Sandy Pines calls, squeaks, squawks, barks, and chirps for help

An adorable pile of baby opossums enjoy their temporary nest at SPWC. Submitted photo.

“Call Sandy Pines.” 

Those three words are a familiar refrain on eastern Ontario social media whenever someone posts about a wild animal in distress. But who does Sandy Pines call when they are in distress?

This fall, Leah Birmingham has been alarmed by what she calls a ”potentially devastating trend” facing Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre (SPWC): a drastic drop in donation support to the centre. Birmingham is the Medical Director and Internship Program Coordinator at SPWC, as well as a Licensed Wildlife Custodian, and a professor at St. Lawrence College.

The shortage of expected funding came as a shock to the employees of the 25-year-old wildlife centre that provides help and medical care to thousands of animals in eastern Ontario each year.

“Looking at our Canada Helps statistics, we were down compared to other charities in Canada by about 50 per cent in November,” Birmingham explained. She noted that even on Giving Tuesday, the global generosity event that follows on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, donations were not nearly as generous to SPWC this year as in the past.

“Even in comparison with other charities in similar categories, we have had fewer new donors,” she said.

“There are so many amazing charities working hard, and deserving of donations in our area. Knowing that it is a tough time financially for everyone makes it hard to reach out and remind our community that wildlife needs help, as well.”

This rarely-seen (because it’s nocturnal) northern flying squirrel is in care at SPWC right now. Submitted photo.

“Sandy Pines has been serving Eastern Ontario for 25 years and we want to continue to grow and help more animals every year,” Birmingham continued. But to do so, she said, “we will need our donations to grow with us. Or, at the very least, remain the same as the year before and not drop by half.”

Veterinarians who volunteer with Sandy Pines see that need as well.

“Over the last year I have had the pleasure of volunteering at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre (SPWC),” said Dr. Andrew Winterborn, Queen’s University Veterinarian/Director of Animal Care Services. “As a veterinarian, volunteering at SPWC allows me to practice responsible stewardship, recognizing that humans and our lifestyles cause most of the harm done to wildlife. We are extremely fortunate in this region to have a world-class rehabilitation centre to intervene, where we as humans have failed.”

Several white-tailed deer are recuperating in their outdoor wooded space at SPWC. Submitted photo.

Dr. Laura Prociuk, professor at St. Lawrence College and Head Veterinarian at SPWC, agreed, noting that “Sandy Pines is always there when needed. The staff work tirelessly, for long hours, doing very difficult work to provide excellent care to the many species that are presented to them daily,” she said.

“Everyone in the Kingston and surrounding area is familiar with them. They are the go-to facility whenever an animal is found injured,” she acknowledged. “They operate as a nonprofit/charitable organization, so donations are essential for their continued help of injured wildlife. I am proud to volunteer my veterinary services to help needy wildlife.”

Birmingham added that the winter season brings complexity to the care that their wild patients need.

“As temperatures start to drop, we are helping a wide variety of wildlife cope with a lack of suitable shelter, a changing food source, hibernation issues, and some patients that may need to spend the winter with us because they are still healing and cannot do so in the extreme winters of Ontario,” she explained.

A red fox at SPWC peers cautiously from under a spruce tree. Submitted photo.

Located at Sandy Pines farm near Napanee, SPWC has been in operation for over 25 years, becoming a registered charity in 2002. They receive no funding from the Canadian government; all their funding comes from donations and fund-raising.

Besides fulfilling their mandate by rehabilitating over 6,000 wild animals a year, they also offer support and advice to callers from all over Ontario who are concerned about wildlife-related challenges they are experiencing. They offer humane solutions which result in the animal relocating itself, allowing the animal to remain in its home territory.

Even this little brown bat, an endangered species, gets quality care at SPWC. Photo submitted.

As well, SPWC provides educational virtual and in-person workshops and classes for both kids and adults, creates educational products like lesson plans and info cards, and hosts students from Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Assistant programs, engineering programs, teacher candidates, and more.

SWPC Founder/Director Sue Meech is licensed by both the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Canadian Wildlife Services to provide care and shelter for all native and migrating wildlife. Meech has created a passionate team around her and has a solid succession plan to ensure the work at SPWC continues for decades, but that succession plan is dependent on the generosity of donors.

So now, the place so many of us call when we’re in need of a place to care for injured wildlife is calling on us for support.

Money is always important, but Sandy Pines also needs volunteers, and some items you might have without realizing how valuable they are, such as straw bales, fallen fruit and nuts from trees, and even that meat that’s been buried in the back corner of your freezer for two years. Check out SPWC’s Facebook page for updates on what items are in high demand (the organization often posts calls for donations for everything from pine branches to used and unwanted towels or blankets.

Find out more about Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre and how you can support them by visiting their website.

One thought on “Sandy Pines calls, squeaks, squawks, barks, and chirps for help

  • Given the current crisis of homelessness, desperation and death among so many of less fortunate neighbours in our communities, perhaps this reduction in donations for a wildlife centre means that we humans are finally putting more importance on our fellow humans than on wild animals. It blows my mind that we humans are so increasingly obsessed with the well-being of animals while ignoring fellow humans in distress. We need to better understand the term “anthropomorphism”! That is – looking at and treating animals as though they are human beings. They are not! We as a society need to put a greater priority on our fellow humans than on mindless animals! (And yes, I grew up on a farm – which helped me differentiate between human and animal species and their relative rank in our world).

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