tofino wildlife article: watch for wildlife

Watch out for Wildlife

by Lisa Fletcher, Tofino


I consider mornings in my household to be pretty routine. There’s usually a few of us around for coffee, breakfast, and then to the beach to see what’s happening. This sunny May morning started out much the same, right up to the beach.

Once we were there, a tourist mentioned in passing that we should check out an eagle with a broken wing just inside Rosie’s Bay. With the tide still out a ways, we strolled around the rocks and found the bird sheltered, its wing dragging on the cave’s sandy floor. It was wide-eyed and on its best defense as we entered the cave. The break looked pretty serious and we knew that it had no chance if we didn’t try to help. After numerous phone calls and bureaucratic run-arounds, we were told that no-one could come and we would have to capture the eagle ourselves and bring it in to the Park Wardens Office where it could be transported to a rehabilitation center.

Yikes—a typical morning surf check gone awry. As graceful as these birds are, anything with razored feet and a wing span larger than I am, makes me a little nervous. Nonetheless, there we were; five untrained professionals armed with a fishing net, 2 blankets, a tote, gloves, goggles, and a hat. Just to add a little excitement to the mission, the tide was rolling in and we had to be fast if we wanted to get back around the rocks. Multiple tries later, the mission was a success and we triumphantly loaded the eagle into a 1963 Volkswagen van and drove to our local Wardens Office.

After all was said and done, I couldn’t help but think why the people who had first discovered the bird had so casually walked away from the problem. Were they perfectly content with their photo op of the Wild West Coast, or were they just not sure what to do about the situation?

The Wardens Office for the Pacific Rim National Park advises that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you should contact them or a Conservation Officer first before doing anything else. They deal with anything directly in the Park, which roughly boundaries Florencia Bay to the south end of Cox Bay.

When injured wildlife is found outside of the Park, then the Conservation Officer Service should be contacted. Although the nearest C.O. Office is in Port Alberni, both the Wardens Office and the Conservation Officer Service work with local superheroes to facilitate and rehabilitate injured wildlife.

Rory Paterson, who has been a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator since 1990, receives 120 to 150 animals a year, most of which are birds. People bring wildlife to her so she can stabilize and eventually re-release back into the wild.

Rod Palm from Strawberry Island Research has been praised for his tireless research efforts as well as whale entanglement rescue for the Department of Fisheries. Rod offers interim first aid and rescue for distressed marine wildlife until it can be taken elsewhere for rehabilitation.

Many of the injured wildlife brought in cannot be treated here due to lack of funding for proper facilities, so they are taken to North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington or to the Island Wildlife Recovery Station on Saltspring Island.

Sometimes human intervention can cause more harm than good, so they are there to help assess the situation. There have been certain instances where young eagles have been brought into the Wardens Office and have ended up dying from trauma caused from the stress of transportation and human contact. Rescue missions are reserved as a last resort.

In some cases the animal may be able to help itself, (its best chance at survival) or it may not even be injured at all. There are animals that go through a molting or ‘shedding’ process, where they could look as though they were hurt, but they are just going through a natural maturing stage. And then there are birds that fall out of nests, which are still cared for by the parents and survive just fine.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for allowing nature to run her course. She seemed to do just fine before we showed up. If a wild animal is going to die, better it be in its own environment where it can be part of the process.

Any questions? Feel free to contact the Park Wardens Office at 250.726.8035 or the Conservation Officer Service at 1-800-663-9453.

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Tofino biologist Lisa Fletcher writes about dealing with wildlife in her experience with an injured eagle in Tofino.

tofino time july 2004

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