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MARS Moment: From snakes to swallows, MARS has seen a lot this summer

By Jane Sproull Thomson
Four barn swallows sit in a nest built on top of a porch light. (Contributed - Rick West)

By Jane Sproull Thomson

Special to Black Press

MARS Wildlife rescues any wild thing needing care, including, recently, a garter snake. It’s not the first such critter at the hospital, but it is a special case.

Known as ‘The Upside-Down Snake’ due to a central nervous system injury, this little serpent keeps rolling over onto its back. Hospital staff treated its resulting eye injury with drops (I am imagining this), but the vertiginous rolling continues under observation.

It’s been another busy summer at MARS with several dozen admissions over the past couple of weeks adding to the over 600 we already counted this year. Unlike last year’s heat dome, which caused hundreds of wildlife fatalities and many hospital admissions, this year’s heat seems a bit more manageable for our wild friends, and most admissions continue to be connected with more common problems associated with domestic cats, window strikes and car collisions.

A nest with four baby swallows arrived in the arms of a Campbell River contractor who’d discovered it after momma bird built her cavity nest on his truck. Workers heard the chicks peeping and the owner stopped everything to effect a rescue, offering a paint stir stick into the crevice, which the chicks clung onto as he pulled them out. A heroic effort and a gold star to this big-hearted guy. They are recovering in the incubator, with feeding time is every 15 minutes from sunrise to sunset.

It’s been full-on for the caregivers who, besides the treatments and feedings, are misting our Ambassador Birds and some of the recovering patients to try to keep them comfortable in the heat. A shortage of volunteers has also increased the workload so if you have a few spare hours each week, please consider MARS. We have many different opportunities at the hospital, in the Visitor Centre, and outdoors.

A great day out with your summer visitors! MARS Visitor Centre and Gift Shop is open Fridays to Sundays 10-3. You can drop in, or, if you’d like a tour, book a time at