There’s Hope for wildlife in Nova Scotia

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Ali Dejong, a young volunteer at Hope for Wildlife, holds one of the cutest and softest bunny rabbits I have ever had the pleasure of touching. An abandoned domestic rabbit, it would not survive long in the wilds of Nova Scotia. 

And her name is Hope Swinimer.

In 1997, Swinimer founded the Hope for Wildlife Society, whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned wildlife. It also connects people with wildlife in a positive way at their on-site education centre.

Located in Seaforth, some 35 kilometres east of Halifax, the Hope for Wildlife Society's rescue and rehabilitation centre is a haven for sick, injured and orphaned animals that would die if not for Hope, her incredible staff and hundreds of volunteers. Since it opened 18 years ago, the Society has helped over 15,000 injured and orphaned wild animals representing over 250 species.

While vacationing in my home province this summer, we drove along the beautiful Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia to visit the facility, which is located on four hectares of land on a gently sloping hillside overlooking a salt-water pond near the the Atlantic ocean.

Upon our arrival, we were taken on a guided tour of the facility by Ali Dejong, one of the many young volunteers who happily give their time and effort to the cause. Dejong showed us some of the many animals that, sadly, could not be returned to the wild because their injuries, now healed, left them unable to fend for themselves. Oliver Twist is a barred owl that cannot be released into the wild because it lost a wing and has only one eye, but he loves to meet visitors and pose for photos.

There were also a few domestic animals and pets - including a rabbit, a chinchilla, a parrot and some exotic snakes - that had been abandoned or had escaped from their owners and would not survive long in Nova Scotia's northern climate. The chinchilla had been found hopping among the flowers in the Public Gardens in downtown Halifax.

There were mallard ducklings being raised in a pool enclosure, and housing for a young porcupine nibbling on fresh leaves and branches, a martin, and some mink that "Hopefully" will return to the wild by the end of the summer. Dan the peacock, a long-time resident at Hope's place, struts his stuff and displays his fabulous tail feathers.

There is a medical facility at the centre, with an operating room used by the visiting veterinarian, Dr. Barry MacEachern, of the Burnside Veterinary Hospital, who donates time to Hope for Wildlife. There is also a 100-foot-long flight cage, where injured birds of prey can safely recover their strength to fly before being released.

When we visited in mid-July, there were some 20 fawns in a large deer pen, and about the same number of raccoon kits, but they weren't on view for the public. The deer, which will be released in the fall after hunting season is over, must not be exposed to humans too much or they will not thrive in the wild. The same applies to the raccoons.

For more information about Hope for Wildlife, visit www.hopeforwildlife.net.