If something doesn’t change soon, the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) will have to close its doors within a few months.
According to manager Maj Birch, the wildlife rehabilitation centre only has enough funding to operate for three more months. She founded the society 17 years ago and said that funding has always been uncertain but she doesn’t recall a time this perilous before.
“We always did live sort of hand to mouth,” Birch said. “I don’t think it’s been quite down that low. Over the years it’s been pretty scary at times, thinking that we may shut down, so it’s always been a struggle.”
Birch said MARS receives many in-kind donations, like free veterinarian services and a vehicle BC Hydro bought, but it’s hard to keep the cash flow going.
MARS also receives funding from various grants but it’s always somewhat uncertain.
Part of the reason things have got so tough for MARS is an increased demand for services.
“Our caseload has been increasing each year and we’ve had some fairly successful programs,” said Birch. “Our internship program, and more and more people are asking us to appear at their events, so that required more of our time and it’s wonderful – I mean, we don’t want to turn anybody down.”
The educational aspect of the society has grown, including more community presentations and school programs. Also, the local eagle population has increased, and so has the amount of injured birds the society works to rehabilitate.
“When we first started we were getting maybe 25 eagles a year, now we’re over 50 eagles a year, which is a record for us this year,” explained Birch.
The injured eagles “require basically two people to handle every time we’re dealing with them, so when they come in and they’re very sick it requires feeding four times a day with two people.”
Carla Pederson is a bird lover, and when she found out how badly MARS needs help she wanted to do something.
“Fundraising is just so difficult this time of year, you know, so many worthy organizations counting on the public for donations,” said Pederson. “We thought because people tend to socialize a lot more this time of year it would be an easier option to collect bottles.”
Refundable beverage containers can be dropped off at Pederson’s business, Bees and Blooms Nursery, at 2940 Lanyon Rd., (off Marsden Road), or she will pick them up. Call her at 250-338-0186, or e-mail her at email@example.com for more information.
MARS also takes fawns, beavers and other mammals, then transports them to other facilities.
While other facilities are available for wildlife rehabilitation, MARS is the only one in this area, and Birch said the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington will feel the crunch if the society has to close its doors.
“That’s going to be a huge burden on them (NIWRA),” said Birch. “The other option is that many animals would be euthanized or they’d have a very poor chance of survival.”
People can donate directly to MARS by visiting wingtips.org or calling 250-337-2021.