New admissions centre improves public access to Wildlife Rescue in Burnaby

10 ducklings sit in a container with water at the animal rescue
/ Community

Linda Bakker got her start with the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC as an animal care volunteer. Now, 16 years later, as the non-profit association’s co-executive director, she seldom has opportunities to provide direct care for the wildlife brought into the centre. But when a family of sandhill cranes living on Burnaby Lake began to show signs of disease, she joined her entire team of field volunteers on a unique mission to help them. The team provided the cranes with medication embedded in some of their favourite foods, such as fish and worms, without having to bring them into the centre for care.

Rescuing and caring for wildlife since 1979

Linda Bakker stands along a bridge in Burnaby Lake Park
Linda Bakker, Co-executive Director, Wildlife Rescue Association of BC

While finding creative solutions for treating animals in the wild may not be an everyday occurrence for the Wildlife Rescue team, giving sick, injured and orphaned animals a second chance at life definitely is. Since 1979, Wildlife Rescue has helped more than 135,000 animals. In 2021 alone, it helped a record 6,025 animals. That’s why, when our gas line construction in the area affected access to Wildlife Rescue’s hospital and facility on Glencarin Drive in Burnaby, we knew we needed to come up with a creative solution to ensure the centre could continue its life-saving work. 

A duckling stands on a branch while two others sit beside it in the wildlife rescue
Wildlife Rescue focuses on the care and rehabilitation of all types of wild birds, except for raptors. Calls pertaining to raptors, such as eagles and owls and mammals are referred to other centres that specialize in their care.

Working to reduce the impact of construction 

Linda Bakker and Will Hyde walk along a bridge in Burnaby Lake Park
Linda Bakker, Co-executive Director, Wildlife Rescue and Will Hyde, Community Relations Manager, FortisBC.

When route selection was underway for our Pattullo Gas Line Replacement project in Burnaby, an important part of the planning process included utilizing existing roadways around Burnaby Lake as much as possible to avoid impacting greenspaces during construction, which meant it made sense for Glencarin Drive to be part of the route the gas line would follow. Months before work began, we engaged with stakeholders along the route, including Wildlife Rescue, to understand their needs and find ways to lessen the impact of construction. 

“FortisBC worked with us from the beginning to find a solution that would help maintain access to our centre,” says Linda. Part of the solution included implementing alternating lane closures on Glencarin Drive and educating traffic flaggers on what to do for those members of the public trying to get to Wildlife Rescue. Traffic flaggers prioritized individuals bringing animals to the existing facility to get through the construction areas as quickly as possible. The team also coordinated construction work with volunteer and staff schedules.

Baby birds being hand fed by a volunteer at the rescue centre
Hand-feeding baby birds is one of the many tasks staff and trained volunteers perform to care for the thousands of birds that are brought into the centre annually.

Early on in construction, it was apparent that an additional solution was needed. “We receive up to 60 new animals every day,” explains Linda. “Construction was having a huge impact on the amount of time it took to get to our centre. Most of the animals we help are brought in by the public. They aren’t animal care experts so when they find an animal in distress, they’re anxious to deliver it to us to ensure the animal receives the care it needs as quickly as possible.”

New Wildlife Rescue admissions centre opens 

Wildlife rescue centre building in Burnaby Lake parking lot
The new Wildlife Rescue admissions centre is located at 3760 Sperling Avenue in the Burnaby Lake parking lot. 

Will Hyde, FortisBC community relations manager says, “Wildlife Rescue was open, honest and upfront about the impacts they were experiencing due to construction. When they let us know what their needs were, it was clear that the best way we could help the animals was to set up a temporary admissions centre.”

“During a major project there often comes a time when the team needs to step up and do the right thing,” states Will. “If our construction activities are going to be on, or near, stakeholder property, we may need to provide additional support. We were happy to put in the work to support Wildlife Rescue’s mandate and ultimately contribute to saving the lives of animals!”

With support from the Pattullo project’s construction contractor, Peter Kiewit Sons ULC, the team found a suitable location for the new admissions centre within the project’s approved temporary working space. The new admissions centre opened on June 16, 2022 at 3760 Sperling Avenue in the Burnaby Lake parking lot. It’s directly in front of the Burnaby Rugby Club and can be accessed via Joe Sakic Way.

“The opening of our new admissions centre means wildlife can receive lifesaving treatment from our wildlife technicians immediately upon arrival,” says Linda. “This is an important addition to our operations during the busy summer months. Having the admissions process, and staff dedicated to doing that, separate from our regular rehabilitation work has proven to be very successful. When construction is over in the fall, and our summer admissions centre on Sperling Avenue closes, we’re going to keep the admissions process going at our centre on Glencarin Drive.”

To learn more about Wildlife Rescue, make a donation or become a Wildlife Rescue volunteer, visit Wildlife Rescue Association of BC.