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Wild animal rescue struggling to keep up with increase

WildNorth has seen a 20 per cent spike in injured animals this year

Dale Gienow holding an rescued snowy owl with a broken wing.

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Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Dale Gienow holding an rescued snowy owl with a broken wing.

Climbing a 30-foot pine tree to rescue a Great Horned Owl caught in Halloween decorations is just another day on the job for Dale Gienow.

The manager of donor relations with WildNorth also heads up its new dedicated active rescue program, the second program of its kind in Canada.

The organization launched a re-branding campaign this year to coincide with the program – and he suspects it worked a bit too well.

Along with its own rescues, WildNorth has seen a 20 per cent increase in residents bringing injured animals to its northwest Edmonton “animal hospital,” and its budget is strained as a result.

“We’ve done a lot this year to try to ensure people know we exist, and we’ve got a lot more animals because of it,” Gienow said.

“It’s been crazy. We’ve been inundated.”

Before the re-branding, the group was known as the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton since 1989.

This year, they’re prepared to have helped more than 3,000 animals by the end of the year, compared to 2,500 last year.

They’ve already received more than 7,000 calls from Edmonton and Northern Alberta, which is more than all of last year.

“This has been a great thing for animals in the city and it’s been a great thing for people who are worried about these animals, but it’s just put added stress and pressure on us,” Gienow said.

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The rescue team handles riskier situations that aren’t safe for the average citizen, like the Great Horned Owl in the pine tree, animals trapped on thin ice or a goose with a broken wing that swam off into a storm pond.

After stopping in at the hospital, the animals that can be saved – about 36 per cent are too severely hurt and have to be euthanized – go to a Spruce Grove acreage for extensive rehabilitation.

Gienow said his team has treated 130 of the 160 species known to exist in Edmonton just this year, including rabbits, ducks, eagles, foxes, beavers, porcupines and a badger.

The injured have mostly been hit by cars or otherwise injured by humans.

The job can be emotional, too. Families often bring in animals together and come in sad and distressed.

Thankfully, Gienow has help from therapy dog Fable, a black Newfoundland border-collie cross who lets kids pet her while they await the fate of the animal they discovered.

People who bring in the animals often want updates, and sometimes they will accompany Gienow’s team to release the rehabilitated animal back into the wild.

“I think that’s a very gratifying thing for people, when they’ve helped something and they can see that whole cycle,” he said.

WildNorth has an annual budget of $500,000, with half of that going directly to animal care and the other half to rescue education and administrative costs.

The group gets static annual funding from the City of Edmonton and is starting to push the city’s surrounding municipalities to also pitch in.

The bulk of its money comes from private and corporate donations ,which can be made through its website.

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