An organization that's spent years taking in injured, sick and orphaned wildlife now has an extra tool at its disposal that will improve the odds of survival for more birds, beavers and other animals.
The Wildlife Haven just opened its own accredited wildlife veterinary hospital — a first of its kind in Manitoba.
"This is going to make a big difference," said Zoe Nakata, executive director of Wildlife Haven.
The haven has helped rehabilitate an estimated 42,000 injured wildlife in the province since it opened in 1984.
Up to now, Wildlife Haven has mainly focused on first aid-style rehabilitation care for injured birds, squirrels and other critters. The care staff could offer was somewhat limited by the size and nature of the building, equipment and regulations, said Nakata. Sometimes wild animals would need outside veterinary care.
With the opening of the hospital, situated southeast of Winnipeg at the Wildlife Haven grounds in Île des Chênes, there is now a resident wildlife vet on hand. That allows for a broader range of in-house procedures and medical interventions on animals than before, said Nakata.
The opening comes at a good time, too, as the haven reported a 21.5 per cent increase in wildlife patients this year.
"As we were growing it became obvious that we were at the point where we needed to dedicate our resources to really establishing our own specialized veterinary hospital, where we are really able to specialize in wildlife care on the veterinary front," said Nakata.
Through a new partnership with the National Wildlife Centre, headquartered in Caledon, Ont., the hospital will also have a wildlife vet internship position, something the haven says is a rare development opportunity for aspiring wildlife vets.
Wildlife procedures differ from house pets. Fitting a dog with an orthotic for a leg injury is going to be different from a bald eagle needing one for a wing injury.
"The orthotic pins are different, and the anesthesia requirements are different just because of their metabolism, so there's a lot of considerations that are different," Nakata told Radio Noon guest host Marina von Stackelberg on Wednesday.
"It's quite different from a dogs and cats kind of operation when it comes to those medical procedures, so we're super excited to be at that point now."
Another example of what's now possible happened this week. Nakata said a red-tailed hawk was taken in with a gunshot wound, and the haven's vet was able to surgically remove pellets from its wing.
"Previously, that animal would've perished."
The hospital also enables staff to offer more targeted antibiotic and pain relief medications to wild animals as opposed to broad spectrum animal drugs they previously were limited to administering.
Having an in-house vet also opens up a range of diagnostic procedures that can be performed in-house that couldn't be previously, said Nakata.
"The animal is getting medical intervention very quickly, and hopefully healing very quickly, so that means their time here first of all is much more comfortable," said Nakata. "In theory they will be healing much faster, so that means that they're out back into nature much more quickly."
The Wildlife Haven offers recommendations on its website regarding what to do when you come across a wild animal you think may be injured or oprhaned.