A baby bird sits quietly in the hand of Elizabeth Melnick

A baby bird sits quietly in the hand of Elizabeth Melnick

Abbotsford’s Elizabeth Melnick is dedicated to saving little lives

Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center has now been running for 27 years,caring for whatever animal needs help.

Elizabeth Melnick was just a young girl when she and her mom awoke one morning to find a small scruffy dog in the bathtub of their Vancouver home.

Someone had deposited the creature through the open bathroom window.

It didn’t strike Elizabeth as unusual at the time. She had become known around the neighbourhood as someone who rescued strays and, if she couldn’t find their homes, raised them herself.

Her residence on East 27th Street had become a refuge for pets of all sorts, including dogs, cats, canaries, budgies and goldfish.

Her mom, a single parent, had a soft heart and could never say no when her daughter brought home another creature.

Even Elizabeth’s doll buggy served as a pet “ambulance,” and she often pushed it down the street containing whatever cat or dog would cooperate.

Elizabeth never questioned this passion. It had just always been there.

She was equally as impassioned about the medical field. While other children were reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series, she devoured medical books.

There seemed to be no more obvious a career choice for Elizabeth than a veterinarian, but the nearest vet school was in Saskatchewan.

Elizabeth often said she and her mom were “as poor as church mice,” and in the days before government student loans, veterinary school was not a viable option.

* * *

One day in 1986, Elizabeth could hear a loud banging coming from the neighbourhood. She looked out the front window of her home on Nanaimo Crescent in Abbotsford, and it was her next-door neighbour boarding up a hole in his roof.

Elizabeth was livid. There was a nest of birds inside.

“You’re going to board it up with the babies!” she yelled at the neighbour.

“Yes, and then they’ll all die,” he responded.

“If I climb up on the roof, can I get the babies?”

“I don’t care. Do what you want,” the man said.

Elizabeth climbed gingerly up the man’s ladder, delicately scooped up the tiny birds and awkwardly made her way back down to safety, remembering that she’s afraid of heights as she did so.

She brought the baby birds into her home, where she reared them until they could survive on their own.

Thus, Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center was born.

She obtained the necessary wildlife rehabilitation permits and let local vets know that she was accepting small animals that needed care.

Opossums, squirrels, bunnies, ducks, geese, sparrows, finches and crows were among the creatures that came through her doors, soon crowding the home she shared with her husband and their twin son and daughter.

There were no classes or workshops or conferences – like there are now – that Elizabeth could attend to learn proper feeding techniques and care, so she sought the advice of a woman in North Vancouver who was doing similar work.

“It’s all trial and error, dear,” the woman would say.

Over the years, Elizabeth had obtained a degree in licensed practical nursing, and later as a registered nurse, spending 11 years working at the former MSA Hospital.

She applied her medical knowledge to the care of the animals, which often sported broken or injured limbs, had wounds from being attacked by other animals, or were having breathing difficulties.

The care was expensive, and Elizabeth continued to work at her nursing job, relying on volunteers to foster the animals and feed them throughout the day. At the end of her 12-hour shift, she would make house calls to tend to any of the creatures’ medical needs.

It was a gruelling schedule, but there was nowhere else for the animals to go, and Elizabeth would not entertain the thought that they should perish.

“I don’t feel I have the power to decide who’s going to live and who’s going to die,” she would tell those who questioned her work.

* * *

Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center has now been running for 27 years, moving to a new property in 2002. Elizabeth prefers not to make the address public because she wants people to call her first, rather than just dropping off animals at her door.

The site features several outbuildings, including a clinic, a nursery, and several “pre-release” cages that are filled with animals – most significantly in the period from March to September.

It has become more than a full-time job for Elizabeth, whose husband passed away in 2003 from lung cancer. She devotes every waking minute to the care of the creatures – for example, baby birds require feeding every 15 minutes – and to the administration of the center.

The goal is always to nurse them back to health and release them back into the wild – as often as possible into the environment from where they came.

Funding challenges are constant, and Elizabeth must rely on donations and the support of volunteers to keep going. But the rewards are worth whatever stresses she faces along the way, she says.

“When you can release an animal, there’s no bigger reward than that. There’s no money that can replace that. There’s no greater feeling.”

For more information about Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center, visit elizabethswildlifecenter.org or call 604-852-9173.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen recently won a $1-million prize with Lotto 6/49. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen recently won the $1-million prize in a Lotto 6/49 draw. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Ying Chun Chen wins Lotto 6/49 $1-million prize

Ticket was purchased at Abbotsford’s FreshCo for the March 6, 2021 draw

B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Todd Richard recently released “Green and Blue,” a heartfelt country ballad thanking the frontline workers battling against the pandemic. (Screenshot/ Todd Richard)
Harrison country artist Todd Richard releases ‘Green and Blue,’ a tribute to frontline workers

Richard’s new single has been viewed more than 3,000 times on his YouTube channel

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
Former Chilliwack man charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Prolific offender Kao Macaulay, 23, accused of breaking into home on March 30

Workers were on scene to clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford at Trans Mountain Pipeline’s Sumas pump station in June 2020. (File photo by Shane MacKichan)
TSB releases final report on June 2020 oil spill in Abbotsford

Transportation Safety Board says pipeline fitting to blame for spill of up to 190K litres

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read