Lukas Bieri

Lukas Bieri

Rescued animals ‘just want to be free’

White Rock’s Don Griffith learns something new every day he shows up to lend a hand at Critter Care Wildlife Society, a rehabilitation centre for injured and orphaned wildlife.

Last year, after cracking up at the sight of a society staffer in a pool with orphaned river otters, he learned the youngsters must be taught to swim.

Not long after that, he learned the value of covering his car seats with a tarp when transporting skunks.

“It was windows wide open,” he chuckled, while recounting the lesson during a tour of the south Langley facility last week. “My Oldsmobile was dubbed the skunk mobile for a while.”

Neither experience turned Griffith off of volunteering at Critter Care, where he has been helping transport injured and orphaned animals for care, prepare food for its many charges and assist wherever else he is needed since 2009.

His reason for helping out is simple:

“So that my great-grandchildren will be able to see a raccoon (and other wildlife native to the area) – that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

To that end, Griffith is also helping promote the society’s annual gala, set for April 30 at the Langley Seniors Recreation and Resource Centre, 20605 51B Ave.

The gala, in its 12th year, is one of Critter Care’s main fundraisers, along with its July open house. A book sale taking place this week (10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 12-18) is also hoped to boost the society’s coffers, which rely on grants, memberships and the generosity of the public.

Every penny is critical to ensuring that the injured and orphaned four-legged creatures brought through the society’s doors get the best chance at rehabilitation and release.

Currently, those critters include bear cubs, river otters, raccoons, beavers and a baby squirrel. The latter was rescued from a White Rock fireplace April 1. Her arrival marked the start of baby season – a busy time for staff and volunteers at Critter Care.

“When baby season starts, we can get as many as 100 calls a day,” said Gail Martin, the society’s founder and executive director.

“By the end of April, (the nursery) will be packed,” she added.

Martin has run Critter Care for more than 27 years, and seen thousands of injured and orphaned creatures nursed back to health – and freedom. Their stays vary from weeks to months.

As attached as she gets to them, Martin is always happy to return them to the wild. It is where they belong, she said.

Martin recalled the release of four river otters last September as an example.

One of the “absolutely precious” four had been at Critter Care since she was two days old. Like all of the river otters, this female came to know and trust Martin. But when it came time for her to leave, it was obvious the otter knew her true home.

“She never even looked behind,” Martin said. “They know what it’s like to be free, and they just want to be free.”

Martin estimated Critter Care’s annual operating costs at $560,000. Expenses include food, housing, medical supplies and more.

Last year’s gala raised about $22,000 towards the cause, but much more is needed to sustain the operation.

“There’s always a need for money,” Martin said, noting a new, larger storage shed for food is one of many items on the society’s wish list.

Tickets to the April 30 soiree, $50, are still available.

The evening will include dinner, live and silent auctions, games and more. To reserve, call 604-530-2054 or email crittercare2@shaw.ca

Martin said her efforts at Critter Care will continue until she no longer cries for the animals she cares for. It’s a day she can’t envision.

“I think your life is set out before you the day you’re born,” Martin said. “I could never imagine my life without animals – ever. They give you so much and they ask for so little in return.”