The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) is fundraising to build a new facility.
The non-profit society, which has been rescuing injured and sick wildlife on the North Island since 1995, is operating at capacity.
“During the past two years our caseload has almost doubled from an average of 400 patients per year to over 700,” said Pearl McKenzie with MARS during a presentation to Campbell River city council Monday evening. “We have run out of room at our small facility and must build a new wildlife facility.”
McKenzie said many of the patients MARS deals with come from the Campbell River area and most get into trouble because of human activities.
MARS has been operating out of a modest facility in Merville, most notably rescuing and rehabilitating injured eagles, owls and other birds. One of its ambassadors, Shakespeare the barred owl, was nurtured back to health by MARS after losing one eye and fracturing his beak and sternum in a car accident.
Now the society wants to build a hospital and flight pen to help other recovering eagles and wildlife.
MARS intends to first build a hospital and a caretaker’s residence, followed by a wildlife centre in phase two to house its educational program which is currently done mostly via outreach.
The proposed centre includes a visitor centre, aviaries for MARS’ educational birds, a flight pen, trails and viewing areas around a pond, and housing for international students and visitors.
The new facility will remain in Merville, on 11 acres of land that was purchased by MARS after the organization was bequeathed a significant sum of money by the Michelle Woodrow estate.
But the society is still looking for funding to help build the new facility and on Sept. 28, was before city council looking for assistance.
“We need your help,” McKenzie said. “Financial contribution to the cost of building a new wildlife hospital (and) support for our Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) application for a visitor centre.
“Visitors to this centre will consist of school classes and local families as well as tourists staying at nearby motels, campsites, hotels and resorts. We believe that the Wildlife Eco Centre will also attract new tourists; people from all over the world who are interested in connecting with nature and viewing wildlife,” McKenzie added. “Research indicates that these visitors are people with higher than average incomes, spending relatively more money than tourists in other sectors.”
McKenzie said if MARS is successful in its fundraising efforts, construction of the centre will begin in late summer or fall of 2016, with an opening date of May, 2017.
The first phase of the project, the wildlife hospital and the caretaker’s residence is expected to be complete in late spring or early summer of 2016.