Rachel Wade always had a deep love and appreciation for wildlife. As soon as she was able, she started volunteering for the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, eventually becoming its president. But she thinks more wildlife could be saved if Calgarians had a better understanding of wild animals in and around Calgary.

Wade, who wanted to be a veterinarian as a child, has been helping wildlife since she was young — from caring for the neighborhood dogs to helping injured birds. She recalls collecting earthworms as a child in fear that people would step on them.

“I’ve always respected beings as individuals, so it doesn’t matter to me if it’s just a pigeon or just a crow or whatever, to me that’s an animal that’s suffering, and is an animal that deserves compassion and deserves help.”

Wade’s father, John Wade, saw that compassion firsthand.

“If there was ever a stray dog or something she was the first one to want to bring it into the house, find out who it belonged to, and the first thing she’d do would go open the fridge and start feeding them.”

Wade took her desire to help animals a step further by getting involved with the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.

She first began volunteering for animal pickup and animal care. Wade would pick wild animals up from vet clinics that weren’t qualified to care for wildlife and bring them back to the organization’s trauma hospital. She also fed patients and cleaned cages.

Wade recognized there is a lot of human impact on wildlife and our ecosystems, and wanted to get involved with the organization’s mission to help.

She became more involved with the non-profit organization by helping its fundraising committee, followed by joining the board as director of communications.

When a spot later opened up for a president, Wade indicated her interest as she wanted to help the organization thrive.

“It was a great opportunity for growth for me but also a way to give back on a more strategic, kind of serious level to the organization,” she says.

Wade sits in front of the multitude of thank you cards the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society has received, while holding a wing from their education program. Photo by Kirsten Phillips.

Wade believes that Calgarians would benefit from knowing more about the wildlife in and around their communities. She suggests this would allow people to interact safely with wildlife and know what to do when they see an animal in distress.

“311 will direct most of their Calgary wildlife calls to us,” she says.

According to Wade, they receive over 5,000 calls a year from Calgarians looking for information about wildlife. Those include inquiries about where they can drop off animals and people asking what to do about distressed wildlife in their backyards.

Wade pointed out that many people who are trying to help wildlife often times aren’t aware of the harm they are doing. For example, some well-meaning people may take in and care for wildlife, unaware of the harm they are doing by over-habituating them to humans or not giving them proper nutrition.

Wade speaks fondly of Quillimena, the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society’s resident porcupine. She cannot be rehabilitated due to well-meaning people who unknowingly prevented her from properly developing as a baby.

“She’s one of those cases where she’s half the size of a regular porcupine, her quills are hollow and they don’t function properly as a defense mechanism as they should for porcupines.”

Additionally, Wade believes that more wildlife could be saved if people were more educated and aware of their impact on our ecosystems. Wade added the majority of wildlife that comes into contact with the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society are injured due to human impact.

Wade is hoping that in the future, they will be able to open an interpretive centre. This will be a place where Calgarians can visit to learn about wildlife and what to do if they come into contact with a distressed animal.

“It doesn’t matter to me if it’s just a pigeon or just a crow or whatever, to me that’s an animal that’s suffering, and is an animal that deserves compassion and deserves help.” – Rachel Wade

“Right now we are not an open site — we are a closed site because we are an actual trauma hospital and we are rehabilitating wild animals. We are not a zoo or somewhere people can really tour, which can be hard for people then to feel attached to the work we do,” Wade says.

Andrea Hunt, Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society’s executive director, agrees that opening an interpretive centre would benefit wildlife.

“It [would] reduce the number of animals that come to our facility that are kidnapped that don’t need help, but it would help prevent the injuries to begin with if people knew a little bit more about animals natural cycles and behaviors.”

Wade believes opening the interpretive centre would create an opportunity for Calgarians to be mindful of the effect they have on wildlife, whether that be directly or indirectly, and providing them the knowledge they need to start giving back.

“I think we can all have a little bit of a positive impact and just try to leave something just a little bit better off than when we entered.”

kphillips@cjournal.ca 

Edited by Amy Simpson | asimpson@cjournal.ca