It's been a tough go but somehow they're making it work at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.
Caring for a record number of birds of prey last year, staffers at OWL are now trying to hold back flooding at their antiquated 72nd Street shelter in East Ladner.
"We're flooding in the back right now. It's going into our cages and we've already burnt out two pumps and have just one little one left," said executive director Bev Day.
"Like I said, it's getting inside our cages and our birds aren't ducks. We're starting to play musical cages with the ones that are flooded."
The organization rehabilitates injured birds of prey and releases them back into the wild.
Once injured birds are taken out of intensive care, they are put in big cages to have little direct human contact before their release. OWL has gained national recognition for treating hundreds of injured birds annually, including eagles, hawks and owls.
Day noted 491 birds were cared for at the shelter last year, a record total.
"We had a hundred birds-plus over last year's total, so our food bill is quite high trying to feed them all. Eagles, in particular, are expensive. We had 98 of those in."
About a dozen of the birds brought in recently were snowy owls, some injured after flying into power lines, while others were starving.
Last year saw an unexpected intake of six hawk owlets. The shelter received a call from biologist Jared Hobbs about the birds that had been abandoned by their parents. The youngest was only three days old.
Not having any adult hawk owls to foster the baby birds forced staff to take on the role of caregivers. They covered their faces to ensure the birds were not "humanized" and were able to raise the birds, which were released back to the wild in the summer.
Day said a variety of reasons likely combined for the increased numbers last year, including encroachment as well as the extremely wet weather the past few months.
The organization works with an operating budget in the $440,000 range, despite the loss of direct government grants. A few corporate donations have come in, but it's mostly donations from the public that have kept the society afloat.
"This last year the thing that has really saved us, and it's sad to say, has been bequests. We've had a couple of good substantial bequests from people passing away and we're in their wills," Day said.
"The community has also been absolutely fantastic," she said.
Day said they get valuable staffing help federally through a program for youth, funding up to five summer students.
She said people from the community as well as students also provide thousands of volunteer hours annually.
"We actually have two people here on grants right now and they researched their own grants so that they could work here and learn, because they want to go on to be vets and educators, which I thought was pretty cool," Day said.
The society, which also runs popular education programs, is always fundraising to fill the many needs at the shelter. Day said an ideal solution to the many current challenges faced at the facility is to secure a new location.
For more information about OWL, visit www.owlcanada.ca.
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