It was a pleasure having Susan, our 2022 Gala Ride Along winner join us for a ‘Day in the Life’ where she spent the day with Dr. Cox during her wildlife patient visits. From beavers and all kinds of other sick and injured animals that the NWC medical team treat, we were able to highlight the importance of how much our supporters help Canadian wildlife!
An Interview with Susan:
First of all, thank you so much for your interest in and support of the National Wildlife Centre. At our last Gala Fundraiser, you were the top bidder for the ride-along with Dr. Sherri Cox, our Medical Director. We are hoping to share a bit about May 8th, 2023, your exciting day!
What is a word you would say best describes your overall experience from that special day?
Susan – The words I would use are, “a sense of awe and a sense of wonder. It was like being almost breathless. It was awe for where we were, what we were seeing and the animals we were seeing. There was enormous excitement and curiosity” on my part.
Please elaborate a bit on what the day entailed, and what some of the highlights were for you?
Susan – There was a sense of excitement building. Riding in the van was so cool. It was a two-hour drive. We talked about wildlife the whole way there and I found the conversation so interesting. I had so much fun just driving up and then we arrived (Aspen Valley Wildlife Centre). It was early in the morning. The air was fresh and seeing the forest was so beautiful. I was very taken with our location. When we arrived, there was a sense of calm and a sense of professionalism. I appreciated that we were not allowed to see the animals until they were anesthetized. It is important to always put animals first and respect those boundaries.
We saw two beavers. One had a fracture that was healing and required a bandage change and the other had been attacked and required surgery. It was, “Wow, here I am in the middle of this – so exciting, so important. I can’t express how amazing this was seeing these people working together to help these animals. It gave me hope.…as we were working to do something positive. I felt inspired. We also saw a moose. She was a resident moose having her health check-up. There is nothing like a firsthand experience – being right up close and in the presence of helping an animal – if people could experience this sense of awe – then maybe they would protect them (the wildlife). “It’s worth it to try to protect this. Field medicine is particularly difficult. They say that if you want to test your skills, go into the field. You don’t have the resources in the field that you have in other places. You have to think fast. You have to be creative and think on your feet.
Can you describe your understanding about the frontline work that the NWC does, based on these experiences?
Susan – Yes, seeing the enormous skill that’s needed. We need to help others be aware. It’s about education. Things need to be handled differently. Sherri and I talked about how educating people is enormously important. Sherri has the best approach to education. She is supportive, lovely and kind, but she expects you to do the work. She has the perfect balance. When NWC has the centre to do this (educate), then more people will have the knowledge and learn the professionalism about this important field. It’s an enormous commitment, in terms of time – driving two or three hours (or much more) somewhere to deliver an animal, pick up an animal and change a bandage. I think about the sense of urgency and what can be done on a larger scale. This knowledge needs to be shared knowledge. We need a centre to train other people to learn knowledge and skill. We need to bring up that standard (of care for wildlife). Wildlife isn’t taken seriously like dogs and cats are and they are vital to our survival.
What was your greatest learning/challenge of the day?
Susan – My greatest learning was related to “the level of sophistication needed and how much there is to learn. Watching people and thinking about the level of skill and professionalism that’s needed. It’s like Dr Roberta Bondar said at the Gala, ‘When you’re a doctor, as complex as it is, you deal with one species and in companion animals, you have a few animals to worry about and in wildlife medicine you have everything to think about – the extent of the knowledge required is mind-boggling. For example, there might be a moose, then a beaver, then a coyote, then a turtle – it’s amazing. There are a huge number of species to know about.’
My greatest challenge was trying to keep my mouth shut. I had so many questions, yet I was trying to be quiet and incredibly calm because the animals are stressed and you don’t want to make it worse or habituate them. There was a panic rising in me when I saw an injury, but in order to help them I had to have this calm. I was watching (Dr. Cox) packing these wounds and having composure and calm.
How important to you is the work that the NWC, and other equivalent organizations, do, and can you offer any tips for our other supporters?
Susan – It is so urgent. There is no shortage of need. People tend to help people. We (humans) are one species among many. Animals are seen as secondary. We have to think in terms of biodiversity, not just a single species. I don’t think that this has sunk in yet. This is urgent. We can’t survive without animals. This should be a priority. Animals are invisible to people. We created the situations which result in habitat loss. Our survival depends on this. Our existence is dependent on their well-being. They can live without us but we can’t live without them. This is their home and they are supposed to be here. This work is urgent – of the utmost importance and we should ramp up support for organizations like the National Wildlife Centre.
In five years from now, what will you remember the most, and where do you want the NWC to be as an organization?
Susan – It was an amazing day with amazing people. It’s so nice to be in the company of people who know how important this is. All lives matter. NWC (National Wildlife Centre) needs to be a huge organization. It needs to spread its tentacles everywhere.
From the time she was a child, Susan has always loved animals. From saving insects and saving drowning bugs in the pool, to saving imaginary animals in her pretend animal hospital, Susan has always known that wildlife is integral to human existence. Once Susan learned that there was a field known as Wildlife Rehabilitation, she got involved. She volunteered for a wildlife rehabilitation centre, north of Toronto and felt a sense of challenge and excitement. Susan’s journey led her into a number of courses, such as IWRC (International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council) and the Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation Course at the University of Guelph University to learn more and she became a foster for wildlife, including baby bunnies, baby raccoons, and opossums. She continues to feel that it is a privilege to support wild animals in need. When Susan attended the National Wildlife Centre Gala in the fall of 2022, and learned that she could ride-along with Dr. Cox for a Day-in-the-Life, she said “I knew I had to have it”!
To read more about the importance of wildlife and the dire need to help wildlife species, please visit the WWF Living Planet Report, 2022, at https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-US/.