season.
The importance of Aspen volunteers.
Genevre Aronsky, of Welland, one of many volunteers who spent a portion of the summer helping out with more than 150 animals at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, carefully nurses an orphaned squirrel.
Janalene Kingshott photo
Most of the volunteers have returned, either back to school or to their homes, with just two remaining at the moment. One is an intern from France, doing her Master’s degree with a thesis that focuses on certain aspects of animal rehab. The other volunteer, from Germany, wished to experience the fall colours here in Canada before going back home.
The volunteers arrive at Aspen Valley for different reasons. Some have returned for a second or third season (and this is wonderful since they already know the routines and can help with supervising the new ones). Thanks to the recommendations of past volunteers, we have enjoyed the company of people from Holland, France and Germany this past season. In total, four came to us as interns as part of their education. And as the weeks go by, they find their English improving and we learn about their culture. The Canadians generally wish to have hands-on experience with wildlife to go along with their university courses in a related field. But there are more mature individuals who simply wish to find out what it is like to nurture orphaned wildlife and to be surrounded by the natural beauty of Muskoka. Everyone finds it thrilling to hear our permanent group of wolves and coyote singing their songs in the evening, often while sitting around a campfire with the other volunteers, enjoying each others’ company and learning new songs to sing. We even had three talented guitarists over the past few months. Many form lasting friendships.
Because of the need to provide consistency of care to the fragile orphaned or injured wildlife, we require a minimum of one month’s stay from volunteers. Some of those who can commit to a longer period of time will be chosen to care for a specific species as they arrive. But all have an opportunity to work with raccoons, because of the high number of this species that come to us. That means bottle feeding every four to five hours a day and night, cleaning their messy enclosures and, as they continue to grow, to prepare their meals, and clean their ever-increasing larger areas until such time as they are ready to be released again to the wild.
Volunteers go along with staff on rescues and releases as well, and so they learn the complete practical side of what it is like to rehabilitate wildlife. We hope that each and every one has gone away with a positive experience and a greater appreciation of wildlife.
On the flip side, staff of Aspen Valley is very grateful for their assistance during the hectic period from April through to September. As a charity that relies solely on donations to continue the work, staff members simply could not carry on the work without the selfless help of these dedicated volunteers. We’d like to pass on a huge “Thank You” to all of you and hope you’ll return in another season.
(These articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)