AIWC volunteer says the centre has change her life
Katherine Pederson loves to take photos. So when she found a little bird on her bird feeder in 2005, she rushed to get her camera and snapped away as she captured shot after shot. She had no idea at the time that this one event would spark a change in her life for the better.
“I was just clicking away and thought it would fly away,” she said. “But I got so close, the lens wouldn’t focus and I just picked him up. I knew there was a problem so I called AIWC.”
AWIC, or Alberta Institute of Wildlife Conservation, is an animal rehabilitation centre for Alberta’s native animals.
The organization sent a rescue driver to come get the bird from Pederson’s home and take it to the centre to be nursed back to health.
Pederson said she called AIWC every day to check on the status of the injured bird and eventually made the trip out to Madden to see him and the centre.
“That was it, my life changed,” Pederson said of the visit.
She said she didn’t realize the work AIWC did and once she saw it she knew she wanted to help.
“I love animals and I love birds so it was kind of like my dream come true.”
Soon after the visit, she and her husband Ted Gilson became rescue drivers at the centre, working together as a team to bring injured and orphaned animals to the safety of the centre.
“It’s such an addition to a person’s life,” she said with tears in her eyes. “For me, this is what it’s all about.”
The training process for any AIWC volunteer is intensive, as they must be taught about proper handling techniques for different species, safety training, how to approach different animals and much more.
Pederson said even with all the training, she was nervous about handling Canadian geese because they are strong animals that can hurt a person. She said with each call she kept hoping it’s, ‘not a goose.’
Inevitable the call came in two years after Pederson and Gilson started volunteering as rescue drivers.
It was a mother goose who had nested on the sixth floor of a downtown Calgary apartment. Her eggs had hatched and the apartment owner didn’t know what to do with the gaggle of geese that were squatting on her property.
“We felt more comfortable with our nets and worked together with a strategy,” she said.
They were able to catch momma goose and get her in a box with little issue. Of course after the mother was captured the babies scattered, but Pederson and Gilson worked quickly to gather them up and get them to the safety of another box.
“It went well,” Pederson said of the rescue, adding she is much more comfortable with geese now.
Pederson said one of her favourite memories from rescue driving in when the couple was called to bring an orphaned baby moose back to AIWC.
“He was about three-days-old, 65 pounds and just gorgeous,” she recalled.
The moose had been sedated by Alberta Fish and Wildlife and was put in the backseat of Pederson’s vehicle for the journey from McLean Creek to AIWC.
“He woke up in our backseat and we still had about an hour to get here. It was pretty hairy,” Pederson said of the situation.
The volunteers called for help and AIWC sent another rescue driver to help calm the baby and get him safely to the facility.
“It was pretty amazing to see him grow and get released,” Pederson said. “That was a really good experience.”
Pederson took on a new role at AWIC last year as a centre volunteer working directly with the animals at the centre.
“Everyday is different,” she said. “Every time you come in there’s somebody new or gone because they’ve been released.”
She said the work volunteers at the centre do depends on which area they are assigned to each shift. One thing that remains constant in the centre volunteer role is cleaning.
“The first thing you do when you come in, is clean and feed,” she said. “Lots and lots of cleaning.”
She said if she is working in room one, which houses the baby birds, she can count on spending her entire shift in that one room because the birds need so much care.
“The birds have to be fed every 20 to 45 minutes and in-between feedings, you are cleaning the cages.”
However, she said she loves the work and said people have noticed how happy she is when she’s working with the animals.
“Basically, it’s helping the staff with whatever needs to be done but there is lots of opportunity for holding,” she said, adding that the animals will need to be held for examinations or to treat an injury.
The goal of AIWC is to release the animals in their care back into the wild so they can lead happy, healthy and wild lives. For that reason animals are encouraged to keep their wild nature and are not handled without due cause.
“We don’t keep them a day longer than we need to,” Pederson said of the animals.
Along with rescue driving and volunteering at the centre, Pederson has been on AIWC’s newsletter committee for five years and joined the Board of Directors last year.
She also works full time but said she is lucky enough to have a very fluid schedule and understanding employer who accommodates her commitment to AIWC.
“It sounds so hokey but this is what I was meant to do,” she said.
AWIC is an animal rescue facility that relies entirely on donations and volunteers. For more information, visit www.aiwc.ca