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Endangered Perspective – Hope for Wildlife

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Author of the Endangered Perspective, Zack Metcalfe, is shown releasing a rehabilitated American woodcock back into the wild. These birds, along with the American robin, were the most impacted by unseasonal snow cover across the Maritimes, which prevented their access to food. [Hope Swinimer photo]
Author of the Endangered Perspective, Zack Metcalfe, is shown releasing a rehabilitated American woodcock back into the wild. These birds, along with the American robin, were the most impacted by unseasonal snow cover across the Maritimes, which prevented their access to food. [Hope Swinimer photo]

By Zack Metcalfe

I had the divine pleasure of visiting the Hope for Wildlife Society earlier this week, an animal rehabilitation centre tucked amidst the natural beauty of Seaforth, Nova Scotia.

I was there because of the mass starvation of American robins and woodcocks in recent weeks, early migratory birds returning to the Maritimes only to find their access to food blocked by unseasonal snow cover, lingering after our record breaking winter. These birds were in dire straits and Hope for Wildlife was taking them in by the dozens.

I, a member of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, was delivering a $4,000 cheque for their efforts to keep these birds alive, money donated by our exceptional membership. The woman who founded this rehabilitation centre, herself named Hope, told me the money arrived just in time. The “special food” needed to treat starving birds is expensive and this unexpected influx of dying robins and woodcocks was damning to their budget.

I had the most extraordinary visit to this centre. First we released a few of the American woodcocks brought to Hope in recent weeks, now strong enough to tackle spring for a second time. I myself got to free one from its box and was struck first by how warm it felt in my hands – it was an exceedingly cold day and I wasn’t dressed for it. This warmth was a small reminder of the bundle of life hiding beneath those feathers, a life burning as brightly as mine.

Then I was treated to a tour of the facility. I don’t expect many people have gotten a close up look at an American kestrel, a modestly sized species of falcon with stunning brown, copper and blue feathers, but I was allowed to hold one on my thumb and forefinger while it watched me curiously. His name was Norman and he was missing a wing. With Hope, he’s treated like family.

I saw orphaned red squirrel babies being fed milk through syringes; I saw a porcupine recovering from a collisions with a car; there were turtles moving faster than I could photograph them and others so small you were obliged to handle them with care; I approached saw-whet owls who watched me with both interest and suspicion; I even met Gretel, Hope’s American pine martin, a critically endangered species in Nova Scotia. But this one wasn’t receiving care at Hope for Wildlife – it moved freely through Hope’s house, being as cuddly as a cat.

As I understand it, the philosophy behind Hope for Wildlife isn’t simply to rehabilitate unfortunate and suffering animals. It’s about restoring our connection to these animals and truly understanding their plight. The value of life has never been held in higher regard than it is at the Hope for Wildlife Society.

Often Hope is asked why she helps these animals back onto their feet. Why not “let nature take its course?” For one, she said most of these animals were injured or orphaned by humans in the first place. Her work atones for these mistakes. Furthermore, “letting nature take its course” suggests that humans are somehow apart from nature, a viewpoint Hope does not share. Finally, she said her work is the simple expression of human empathy. Speaking for myself, this seems a worthy justification all its own.


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