Fundraiser highlights relationship between SLC and Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre

A coyote patient previously in the care of Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre. Photo by Adriana Larios.

When someone spots a coyote in the area and posts about it on social media, it seems to spread like wildfire – people are not only concerned about pet and livestock safety, but taken in by the beauty and mystery of these apex predators.

But do we know how important the roles coyotes and wolves play in our ecosystem are? How can we live peacefully alongside them and dispel some of the myths we hold about them?

The veterinary assistant students of St. Lawrence College and those with Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre are hoping to address all of these things at their upcoming fundraiser Into the Wild, taking place on Saturday, Mar. 30, 2019. The event, coordinated by the veterinary assistant students, will bring together a variety of fun activities (like a silent auction, bake sale, raffle, and kid’s activities) and an informative key note address and discussion. The event will feature Dr. Brent Patterson of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, a leading biologist researching eastern coyotes (also called the coywolf) and wolves. Patterson will dispel myths surrounding wild canids, and discuss the importance of apex predators, as well as how to mitigate coyote vs. people conflicts is ways that don’t involve destabilizing coyote populations (as doing do leads to faster breeding rates and creates more conflict).  A speaker known to fill venues with wildlife enthusiasts, Patterson will offer and Q&A at the end of his address, and shed light on the realities of coyote predatory behaviour, explained Leah Birmingham, assistant director of Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre.

“We receive many calls about coyotes from the Kingston area every year, which gives me the insight to know that Dr. Patterson’s presentation is definitely in need in Kingston, and should be well received,” said Birmingham, who is also a Registered Veterinary Technician and a professor at St. Lawrence College.

At the same time, the fundraiser highlights the multiple relationships between Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre and St. Lawrence College, as well as other local schools. Not only does Birmingham teach a course on exotic pet and wildlife care at the College, but Sandy Pines typically takes up to four Veterinary Technician (vet tech) placement students, and eight to 10 Veterinary Assistant placement students annually.

“That along with our Internship Program, high school COOP students, and volunteer program has all grown to be a very large part of our work, and legacy,” Birmingham explained.

“The Founder/Director of SPWC Sue Meech was formerly a professor at SLC in the Nursing program, she has always felt a natural duty to help educate younger generations. She encourages her staff to pursue continuing education, and to share our knowledge back into our community improving the awareness for wildlife and humanity’s impact on them.”

And the fundraiser itself is the result of a St. Lawrence College program! The Veterinary Assistant students at SLC have a course project that involves a fundraising component, and this year, Sandy Pines was selected as the recipient of those fundraising efforts. As a result, the students have organized Into the Wild, with all proceeds going to Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, particularly towards the completion of its aquatic centre.

“As an Assistant Director and Registered Vet Tech that graduated from the SLC Vet Tech Program, I am very proud to teach and hopefully inspire my students to help injured and orphaned wildlife. I am also proud to be able to do so at a College that encourages our youth to be involved in Community projects and fundraising for charitable organizations,” Birmingham said.

“Our other Assistant Director Julia Evoy is also a SLC grad, she graduated as a Vet Assistant and we scooped her up from her placement with us. We have hired many SLC VA grads for seasonal work, several have also participated in our Internship Program.”

In an attempt to keep the fundraising event as accessible as possible, and encourage the community to come out and learn more about the eastern coyote, admission to the event is $5 per person, or $10 per family.

Into the Wild takes place Saturday, Mar. 30, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with Dr. Patterson’s presentation beginning at 10:30 a.m. The event will be held in the one of the new venue rooms in the new wing of St. Lawrence College, with signage guiding guests from the main entrance to the college.

To find out more about Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, which has been serving our area’s injured and orphaned wildlife since 1994, click here.

The same coyote patient when it first arrived at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre. This photos speaks volumes about Sandy Pines and its objective not to turn away animals in need – This coyote was housed in the staff bathroom at Sandy Pines until he was well enough to move around outside again. “Always making room for new patients, even if that means sacrificing a bathroom for awhile,” said assistant director Leah Birmingham.

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