An iconic rare bird and two orphaned bear cubs are currently in the care of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.
The juvenile raven was brought to the centre approximately one week ago and was in rough shape, said Derek Downes, one of the animal care technicians tasked with nursing it back to health.
“It was on the ground and it suffered some injuries to its feet,” said Downes. “They’re an extremely rare mutation, well-documented in this part of the world, specifically the (Parksville Qualicum Beach) area, which is why they have been dubbed the sacred white raven.”
The centre has occasionally cared for white ravens over the years but the survival chances for the birds has been slim. Unofficially, according to Downes, they’ve known of only one that has made it all the way to adulthood.
“They typically don’t do very well,” said Downes. “They have compromised immune systems, so we’re really, really trying very hard with this one. We’ve learned in the past of what we can do to help it and we’re hoping with this one we’re going to have some success.”
The white raven is not feeding on its own and had to be force-fed, using a tube. Downes said it is getting stronger and improving each day.
“We ran a course of antibiotics on him and numerous vitamins and minerals to try to help boost his immune system because that seems to be what lacks with these white ravens,” he said. “We’re really hoping for the best.”
Downes welcomes the rare knowledge he is picking up from the experience of treating the raven.
“This is my first time handling one,” said Downes. “I have seen photos and videos but never actually seen one up close and been able to actually be hands on in helping and trying to help this bird survive. It’s a really magical thing.”
While the white raven is generating plenty of attention, the centre is also busy caring for two orphaned black bear cubs, after conservation officers rescued them from the Woss area near Campbell River.
“We were able to luckily get them and they were still in great condition,” said Downes. “They haven’t been on their own for very long so these cubs stand a really, really great chance. They have a long journey with us ahead but these cubs are in good hands now and thankfully we’re able to do everything we can. They should be able to go back home sometime next year.”
The centre is also nearly ready to release three black bears rescued a year ago, including ‘Crumpet’ who was only 2.2 pounds when brought to the centre. They will be released at the location where they were found on Vancouver Island.
“The old ones are going home and the new ones are coming in for help,” said Downes. “It’s an amazing thing to witness and and amazing to be a part of. It’s really emotional to think about all the trials and tribulations that those orphan cubs have gone through and to now be on the precipice of going back home.”
The founder of the centre, Robin Campbell, is proud of the work they’ve been doing in more than two decades to help distressed and orphaned bears become healthy and be able to return to their natural habitat.
“Bears are very difficult and there’s a huge challenge in doing bears,” said Campbell. “It’s a huge responsibility that we took on over 25 years ago. We have released hundreds of bears back in the wild. But it never changes.”
Campbell relishes the thought of the bears’ first night of freedom, with no walls to limit their movements and open to the elements and natural surroundings.
“This is so exciting for us, not only for all our successes but also for our failures,” said Campbell. “And it is so emotional for us. All animals are very important from small birds to the bears. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s such a thrill when you can have a few successes.”