Barry Rothfus and Pam Novak check out the pool in the centre of the wildlife learning centre, which is the focal point of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. MCINNIS PHOTO
By Melora McInnis
COOKVILLE, N.B. – The Atlantic Wildlife Institution encourages the general public to get informed about wildlife and their habitats.
The institution, located in Cookville, is licensed in all four Atlantic provinces, and has been studying and assisting animals in need for almost 19 years.
The aim of the institution is to assist injured and sick, wild animals without having them become dependent on something that is not naturally occurring, to keep their ability to survive in the wild.
“We get from anywhere from three to five thousand referrals a year,” said AWI’s executive director Barry Rothfuss.
At the same time, the institution studies the animal itself, in order to become aware of diseases they may carry, which could potentially be transported into humans. The goal of the institution is to understand this and try and prevent it.
All of the major human diseases such as AIDS and rabies started in the wildlife population, he said.
“So if you’re not looking, you’re not going to catch these things in time,” said Rothfuss. “Our job is to protect our environment and community.”
Ninety-five per cent of the animals that are injured or displaced are caused by human-to-animal contact, such as collisions into windows, buildings, power lines and car impact. Other animals that are brought in often have diseases or have been attacked by domestic animals, he said.
“Our job is to study why animals are displaced in nature and translate that into education.”
The Atlantic Wildlife Institution receives funds from individual donations, corporate support, fundraisers, training programs and services to the industry.
They work with professionals to keep referred animals on track, including Maritime Animal Hospital, New Brunswick Museum, Atlantic Vet College and the provincial Department of Veterinary Services.
“It’s an everyday ongoing challenge (for funds),” said director of wildlife care Pam Novak. “We look to the community to support us.”
Most of the animals referred to them are animals that should never be touched, Novak said.
“You have to be aware and understand it,” she said. “We are not a zoo or a nature park. There are other facilities that do that very well.”
The Atlantic Wildlife Institution is currently home to bears, raccoons, foxes, different species of bird and other various wild animals in need of assistance – and the busy season has yet to come.
“It’s the breeding season for our wildlife.”
The institution refers to it as baby season. This time of year is when they receive more referrals than ever due to more interaction between humans and the wildlife.