Niagara Wildlife Haven began over three decades ago when founder and manager, Mary Catharine ('MC') discovered she had a natural born compassion and affinity for animals who were unable to help themselves - primarily wild animals. The first time she saw a litter of raccoons in the wild she never forgot that experience. There were four masked bandit faces hanging over a limb in the middle of a thick forest in mid-afternoon - no doubt driving their mother nearly to distraction for just being out there. As curious as they were about her - is as curious as she became about them, and subsequently about all other native wildlife. As time went on she realized there were places to go and help available if you were a human in trouble, or for a cat or dog, but there was nothing for native wildlife needing help. There still isn't.
In those early years laws were such that it was illegal to be in possession of a wild animal for any purpose. You could possess wildlife through a hunting, fishing, or a trappers license, but rehabilitation, or taking care of the sick, orphaned and injured, was technically against the law.
OWREN (the Ontario Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Network) and other related groups worked with the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) to have the province recognize and license wildlife rehabilitators. OWREN's goal was to act as a liaison between the known wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario and to help bring in a minimum basic levels of standard care for wildlife in rehabilitation. SPCA's and Animal Control agencies benefit from this change in legislation by having a sanctioned resource to turn to when they deal with wildlife calls, leaving them to focus on their mandate - domestic animals.
In 1999 the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act passed third reading in parliament and replaced the old Fish and Game Act. Rehabilitation became a legally recognized profession and we became authorized at that time. We were known then as 'House of Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre'. Our facility name was changed to better represent what we do and where we do it. There have been many other changes since then in this profession.
As of January 01, 2007, all custodians who work with RVS (Rabies Vector Species - defined as, raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats) will be required to have a second level special authorization. MC took this course in Kemptville in March of 2006 and became RVS authorized well in advance of the deadline. Our authorization allows us to provide professional care for all native species and for all RVS. We are the ONLY facility of this size provincially and federally licensed for this work, that has a full time dedicated wildlife custodian on the premises at all times and cover the area south of Hamilton to Dunnville, between Lake Ontario to the north and Lake Erie to the south and bordered by the Niagara River (US border) on the east. There is no other facility like this in the region.
Wildlife rehabilitation is much more than just having an authorization. Rehabilitation is highly dependent on science and research about the species we work with. Continuing education for any rehabilitator is a must to provide the best possible care for wildlife. This doesn't mean surfing the internet for information, it means physically attending courses, conferences, workshops and lectures to keep learning. What was true 5 yrs ago, may no longer be accurate and may be harmful, so it is important to keep expanding one's knowledge.
MC attends as many conferences as she can through North America, and participates in learning opportunities through continuing education courses in wildlife rehabilitation. She specializes in raccoon rehabilitation and ethology and has presented research papers on raccoons at International Conferences and numerous state conferences in the US, as well as at OWREN conferences held here in Ontario. She currently serves as the elected Chairperson for the OWREN Board of Directors and is very involved in the organization and the wildlife rehabilitation network in Ontario. MC has over 30 yrs of experience serving as an elected member on volunteer boards of other organizations and has retired from them to devote all her time to Niagara Wildlife Haven and OWREN. She has also written articles for the Tribune and served on the Community Editorial Board for 2 yrs.
Maintaining professional memberships in wildlife rehabilitation organizations is another important thing to do for all the same reasons as mentioned above. MC is an active member of the NWRA (National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association), the IWRC (International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council), OWREN, and numerous other state wildlife rehab organizations. Being in touch with a much larger network of rehabilitators world wide, allows us to share news on wildlife diseases and information on the animals' nutritional, and housing needs while in captivity. She was also instrumental in developing the OWREN Wildlife Rehabilitation Basic Skills course to Ontario. MC is one of only two instructors in Ontario who teach the course to those who want to learn how to become wildlife rehabilitators. You can find out more about the course here: www.owren-online.org
She and her husband Nick, who is an accomplished painter and artist in his own right, (website coming!) share their home with an assorted crew of domestic and other animals. Both of them have hearts that are too big and currently they share their home and life with more than a few of these special creatures. Nick's artistic abilities are excellent, he works in mixed media and can do pencil sketches and much more (pets, wildlife, people, scenery, homes, etc.) He donates a percentage of his sales to help us offset the costs of wildlife care. If you would like to commission him to work for you, (he can work from photographs and will produce what you want on fabric or any surface, canvas, etc.) please contact us.
They also maintain a sanctuary for exotic animals: parrots, large and small, all species of birds (but no domestic waterbirds or farm animals), reptiles (snakes, lizards, iguanas, turtles), and small exotic animals (prairie dogs, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, etc., but not rabbits). Sometimes life changes for folks and they can no longer maintain or keep their exotic pets, or their needs exceed what the family can give them, so we offer them a last stop, lifetime sanctuary here. There is no charge for taking in these animals, but donations are always welcome as well as supplies for them.
Wildlife rehabilitation is, "in my blood", as MC puts it. So too is volunteering when there is a need to be filled. When orphaned, injured, sick, or displaced wildlife are brought here to Niagara Wildlife Haven, we know that they receive the most experienced and professional care that is available in Niagara. We also know that there is no other facility like this and that expansion and a move to a more suitable property is not a wish, but an absolute must!
You can help us by making a donation to ensure that wildlife has a place to go.
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Questions/comments about this website? Email: niagarawildlifehaven (at) gmail (dot) com
Updated: 21 Mar 2013 03:26 PM