Wings of Resilience: Stories from the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

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Brian © Picasa

By Sylvia Campbell, Co-Founder of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

The bald eagle, one of the most majestic birds in British Columbia, is a sentinel of what is happening in the environment. Here at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRA), eagles arrive with evidence of humans’ severe consequences on wildlife. From loss of waterside habitat, loss of nest trees from land clearing, vehicle collisions, hydro line electrocution, and even gunshot wounds, nearly 95 percent of admissions to NIWRA are due to human impact.

NIWRA has been in operation since 1985, with our mandate being to care for ill, injured, and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public about nature and environmental issues. We admit over 700 animals a year, with the hope of them returning to the wild.

Over the past two decades, NIWRA has rehabilitated hundreds of bald eagles. The largest of its kind in Canada, the eagle flight enclosure at NIWRA has never been empty, with eagles exercising their wings for the return to the wild. Some are not so fortunate and stay at the centre for the duration of their lives. These birds have made an impact on the centre and, hopefully, on the world. These are their stories.

A bald eagle named Brian was admitted to NIWRA with its upper mandible partially missing due to a gunshot wound. Its prognosis was poor, but this bird was special. Lovingly, founder Robin Campbell cared for the wound and found a dentist and denturist who painstakingly modelled a prosthetic beak. This bird was cared for over a decade, receiving nine more prosthetics until the remaining beak began to curl. Its quality of life was waning, but this bird made a worldwide impact, demonstrating the use of prosthetics on animals—his story made it into school texts, and his life made a difference.

north island wildlife recovery centre
Sandor © Courtesy of NIWRA
Casey © Courtesy of NIWRA

Casey, a fledgling eagle who was found on a railroad track, came to the centre with a badly damaged wing. It was evident this bird would not survive in the wild, so the decision was made to make NIWRA his permanent home. Never being able to fly again, we were hopeful that his presence would impact the visiting public, as it’s NIWRA’s mandate to educate the public on wildlife and environmental issues.

Found on the side of a road near Port Alberni, Sandor was likely hit by a vehicle. He had a severely broken wing, was malnourished, dehydrated, was having seizures, and was covered in eagle lice. He was not expected to live, but with NIWRA’s care, his condition improved. We also discovered he had a chronic lung condition, an enlarged heart, and smaller-than-normal kidneys. Again, NIWRA would become his home. Thousands of visitors have seen Sandor, while our dedicated volunteers lovingly speak of this incredible bird’s plight.

These are only a few examples of what arrives through our doors. Some survive, thrive, and return to the wild; others live the rest of their lives at NIWRA, and some succumb to their injuries. NIWRA does everything in its power to make their lives meaningful, whatever the outcome.

ABOUT NIWRA

NIWRA, a non-profit organization, is situated in Errington, B.C. We are open to the public daily for viewing of non-releasable animals. With an extensive educational program, school visiting opportunities, countless online learning resources, and infographics detailing essential tips for supporting and saving animals in your area, we aim to help everyone become stewards of the Canadian wild. Please visit our website at niwra.org to learn more about our programs, read stories about our animals, and learn how you can help care for wildlife.

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Founded in 1985, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) is a non-profit, world-class rehabilitation facility situated on 8 acres of immaculately manicured grounds, caring for animals with all types of needs, including birds with broken wings, orphaned black bears, electrocuted eagles and much more!

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