A rescued river otter staying at the Northern Lights Wildlife shelter near Smithers. (NLWS photo)

Time to let go for BC bears, otters, bobcat

Northern Lights Wildlife shelter near Smithers set to release orphaned animals this spring.

The Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS) spring release dates are coming up.

So far, they have brought a bobcat back to where she came from in Powell River.

The animal shelter will also soon be releasing a local porcupine and a pair of otters that came into their care from Prince George last summer.

The two otters were found on a busy highway close to a raging river and it is thought they got swept away by high waters and nearly drowned. There were fears that the otters would have to be euthanized because NLWS has no aquatic facility and usually transfers aquatic animals to shelters that have such facilities. However, there was no vacancy anywhere and despite attempts to raise money to build a facility, the shelter was unable to.

“We got enough funding to create a temporary place for them,” said NLWS manager Angelika Langen. “It isn’t ideal. They don’t have room to swim and we can’t teach them to hunt. It reduces their survival chances when we let them go. But it was the best we could offer them. We felt this was their best chance, otherwise we’d have to euthanize them and that is no chance at all.”

The shelter plans on continuing to fundraise for the aquatic facility so that when otters and beavers come in, they can properly care for them.

The shelter will also be releasing 37 bears starting in May.

“We are going first to Haida Gwaii; we have two cubs we will be returning there. Then we have two cubs from Bella Coola that will go out after that. We also have cubs to return to Vernon, Trail, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Fernie — we will be going all over the province,” said Langen.

Most of the trips will be done by Langen and her husband and a few will be done by volunteers. Last year they had 45 bears to release.

While they may have fewer bears to let go this year, the moose are hanging out longer than normal.

The baby moose were released in August on what the shelter calls “day passes.” They go out during the day and come back at night to sleep. In November they leave the doors open and the moose start to not come back. Normally by March they are all gone, but most are still hanging around this year because of the high snow and lack of nourishment in nature.

There are ways people can help the shelter. NLWS is hosting their third annual M&M event. The spring fundraiser brings in dollars for miles to get the animals home and milk for the new orphans set to arrive shortly.

Each week from April 15-May 15, they will host a caption contest on their Facebook page. The event also features an online silent auction and encourages group fundraising. Donating during the month-long campaign gives people chances to win observing the release of a cub or getting a video of their favourite cub going home.

For more information or to donate, visit wildlifeshelter.com.

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