Hope for Wildlife opens Inverness County clinic

January 29, 2024

Hope for Wildlife, a Nova Scotian wildlife rehabilitation and education non-profit, is looking for local volunteers to support its recently opened drop-off and veterinary clinic for injured and orphaned animals in Inverness County.

Hope Swinimer, founder and director of the organization, says they’re not looking for a huge commitment – maybe four hours a week – to serve the clinic, located at 954 Highway 105 in Lexington, five kilometres north of the Port Hastings rotary.

“We currently have a team of about 200 volunteers, and they stretch from Cape Breton to Yarmouth,” she says. Volunteers can help with the pick-up and delivery of injured and orphaned animals to the clinic, which will eventually be staffed to provide triage of these animals.

Hope for Wildlife takes more than 7,000 wild animals into its care each year, Swinimer says, noting that these triage centres and their volunteers play a key role in the organization’s operation. When a call comes into Hope for Wildlife, a volunteer may be dispatched to pick up and deliver an animal to the clinic. She says a similar clinic is operating in Wolfville.

“It really is quite efficient when you get 200 people involved,” Swinimer says, noting that it can be a strain on an animal to have to travel hours to get to Hope for Wildlife’s main rehabilitation centre in Seaforth, located about 40 km east of Halifax.

“The whole purpose for these facilities is to have triage,” she explains, adding that the Lexington clinic will be staffed by a full-time certified veterinary technician. “These animals have already driven an hour, or an hour and a half. They need stabilization. They need to be warmed up. They need oxygen. They need fluids. They may need pain meds. That’s what makes the difference.”

“We were just finding that so many wouldn’t make the trip into us in Seaforth,” she adds. “Think of Yarmouth to here. It’s four and a half hours. The same with Cape Breton. It’s a long haul. So, by having these stabilization spots, it just makes a world of difference. We’re seeing so much more success.”

Swinimer says it’s an unfortunate fact that some animals are injured to the point that they cannot be saved, and a clinic like the one in Lexington can properly assess the animal in a timelier fashion.

“I think triages are helping,” she says, noting that part of the triage is determining whether an animal can be saved. “We can humanely euthanize at these stations. That means the animal didn’t suffer for another two-hour drive into Hope for Wildlife. And it frees up time and energy and resources so that we can spend more time on animals we know we can nurse through and get healthy.”

Swinimer says there’s a huge educational component to the work of Hope for Wildlife, and that people encountering a wild animal sometimes may not know what services they offer.

“People get confused,” she explains. “They’ve got a nuisance, and they want it gone. That’s not what we do.”

“We will give them pointers on how to get that raccoon out of their attic in a humane way, and we’ll give them pointers on how to keep birds from crashing into their windows,” she notes. “But what we deal with is a sick, injured or orphaned animal.”

People looking to volunteer with Hope for Wildlife are urged to go to their website at hopeforwildlife.net which also offers a wealth of information about how to determine whether an animal is actually sick, injured, or orphaned.

“We see about 250 different species every year,” Swinimer says. “In Cape Breton we do see a lot of white-tailed deer, lots of birds of prey, lots of songbirds. Two bobcats came in from there this year that had been orphaned. We really do get a variety.”

She says she expects the Lexington facility to at least be operating as a 24/7 drop-off location by early December, and as a staffed triage centre in the weeks that follow.