Elizabeth Melnick is a blur of activity as she moves from one cage to another, checking on the small creatures that occupy her wildlife centre in Abbotsford.
In one is a squirrel that has just been dropped off. It has been found in a park and appears to be ill.
“He’s skin and bones … He’s been without mom for awhile, that’s for sure,” Melnick says as she tries to entice it to eat an Arrowroot cookie that has been soaked in a liquid formula specially made for squirrels.
When it won’t eat the cookie, she tries feeding the squirrel from a mixture in a syringe.
There are at least another 40 small animals in this room, all requiring similar attention. An opossum mom that has been nursed back to health after being left for dead following an attack by two dogs rests quietly with her five babies.
A dozen recently hatched goslings nuzzle together. Nine of them were orphaned when their mom was struck by a car while trying to cross the road; the other three had been separated from their families.
Other rooms and cages at Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center are filled with bunnies, ducks, geese and small birds.
More arrive every day, and will continue to do so throughout the summer, as people who come across small wounded or abandoned animals have nowhere else to take them.
The next closest centre that does similar work is in Burnaby.
All the creatures require regular feeding and cage-cleaning. It’s a task that Melnick cannot do on her own, and, for the last three summers, she has relied on federal government funding to hire two full-time students for 16 weeks.
This year, that money was denied. A letter dated May 13 from Service Canada indicates that the demand for funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program “has exceeded the budget available” in the Abbotsford area.
“I just went into a spiral,” Melnick said of the news.
Although she has volunteers to assist at the centre, she said she requires at least one other person to be there full-time from May to August – the centre’s busiest period.
Melnick had already hired one person, anticipating that the funding would be approved. She said she will continue to keep her on, hoping to cover her pay through donations.
“I’m going to keep her, even if I have to sell pencils on the street corner,” Melnick laughed.
She hopes to meet with MP Ed Fast as soon as possible to ask for a review of the situation.
She acknowledges that some people question the validity of the work she does, but it’s important to her and others.
“Most of this is human interference in the first place, so I’m just trying to make up for it a little bit.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit elizabethswildlifecenter.org or call 604-852-9173.